On the heels of the overwhelmingly positive response to a photo of naked and adorably pot-bellied plus-size model Lizzi Miller, Glamour is planning a naked fat girl extravaganza for November!
Well, "fat" is pushing it. The issue will feature plus-size models Kate Dillon, Jennie Runk, Amy Lemons, Crystal Renn, Ashley Graham and Anansa Sims as well as Miller, and since 8 is a "plus size" in modeling terms, fat fetishists are likely to be disappointed. (Just as they will be when this headline comes up in their Googling.) As Margaret put it when she wrote about the tempest in a potbelly, "being the ladymag with the most body diversity isn't that hard when your competition is Vogue."
That's why I'm always torn about seeing plus-size models held up as groundbreaking examples of "real women" in the media. I mean, for starters, I hate the idea that any particular body type should be associated with genuine womanhood, whether it's fat, thin, or in-between. We're all real women. But it's also that plus models are still models. They're still tall, well-proportioned, clear-skinned, shiny-haired, able-bodied and usually white, on top of only being "fat" relative to size 0s. The standard is basically the same as it always was, just notched up to a somewhat more common range of dress sizes — which is to say, the standard is still impossible for most of us to meet.
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And yet, I'm thrilled nonetheless to see these gorgeous women getting work without having to starve themselves, as Dillon, Renn, and several other plus models are on record as having done early in their careers. I'm thrilled to see a little bit of body diversity in the ladymags, even if it's only a little bit. And yeah, I admit I was thrilled to see Lizzi Miller's belly — and even more so, the outpouring of love for it.
But you know what was really exciting for me to see? Renn's cellulite-ridden thighs, in an unretouched outtake from a recent Harper's Bazaar Australia shoot (scroll down). People, I have written half a book about body image, including a chapter on media bullshit, and countless posts about how Photoshop turns uncommonly beautiful women into inhumanly beautiful women. Yet until I saw that picture, it seriously never dawned on me that Crystal Renn might have lumpy thighs in real life. That's how powerful the brainwashing is. And here's your lolsob of the day: On the Harper's Bazaar Australia site, where only the retouched photos appear, one commenter says of a lovely pic with an underwater shadow effect: "I dont understand the lighting on the fleshtone outfit, are they trying to give this beautiful model cellulite?" No, actually they 'shopped it out of that one.
So does a Glamour spread full of cellulite-, zit- and wrinkle-free photos of stunningly gorgeous women somewhere between sizes 8 and 16 really count as progress? Well, sadly, yes. And I'll certainly be buying it to show my support for the effort. But let's not pretend this is some game-changing departure from the impossible beauty standards women's magazines usually promote, when it's only a very slight adjustment to them. I'll save my real cheering for the day when a mainstream ladymag publishes photos from The Adipositivity Project [NSFW] or The Shape of a Mother.
Lots To Love [NY Post]
Crystal Renn In Harper's Bazaar Australia, May 2009 [Corpulent]
Fashion Well: 'Be Proud' [Harper's Bazaar Australia]
The Adipositivity Project [Official Site]
The Shape of a Mother [Official Site]
Earlier: Glamour's Plus-Size Model: "I'm Not Saying Size 2 Isn't Normal, But My Normal is This"
Glamour Shocks Readers By Featuring Plus-Size Model's Belly