In September of last year, I discovered a facial filter on Snapchat called “Natural Gleam”. When I used it for the first time, the transformation felt reminiscent of Cinderella’s metamorphosis from the ashen-faced, unkempt-looking maid to the flawless princess who turned heads at the prince’s ball. “Natural Gleam” instantly made my skin tone lighter, something I had not been able to achieve despite years of rubbing lemon juice over my face on my mother’s insistence, anxiously counting the 10 minutes as I crouched on the bathroom floor, resisting the urge to rip the stinging skin off my face. The filter also made my nose look slimmer, a necessary intervention, I thought; the size of my nose was too damaging to the aesthetics of my face, I had always been told. And in a final touch of meticulously manufactured perfection that was this Snapchat filter, it plumped my lips to conjure my ideal face for me.
After that, I never took a selfie without that filter, relishing the newfound confidence that accompanied the steady trickle of likes and comments on the Instagram posts featuring my new “filtered” face. A few months later, a Snapchat update made me lose that filter. I did not take a selfie again for weeks. The brown-skinned, big-nosed, thin-lipped woman had become too hideous in my eyes to resummon. When I finally did take a picture without the beloved filter, I understood, for the first time, what Virginia Woolf meant when she wrote, “It is far more difficult to murder a phantom than a reality."
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Image: Illustration by Nadège