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Other plus size models

July 29, 2013

Trigger warning: Discussion of plus-sized models who have lost weight.

Okay, I’m going to talk about other plus-sized models here and it might get me into trouble. First of all, the standard plus sized model is a size 10-14… maybe a 16 in there somewhere. These are the women who are supposed to represent me? When most of them are smaller than the average-sized woman?

I know I know, they’re not plus-sized women, they’re plus-sized models, meaning they’re big compared to a size 00. I get that. But let’s also get real. There’s a greater and greater demand for models who actually appeal to the average woman and larger. People want to see diversity and we’re just not getting it. What do we need to do? Riot in the streets? GIVE US REAL PLUS SIZES! We can have clever sayings painted on signs and everything. We’ll riot outside all of the major plus-sized clothing retailers. God, especially the ones who use straight-sized models to model plus-sized clothing. (Pssst, you’re not fooling anyone).

And, there’s no getting around it: no matter what the size of the supposed plus-sized model, her tummy is flat, her breasts are large, and her hips are perfectly proportional to her waist size (which means her pant size may be a 14, but only because of her hips. Her waist may very well be straight-sized. The fact is that most of us fat people don’t come with flat tummies and perfect hourglass shapes. I spent years denying myself the ability to model because I wasn’t an hourglass figure even when I was a size 12. I was never good enough because I’d never look like them.

So who do we have to turn to? What real plus-sized models do we have? Velvet D’Amour, Beth Ditto, Tess Munster, Rosi Mercado… wait.. strike those last two. Tess Munster may be all body positive now, but she posed for a fat hate TV show called Heavy at the beginning of her career. Although she turned down modeling for The Biggest Dickweed, saying weight loss shouldn’t be a competition, she went on to explain in this interview that the people on Heavy were really unhealthy. The premise of the show is that they have to lose weight to save their lives (*cough*bullshit*cough*). So Tess’s position seems to put a limit on who’s allowed into Fat Acceptance and who’s allowed to be okay with their fat bodies, and it’s based on how able-bodied they are. This is not only fatphobic, it intersects with ableism.

And, of course, Rosie Mercado, formerly a size 26/28 model, bowed to pressure from Plus Model Magazine and lost weight, making her a size 22.

Now, a size 22 model isn’t bad, it’s what size I am, but being pressured into losing weight is what I have a problem with. I know that she and Tess are fallible human beings who make mistakes, but what I’m saying is that we have very, very few real plus-sized role models in fatshion modeling to look up to who aren’t losing weight or telling other people to lose weight.

I got into an argument with someone on Facebook over something completely different, but he decided on personal attacks and attacked the fact that I chose to model, calling me a show pony and saying I perpetuate sexism by being a part of the system. Wow. Talk about a hard hit. Of course, he also denied thin privilege or fat oppression, so it may be hard for him to see what I actually do, which is to fight the system. So far, I’m the only person of my body type that I’ve seen modeling and, though I’m not a professional model and probably will never be, I do my part to challenge the standard beauty ideal and to inspire and educate others.

It’s hard for people to grasp how difficult it is to put yourself out there in an industry that rejects you based on your body size or your proportions, or how badly needed unorthodox plus-sized models really are. I recognize the problems with what I do. Women in modeling are often objectified, over-sexualized, put in infantalizing positions. I’m not saying that I, or what I do, is perfect by any means. But what I do is important and I’m just saying that I need someone to look up to as well. I need role models too. Why are they so hard to find even in a market that demands diversity at a continually growing rate? When are fat models — actually fat models — going to realize that when they bow to the weight loss industry, they hurt us all?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2013 6:56 pm

    The whole modeling thing sort of mystifies me. I look at pictures of clothes I might want to acquire to get an idea of whether I’d really want them, especially now that I do most of my shopping online. I’m a size 32. It makes sense to me to look at clothes on a size 32 woman to see if I want to buy them, right? Why on earth would I want to buy clothes that look good on a woman half my size?

    There’s a woman who used to model a lot for Making It Big and I swear, her shape was so much like mine that if she was pictured wearing something, I’d buy it. I KNEW how it would hang, whether it would look weirdly proportioned, etc.

    I do not have a flat tummy. I have a round belly. Flat-tummy clothes look like sausage casings on me. If the model is all svelte and flat, I am suspicious that the clothes will not work.

    I’m sure I’m missing something important about “modeling.” But I truly do not get it: if selling me the clothes is not the point, what is?

    • pyctsi permalink
      July 31, 2013 12:10 pm

      This is why I like what Holy Clothing does, they showcase customers wearing the clothes, so you can see a variety of people wearing the clothes and get an idea what they look like on different shapes and sizes, I just wish it wasn’t so expensive to import clothes (although the prices are reasonable compared to the one place on the high street I can shop at).

  2. Leila Haddad permalink
    July 29, 2013 11:02 pm

    sadly, modeling has never ever been about selling clothes, It’s about selling fantasy. So if you see this svelte wisp of a thing wearing this outfit, the idea is that you will buy it whether it fits you well or not, because you imagine yourself as slim as the model wearing it.

  3. Jen permalink
    July 30, 2013 5:30 pm

    I wish that the fashion industry had representative body shapes from ALL sizes. There really is an idea in fashion that every woman fits the industry’s definition of an “ideal” shape (flat tummy, no muscle mass, hourglass). It isn’t representative of most thin women, average sized women, OR heavier women. If they had to be representative, maybe they would also have to design clothing that is flattering and comfortable for women who deviate (read: virtually everyone)

  4. jenny b permalink
    August 9, 2013 11:39 pm

    most likely the flat tummy and no double chin are the results of some fabulous photoshop. just an idea.

    • August 10, 2013 7:01 pm

      considering the models tend to be size 12 and under some of that flatness is definitely natural. it’s not like they have rolls. someone could maybe photoshop out my chin, but no way they could make my stomach flat. besides, while some photoshop is done on all models, they don’t want to hire models who need extensive photoshopping so they hire models as close to the ideal as possible. either way, a size 12 is never going to represent someone who’s a size 22.

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