The Teen Girl Who Helped Change Seventeen Magazine’s Photoshop Policy Talks Body Image Activism


One of our all-time favorite news stories over the past few years is the story about a teen girl fed up with overly photoshopped images in the magazines she and her friends read, so she gathered a group of girls to protest outside their offices until they agreed to change their policy on airbrushing.

The teen girl was Julia Bluhm, the year was 2012, and the magazine was Seventeen. Julia is a feminist, activist and blogger for Spark Movement, and managed to secure a private meeting with editor-in-chief Ann Shoket after her protest got so much media attention, and as a result of her passion and courage, the magazine created a ‘Body Peace Treaty’ to show its readers they care about that concerns them.

It was a story that inspired the nation and since then Julia has not stopped speaking about her mission to educate the masses (and the media) on the effects of false images on young women.

In a recent interview with Nadia Goodman from for their series on inspiring voices, Julia spoke about how her body image activism has only gotten stronger over the years and why the need to present realistic images to young girls is an important one.


As the interviewer points out, many women don’t learn about the damaging effects of sexualization in the media until they are past the teenage stage, and asks Julia how it came on her radar so early.

“I always knew it was there. I saw ads [sexualizing women] on TV, but just didn’t know the word for it. Then, when I was 13, I joined SPARK. They educated me about what sexualization really was and what I could do about it. That’s how I started to learn,” she said.

While she sees the massive change that has been occurring in the media since her protest in 2012 toward more body positivity, there is still a long way to go.

“H&M had a plus-size line, and in Seventeen magazine, I remember reading a spread about plus-size models. Girls want to see media that’s not shaming girls’ bodies but embracing them. And that’s a good step, but the problem often is that it becomes kind of hypocritical. There might be a spread in Seventeen that talks about positive body image, then flip down a couple pages and there’s a diet plan for flat abs for the summer,” said Julia.


And it’s not just something that affects girls, Julia believes this issue is very important for boys as well. Despite the majority of body image focus in the media going to women, men suffer in many ways too. Boys need to recognize the pressure put on women to look a certain way by the media, she said.

“Boys see these messages about girls being less strong or important than men, or being passive and sexualized, and that can be really harmful. It’s important for them to start questioning the media too. To say, that’s not realistic, the girls in my school or town don’t look like that, and to start realizing that the media is not always truthful.”

One of the most inspiring things about Julia is that being a teen who is involved with an activist organization like Spark means she has a head start on being an influence to her peers. She is able to use her voice to encourage other teen girls and boys to stand up for a cause. For her, it is feminism and body image.


“Some teenagers feel weird talking about issues like feminism or body image, even though we think about it. But you can watch an ad with your friends and say, ‘we shouldn’t be thinking like that.’ You might feel like a know-it-all at first, but if we all get involved, then it won’t feel so weird,” she said.

Julia who is also a ballerina says American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland is one of her idols because of the way she redefined what a ballerina “should” look like. In a sense, Julia is redefining what a teen girl “should” be interested in simply by her activism.

We love sharing stories of girls like her who are proving naysayers wrong while also making a positive difference in the lives of many other women. If even one young woman is affected by Seventeen Magazine’s new policy on photoshopping and airbrushing, we can thank this plucky teen for that!

After all the media attention around her successful protest in 2012, Julia was asked to speak at TEDx Women and spoke about the media’s unrealistic portrayals of female beauty through photoshopped images alongside her fellow Spark blogger Izzy Labbe. Check it out below:

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