In Defense of the "Glamour Selfie" (Which Isn't a Selfie)

What Women Really Think
July 10 2014 1:54 PM

In Defense of the "Glamour Selfie" (Which Isn't a Selfie)

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A New York Times style section piece is trumpeting the return of the glamour shot in the modern form of the “glamour selfie,” a professionally photographed portrait to be used on a person’s social media profile to create “personal brand buzz.” The women and men interviewed in the piece are almost exclusively in California, are all in their 30s and 40s, and are “sparing no expense to treat themselves to iconic portrait sessions that produce profile shots for Facebook and Twitter that could double as covers of Vogue.” These photo shoots cost between $1,000 and $4,000, and the people who pay for them say ridiculous things like, “I love being a rock star in my own life.”

It would be easy to dismiss this as another self-involved rich person fake trend (especially because the Times’ term for it, “glamour selfie,” doesn’t even make sense—these are portraits, not selfies). But, though this goes unsaid in the piece, I can see how shelling out for these photo shoots might be a weapon in fighting back against age discrimination in the working world. The one man in the piece, Sean Behr, who is a tech entrepreneur and got some “breezy” photographs taken of himself in a V-neck, points out the connection between the photographs and work, saying, “Social media is a place where real business is actually happening.”

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He doesn’t explicitly mention age being a factor in his decision to take the pictures (he’s 38), but it’s not really a leap to think that a tech founder would want to look as young as possible. After all, Silicon Valley is a place where 26-year-olds get hair plugs because they’re so afraid of looking over-the-hill and Facebook is going after high school students for coveted, high-paying internships. Another person quoted in the piece is a 34-year-old software engineer in Los Altos who dressed up like a “a wind-swept California waif,” among other costume changes, for her photo shoot. Definitely a youthful look.

Studies have shown that in Massachusetts and Florida, women over 50 are much less likely to even get to the interview stage of a job than younger women and men, and if you own your own business, people may pass you over for a younger version. But in Silicon Valley, where 30 is basically dead, it makes (sad) sense for a 34-year-old to shell out for a Google Plus profile pic that she describes as her inner “dark princess.”

All of this is not to say that we should all rush out and spend thousands of hard-earned dollars to dress up and get photographed like a Depression-era vamp. But if you are up for a high-paying job or an entrepreneurial opportunity where your age could work against you, maybe the price of these shots will end up paying dividends.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.

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