Rachael Leigh Cook poses for a photo at the 2010 Healthy Media for Youth Summit - Paul Morigi/WireImageRachael Leigh Cook's good looks helped make her a breakout teen star in the '90s, but she's railing on the media for its unhealthy expectations when it comes to appearances.
Cook, who starred opposite Freddie Prinze Jr. in the hit 1999 romantic comedy "She's All That," and was the subject of a flood of magazine stories at that time, is taking action against the editorial manipulation of images of celebrities and models -- which she views as having a harmful impact on young women.
"I did not grow up getting told about how manipulated the images we see of women and girls out there are, and I think it's an absolute travesty that young women are seeing what the media is feeding them," Cook told FoxNews.com. "It breaks my heart to be part of an industry and part of a machine that really pushes out these images and propagates these really terrible standards that are false."
Cook knows from experience. After wrapping her first movie -- an adaptation of "The Baby-Sitters Club" -- when she was 15, she struggled with body-image issues.
"I remember gaining quite a bit of weight on the first movie that I worked on because, 'hey, free food!'" Cook said. "You're at that stage where your body is just changing so actively, so it was a natural change, but I remember finishing that film and realizing that I had gained probably 10 pounds over the course of filming which is a lot when you're only 5'2."
"I knew then that I needed to go and really try and get healthy," she continued. "I went too far in the other direction and I worried my parents for a while, I think it's fair to say. I think that it's something that many, many teenage girls go through, especially ones that are achievers and ambitious. You're looking for a sense of control, and when you're in a really transitional phase in your teenage years, I think it's a pretty normal reaction to develop food issues."
Nowadays, it's not surprising to find out that Kate Winslet had possibly been photo-manipulated to look leaner on GQ magazine. Or that Gabby Sidibe was seemingly lightened up on Elle magazine. Or that an already-skinny model was digitally slimmed down to appear even less than zero. Image doctoring -- even among nonfamous people who want to touch themselves up before posting a photo on Facebook -- is so pervasive, that society can be de-sensitized to it.
But when young girls who are prone to eating disorders and low self-esteem are constantly barraged with said image doctoring, the effect could be damaging. To combat the problem, Cook advised people to do an Internet search "Photoshop Tutorial" to witness how the media alters images and helps foster unrealistic standards of beauty.
"Nothing that you see is real, even if you look at what looks like a candid photo of someone, anything can be done," she said. "It is false advertising and false advertising is a crime so why isn't this a crime? I'm just up in arms about it."
She's not the only actress to vent about retouching. Winslet complained about the GQ magazine photo spread in which she looked visibly thinner. "I just didn't want people to think I was a hypocrite and that I'd suddenly lost 30 lb. or whatever," she said after the issue came out in 2003. "So I just came out and said, 'Look, I don't look like that'. I'm not mad at the magazine, but I have no intention of looking like that."
Speaking up for the magazine industry's side of things, contributing Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley defended the practice, saying on "The View": "You got a cover, you eat it, you say it's fabulous. You don't like your twitch or your twisted lip, it's fine. You're on the Vogue cover."