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Posted at 2:47 PM ET, 04/14/2010

No retouching? No problem for Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears

By Liz Kelly

Simpson's unretouched cover shot. (Marie Claire)

Let's call it Hollywood goes organic.

While we've been busy paying attention to a newly-resculpted plastic fantastic Heidi Montag and snickering at the ever-growing ranks of Hollywood's Botox-ed babes, a trend has been quietly building among celebs who -- until recently -- wouldn't have allowed a camera in their general vicinity without an army of makeup artists and photo retouchers at the ready.

Jessica Simpson, the singer turned reality star turned VH1 series host, appears on the cover of May's Marie Claire (and inside the mag) without makeup and, she swears, without any behind the scenes photo wizardry. And, this week, Britney Spears allegedly released before-and-after retouching versions of her latest Candie's ad campaign.

What motivated Simpson to appear au naturel? She's been the target of much criticism -- for everything from her dippy reality TV appearances with ex-husband Nick Lachey to her high-profile breakup with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to her ex John Mayer's contention that she's "sexual napalm" -- but also for her fluctuating weight and a certain pair of high-waisted "mom jeans."

"We've asked celebs before and no one's comfortable enough to do it," said Marie Claire editor-in-chief Joanna Coles in a phone interview this afternoon. "Jessica was delighted. It coincided with a reflective moment in her life and she seemed very up for doing it.

And Simpson admitted in a USA Today interview that her struggle with a shaky public image also led her to the concept of VH1's "The Price of Beauty." The documentary-style show follows Simpson around the globe as she attempts to find out how beauty is viewed in different cultures and what lengths women will go to to achieve it -- including lightening skin and gaining weight. Frankly, stuff that sounds pedestrian when stacked up against Montag's 10 surgical procedures which, Montag recently claimed, included a medieval-sounding procedure called "back scooping."

Simpson, who seems to have found a new publicity-friendly second act as defender of all shapes and sizes, said it was important for her to show women that she's a normal person.

"I think she's going through some interesting thinking about who she is and what she's doing next," said Coles. "She's reached a point where she realizes she was packaged and doesn't want to be like that anymore."

And Coles debunked the rumor, circulating on the Web, that Simpson actually was wearing some light makeup in the form of eyeliner.

"We'd be insane in this day in age to call out "no makeup" and have her wearing eyeliner. Is she an exceptionally pretty girl? Yes. Does she have naturally thick eyelashes? Yes she does. Is that why she's a celebrity? Absolutely."

Spears, for her part, hasn't directly addressed her decision to release the unretouched Candie's photos, though the U.K's Daily Mail quotes an unnamed source who said the singer wanted to counteract the pressure placed on women to always look perfect. There is some question about the source of the comparison photos. The Daily Mail attributes them to Splash News, however Splash News denies providing the photos. A rep for the paparazzi photo agency says they do not own the rights to the pictures and have asked the Daily Mail to remove the attribution.

In the photos, Spears sports a bubblegum pink skimpy one-piece swimsuit and black heels. The alleged side-by-side before-and-after points out differences in the shots, including a slimmed down waist and thighs, digital tattoo removal and total erasure of any cellulite. Though, truth be told, the original Britney is no slouch -- at least not since her return to form after the whole head-shaving/Frappuccino-guzzling phase. She's obviously been keeping up her healthy lifestyle changes.

As pointed out by True/Slant's Lisa Todorovich (a sometime Celebritology guest contributor), Simpson and Spears are hardly the first stars to get real. Jamie Lee Curtis famously posed in a sports bra and briefs without retouching or makeup for More magazine in 2002.

Said Curtis at the time, "There's a reality to the way I look without my clothes on. I don't have great thighs. I have very big breasts and a soft, fatty little tummy. And I've got back fat ... I don't want the unsuspecting 40-year-old women of the world to think that I've got it going on. It's such a fraud. And I'm the one perpetuating it."

For her part, Marie Claire's Coles -- when asked about the other end of the spectrum, ie Heidi Montag -- thinks it may be all about perspective.

"I think Heidi Montag's obsession with surgery reflects an insularity and terrifying lack of the understanding of diversity," said Coles. "The idea that you can only be attractive or feel good if you look like a Barbie doll is absurd and reflects on the smallness of that person's understanding of the world."

