Cleo Magazine: Stop digitally altering images to change appearances #RealGirlsCleo
Following a US teenager’s successful petition calling on 17 Magazine to publish one unaltered photo spread per month, Melbourne woman Jessica Barlow has created a petition calling on Australian Cleo Magazine to do the same.
The petition reads:
Reality is beautiful. Stop using Photoshop to alter appearances.
In high school, not a day would go by without hearing another girl complain about her weight or appearance. I saw girls get severely bullied and excluded because they didn’t live up to the beauty ideals of women in magazines.And it made me want to doctor my own appearance even more.
My friends and I looked up to the models in Cleo magazine. It was one of the most popular among my classmates. But what I think many of us didn’t know is that Cleo was altering the images of women to make them skinny and blemish free.
The altered pictures make readers question their weight, appearance and self-worth. I know this much first hand. They teach us that to be “pretty” you have to be thin and have perfect skin. Studies now show that these damaging images can lead to eating disorders, dieting and depression.
Distorting and editing the appearances of models in magazines is distorting the mental health of girls who read magazines that engage in these practices.
Public pressure is building across the world for magazines to stop altering images of girls. In the US a teenager convinced Seventeen Magazine to publish one unaltered spread a month after thousands joined her petition. I think Cleo should do the same for their readers.
I want Cleo to stop selling images that hurt girls and break our self-esteem. Let us see real faces and real shapes in at least one photo spread a month — and always put a warning symbol on any image that has been altered.
It’s time to put an end to the digitally enhanced, unrealistic beauty we see in the pages of magazines. Please sign my petition to Cleo Magazine editors calling on them to give us images of real girls in their magazines.
And I’d love to hear your stories — if you’re on Twitter use #RealGirlsCleo hashtag.
To help convince Cleo to get on board, I have launched the “Brainwash Project”, which involves the presentation of this petition along with edition one of a new magazine showing what young females want and need in their magazines. To complete it, I need as much help as I can get, please visit: http://pozible.com/brainwashproject and/or www.facebook.com/brainwashproject for more information.
In this guest post, Cleo reader Madeleine Rigelsford reveals the humiliating process she went through after the avowedly body positive magazine chose her for its Body Challenge feature before dumping her.
The latest edition of Cleo magazine features the Cleo Body Challenge – in which ordinary readers talk about their weight struggles and the magazine helps them get in shape by the end of it. I was nearly one of them.
I applied. It involved providing the participants with a trainer and a nutritionist – they would be followed on their journey across four-page spreads in three editions. They asked readers to write in, telling them their weight struggles and to provide photos. Read full article here.
This week, Seventeen magazine promised to publish un-photoshopped images of real girls, finally responding to 14-year-old SPARK activist Julia Bluhm’s campaign. Such pressure must continue argues author Laura Bates.
Last week, two editions of Now magazine appeared on newsstands in the UK. The weekly issue featured a dramatic photograph of model Abbey Crouch, emphasizing her prominent collarbones and hollow thighs. The headline read “Oh no! Scary Skinnies,” while a caption warned: “Girls starving to be like her.” Inside, a feature revealed that “worryingly, pro-anorexia sites are using her figure as a skinny role model.” The other magazine was the Now Celebrity Diet Special. Its cover was emblazoned with a photograph of the same model in a glamorous bikini, under the headline: “Bikini body secrets…stars’ diet and fitness tricks REVEALED.”
This is perhaps the most blatant example to date of a disturbing and growing trend of women’s magazines affecting a superficial stance of concern about issues that they themselves are often guilty of causing or exacerbating.
This week, the Women’s Media Center celebrated the success of a campaign by 14-year old SPARK activist Julia Bluhm, whose petition calling upon Seventeen magazine to publish one unaltered photo spread per month attracted over 84,000 signatures. But it was only after Bluhm’s campaign whipped up an international media storm that the magazine finally capitulated. When she visited their New York office in May, Julia’s petition already had over 25,000 signatures, yet Seventeen responded with a saccharine statement that neatly sidestepped any commitment, while loudly proclaiming their ethical standpoint on the issue: “Julia left understanding that Seventeen celebrates girls for being their authentic selves, and that’s how we present them.”
