Deborah Hutton: air-brushing, balance and the nude cover

Deborah Hutton.

MM: Most people celebrate turning 50 by going on a holiday or buying a convertible. You celebrated earlier this year by appearing on the cover of the Australian’s Women Weekly wearing nothing. What made you want to do that cover shoot?

I really had to give serious consideration, as to ‘why’ I would agree to do the shoot, but it was more than just a cover, it was the Body Issue for the January issue of the AWW which always focuses on enforcing positive body image. After suffering for most of my life with huge insecurities about my own body and finally reaching the point of acceptance, I wanted to talk about that, to share that story and celebrate the fact I’m still here with all my wobbly bits…and that’s OK.

MM: The cover was celebrated – but it there was also some loud criticism about the amount of air brushing used in the shoot. Where do you stand on the digital alternation of photos for magazines?

I just want to go on the record for the final time that the cover was minimally photo-shopped. I was adamant that my body shape, lines on my face remain the same and that I had a few blemishes and sun spots removed round my neck and chest. At the end of the day it was a cover for the top selling women’s magazine in this country…I would question that any woman wouldn’t do the same given the opportunity. If you go on my Balance website, I am pretty much warts and all, as you see me in the flesh, videos untouched, candid snapshots…its raw footage and at 50 I’m very comfortable with who I am and how I look.

Deborah Hutton on the cover of The Women’s Weekly.

I acknowledge that Mia has taken the position that no magazine/media photo should be photo-shopped but I frankly don’t agree. I think the discussion needs to be focused around ‘the degree’…to what degree do we air brush? I am totally against some retailers, high fashion magazines removing things like ribs, reshaping arms, carving off flesh and unrealistic removal of wrinkles etc. It’s got to look real.

Photo-shopping and enhancing has been around since fashion photography was invented. It used to take place in a darkroom where it now takes place on a computer screen. Look at Vogue images from the 40’s or Hollywood glamour shots from the 50’s and they’ve all had some degree of enhancement…even the days before colour photo’s, we used to hand colour to provide the perfect complexion. Play that forward and what is Instagram if it’s not photo-shopping.

I would guess that most weddings pics, family portraits, glamour photography these days have some form of air brushing. It’s just about being realistic. Over the years I have rejected many images that I felt didn’t represent me in my true form because the client had over photo-shopped them. I have earnt every wrinkle from my laughs and my tears, they’re mine, and they’re my stripes.

MM: You first appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan at the age of 16 – and you were 50 when you covered AWW. In that time, what kind of changes have you noticed in the media industry?


The biggest change to media I see is going from consuming editor’s and journalists content to now viewing the open opinions of anyone has a view and there’s now a platform to share it.

We are so much more connected as readers, and can be our own editors…we can choose what we want to read and how we want to view it. It’s much more consumer focused.

Just think about twitter…our attention span has shrunk…we want information in 140 characters. We desire quick information, becoming addicted to speed as we constantly grapple with so little free time.

Deborah Hutton on the cover of Cosmopolitan. 1982.

MM: How do you feel about your body now, compared to when you were in your teenage years and early 20s?

I think modelling had a severe detrimental effect on me and my own perception of body image. You are constantly being judged and awarded by strangers purely by your looks, your size, and your shape. Rejection is part of the job. I hated by body from as early as I can remember, never being perfect enough and I held those negative thoughts most of my life. I really did have a moment in my mid to late 40’s when I thought, what a waste of negative energy.

Someone said to me “stop hating yourself for who you are because in ten years’ time, you’ll wish for the body you have today” and those words were like a lightning bolt. It all came together for me. So now I accept myself as I am with all my flabby bits! Yes I work out, try to eat well, and look after myself but I’m not obsessed on any level anymore. That’s the beautiful thing about age…I don’t give a dam anymore …there’s a wonderful freedom in that.

MM: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Believe in yourself, back your abilities and your sense of intuition. Stop feeling insecure, stand up and be true to yourself and your beliefs. Don’t waste years of insecurity and feeling inadequate…you only have one life, so go out and squeeze every drop of it.

MM: You’ve worked on television for much of your career. As a woman, you’d be subject to scrutiny about your appearance. How do you deal with that kind of pressure? Have you ever witnessed your male colleagues receive the same kind of scrutiny?

