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Proenza Schouler and “Top Model” get waist-ed

By August 17, 2010 8 Comments

Proenza Schouler's new ad campaign features a model who seems to have misplaced her waist.

Flat abs, lean legs, perky breasts: these fashion industry staples have been mandated so long, you can pretty much expect to find them on any straight-size model. But what’s the newest must-have on the runways? A teeny-tiny, impossibly thin waist.

Obviously, this trend isn’t a new one (ever heard of a corset?), but recent media hype has drawn a lot of attention to the trait.

If you own a TV and have ever found yourself “accidentally” surfing the CW network (Yeah, I DVR “Gossip Girl.” So?!), you’ve probably seen promo ads for the upcoming season of “America’s Next Top Model.”

While it’s never exactly been a stellar representation of realistic beauty (a handful of plus-size girls and a season’s worth of petite ones does not a diverse show make), “Top Model” may have finally gone too far.

In the video below, cycle 15 contestant Ann shows off her unbelievably itty-bitty waist (J. Alexander’s hands successfully touch when wrapped around it). It’s surprising Tyra Banks doesn’t have to wipe the drool off her chin, given the awe-struck expression on her face.

The commercial is only 21 seconds long, but it does a pretty efficient job of planting the seeds of some seriously distorted beauty ideals. Does 6’2″ Ann really have that miniature middle naturally? Maybe. But it’s still disconcerting to see that “regular-thin” is no longer the modeling world’s gold standard. The hosts’ mesmerized gazes pretty clearly convey that to get ahead, it helps to have almost unfeasible body parts. Great.

Jumping on the “oh my god, is that for real?” bandwagon is fashion line Proenza Schouler. In the company’s new ad campaign (seen at the top of this post), a model quite literally disappears when viewed from the side. Too much fun with the eraser tool in Photoshop? An unfortunate angle? Does it matter? Either way, this is the image designers Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez chose to project to the world, and it’s not healthy, beautiful, or for that matter, humanly possible.

While it’s wonderful to celebrate all the various eccentricities that go along with having a body, putting one on this high a pedestal can be seriously damaging. No amount of Spanx or sucking in will ever get most women the waist these fashion moguls are fetishizing. And it doesn’t matter one bit. But that doesn’t change the fact that swarms of style-savvy girls will buy into yet another unattainable aspiration.

UPDATE: Tyra Banks sat down with PEOPLE Magazine yesterday to issue a lengthy apology for the new “Top Model” promo.

“The passionate response the trailer has evoked proves that the message to promote and celebrate all different — healthy and natural –- body types has resonated with our viewers and I’m so proud of every one of you who voiced your opinion and participated in this conversation. I have experienced body image scrutiny from one extreme to the next –- as an awkward, extremely thin pre-teen who couldn’t gain weight no matter what I did, to later being slammed by the media for my fuller, curvier frame,” Tyra said.

“Driven by these personal experiences, I am committed to expanding the definition of beauty which includes ALL shapes, sizes and proportions, from skinny to curvy and everything in between. It’s about women telling the world to KISS their –- skinny, wide, droopy, flat, cellulite-covered or FAT -– you know what!”

Read Tyra’s full statement here.


— Michelle Konstantinovsky is a student at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and an avid admirer of shiny objects and preteen entertainment. It would be nice if you visited her website: www.michellekmedia.com. Also, she may learn to use Twitter more effectively if you follow her @michelley415.