There is an undeniable disparity between the caring, concerned tone magazines adopt, and the actual pictures and features they continue to publish week-in, week-out. The recent “health initiative” launched by Vogue was much trumpeted by the magazine as its contribution to promoting positive body image. Yet nowhere in the 6-point agreement is there any commitment to promoting healthy physical ideals through the use of unaltered photographs or a greater range of model sizes. In fact, in terms of its impact on the magazines’ pages, the pact boils down to a commitment not to use underage models or those suffering from eating disorders, as the usual reams of endless thin legs and tiny waists in this month’s Vogue testify.
The same mixed messages are barely concealed across the pages of countless magazines. This month alone, New urges women to “show off their curves,” praising “womanly shapes,” whilst Glamour advises readers to “double up your workout,” “transform your body” and “lose 7 lb – instantly!” Last week’s Star praised Billie Faiers for having “boobs and loving her gorgeous curves,” but just seven days later their next issue proclaimed “Billie hates her big boobs” and “feels self-conscious in a bikini.” Star applauds Pink for being “in no rush to lose her baby weight,” but Now brands Abbey Crouch a “star body” because she “weighs less now than she did before she gave birth last March.” More awards Alexandra Burke “multiple medals for showing off her curves,” but Look badgers readers to “get your dream body in no time” with “calorie burning” hot pants and gym kit that “tones you up fast.” Many feature “curvy celebs” specials, raking thinner celebrities like LeAnn Rimes for “bones jutting out” and a “super-skinny figure,” yet many include celeb diet secrets, painstakingly listing entire daily meal plans.
Holli Rubin, a representative of global initiative Endangered Bodies and a psychotherapist specializing in body image, explains: “Once again, girls and women find themselves in a double bind of on the one hand aspiring to what they believe is the perfect body represented by the celebrities but at the same time, more recently, being told that they really should not want those bodies. Visually we are seeing the images of what girls and women think they should be, yet then the content of the articles berates women for aspiring to that. This makes for a very confusing message not only for girls but for all women and society at large.”
A recent UK government report revealed that “between one third and half of young girls fear becoming fat and engage in dieting or binge eating” and “over 60 percent of girls avoid certain activities because they feel bad about their looks.” It specifically cited media criticism of body weight combined with a lack of body diversity as a contributing factor. Helen Sharpe, a London-based researcher investigating eating disorders in secondary schools agrees: “Exposure to these magazines is robustly linked to body dissatisfaction. We also know that those people most unhappy and vulnerable to begin with are likely to be most affected by the images in a damaging way.”
It’s bad enough that the unrealistic, narrow ideals of female beauty and body prescribed by women’s magazines are so damaging to women’s body confidence and self-esteem. But when “3 out of 4 teenage girls feel depressed, guilty and shameful after spending three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine”; when a coroner last month held the fashion industry and “photographs of wafer thin girls” “directly responsible” for the death of 14-year old schoolgirl Fiona Geraghty; when “80% of 10 year old American girls have been on a diet,” it is time for women’s magazines to stop pretending to advocate for solutions and admit they are part of the problem.
Consider Julia Bluhm and Fiona Geraghty: both 14-year old girls, both already deeply affected by the fashion and magazine industry. Women’s magazines must pay attention to their legacy.
The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent WMC. WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates.
To support women journalists who are changing the conversation, donate to the WMC here.
“A woman will see this as a representative of herself and her self-worth”
Have come across some great blog posts on the stuff that matters here at MTR and I thought you should see them too. Opt 4 has perfectly captured the way objectification of women and girls is harful to them. And there’s some great action points at the end!
You’re flipping through your favorite magazine, newspaper, or just general rag that happens to be around. You’re focusing on 1-2 things per page, and if you asked most people they wouldn’t know half of what they saw while they were flipping the pages. You noticed a phone number here, a dress someone was wearing there, an interesting 100 word article that you skimmed, but nothing truly significant…and you put the mag down and (if you’re like most of us, like the majority of the people int he world) you’ll pick up another one and do something very similar.
What you don’t realize is that though you thought you were just flipping, your mind has allowed you to think that through the use of many many filters. If you consciously knew everything you saw, you’d go into brain overload.
SCARY PART – Your brain is imprinted with every single thing that crosses your eyes. It’s imprinted ont he main central control unit, or the CPU of your brain, the part of your brain that is in complete control of your thinking, your emotions, and how you live your life – your subconscious.
