Our Brush with the Airbrush

Last week the Mail revealed just how much airbrushing is used to disguise the imperfections of modern stars. We printed posters of celebrities next to pictures of how they really look.  

But is airbrushing just a natural response to the public's desire for perfect stars? Here, Toyah Willcox - who has been airbrushed - argues the point:  

Singer and actress Toyah Willcox, 48, had a facelift three years ago - yet she says many of her publicity photos have also been heavily airbrushed. She lives in the Midlands with husband Robert Fripp, 60. Toyah says:  

The brutal truth these days is that you can have all the talent in the world, but it counts for nothing if you don't look good. I have four platinum albums and 30 years in the music business - but the moment I appear with wrinkles and eyebags in a photograph, my career is effectively over.  

Yes, it annoys me. It isn't fair because I don't think men are under the same pressure to look good. But you simply cannot survive in the industry unless you look as young as you possibly can.  

That's partly why I felt so pressured into having a facelift three years ago.  

Some women might think I'm hypocritical, moaning about ageism and yet having a facelift. But I believe my saving grace is the fact that I have been totally honest about the procedure. I even wrote a book about the experience called Diary Of A Facelift.'  

Apart from Judi Dench, I can't think of an actress over the age of 40 who has not had work done, or had some of their pictures airbrushed.  

The pressure is constant - I also know of two leading 'mature' female actresses at the BBC who were told to have surgery because they were becoming 'hard to light'.' In other words, the wrinkles were showing.  

Not only is there pressure from the industry and from society, it also comes from within. I had the facelift more for me than for anyone else. The catalyst was appearing on a reality TV show four years ago. I looked dreadful. Inside, I felt better than ever, but there on TV was a woman with jowls, a turkey neck and baggy, creased skin under my eyes.  

It's embarrassing when you appear in publicity shots looking amazing and then appear on stage with wrinkles.  

If that means having cosmetic surgery, then so be it. I now have Botox every three months, which costs 300 a session, and I've also had Thermage, where they heat your skin to about 45c to stimulate natural collagen. This costs about 250 a session and you need at least six sessions.  

Many famous women have said they haven't had facelifts, but I bet they've had Thermage, because their skin looks so good.  

I know I'm a victim of my success. It would be wonderful if women in the public eye could grow old gracefully, but the reality is that people expect us to look young.  

My face has to be smooth and unlined. I have to diet constantly - I eat only 1,500 calories a day, mainly in fruit and vegetables - to keep my weight at just under 8st (I'm 5ft 1in). I'd love to eat sticky buns, but television piles the pounds on your appearance.  

Most big stars have approval over their photographs and of course they want them to be airbrushed. That's nothing - I know of two famous musicians who have their blood changed at a Swiss clinic every six months.  

I'm not looking for perfection, but then I can't bear the thought of looking tired and old. The trouble is that airbrushing can make you look like an expressionless doll.  

As you can see from these pictures, the lines around my eyes have disappeared in the doctored image. It's too frozen-looking and as an actress I need to have character in my face.  

The brutal truth is that whether we like it or not, there's no place for an old-looking woman on television - age is being airbrushed out of existence.  

Daily Mail
7th December 2006