Glamour has apparently been inundated with emails and letters from readers who say they love the "woman on p. 194" of the magazine's September issue, who is pictured in her underwear, proudly showing off her pooch.
Cindi Leive, editor of the magazine, wrote a post on the magazine's website saying that since the day the September issue hit newsstands, letters have been pouring in about one unknown model featured in the body-confidence article "What Everyone But You Sees About Your Body." Leive writes:
The letters blew me away: "the most amazing photograph I've ever seen in any women's magazine," wrote one reader in Pavo, Georgia. From another in Somerset, Massachusetts: "This beautiful woman has a real stomach and did I even see a few stretch marks? This is how my belly looks after giving birth to my two amazing kids! This photo made me want to shout from the rooftops."
The emails were filled with such joy—joy at seeing a woman's body with all the curves and quirks and rolls found in nature. (Raising a question: With all the six-packs out there, do you even know what a normal belly looks like anymore—other than the one you see in the mirror?)
On its own, the picture may not seem that incredible, but after flipping through 193 pages of uniform sample-size models, the image is striking. Rather than thinning her via Photoshop or having her sit in an unnatural pose, the model is shown with a bit of belly hanging over her underwear and slightly-bulging thighs, looking happy and genuinely confident. As Leive says, we've gotten to the point where showing a woman with folds in her skin or a belly that sticks out (who isn't in a "before and after" feature) is a radical move for a women's magazine, even though that's what every woman actually sees in the mirror every day.
Leive identifies the model as 20-year-old Lizzi Miller, who is "size 12-14 and avid softball player/belly dancer." Miller says of the fan mail she's receiving:
"When I read them I got teary-eyed!" she says. "I've been that girl, flipping through magazines trying to find just one person who looked a little bit like me. And when I didn't find it I would start to think there's something wrong with the way that I looked. When J. Lo and Beyoncé came out and were making curves sexy, I started to accept myself more. It's funny, but just seeing them look and feel sexy enabled me to do the same."
This is Miller's second appearance in Glamour according to Leive, and we found this photo of her from an article that ran in March. She's posing in her underwear in this picture too, but this time she's showing off her thighs.
Glamour has a better track record than other women's magazines when it comes to showing women of all shapes and sizes. As mentioned earlier, we liked that the magazine's May issue used a plus-size model in their swimsuit fashion spread but didn't mention her size or pat themselves on the back for featuring a "normal-sized" woman.
But still, being the ladymag with the most body diversity isn't that hard when your competition is Vogue. Both pictures of Miller were included in articles about body acceptance and May's plus-size swimsuit spread was a rarity. Every other model featured in this month's Glamour was very thin. Even "What Everyone But You Sees About Your Body" starts out with the standard photo of a perfectly-proportioned model staring at herself in the mirror with a slight frown, which doesn't exactly depict the average reader's issues with her body. Any shot of body confidence readers got from seeing a woman with an average-sized body presented as sexy is quickly neutralized by the magazine's other 295 pages of diet tips, workout recommendations, and images of women with all their natural bumps and rolls airbrushed away.
Leive concludes by asking readers what kind of images they'd like to see in the magazine, adding, "Trust me, Glamour's listening, and this only strengthens our commitment to celebrating all kinds of beauty." Hopefully she means it, because it's already obvious from the response to one three by three inch photo that women are interested in seeing beautiful pictures of women of all shapes and sizes that look like them, rather than what the magazine says they should aspire to look like. But, we're still skeptical. If magazines run more images like the one on page 194, women may internalize the idea that you can look sexy with messy hair, no clothes or accessories, and a layer of body fat and stop buying products to fix their natural yet somehow "flawed" figures.