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05-21-2014

Clarkson University Student Challenges Phony Ideal Images

Clarkson University student Jenna Boss ’15 sees a big problem in fashion marketing. The models are digitally slimmed down in images that are touched up.

Jenna BossA project in her documenting social activism class has blossomed into a video, website and a mission to help change the way people think about their bodies.

As a member of Clarkson University's national championship women's hockey team, Boss etched her messages to the world loudly and clearly on the ice. In the classroom, she's found her voice through the relatively new undergraduate major program of social documentation.

“Every day, we’re exposed to a constant buzz of what we are -- and are not -- supposed to look like,” she says. “There’s this idealistic body image we’re all trying to emulate. We wish we could look like those models.”

Often, she says, people conclude they don’t really have that “ideal” body image. And that, she adds, is crippling her generation’s self-esteem.

To help combat the onslaught of phony “ideal” body images promoted in the fashion and media industries, she's developing a digital label to add to advertising images that will tell whether they've been enhanced or altered.

She created a website – thepursuitofyou.com – to promote her idea of an “E&A free” label for photos and ads. The “E” is for enhancement and the “A” is for alteration, she explains. She is also producing a YouTube video and is raising funds to push the idea to a larger audience.

“I had to make a piece for class on something I feel strongly about. I chose body image,” Boss says. “I want people to watch this video and feel like they can act on it. So, I was walking down the food aisle one day and I saw organic food labels. It hit me, why not have one for pictures and advertising? My teachers liked idea, so I'm studying how to get a label trademarked.”

“We grow up seeing all these unreal images and are told they're ideal,” she says. “The generation below me is constantly bombarded by these distortions. You can't say it's not going to affect them.”

She'll continue with her project in the fall as she sorts decisions about the future. While social documentation is usually a graduate school program, Clarkson offers a unique integrated double major that allows students to combine their interests in the humanities with skills in communication and media technologies. That way, they'll have the tools to work in the creative arts or to be social or political activists.

Boss has the media skills to convey her message. Outside of hockey season, she's usually in the WCKN student television station studio, which broadcasts on campus and in the area.

“This is why I came to Clarkson,” says Boss. “I wasn’t just pushed to come up with big ideas. I got help turning my ideas into reality. This has the potential to affect real change in our society. I can’t wait to see what happens next.”

A resident of St. Paul, Minn., Boss just finished her junior year.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/jboss.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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