If there’s one day of the year people might not recognize themselves in the mirror, it’s Halloween. But for Belinda Jasmine, there was a slow and subtle process of not seeing herself as she really was.
Jasmine, who surfs almost every day, is slender and fit. But she wondered if she was gaining weight. “I got rid of all my bikinis and sold some cute clothes,” she says.
She didn’t realize it was happening until a visitor figured out the culprit in her own bedroom. “A friend – a really skinny friend – was like, ‘That is a bad mirror,’” Jasmine recalls. “I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me.”
She set out on a quest to find a more flattering mirror, but was disappointed by the options. So she worked with her boyfriend to create the “perfect curve,” which squeezes in the viewer’s middle to create a subtle hourglass effect.
That became the prototype for The Skinny Mirror, which Jasmine launched about a year ago out of her Pacific Grove home. Carpenters at Ocean Woodworks in Sand City assemble the mirrors, which are framed in salvaged Big Sur redwood or Forest Stewardship Certified woods.
They’re elegant standouts among partially finished doors, cabinets and sawdust. “I thought it was a little out there,” says Bob Grummons, production manager of Ocean Woodworks, of his first glimpse in a Skinny Mirror.
Grummons, who’s tall and thin, doesn’t see much of a difference. (He’s got his own issues, he says, pointing to a thinning head of hair.) But he says his wife loves the one they have at home.
Every mirror creates a distortion of some sort – even one that’s perfectly flat reverses left and right. But Jasmine’s proprietary curve has a concave bend in the center, designed to pull the typical viewer’s waist in by what looks like 5-10 pounds. When I ask Jasmine whether the effect simply deludes people, or adds to our fat-shaming culture, she says women are unduly hard on themselves.
The mirror is subtle enough to make women appear to themselves more like the rest of the world sees them, she says, adding that the effect might not work on people who are more than 40 pounds overweight.
“It gives people a positive body image rather than thinking, ‘I’m going to feel like a slob and stay home and eat ice cream,’” Jasmine says.
Skinny Mirror saleswoman Roseanna Shramek says she’s lost 5 pounds and started exercising since getting a mirror.
Jasmine sees the mirror as an antidote to a fat-shaming society inundated with Photoshopped media featuring bony women. Unlike a butt lift or a boob job, the mirror changes how you feel without changing how you actually look.
Jasmine’s not the first person to consider the mirror profound when it comes to identity. The evil queen in Snow White relied on a mirror – maybe a predecessor to a Skinny Mirror? – to deceive her into believing her own looks were superior.
And 20th-century psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan is known for his analysis of human development that includes “the mirror stage.” He essentially replaces Descartes’ notion of “I think, therefore I am,” with the idea that children begin to develop a sense of self only when they get their first glimpses in the mirror. In Lacan’s view, that produces a gap between what we see reflected and what we really are – making mirrors to blame for all that existential tension.
The Skinny Mirror might only add to that disconnect, instead of encouraging women to improve their own body images. Or maybe it doesn’t matter.
Last July, entertainer Ryan Seacrest mused on the Skinny Mirror on his radio show. “Who cares if it’s not accurate?” he asked. “All that matters is what you think you look like.”
He got wind of the mirror from a story in the U.K. Daily Mail, the only media outlet that picked up news of the Skinny Mirror after Jasmine hired a PR consultant to send an email blast to 12,000 reporters.
Now, despite a Kickstarter campaign in which Jasmine barely reached 5 percent of her $100,000 goal, the year-old business is picking up. Jasmine, a graphic artist and web designer, is spending more of her time on the mirrors. She’s sold about 200 to customers all over the world, and expects sales to pick up after listing the mirrors on Amazon in October.
They’re not cheap at $165-$455 (depending on wood type and size). But Jasmine’s optimistic she can build a market among clothing retailers, salons and hotels by pitching her flattering mirrors as a way to boost sales.
“I’m pretty small,” Jasmine says, “but I’m going to be big in a couple of years.”
She means the size of her business, not her waist.