So in your 10 minutes of flipping, your brain was imprinted with every picture you saw.
Now, a lot of research has been done (by marketing and advertising agencies…this is no coincidence) as to what will catch your eye, what colors will entice and shock you, and what images and shapes will cause your eye to imprint onto your subconscious. The breadth of research is phenomenal…and it’s where a lot of our optical illusions come from. So everything that crosses your eyes’ path, is immediately imprinted on your main central influence section of your brain.
To begin this series we’ll start with Print media consumption.
So what are we looking at on a daily basis…here’s a group of print ads:
This blog has spoken about the problems of print media for years:
These are a very very very small example of ads that are seen throughout the fashion magazine, glamour magazines, and women magazine industries. Ads depicting women in brutal, abusive, object-like ways are churned out by the millions.
Most magazines are on average 60% advertising. Many of the fashion magazines ramp it up to 80-90% advertising if you add the captions that tell you the price and make of the things the models are wearing.
So let’s quickly do the numbers and see how far-reaching these images can be – Each magazine has about 800,000 subscribers (this is a very low number). There are 7 ads in each of our hypothetical magazines (the pictures above), that means these images were imprinted on 800,000 people. in a year, these people have each been imprinted with 84 images….that means 800,000 people have been accustomed and trained that images of violence against women are merely advertising and entertainment.
Now add this 800,000 to 10 different magazines for a total of 8,000,000 people! That is a country. That is a large cross-section of our Untied States. The sad part is that this is a low number.
With what we know of brain imprinting we know that these images were imprinted on the subconscious and then created into a thought and opinion. A woman will see this as a representative of herself and her self-worth. A man will see this as a Representative of women in general and is actively learning how to treat “her” through these images. When we see 1 million images a day and 1/2 of them depict violence against women and gender inequality – we have a very heavy imprinting on our brain to think 1 view and idea of women.
When we put all of the ads together we see only 1 thing:
When 1 gender is seen to be superior to another gender, the superior gender will react in violence towards that lesser gender. This has been seen in racism, ageism, and sexism!
Add another aspect to this: Remember what I said above: “A woman will see this as a representative of herself and her self-worth.” Not only are men seeing that women should be treated with violence and that they as men are superior, but women are being taught they deserve this violence and they are less than a man. When a group of people are taught to see themselves as less than another group – the downtrodden group accepts the violence that is put on them as deserved and “normal”.
By allowing our brains to consume these images and by allowing these images to exist, we are promoting and imprinting on our brains – inequality towards women and violence towards women.
opt 4 writing letters to every advertising agency and magazine to end this violent campaign against women.
Opt 4 eliminating this kind of consumption from our society.
Opt 4 ending the consumption of disrespectful print media
In last month’s Girlfriend Review, I outlined the disturbing findings of the magazine’s annual body image survey. Our young women still despise their bodies, despite GF’s own positive body image initiatives, which I’ve argued, never really went far enough.
So it was refreshing to see in May’s issue a strong case for exposing systems and structures which make girls feel bad about themselves – getting it off the individual girl and onto the zillion dollar global beautification industry which contributes to her feeling so damn awful.
In the piece titled ‘We’re all real women’ (‘Readers not models were used in this shoot’), journalist and blogger Rachel Hills writes:
“The real girl resurgency in recent years isn’t just a response to increasingly ‘un-real’ technologies used to create them…it’s about culture, politics and systems. And rather than taking that out on individual girls and women whose physical appearance might be more culturally celebrated than our own, we should direct our anger and activism at the systems that create those narrow images of beauty and privilege them over everything else.
“[the problem is] a culture that says girls who are all those things are cuter, cooler and more worthy of our attention than girls who aren’t – not to mention a culture that says even if you are all those things…you could still look ‘better’ if you had Photoshop to trim your waist, thicken your hair, enhance your breasts or straighten your nose…The point is, there is no ‘us’ verses ‘them’. Impossible beauty standards hurt us all, and the idea that the most important thing a girl can do is meet those standards hurts us even more.”
