Media / Personal life

Impossibly Beautiful

OK, let me begin with both the latest media news and a couple of copyright violations. I am one of the “Women We Love” in this month’s Chatelaine! (My dear friend KB, writing from Toronto: “Jesus H – you’re in the Women We Love issue with goddamn ALICE MUNRO! And your photo is bigger than hers!!!” Heh.) And because I don’t live in a country where I can buy Chatelaine and neither do most of you, I’m totally posting a scan of the spread, sent by KB:


The photo was taken by the amazingly sweet and talented Becky Hill, and the text, by plus-size modeling agent and entrepreneurial genius Ben Barry, reads in part:

[W]e are not going down, because Chicago’s Kate Harding is on our side. Kate, 34, shares Susie Orbach’s vision for her generation; she is a fat-acceptance crusader who uses the voice and vehicles of today to rip apart the fictitious links between weight, health and human nature, to expose why diets don’t work and set us on the path to peace with our bodies. Combining sharp wit and compelling arguments in blog posts and tweets — as well as in her book, Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere — she reminds us that fat is still a feminist issue. For now. The more we learn from Kate, the more we will free our time and money from trying to change our bodies and turn to rediscovering ourselves.

There’s more, but since the whole thing is only two paragraphs, that’s copyright violation #2. In return for Chatelaine’s unwitting generosity, I offer this: DEAR EVERYONE IN CANADA, PLEASE GO BUY A REAL COPY RIGHT NOW. BETTER YET, SUBSCRIBE! LOVE, KATE

OK, so about that photo. I look pretty, right? (If you disagree, drop dead.) In the spirit of the “Impossibly Beautiful” series at Shakesville, I want to talk about how I got that pretty. In this case, it wasn’t Photoshop (though there might very well have been some — since it’s not screamingly fucked-up, that’s not the point this time), but it was still artificial as hell.

I arrived at Becky’s studio with my hair and make-up already done for a big-deal magazine shoot — or so I thought. Already on my face and hair at that point: Moisturizer, primer, foundation, powder, blush, mascara, eyeliner, lipliner, lipstick, lipgloss, eyebrow powder, eyeshadow, leave-in conditioner, Kiehl’s Silk Groom Serum, hairspray — much more of all of it than I would normally use. Oh, and I’d hot-rolled my hair, because I’m retro like that.

Then Becky introduces me to Antonette. Who is there to put another layer of pretty much everything on my face (right over top of the first round), re-curl my hair, and put another bottle or so of hairspray on it. This is very similar to what happened before I was on CNN, with one exception: Antonette uses airbrush make-up. Which involves instructions like “OK, just don’t inhale for a minute while I do this.” Also, she put that shit all the way down my chest.

So. At this point, I have already had a far more serious hair and make-up job than I did for my friggin’ wedding photos, and that’s only the beginning. Because Antonette (who is such a doll, and if you are a Chicagoan in the market for the sort of make-up job that involves holding your breath, you should call her) comes with us to Earwax, where we took that photo (on their back patio, which has a fabulous circus-themed mural, hence fat lady behind me). And not only does she touch up the hair and make-up every 10 seconds, but she keeps rearranging my belt and skirt — and cami and slip and chub-rub-preventative bike shorts; Antonette and I got to know each other reeeeal well — to make sure everything’s smooth and perfectly positioned. Every time I take a fucking breath, she fixes the two hairs I blew out of place, the fabric that’s bunched up — imperceptibly to all naked eyes except hers — and the belt that’s now a millimeter lower than where she wants it.

And on top of all that, Becky and her assistant are running around maniacally, finding the best angles and best light, adding light where it’s insufficient, asking me to move an inch (literally) this way, then an inch back, helping me up onto the bench I’m standing on, then down so they can move the whole bench an inch that way, then back up, back down, move the bench, move the Kate, change the light, WAIT! NOW YOUR HAIR’S STUPID AGAIN!

And all that was before we moved on to the second location, just in case the 8 bazillion photos she took at Earwax weren’t to the photo editor’s taste.

It was actually a really fun afternoon — they were great, it was a novel adventure, Becky bought me a smoothie (which is, in fact, the price of my affection) — but holy crap, even if I had been born with genes that made me 6 feet tall and thin, I would not last one day as a model. Total time invested in getting this one photo: 4.5 hours.

Anyway. So far, I have gotten numerous responses to that photo, including but not limited to:

  • hubba hubba
  • Gorgeous!
  • DAMN!
  • Awesome picture Kate!!!!!!!
  • Rowr!

And even I am willing to say that yes, the FOUR OF US, not to mention the art department at Chatelaine, made a very nice picture of me. But now it’s time for the reality check. When I’m on my own? It comes out more like this:


It takes a village to make a magazine-quality photo, y’all. Don’t ever forget it.

(Oh, and for the curious who haven’t already learned this from the 90 other times I wore the same outfit in media appearances and posted about it: Dress and belt are from Igigi.)

