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On Monday, the magazine unveiled Witherspoon as the cover star of its December/January 2022 issue, with the Morning Show star featured on the cover in a Dolce & Gabbana bodysuit, a gold statement necklace, glam makeup and a tousled hairstyle.
The cover shoot, which was photographed by Emma Summerton, also includes additional images of Witherspoon that accompanied a Q&A interview with Gayle King.
On social media, however, many fans were critical of the photos of Witherspoon, as numerous people suggested that the 45-year-old Legally Blonde star did not look like herself as a result of the magazine’s editing.
“Did she approve this edit? This does not look like her,” one person wrote in the comments under InStyle’s Instagram post of the cover.
Another said: “Unrecognisable. What did you do to this gorgeous woman?”
“Stop with the ridiculous Photoshopping. It doesn’t even look like Reese,” someone else wrote.
Others claimed the allegedly edited photo of Witherspoon was “harmful” on the basis that it “sends the wrong message”.
“Honestly, it’s painful to see. She’s gorgeous in real life. Leave her face alone,” they added.
Following the criticism, Brown took to the comments to defend the magazine’s cover photo, with the editor-in-chief claiming that InStyle is “not in the business of embalming women”.
“Hey team, for those commenting on retouching, the brief was super sexy, a heavy eye and big hair. You rarely see Reese like this - which was the point,” Brown wrote. “We are not in the business of embalming women at @InStylemagazine.”
The magazine’s editor then encouraged critics to “feel free to look at Reese’s in-human-form video post, following,” before signing off her message: “All the best, L.”
Brown’s comment prompted responses from some of the magazine’s followers, who disagreed with the claim that the actor’s appearance on the cover was solely due to her makeup and hair.
“Oh come on. You’ve made her face rounder, she literally looks like her daughter on your cover. You’ve tried to make her look 20 years younger, and telling your followers it’s the makeup/hair/clothes is just insulting their intelligence,” one person commented in response.
Another said: “It doesn’t look like her… not because of the hair and makeup.”
While speaking with King for the magazine’s cover interview, Witherspoon herself addressed the frequent comparisons to her daughter Ava Phillippe, with the actor revealing that she loves “being mistaken” for the 22-year-old because it makes her feel “so young”.
In response to King’s question about whether Witherspoon enjoys the reactions she gets from people on social media about the similarities between the two, the Big Little Lies star said: “Well, I love being mistaken for her because it makes me feel so young. I’m so proud of her. She really rolls with it. I’m sure it’s not easy looking exactly like your mother.”
The Independent has contacted InStyle for comment.