Of course, one article does not a revolution make, but it’s something. The cultural analysis approach is echoed in a separate piece examining ‘Sh*t girls say’ – looking at some of the negative things girls repeat, for example that they need bigger breasts. “Perhaps you should criticise the kinda society that says bigger busts is the key to happiness rather than actually supporting it”.
I would have liked to have seen this advice applied also to waxing of public hair in increasingly younger girls – in a section titled ‘Down low: The vagina’, removal of public hair is described merely as a “fashion choice” rather than something increasingly culturally mandated and part of the widespread shaming of women’s natural bodies.
And while we’re talking about ‘reality’, what’s with all the slang terms used to describe female body parts? With the trend toward genital surgery (thanks in good part to the influence of pornography) it’s good for girls to know “There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ vagina”. But can’t we avoid the porno terms (beaver, pussy, hole etc)? And the same for breasts. Tits, jubblies and tatas are the degrading terms used in lad’s mags – they don’t belong in mags aimed at building respect for girls and their bodies.
There’s a two page piece ‘Picture Perfect’ which explains photoshop and re-touching and where Girlfriend stands. “When we feature a retouched image, we’ll make you aware of it with a Self-Respect Reality Check”. Except you won’t see one of those on any ad, including the just-too-perfect faces for Rimmel, Maybelline and Veet, for example (don’t tell me that’s their natural skin). Girlfriend has talked tough against advertisers, but never really done anything to force them to change.
Despite evidence which just keeps growing on the harm of objectified and sexualized images on girls and women, the ‘Oh, Lola!’ Marc Jacobs perfume ad of a very young looking Dakota Fanning referencing Lolita in a girly soft pink spotted dress with the phallic perfume bottle between her legs appears here again.
We meet the finalists of Girlfriend of the Year. The photo shoot is somewhat one dimensional. Jamie Howell, 13, is profoundly deaf and wants to represent Australia as an Olympic track and field athlete. It would have been good to see an image of her training, especially given it’s what she seems to be doing almost 24 hours a day! Toni Daley, 17, is a horse lover and also wants to compete at international level. But there’s not a horse in sight. (She is wearing Sportsgirl shoes at $169.95 though). Sienna van Rossum,16, wants to help Aboriginal communities, (though it’s unlikely she will do so in the $149.95 dress she’s modelling). But these girls are doing great things and I hope that doesn’t get lost.
Important piece by Sarah Ayoub ‘I thought I was a fun party girl…But I had no sense of self-worth’ about how girls can self-sabotage through drink-driving, self-harming behaviours, violent relationships, unsafe sexual practices sex (chlamydia infection most prevalent in women 15-24) and drug abuse. “…risk-taking among teenage girls has hit an all-time high, prompting warnings from professionals who fear that girls just like you are damaging their health thanks to the reckless risks they’re taking”.
The article suggests other ways girls can experience the thrill of risk-taking, in less dangerous ways, e.g sport, rock climbing or taking on a socially risky cause which also takes bravery. “By chasing these highs, you’re learning new skills, developing talents, friendships and confidence, and preventing yourself from failing to a trap that you might eventually regret”. I’m hoping Ayoub will be given more space in Girlfriend’s pages in future.
I’m always pleased to see pieces by young non white/non Western women talking about surviving hardship most of us just cannot image. ‘Life with Kony’, tells the story of Grace Arach who at 12 was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. For the next six years she suffered every depravity and violation before escaping and finding protection with the World Vision Uganda Children of War Reception Centre. She is now involved with CAP Uganda (Children/Youth as Peacebuilders). “My dream is to help my friends who’ve been traumatised by the war so that they can become productive and live meaningful lives…”
‘I was never as happy or as sure of myself after that. It was just too big of a let-down, because it wasn’t a rejection from a high school bully, it was a rejection from ‘the experts’, from people with professional opinion, and it was a closing of doors in my face from a glamorous and revered industry’
Thank you for bringing the Dolly Model Reboot to my attention. I am disgusted and appalled. I’m sure you are already aware of the massive damage it can do. The fact that they have brought it back bothers me so much I wanted to share my story with you.
I was 15 when my mum entered me into the Dolly Model Competition. She told me it was to help me with my self-esteem which, at the time, was shockingly low. She said I was so beautiful there was no way I wouldn’t win. A mother’s naivety.
At first I was horrified because I had no respect for fashion models. I told mum that if I won, no one would ever respect me. I wanted more than to be a pretty face. I wanted to be a writer.
