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Thank You, Unretouched Cindy Crawford

Dear (Unretouched) Cindy Crawford,

Thank you. From the bottom of my cellulite-dappled ass and my spider vein-mapped legs, thank you. Thank you for the Valentine’s Day gift you bestowed on millions of everyday women with your real—and really quite exquisite—Marie Claire photo. In it, you are a 6-foot-tall sex bomb, decked out in lacy black lingerie and blingy jewelry and a feathered coat that likely costs more than our mortgage. You have the cleavage of a 20-year-old and are owning that fedora.

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You also have abs that are not bounce-a-quarter-off-them rock-hard. And your thighs are not as smooth as liquid latex.

And you look incredible.

We all know airbrushing exists. Photoshop happens. Waists get whittled, hips get shaved, skin is polished and hair is glossed. We’re even occasionally thrown a bone in the form of a behind-the-scenes photo of Actress A or Celebrity B, revealing a hint of wrinkle or a sliver of gray hair. Cameron Diaz with a pimple. Kelly Ripa’s abs looking “too ripped.” Ooh.

But when your photo hit the Twitterverse, it didn’t only blow up our phones, it blew our minds.

My hope is that you are not ashamed ... but rather, that you feel like a superhero.

As a mom of two young girls and a woman who wrestled with an eating disorder in college, my initial response was an instant and overwhelming sense of relief, escaping me via an audible exhale. Next, I had the urge to print the photo out and run wild through the streets, shoving it in the face of any man I could find and screaming, “See?! SEE?! This is what women look like! Real, live women have texture in our skin! Real, live moms, who have grown and carried babies in our bellies, often have loose skin once we push those babies out! Real, live women who are about to turn 49 have the occasional spot of sun damage!”

Your photo spread like viral-fire; a collective sense of excitement bubbling up from years of feeling like we can never live up to the airbrushed images of perfection we see in magazines, on billboards, online. Berlin Wall-falling excitement. I felt so proud of you and so grateful to you. I posted your photo on my Facebook wall, just like I used to have that black-and-white Herb Ritts photo of you, Christy, Naomi et al pinned to my high school bedroom wall. My friends wrote things like, “Thank God.” I felt a little better about the cellulite on my ass.

Then it came out that the photo was not intentionally released with your blessing, as I had initially thought, but rather was leaked, leftover from a 2013 Marie Claire Mexico and Latin America shoot. It wasn’t a gift but stolen goods. And I felt awful. Because as a feminist and a body image expert and simply as a person with empathy and a conscience, I don’t believe we should be commenting on other women’s bodies. We don’t need to call other ladies out for being “too” thin, “too” curvy, “too” masculine, “too” anything. It’s not our place. So for that, I am sorry.

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So far, it’s been radio silence from your camp, save for an Instagram from your husband showing you rocking a bikini. My hope is that you are not ashamed (I realize that as a supermodel, you have a brand and an image you want to maintain), but rather, that you feel like a superhero. Powerful. Life-giving. Culture-shifting. Because, at least for a day, most of us everyday women were able to look at a photo of one of the world’s most iconic beauties and see ourselves … in you.

Image via Twitter

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