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I Miss BBW Magazine

December 8, 2011

Although I deplore the majority of messages spawned by the fashion industry, I don’t deplore fashion. I actually like it a lot. I’m a woman, after all, and women like to look good. Unfortunately, except for a few relatively brief, shining moments, we BBWs (Big, Beautiful Women) have had to feel left out of the scintillating, glamorous world of fashion. Does anyone remember BBW Magazine? I remember it very fondly.

A wonderful woman named Carole Shaw is actually responsible for coining the term “BBW” all the way back in 1979 to name her magazine. I was only 14 at the time, and I didn’t discover it on the newsstands until I was in my late teens or early 20s, but when I did I felt like I had been given a glimpse of paradise.

Thin and average-sized women have a plethora of fashion magazines to choose from whenever they pass a newsstand or enter a bookstore, whereas we large women have been left empty-handed. I remember how excited I always was whenever I got the latest issue of BBW. It was the highlight of every month — a special time.

I would wait until I had some quiet time alone, then spend an hour or so slowly going through it, savouring page after page of fashion spreads (displaying women of size looking beautiful and happy in vibrant, lovely clothes), advertisements that were geared toward women like me, and cute, fluffy articles that comprise much of any women’s magazine.

BBW Magazine launched in 1979 and ceased publication in the late 1990s. The reason is detailed here,

For a long time, we felt we could prevail because of the wonderful support you have given us. Unfortunately, advertiser support simply didn’t come through, and advertising support is what allows the presses to run.

Ultimately, we were forced to face the reality of this new age of publishing, and so the print version of BBW ceased to exist.

It doesn’t surprise me. There’s an online version, but it’s not the same. I miss the days when I could just go to a bookstore, pick it up, pay for it, and take it home to read and peruse at my leisure.

Another much-missed magazine is Radiance, published by Alice Ansfield. Alice launched Radiance in 1984 and it ceased publication in 2000. Although Radiance did have fashion spreads, the fashion tended to be a little quirkier and “new agey,” and there was a great classified section in the back for all kinds of supersized clothing and products.

Its tone was a little more “serious” than BBW‘s girlie feel. It featured the great column “Big News” by Bill Fabrey, founder of NAAFA, which caught us up on all the Fat Acceptance news of the month. There was also a large feature article every month about a large-sized celebrity or model. I remember one of my favourite features was on Carnie Wilson, probably around the time she was doing her talk show.

At the time, she was proclaiming herself proudly plus-sized, and she talked about how great her love life was with her fiance at the time. I think it was only a couple of years later that she opted for gastric bypass, and I remember feeling cheated. She had been such a great role model for all of us, and then I realized she had probably just been paying lip service all along. It was disappointing, but didn’t lessen my affection for Radiance.

Radiance is available online as well and, again, it’s just not the same. I have always wondered why it is so difficult to keep a plus-sized woman’s magazine on the newsstands. Is it a  lack of readership? I always found that hard to believe. Large-sized women’s magazines are so rare that I imagined every plus-sized woman out there diving for them (just like me), so that didn’t seem to be the issue. The answer seems to be a lack of advertising dollars. Most advertisers do not want to be associated with a large-sized magazine. There’s not enough money in it when women feel good about themselves. It is so much more profitable advertising in Cosmo, Elle, Vogue, or Glamour, where women are always striving to look better, hotter, fitter. You know those magazines will never go out of business. But the ones promotiong self-love and self-acceptance wither and die.

How sad is that? I miss those magazines. And I so respect and honor the women who created them and put their hearts and souls into them. Who knows? Maybe one of these days a magazine designed exclusively for plus-sized women will not only survive, but thrive. We can only hope, because that would be really cool.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2011 10:08 am

    I totally understand your pining for print magazines. Sadly, I think most print magazines are headed in this direction, but who knows. People thought TV would be the end of radio, but it adapted.

    In any case, I think part of the problem is that the plus-sized market just isn’t as robust as it could be. Until the day when manufacturers and designers realize the potential of selling to fat customers, this will continue to be a case and advertising will continue to be restricted for fat mainstream publications. Also, part of it is a problem with the culture, where nobody wants to “settle” for being fat. They want to look at pictures of what they could be, not what they are. That will have to change as well.

    I’m sorry you miss these magazines, but there are others, like Skorch, that may scratch that itch if you’re so inclined.

    Peace,
    Shannon

  2. December 8, 2011 2:16 pm

    Yes, unfortunately it seems that a lot of magazines and even newspapers are being phased out and going digital … it’s too bad. I guess it isn’t exclusive to plus-sized magazines but they certainly seem to be the ones that go down first. I just can’t figure out why. The average woman is a size 14 or in that ballpark and they can’t find an audience for these magazines? I think you’re right … I think a lot of women feel that if they let themselves get comfortable and even proud of the bodies they have, it means they’re “settling” . So sad.

    • Kala permalink
      December 9, 2011 7:46 am

      Well it’s easy to understand. The average woman may be a 14, but I’d bet that the same average woman pines to be a size 4 instead. So thus she reads magazines that reflect her desired self, and not her actual self. I mean, I don’t know, seems pretty nonsensical to me, that I’d look at clothes and make clothing decisions based on people that look nothing like me, but that’s the way it unfortunately is.