But she said, “What better way to get you noticed than to have everyone see your beautiful face?”
And it occurred to me that I would like to win.
I was bullied badly at school, long before I entered the competition. I had freckles and a flat chest and I was terribly shy, I wasn’t tall but I was very thin. You see, I barely ate. And I did think I had a pretty face. I’m part Native American, so I have very white skin with Indian eyes. I felt like it made me stand out.
I began to fantasise about winning the competition and not telling anybody, so they would all discover it when they saw the magazines and be sorry that they bullied me.
Of course, I didn’t win. I didn’t even make semi -finals, or get featured on the collage of entrants in the magazine. And I was crushed because I didn’t know why. The girl that won was pretty, but I just couldn’t see how I was different, or what made her, or all the other girls ‘better’ than me.
And I think the thing that is so painful is that they aren’t really better. They are all beautiful for different reasons, and for whatever reason they didn’t like the look of me.
But none of the entrants ever got to find out what was ‘wrong with us’. That’s what hurt the most. Not knowing why. All we got was the silent rejection of never having been called and knowing that for some reason we could never be told, we weren’t model pretty.
And because that was the whole point of the magazine’s message, that ‘successful’ was ‘pretty’ and ‘model’ was ‘most desired’, I started thinking that I would never really be successful because I wasn’t good enough, and that no matter how hard I worked, no one would ever pick me because I wasn’t pretty enough. The cold and silent rejection stung, and reinforced the message that I was not good enough, and that my bullies were right to pick on me.
It made me feel so worthless.
So 11 years later, after two sexually abusive ex-boyfriends, an eating disorder, an anxiety disorder that I’m still trying to control, and three suicide attempts, I have finally learned the value of myself and my life, and have clawed back some semblance of self-respect.
And I don’t blame the Dolly Model Competition for all of these things, but I do recognise it as a catalyst, and I know I was never as happy or as sure of myself after that. It was just too big of a let-down, because it wasn’t a rejection from a high school bully, it was a rejection from ‘the experts’, from people with professional opinion, and it was a closing of doors in my face from a glamorous and revered industry.
Teenage girls just are not equipped to deal with the conflicting messages, and they are not equipped to deal with damaging competition and rejection.
If I knew what I know now, I would never have accepted the competition in the first place. If people had been less fixated on my looks and more on my talents and interests, I might not have accepted a boyfriend that hurt me, I might not have tried to starve myself, I might not have tried to die.
Girls are worth more than how they look, and I cannot accept that, with teens feeling the way they do, magazines like Dolly are willing to exploit them.
The Dolly Model Competition is bad news. They have enough girls clamouring for stardom in the industry, without bringing the rest of us into it.
This month at Melbourne Westfield Fountain Gate, Elodie Russell beat 500 other teens to be named Victorian state finalist in the new Dolly Model Search.
The Geelong student and 500 other girls competed in the model search resurrected after 10 years.
Elodie is 14. But girls as young as 13 can enter. The winner will receive a modelling contract, fashion shoot and cover shoot for Dolly, and be a “Dolly ambassador.”
The would-be models, many just in high school, are told they can be the next Miranda Kerr. The month’s Dolly has the Victoria Secret model in a red dress with words and arrow: ‘This could be you!’
Kerr is touted as an “inspiration” for young girls. (I’m not sure it’s just girls who find online images of Kerr semi-naked inspiring).
I asked editor Tiffany Dunk why the original search was shut down. She said: “I understand it was over concerns about negative body imaging”.
Things are even worse now. In an age of rampant body hatred and eating disorders, the timing seems off. In a video of the scouting session in Sydney, girls are asked why Kerr is an inspiration. “She’s got a great body!” is one of a number of similar responses.
Which shows us, no matter how many times words like “role model” and “inspiration” are thrown around, it’s still all about bodies. Even now girls will be comparing themselves to Elodie and thinking they are just not good enough.
Body image and eating disorder specialists I spoke to are concerned about the ability of a 13- year-old to navigate the world of modelling. Why is Dolly including such young girls when globally there is a move away from younger models?
In 2005 there was a storm over having a 12-year-old as the face of Gold Coast Fashion Week. Three years later Australian Fashion Week organisers bowed to pressure and dropped a 14- year-year-old Polish girl as the face of the event.
