By Margretta Sowah
Naomi Campbell has – allegedly – put her Louboutin’s into another social issue. Since the needle became intimate with the thread, we’ve been dancing around the issue of the Plus-Size model. So what’s the big deal? Ms Campbell Facebook status read (after receiving this post and researching extensively there was no evidence to support its validity but it did spark my interest…); “This woman, [Tess Holiday] is glorifying disordered eating and poor body image.” Does the fashion industry have a social responsibility with a topic like this?
Tess is a LA based, UK born plus size model (Size 26AU at over 110kg) making huge waves– no pun intended – in the fashion world through her campaign – “Eff Your Beauty Standards.” Ms Holiday is calling out the taboo of the “plus size” model.
Is it fair to say Tess is eating disorderly based on her Instagram pictures? I assume Ms Holiday’s contract with MILK Management (a mainstream UK based modelling agency) has some regulations regarding health and branding – after all, a model’s job is to add context to a concept. The reality of this situation is it will be a hard-won victory for true acceptance of the Plus-Size Model because of Fashion’s elitist mentality, even though these customers represent a good chunk of the market. This mentality also stems into deep seated racial issues and the other side of the spectrum – models that are petite or labelled ‘too thin.’
The French government placed a ban on models that were too thin being hired by agencies and designers earlier this year. This law sends political and social messages about the value of health. Skinny shaming should not be tolerated in society let alone fat shaming. If Tess Holiday, or anyone in her field, were not taking a serious look at their physical/emotional health and wellbeing then it’s extremely important the Fashion Industry offer support and guidance.
I agree with accountability and if we shame smokers (which I am myself) then why shouldn’t we approach issues such as smoking and obesity for what they are – serious health concerns. Yes, Tess is overweight and probably obese clinically (if you take BMI into account) but we need society to represent itself – every part, then we can see things for how they are and start making changes based on these truths not on assumptions. This can start by seeing a woman who is easily over 90kg and not assuming she must have bad eating habits and is lazy; or knowing a very petite and bony woman and not drawing conclusions that she has a very loving relationship with her bathroom sink.
A role model is someone who’s behaviour and successes can be emulated by others. I don’t think the same issue that is happening with anorexic models (young girls developing eating disorders to “fit in”) is happening with the plus size segment – I could be wrong.
Coco Rocha has always been an advocate for making resources available for models who struggling with weight or body image issues. Tyra Banks is also doing her part with her TZONE Foundation; empowering young girls. There definitely needs to be accountability on the agencies part, the industry and the model. There are scary statistics stating a serious increase in anorexia along with weight related issues because of impressionable images and messages being published – photoshopped or not.
The Modelling World is not always glamorous. Just as Kate Moss’s drug scandal tore through the headlines a few years ago which questioned her physical health; the industry chose not to judge her personal decisions over professional accomplishment (and the fact that she is the best thing in Fashion since Chanel). While this writer says the more lines the better (did you see what I just did there? #wittywriter), why can’t we give the same grace to Ms Holiday?
Society needs to be ready for permanent social changes. We are now seeing the issue of Gay marriage influencing our world enormously. This needs to continue with ending both fat and skinny shaming – starting with the Fashion Industry. The only way to promote positive body image and self-love is through acknowledgment and empowerment.
If we can have someone like Caitlyn Jenner (formally known as Bruce Jenner) on the front cover of Vanity Fair, why can’t we accept and embrace public figures such as Tess Holiday and stop hiding behind who-is-shaming-who and start being responsive to the real issues behind controversies like this. How are we able to stop impressionable young girls from making negative choices about their physical appearance?
There are definitely health concerns that must be addressed with Plus–Size just as much as Super Skinny. Blasting a model on social media for doing her job is not one of them. While there will probably never be a plus size edition of Sports Illustrated, there is definitely a market for the fuller figure woman (or man), on a beach… rolling around in sand.