17 thoughts on “Impossibly Beautiful

  1. Sweet awesome. Good pic. Although I admit rather liking the one you took of yourself.
    I will have to buy a Chatelaine, now. I learned recently that they started from fairly feminist roots, but when I was growing up had really taken on a Better Homes and Gardens sort of a feeling. Alice Munro and you? What how?

  2. Both pics are great. I love the color of your dress in the 4 person shot – it looks awesome on you. Way to go on the magazine spread!

  3. OMG! I’m in Canada…Chatelaine is totally on my shopping list this weekend. Thanks for the heads up.

    You look fantastic, Kate! The hair is amazing, and the rack of doom rocks (as usual).

  4. Primer? Eyebrow powder? There is just a whole world of girly things I didn’t even know existed, and that’s not even going into airbrushed makeup. Still, the results are impressive. Kate Harding cleans up nice so the rest of us don’t have to.

  5. I don’t usually love ‘Chatelaine,’ especially since the ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ turn that Arwen points out, but I will buy this issue only because you’re in it. And I will also visit Earwax at some point – that mural is great!

  6. Primer? Eyebrow powder? There is just a whole world of girly things I didn’t even know existed

    Primer is basically face spackle, to go on under the foundation — I only found out about it a couple of years ago myself. I’m by no means convinced it does a damn thing, but that’s true of half the products I use. Eyebrow powder is, in my case, brown eyeshadow, serving the same function as eyebrow pencil, just a little less sharply defined.

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  8. People always seem shocked when I say I use eyebrow powder. (I always assumed it was because my brows are still light, but I guess it could be because it sounds so GD ridiculous. ;) ) I have a light touch with makeup, but one can only imagine how invisible my brows would be without it. I am one of the “lucky” childhood blonds whose head hair turned brown as an adult, but eyebrows and lashes did not. Last time I went to buy the stuff, the salesperson was “helping” me try some on, and no matter how much I told her to go easy on it, I still ended up looking like a Gwyneth Paltrow type (in terms of coloring, that is) with Audrey Hepburn clown brows.

    Very pretty picture, Kate. Thanks for explaining everything that went into it. It was really educational. Me, I can’t go to eat at a place called Earwax ’cause I’m too squeamish, but I did go a couple of times when it was called Myopic Earwax. (I think it split off into Myopic Books and Earwax Cafe, and then maybe the bookstore closed?)

  9. What does it feel like to have the airbrush makeup sprayed on? Is it cold? Wet? Like a powder? Does it set?

    I had makeup for television done years ago – for a quiz show. On that occasion the make-up I’d applied passed muster, I just needed powder and eyebrow colour. I can imagine how a magazine shoot would need more of everything. I didn’t realise quite how much tweaking and adjusting and smoothing and shuffling there’d be, though. Thanks for explaining all that. It sounds sort of fun for the novelty value and the experience. But a faff.

  10. Totally random: this photo reminded me of my favourite weird and too occasional blog, Geoffrey Chaucer’s bog at

    “So Dr. Hwaet came by in the TOWAERDES and dropped the Usk-dogg off for a while. Usk and I were in the garage havinge sum Molson longenekkes and I toold hym of Philippa’s coldnesse. And he seyd, “If she to thee ne do no daliaunce, thou shouldest considir hanging out moore wyth thy man-freendes.” He spak muchel to me of fisshing and eek of football and eek of a restaurant yclept “Owls” in which the comely serving wenches of do dress lyke Athena and haue fayr foreheads (at leest a spanne broad).”

    Laudes to thee, wise Kate, and upon thy fayre forehedde!

  11. I subscribe to Chatelaine! And, I’ve recently bought and then read/devoured “Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere” – and am currently besotted with you, Kate. Like, checking your blog every day, et cetera. I didn’t know you would be in the Chatelaine – so there I am reading it (on the toilet no less – TMI I know) and turn the page and there she is! A whole two pages! I was pumped!

    And, I’m really interested in what it took to make that picture. Funny how we make our magazine pictures look so “casual” like “Oh I was just hanging out in this alley with the graffiti/mural, funny you should be here too! Look how casually I lean on this wall. I do this every day…” When really it was the effort of four people and four hours. Crazy.

    Also, to those of you who think the magazine took a “Better Homes and Gardens” turn, well, yes, it’s still a women’s mag with spreads of homes and fashion, BUT – there are a lot of smart women behind it, and a diverse array of articles and influences. I happen to loathe mags like Cosmo but I do love indulging in magazines, so I bought myself a subscription to Chatelaine last year and I haven’t been sorry.

    Just saying.

  12. You know what’s funny? I clicked on the link to the Chatelaine website and the first thing I saw was a link to their article titled ‘The Trim Tummy Meal Plan.’ Apparently it is ‘dietition-designed’.


  13. I subscribe to Chatelaine, mainly for the recipes, but I too was pleasantly surprised to see Kate smiling back at me as I flipped through the new issue. BTW-I was watching Canada AM (kind of like Good Morning America and such) and they had the editor of Chatelaine on to talk about the Women We Love section, and she mentioned Kate by name during the segment. :)

    Noelle-you’re right, they always have diet and exercise junk in Chatelaine, but I try to flip by that to the good stuff, the food!

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