Australia’s Body Image Code of Conduct recommends only using those over 16 to model adult clothes or work or model in fashion shows targeting an adult audience.
The idea that 13 or 14 is too young to model is often met with “But Miranda Kerr started at that age and she’s doing great!”
But how many girls fell by the wayside, how many were damaged due to the harmful consequences of internalizing the message that their value as a person is in how others view and judge their bodies?
The revamped comp has a special spin. “Become a Model Citizen”. Dolly wants “more than a pretty face”, it wants a “great role model for Dolly readers.” It wants girls to “Have fun, don’t let looks rule your life!” (at the same time Chadwick’s judge lists ‘looks” first in what he’s seeking).
Dolly has enlisted the help of The Butterfly Foundation. They’ve prepared “an awesome body image tip sheet” and will also conduct a workshop with finalists. Dolly also says it will have strict rules on how its winner can be used.
But while I support Butterfly’s goals, I’m not sure telling yourself to be beautiful on the inside and the rest is enough to deal with a message dominant in the modelling and fashion industries that you have to be hot to matter.
Thrusting any girl into an industry where they are taught that what matters most is that they fit some cookie-cutter mould of what women should look like, is troubling.
Jess Hart, Dolly’s 1998 model search winner, posed with Jen Hawkins on a 2010 Grazia cover last year headed: “Jen & Jess: how to get their $5M bodies!”
Hart told Grazia she gets “super strict about her diet” prior to a photoshoot.
It is difficult to see how a Dolly Model search winner will deviate from the standard beauty ideal.
It would be one thing to pluck a girl out of a crowd and offer her a contract. But Dolly (with the apparent support of Butterfly) is enabling competition between teen girls on the basis (primarily) of physical appearance.
Dunk says readers want a “relatable teen role model.” “We have endless research that girls respond best to seeing “someone like me” in the media,” she told me.
But couldn’t Dolly give readers a great role model outside a competitive appearance-focussed event in which girls are compared and judged and learn life is just one big beauty pageant?
What about a role model who is an awesome athlete, or musician, or campaigner against violence against women? A teen anti-bullying ‘hero’ writing advice columns – ‘someone like me’ doing amazing things in the world.
It seems to me girls who are truly role models for other girls would be the least likely to enter, because their goals in life are beyond physical appearance. So the true role models may never be discovered.
Rather than introduce them to an industry which glorifies the cult of celebrity and fashion – and contributes to body image despair – why not foster more meaningful values and aspirations in girls? Now that would be inspiring.
Dolly continues to promote appearance over substance
A UK survey, commissioned by UK charity YWCA Central, has found half of all girls and a third of boys are obsessed with body image.
According to a report in the Daily Mail this week, children are willing to take extreme measures to get a perfect body or reach an ideal weight. The survey of 810 children aged 11 to 16 found a majority compared their bodies to what they saw on TV. A quarter were willing to have cosmetic surgery.
Rosi Prescott, chief executive of Central YMCA, said: ‘Young people appear to be increasingly insecure about their appearance and body image.
‘There is a growing trend to resort to quick fixes, which are damaging to health and often unfulfilling.
‘It is also interesting that what used to be seen as a problem affecting young girls has now spread to young men.
‘The root cause of this problem is the pressure on young people to conform to an unattainable and unrealistic body image ideal.’
A UK Parliamentary inquiry into the issue opened yesterday in the UK.
When are we going to see some real action on the issue in Australia?
Adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg and I were asked our thoughts on Channel 7’s Sunrise program this morning.
You’ve probably already heard about 10-year-old French model Thylane Loubry Blondeau and the controversy over the way she is being posed and styled in adult-like ways. I’d written about Vogue’s treatment of Thylane and other young models in an earlier piece titled ‘Vogue’s tarted up photo shoot of little girls is no parody.’
Interest in Thylane has reached hyper drive. I was asked to comment on Channel 7’s Morning Show.
People look at one image and say “I don’t see it. She doesn’t look sexy to me.” This is not about one image or one issue- it’s a collective picture that’s created when we use young girls to sell adult products by putting them in adult make up and adult styling and adult positions. (and we call it fashion and that’s supposed to make it all ok)…
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