  3. Mulberry permalink
    December 8, 2011 4:18 pm

    I loved BBW Magazine. I liked the way they tried to include fashion for different kinds of plus – old plus, short plus, super plus (Remember that stunning model Cindy Michaels?) and others. I loved Carole Shaw’s editorials. I found a few really nice pieces of clothing through that magazine. I even copied a hairstyle or two, simply because they were shown on a face that had a similar shape to mine, and I liked the styles.
    Even the articles could be fun. There was a little fiction piece I remember of a fat woman from the fat-accepting future who did a little time-travel back to the 1980’s and commented as she tried to negotiate her way around. (“That store must really value their large customers! They put the fat women’s department in the basement right next to the bomb shelter!”)
    Besides the advertisers, I believe part of the problem was that fat women were embarrassed to buy BBW. That was a wicked shame.
    Thanks for the reminiscence.

    • December 8, 2011 5:45 pm

      You’re welcome, Mulberry, glad you enjoyed it. 🙂 I actually went searching for my back issues before I started writing this post … I thought I had them safeguarded in my file cabinet downstairs … and then I couldn’t find them! I was bereft. 😦 I’m sure I have them somewhere … those magazines were really like little treasures to me.

  4. vesta44 permalink
    December 8, 2011 4:39 pm

    I remember BBW magazine too, I subscribed to it from the time it came out until it stopped print publication. I even subscribed to their personal ads for a short time. I loved the clothes they showed, the models they had, the articles, the whole magazine was fabulous.
    It’s a shame that advertisers don’t want to be associated with a magazine that caters to fat women – they’re missing out on a lot of dollars that could be spent on their merchandise. And those manufacturers who don’t want their clothing lines sullied by being associated with fat women? They’re also missing out on a lot of money that could be coming into their pockets because they’re snobs. I’m glad they’re so rich that they can afford to do without our money.

    • December 8, 2011 5:49 pm

      I know, Vesta, it doesn’t make sense to me either. There is such a market out there, but no one seems particularly interested … almost as if retailers are afraid our money will make them fat too. I guess we just have to be grateful for the crumbs they throw us like the Lane Bryants, Avenues, the dinky plus-sized sections in most dept. stores, and just remember the glory days of BBW magazine fondly.

  5. Emerald permalink
    December 9, 2011 6:24 am

    Here in the UK, we have the fairly recently launched Beautiful magazine:
    http://www.beautifulmagazine.co.uk/
    OK, I find the term ‘real woman’ problematic, and it’s not available at all mainstream outlets – just Evans clothing stores and selected branches of Tesco supermarkets – but it’s very well put together and interesting, and appears to be coming from a HAES viewpoint.

    I heard a while back about this one:
    http://www.justasbeautiful.com/
    – but I haven’t seen the print issue on sale anywhere, and compared to Beautiful I find the look and tone of this one a little offputting. (‘Just as’ beautiful? Do we have to make a comparison? And issues have covered ‘coping with the lap-band’ and ‘return of The Biggest Loser’, not subjects I want to read about in a fat-pos mag, thanks muchly.)

    There were attempts to launch plus-size fashion/beauty mags in the UK back in the 80s/90s (I can’t right now recall what any of the titles were, but there were a couple that were out for a short while then folded). I tend to agree that advertising is the key factor. But, we now have our big main high-street news/stationery chain (WH Smith’s) stocking women’s mags that are pretty niche in their appeal – burlesque, vintage style, that kind of thing – so surely it’s time we had a plus-size mag that was as widely available.

    • December 9, 2011 9:06 am

      Thanks for that info, Emerald. I had to chuckle at the name of that second one … “justasbeautiful”? I guess they were competing directly against “beautiful”! The tone of it, from what you describe, does sound off-putting …. the articles appear to be encouraging readers to think about losing weight, just about as far from size positive as you can get. We have our share of niche magazines here too … it really makes you wonder. We’re not a niche …. we’re a demographic! But nothing for us …

  6. Betty Johnson permalink
    March 28, 2012 10:15 pm

    BBW still has an online version, and Sally Smith is still at the helm of that magazine. I can tell you that the staff at BBW was some of the nicest people I ever worked with, and the subscribers were the nicest in the industry!

    Betty Johnson
    Former Fashion Editor, BBW Magazine

  7. November 24, 2012 1:54 pm

    I thougth I was the only one who terribly misses those magazines. Even in my 40s I still long for those pages

  8. December 2, 2012 6:15 pm

    I remember it will. I was in living in St clair Shores Michigan and the creator of the magazine was at a fashion show in Roseville Michigan and after the show we were all invited to come up and meet her. She said to me hello beautiful and said she would like to have me as one of the models in her magazine.

    The funny thing was that I was leaving to move to Los Angeles that Monday after the Sunday show as I sold my business and moving my daughter and myself out to the west coast.

    So when I got to Los Angeles I was in a few issues. Being new I had a hard time relaxing but they were able to get a few good shots. I still have copies of the one’s that I was in, in storage. My mother carried the magazine in her purse until she died.

    So I remember it well and it was a highlight of my youth. I met one of their top models Idrea and we have had a life long friendship. Idrea owns a wonderful store called Lucky You Resale in Valley of Los Angeles and is still so amazing beautiful. I host a talk show and run a few sites and have written two books and still live in Los Angles. CA as a live streaming expert and online host of my own show.

    The magazine help to make us all feel beautiful about who we were and I think of the days that I would read the magazine over and over again and it gave me hope… Hope that I could love myself for just being me. It was a new beginning for many BBW’s …

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