Mariah Carey

Theo Wargo/

Mariah Carey was featured on a recent magazine cover looking airbrushed within an inch of her life. Since we see the stars daily in paparazzi photos, who do these magazines really think they're fooling?
—Georgia, Pompano Beach, Fla.

Much like the common house cat, which bushes itself out when cornered, the celebrity often plumps herself up when surrounded by paparazzi, in an attempt to make herself look scarier and more formidable than she actually is. So, see, the lithe, smooth picture that you have there on the cover of a magazine is the celebrity's actual size, captured during a moment when the actress or singer is calm, often lulled into a stupor by hot lights.

I suspect you don't believe me. Very well, here's an alternative theory: Yes, the stars are in fact airbrushed by intrepid photo editors to erase cave-bat arms, spider veins, facial discoloration and the like. But it's actually all for you, see.

Giant magazine editor-in-chief Emil Wilbekin suggests that, in smoothing over a star's flaws, a magazine is actually trying to serve the public, not fool it.

"Magazine covers—like movies and music videos—are about image, aspiration and creativity," Wilbekin tells this B!tch. "Magazines are just presenting the old-school, Hollywood glamour that fans want to see. Do you really want to see stars like Madonna or Janet Jackson without makeup on the cover of a magazine? It probably wouldn't be that interesting."

Actually, Star magazine finds that stuff utterly fascinating. It recently ran a cover story on just that: celebrities without makeup. But then again, that's not the same type of magazine as, say, Giant, or Allure, which features that Mariah cover you so dislike.

So here's what you need to know: Glossy and prestige magazines are marketing a star's elite glamour to sell issues, while tabloids count on a celebrity's flaws and foibles to do the same thing.

Now I unfurl my cave-bat arms and fly away.

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