Actress Rachael Leigh Cook has joined forces with Academy Award winner Geena Davis, The Creative Coalition, and Girl Scouts of the USA for a Summit in Washington, D.C to address the impact of media images on youth. The group addressed particularly the struggle girls go through reconciling media's idealized portrayal of women with their own bodies and self-worth.
“I did not grow up getting told about how manipulated the images we see of women and girls out there are, and I think it's an absolute travesty that young women are seeing what the media is feeding them," Cook told Pop Tarts. "It breaks my heart to be part of an industry and part of a machine that really pushes out these images and propagates these really terrible standards that are false.”
This is something Cook, 31, can relate to first-hand. After completing her first film “The Babysitter’s Club” at age 15 in 1995, the actress battled her own body image-related demons.
“I remember gaining quite a bit of weight on the first movie that I worked on because, ‘hey, free food!’. You're at that stage where your body is just changing so actively, so it was a natural change, but I remember finishing that film and realizing that I had gained probably 10 pounds over the course of filming which is a lot when you're only 5'2," Cook said. "I knew then that I needed to go and really try and get healthy. I went too far in the other direction and I worried my parents for a while, I think it's fair to say. I think that it's something that many, many teenage girls go through, especially ones that are achievers and ambitious. You're looking for a sense of control, and when you're in a really transitional phase in your teenage years, I think it's a pretty normal reaction to develop food issues.”
The “She’s All That” star is now not only urging youth to go online and Google “Photoshop Tutorial” to learn exactly what experts do to the images of all the celebrities and models out there, but she also wants the American public to know that even papparazi snaps aren’t all they’re purported to be.
“Nothing that you see is real, even if you look at what looks like a candid photo of someone, anything can be done. It is false advertising and false advertising is a crime so why isn't this a crime? I'm just up in arms about it,” Cook added. “People need to know that there are actual lenses that are put on cameras that make people stretched out. If you saw these actors in person, you wouldn't even recognize them as the people you see on TV. It's just all a complete illusion and maybe it should be viewed as art, the way that art isn't real. The way that a picture of a rose can be beautiful, but it's not a real rose.”
- Deidre Behar contributed to this report.