Sadly women are much harder on themselves than men will ever be. We are highly self-critical of who we are and how we look and sadly, as research has shown we have that same negativity towards other women, even if they’re our friends! We are we so harsh? Shouldn’t we try and accept ourselves and each other, celebrate our differences rather than chopping down tall poppies. I would have thought it a much more positive experience and a healthier choice to accept and celebrate who we are and the fact we are still here when so many of us are not.  It’s important to keep things in perspective…yes look after yourself but don’t waste the energy on negative feelings.

Balance by Deborah Hutton.

MM: You’ve recently launched a website called Balance with Deborah Hutton. What’s the purpose of the website – and how are you finding life online?

Balance by Deborah Hutton is all about helping 40+ women find some sense of balance in their life…everyone’s recipe for balance is different…it’s about being mindful of the things we are perhaps neglecting in our life that makes us feel a bit out of whack. I love being connected to people…through online and social media, I connect directly with women every day and I’m really enjoying it.

We are all so different yet amazingly the same, concerned about the same sort of things. Through building Balance I have interviewed some of Australia’s most successful women and its exciting to be able to share their insights and advise with our followers. It’s built around 8 key areas, things like how we look and feel about ourselves, our home, our finances, our job, even our relationships and our beliefs.

The things people are really loving are the video interviews with people like Olivia Newton John, Prof Kerryn Phelps…Natalie Cook. Next year we’ll be launching programs designed to help people find their own recipe for Balance. It’s about being mindful and not neglecting yourself.

MM: Would you call yourself a feminist? How would you define your kind of feminism?

It’s not a word I would ever use to describe myself…for me it’s all about equality. Whenever we reach the point that both men and women have an equal say, equal pay then I feel that’s the balance we need to find.

MM: What do you want that you don’t have?

A lower handicap in golf…??

MM: You work in so many areas – there’s the website, the television commitments, you’re a spokesperson for a number of charities… How do you fit it all in? Any secrets for success?

I think it’s important to be well organised and appreciate that there’s only so many hours in a week, so focus on making the most of that time. I have really good people around me, my PA for instance who helps me breathe and allows me to concentrate and prioritise what’s important. Other than that it’s really key for me to maintain my health and wellbeing, things like exercise, eating well, not too many vino’s, walking Billie my dog and trying to make time to see my friends…these things are as equally important. It’s about finding my own balance!!!

Deborah Hutton.

MM: What was the most disappointing moment or biggest setback in your career? How did you recover?

There was a moment about 3 years ago when I had several large contracts not renewed and thought what happens now? What if that’s it…no more work? I really had to question my future and it was a scary time. I’ve always had a contingency plan…that B&B in the country. But then I learnt that you can always recreate your story and look for new beginnings.

I started to manage myself, take control and look for opportunities and things started to turn around. I do believe that when one door closes there is always another about to open…it’s about believing in yourself and never giving up! And you need people around you that believe in you too…because we are all human and self-doubt is a part of our make-up…so surround yourself with positive people.

MM: In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing Australia? Who should fix it?

Biggest issue is the fact that Australia needs to realise we now live in a new global world and we have to be more productive to compete in that world. For us to be more productive as a nation we should be addressing issues like child care, aging population and infrastructure.

MM: What area of public policy do you just not get?

I would have to say our stance on Euthanasia. I believe we should be able to make an informed personal choice about our own existence.

MM: What’s your greatest talent/achievement that you will never be able to put on your resume?

I’ve played golf with Greg Norman, swum with Kieran Perkins, been in a lineout with George Greegan, sat in a pilot seat with John Travolta and met Prince Phillip at Windsor castle sadly wearing my white Converse Onestars…now there’s a story!!

MM: There is a growing sentiment that women are each others’ own worst enemies and stand in the way of each others’ success. Do you think that’s true?

I think while that is a generalisation, if I could only answer yes or no I’d sadly have to say yes BUT having said that, I owe a lot of my career and my success to some amazing women who helped me see what I could be and gave me the support I needed to help me get to where I am today.

And so I hope that I too, am helping other women achieve their potential and to be the best they can be. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are believers and enable you to believe in yourself. Sadly sometimes you have to walk away from situations and sometimes people. You have to stay true to yourself. It’s about finding your own sense of Balance.