By Stephen Exley 

From a distance, Emma Watson appears to embody perfectly the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle. The reality, however, is very different, the actress has admitted.

After being cast as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as a precocious nine-year-old, Watson went on to find global fame by starring in all eight of the hit films in the multi-billion-pound series.

Watson, now aged 23, seems to have made the transition from child star to bona fide adult actress effortlessly, and is currently starring alongside household names such as Russell Crowe and Ray Winstone in biblical epic Noah, released in the UK on Friday. She has also made the move into modelling.

But Watson has hit out at the “dangerously unhealthy” image projected by the fashion and film industries, and admitted that the pressure to look flawless has taken its toll on her.

After the recent New York premiere of Noah, she tweeted a picture of the vast collection of cosmetics she used to prepare herself for the red carpet. Alongside another photo of her wearing a backless black dress, she wrote: “I did NOT wake up like this.”

Watson has also admitted that, in recent years, the pressure to appear perfect has been a strain. “As a younger woman, that pressure got me down, but I’ve made my peace with it,” she said.

"With airbrushing and digital manipulation, fashion can project an unobtainable image that’s dangerously unhealthy. I’m excited about the ageing process. I’m more interested in women who aren’t perfect. They’re more compelling.”

Watson, who is juggling her studies at Brown University in the US alongside her acting and modelling work, also admitted to struggling with press attention at university, particularly from British photographers.

“After Harry Potter, all that mattered was university,” she told The Sunday Times. “It wasn’t always easy to break down barriers, as having men from the British press following me with cameras didn’t help my mission to integrate.”

But although the American media was relatively restrained, she added, the attention of fellow students was a problem. “On the first day, I walked into the canteen and everyone went completely silent and turned around to look at me,” she said.

Questions for your class: 

  1. In what ways do the fashion industry and the media put pressure on girls to look perfect?
  2. What effects could this pressure have on young people?
  3. Do you think the media is at fault for promoting flawless images of women? Explain your answer.
  4. Are men faced with the same pressure about their appearance? Try to give examples to justify your opinion.

 TES Connect resources

Introduction to media language

Introduce your students to media analysis terms with this useful PowerPoint presentation

Representation in magazines

Encourage your students to question and deconstruct print representations.

Body image

Help students understand the importance of physical, mental and emotional health with this body image activity from NHS Careers.

Challenge the Media

This booklet from Discover Human Rights contains activities and information on raising awareness of the sexualisation of girls and women.