Friday, December 6, 2013

On plus-size models

By Anči

 I've always been a bit ambivalent about Plus-size models. And after years of going back and forth on the issue, I still can't decide whether or not they represent positive change in the fashion industry, or just more of the same. 

For a comparison check out the following images side-by-side. The first is of plus size model Ashley Graham, the second is of runway sensation Adriana Lima.

Are you as overwhelmed as I am?

To be clear, I am absolutely in favor of a more diverse, and realistic representation of women in the media. I love seeing thick bodies, and curvy bodies being celebrated. But i'm not convinced that's the primary function of plus-size marketing.
To be fair, it does create a space for "bigger" women to be appreciated-- but only if they happen to line up with classically feminine proportions --which still favor a conventional body type.  Not to mention, most of the "bigger" models aren't actually big at all.

According to Huffington Post, Elle Spain recently featured its first plus size cover girl, which is something we've all wanted to see for a long time. But looking at the impossibly beautiful model they selected, (a young woman named Tara Lynn)  I'm baffled that the magazine would publicly pat itself on the back for their obvious centerfold selection. The only thing Elle Spain actually did was plug another gorgeous woman on their cover. Big deal. In that context, the model's size felt completely incidental. Almost like an afterthought.
Don't agree size can be incidental?  That's because you've been conditioned to evaluate beauty through a very narrow template. (get it?)

Check out Tara's cover:
and  another picture of her:

Admit it:  if you saw this woman walking down the street, in real life, you wouldn't think "she's good looking for a big girl."  Instead you'd probably think "holy shit, is that woman stunning. She needs to be on the cover of something NOW."

I mean, People don't usually look like that. Sure, some may have full pouty lips, or a high cheekbone. And among the extra blessed you might come across shiny voluminous hair, or smooth silky skin, set off with a pair of piercing eyes. But certainly not all things at once!  The fact is, Tara Lynn is objectively, and conventionally beautiful, so why exactly has her much-deserved presence on the cover of Elle, been reduced to a manifesto about her "plus size" figure?

really pushing barriers here.

I'm not unaware of the need for plus size role models, and frankly I would rather see women like Tara splashed across Billboards, than any of her 'mainstream' counterparts. But lets keep in mind that for the majority of women-- Tara Lynn still represents a look that is unattainable.
For one thing, I doubt too many overweight women of color looked at this spread and thought "Finally! Someone I can relate to." And that's the point.

 As important as it is to promote diversity, we shouldn't pretend  that a conventionally curvy white lady with classically feminine features, and long flowing hair  is somehow "subversive." Elle hasn't thrown this woman a bone: if anything, they were lucky to land her, given the enthusiastic response to her stunning cover. 

So until the plus size industry starts practicing some actual inclusivity, forgive me if i'm not too impressed by their efforts.

What's your take?

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