But is reality what we want from celebrities? Do we truly want our stars to be just like us or would we rather cling to the illusion of red carpet glam, perfect skin, flowing manes and ageless -- if synthetic -- beauty?

A commenter noted of Simpson's Marie Claire cover shot, "It's progress and it's great. You don't NEED to photoshop photos of beautiful women and the tiny flaws that make them look human instead of alien are actually endearing."

What's your take? Share your thoughts below...

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By Liz Kelly  | April 14, 2010; 2:47 PM ET
Categories:  Britney Spears, Celebrities  | Tags:  Britney Spears, Heidi Montag, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jessica Simpson  
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Next: Splitsville: Larry King files for divorce; Mel Gibson and girlfriend reportedly split


even better than the real thing

Posted by: steampunk | April 14, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

If you look at the inside shots, there is no way those eyelashes are real, sure maybe they don't have mascara on them but I bet she's got eyelash extensions or something...

Posted by: LTL1 | April 14, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Okay, call me crazy but I've always had a sneaking liking for Miss Simpson, and I admire her courage, given how people love to rag on her, in taking her real face out for a spin. Rock on, Jessica.

Meanwhile, there are some celebrities who I fervently pray never chisel off the carapace to show us what lies beneath.

-Snarky Squirrel

Posted by: 7900rmc | April 14, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Not that I want to take anything away from what she is doing - I think it is great and she certainly is very beautiful.

My dislike comes from the idea that she perpetuates that in order to be attractive she has to pretend she's dumb. She herself said this was a persona she puts on...

Posted by: LTL1 | April 14, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Was this piece edited?

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 14, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Basically, what the Jezebel commenter said. There is a time and place for red carpet glamour: the red carpet. But for everyday looks, less is generally more, especially when you're starting with as many God-given advantages as the typical celebrity is.

Posted by: northgs | April 14, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

The leg bruises in the unretouched photo of Britney Spears reminds of the leg bruises on Lilly von Schtupp.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | April 14, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Jessica Simpson is naturally a very pretty girl, someone who does not need make up. In fact, she looks better natural than all made up! I think the magazine cover is a good thing, but there are actresses (esp. models) out there who do benefit from make up. Photoshopping, no, but make up yes.

Posted by: Guest1234 | April 14, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

"and snickering at the ever-growing ranks of Hollywood's Botox-ed babes, "

by babes are you including the boys?
Mel Gibson was famous for his Botox , before the alcohol made him unsavable..
The lead from 24 is pretty redone.

and what about all those ear and nose jobs on the teens?

Posted by: newagent99 | April 14, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

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++++++++++++ ++++++++++++++

Posted by: itkonlyyou5 | April 14, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

Clinton had a man's balls in a jar on his desk and answered the Dukakis question with the story Rising Sun... whose balls? Kill Bill. Hillbillies ATE MY BALLS. Hooknosed ratfaced inglorious basterds. Queen Of England is the biggest jewel thief... Family Jewels. Resevoir Dogs.

Posted by: Uoughtano | April 15, 2010 5:58 AM | Report abuse

LTL1- Maybe she's been using one of those eyelash-growing medications. And, some people just have really long natural lashes. Don't hate. ;)

I think she looks great without the makeup and touchups, seriously, she's quite the au natural hottie. But has anyone seen the 'naked' pics of Eva Longoria? She's the only one I remember off the top of my head, but there are plenty of celebrities who look like train wreaks without the help of professionals. However, I do find it disingenuous when people say JS is prettier w/o all of the makeup. She's gorgeous either way, but better with smooth skin, lip gloss, etc.

Posted by: falltillfly | April 15, 2010 6:57 AM | Report abuse

FWIW, Those lashes could very well be natural. I have thick, dark lashes and I don't wear make-up, but people frequently think that I do. Also, I went to high school, many moons ago, with a young woman whose lashes were thicker, longer and darker than Jessica's. So, you know, it IS possible.

I think any celeb who appears "naturally" is really quite brave because, as these comments alone show, they seemingly can't win no matter what they do...

Posted by: VaLGaL | April 15, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

She's a natural beauty. Good for her.

Posted by: Californian11 | April 15, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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