A previous version of this blog was originally posted at tallanna.com.
In 2009, a light bulb turned on. (I sure hope it was a CFL.) Someone in mainstream media — new or old, internationally or nationally — an editor, an assistant, maybe it was a PR rep, realized that “Oh hey! Not everyone is a size 2, huh? All the other ‘beautiful’ people in this industry deserve a chance.”
Dove was way ahead of the game with their Campaign for Real Beauty (launched in 2004). But last I heard, Dove doesn’t drive home magazine sales. Sexy things do. And naked sexy things will sell even more magazines.
And suddenly, we embraced the body — naked (or nearly so) and often un-airbrushed — while we also further embraced the plus-sized.
Glamour ran a spread of naked-and-not-insanely-thin models in November. You might remember that infamous picture of plus-sized model Lizzie Miller with tummy flab? (No! Not tummy flab!)
A couple months before that, model Natalia Vodianova bared all on the cover of British Vogue’s June 2009 Body Issue, an issue that vowed to look at how women — yes, even women thinner and more famous than you — felt about their bodies and how they, too, obsessively watch their weight and wished their butts were perkier. (But wait, if even the “perfect” feel insecure, is there hope left for the rest of us?)
And the trend continues on into 2010:
â€¢ Naked and un-airbrushed Jennifer Hawkins will grace the cover of the Australian Marie Claire in February.
â€¢ V magazine has dedicated its whole January issue, out on the 14th, to plus-sized models in all states of dress and undress.
If all bodies are beautiful, shouldn’t we focus equally on the thin and not so thin? The short and tall? The curvy and boxy? Despite the valiant efforts, we can’t assume that occasionally swapping out rail-thin models for those with some meat on their bones will, on its own, make 2010 the year the fashion, beauty and advertising industries suddenly changed their minds.
These women — underweight or slightly overweight — are still models. The images we digest are the results of teams of makeup artists, hairstylists, wardrobe assistants, lighting specialists and creative photographers that none of us “real” people have at our disposal.
Fashion spreads, despite the model and her size, are still perpetuating parts of a beauty myth — the glowing, perfect skin, the undimpled thighs — and the message that you are not good enough the way you are. (And that products have all the answers!)
Designers’ samples are still size 4 … or smaller. Runway models are still hired as emaciated hangers that catch your eye and on which designers can hang their art.
Shedding light on the fact that different body types exist — sure, it’s a step in the right direction. But for maximum impact, to make the change that communicates my body and my self are awesome just the way they are, we have to be able to prove that a different message and image will make the industries more money than what they’re making now.
What sells the most — whether it’s putting women down or lifting women up — will eventually win in the end.