Cover Model Cover-Up?
All may be beautiful on the super model-studded covers of major women's magazines, but behind those glitzy fashion photos, a dirty little secret lurks: The model probably isn't wearing the makeup listed in the cover-photo credits.Turn a few pages inside an Allure , Harper's Bazaar , Glamour , Elle or other national women's magazine and you're likely to see a second picture of the cover model, followed by credits listing who designed her clothes, who styled her hair and what makeup she's wearing. Those credits are intended to persuade you to buy what the super model is sporting, and often, readers do just that, industry sources say.But here's the big concealer: The cosmetics-counter makeup -- Revlon, Lancome, Estee Lauder or other major brand -- that's usually listed in the credits is not the makeup used in the high-fashion photographs, according to one fashion magazine, makeup artists and women's magazine insiders interviewed by SHOP! Information Services.While some fashion magazine executives say fudging the makeup credits is designed to help readers, consumer-affairs attorneys say the practice is designed to deceive them, and is most likely a violation of state and federal consumer-protection laws. At the very least, journalism experts say, listing these untrue colors is unethical.So far, the fashion magazine W is the only publication to openly admit to fudging makeup credits. In its May 1995 issue, W published a letter from a reader who complained that she bought Lancome cosmetics Kate Moss purportedly wore in the February 1995 issue, but that "the lipstick shown did not look anything like Kate Moss' opulent, shimmering mouth."In an editor's note accompanying the letter, W conceded that "the cosmetics on models who appear on fashion magazine covers are usually private blends of professional makeup and are not commercially available."But the note said W substitutes cosmetics-counter credits "to help the reader achieve a look similar to the one depicted."Even though W 's crediting didn't help that particular reader achieve the right look, the magazine "usually comes pretty darn close" to matching the colors, said W Associate Editor Mort Sheinman in an interview with SIS. Sheinman, who wrote the editor's note, said the reader's comment "was the only letter we've ever got" complaining about the makeup credits' lack of accuracy.Sheinman said his note was based on information from W 's beauty editors that "it's a fairly common practice in the industry" to use bogus makeup credits. He agreed that the credits are a good promotion for W's cosmetics advertisers, but insisted that "the intent of that [makeup credit] paragraph is certainly not to pay off" those advertisers.But that's not the way a veteran makeup artist and a women's magazine executive see it."An artist will do a face and a writer or editor will be looking at the makeup and say, I've got sponsors to deal with' and they match the colors" to the cosmetics advertisers, said one makeup artist, whose name has been omitted because the artist still works with women's magazines. The artist's nine-year career includes cover-model shoots for publications such as Vogue , Glamour , Elle , Mademoiselle and other women's magazines.Instead of cosmetics-counter makeup, artists such as our source use professional, theatrical-quality makeup that the artist says takes "between an hour and an hour and 45 minutes" to apply. "I normally use a blend of two to three foundation colors...[and] two to three tones of powder" to make up a model, the artist said.A women's-magazine executive, who spoke to SIS on condition her name not be used, confirmed the practice, but said that in her experience, the decision on which makeup company to credit was entirely in the advertising department's hands. "This is usually carefully worked out by the advertising and promotion department," she said. In some magazines, "they decide months in advance" which company will be credited and "they try to rotate [among major advertisers] so nobody gets upset," that their cosmetics are not being credited enough, she said.The executive said she could not reveal her name because "reprisals are swift and sure" in the beauty industry to magazine employees who won't respond to pressure to promote cosmetics. "Of all advertisers, the beauty industry is the bitchiest" about getting enough positive press in women's magazines, she said.The supermodels' roleTo find out whether cover models have any role in crediting their makeup, SIS contacted the Metropolitan and William Morris agencies, which represent, respectively, Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford. In a spot check of makeup credits, SIS found the two super models consistently were credited with Revlon makeup. The agencies confirmed the models have Revlon makeup contracts, but would not comment further.But SIS did get a few words from Kate Moss' agent, Jennifer Ramey, at New York City's Women Model Management. Ramey told us "Kate has no control" over the way her makeup credits are used, although for other models with makeup contracts "it might be different." She said Moss is not paid by cosmetics companies or fashion magazines for allowing her image to be used with the cosmetics credits, and that Moss "doesn't really pay attention to the credits on the magazines.""Kate's not misrepresenting anyone -- the magazine is," said Ramey.Such misrepresentation could add up to consumer deception, said Susan Kassapian, assistant commissioner for legal affairs at the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York City, where most women's magazines and cosmetics firms are headquatered. "Basically, all the consumer protection laws say that anything that has a tendency to deceive consumers is a deceptive trade practice, " she said.SIS made repeated phone calls and faxed questions to the corporate offices of Conde Nast, Hearst and Hachette-Filipacchi magazine groups to ask the companies whether the magazines they own use accurate makeup credits.Corporate communications officials at Conde Nast either could not be reached for comment or said no one was available for comment. Conde Nast owns magazines such as Vogue , Glamour , Mademoiselle and Allure , which markets itself as a magazine in which "truths [are] told" and "myths [are] dispelled" about cosmetics industry practices.The same response was received from spokepersons at Hearst Corp., which own magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Cosmopolitan , and Hachetter-Filipacchi, whose titles include Elle and Mirabella . Public relations staff at both companies either would not return calls for comment or said no one was available for comment. Cosmetics-industry executives at Revlon and Lancome also would not comment.Journalists call practice unethicalIf these magazine and cosmetics companies are, in fact, involved in using bogus makeup credits "then it's clearly deceptive - regardless of why they're being used," said Joann Byrd, a journalism professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, a former ombudsman at the Washington Post and former fellow at the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center in Manhattan.Sandy Padwe, an associate dean at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, agrees. "I think that's wrong," he said. And Padwe said that admitting it once, like W magazine did, isn't an excuse for continuing the practice, although "I guess an editor's note is better than nothing."Despite the apparent lack of ethics -- and possible unlawfulness -- of using an advertiser's makeup credits where credit isn't due, consumer affairs officials and other agencies probably won't pursue the magazines and cosmetics companies who are involved in mis-crediting. Kassapian said such deception is a "low priority and the damage is negligible."Indeed, when SIS contacted the New York State Attorney General's Office in Albany and the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., spokespersons there expressed concern, but no intent to investigate further. "It's probably clearly deceptive. What else do you want?" said a harried spokeswoman for the consumer fraud division of the Attorney General's Office.But Byrd, the former Washington Post ombudsman, says that although makeup mis-crediting "is not the end of civilization" it's not an insignificant issue -- for readers or for women's magazines."Readers have the right to pick up a magazine and believe you are making a good-faith effort to tell the truth," Byrd said. And even if only a small part of a magazine is untruthful, readers are entitled to doubt the credibility of every page, Byrd said, "If you're willing to say that [about makeup credits] and it isn't true, what else are you willing to say? A reader has the right to ask that question."REACT TO WHAT YOU READ! Send an instant comment to sources in this story:No corporate e-mail address for Conde Nast or Hachette-Filipacchi magazine group could be found. But you can reach them through these e-mail addresses for individual magazines:Conde Nast: Allure : email@example.com Glamour : GlamourMag@aol.comHachette: Elle : ELLEmag@aol.comHearst has its own corporate e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org Or you can e-mail this address: Harper's Bazaar : email@example.comRevlon and Lancome have no e-mail addresses, but they have customer-relations 800-numbers. Revlon: 1-800-473-8566 Lancome: 1-800-526-2663