As women, we are reminded almost daily that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. That our worth isn’t measured by our waistlines, the color of our skin, our height, thigh gap, perfect butt, or the myriad of other aspects that would be considered aesthetically pleasing to the world. That our hearts, our kindness, our minds and our love are worth more than any number on a scale.
And yet, actions speak louder than words. From the time we are young, we idolize the women on magazine covers, on television, and on the big screen. And many of them have certain characteristics in common: they are thin, and considered universally appealing. In one glance of a cover, any cover, all the praises of our beauty are put into question as we stare at the seemingly impossible standard we are measured against.
In the time of the 80’s supermodel, when women like Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Claudia Schiffer graced the runway, girls worldwide (myself included, even at the age of 10) would compare ourselves to this standard. Back then, it was one of tall, statuesque beauty, with curves indicative of womanhood. A natural, almost realistic type of beauty that wasn’t completely skewed.
And then came the grunge, waif style of the 90’s with girls like Kate Moss gracing billboards in Times Square. Impossibly thin, to the point of concerning, their natural state created a shift in the average woman’s personal perception of what was considered attractive. And while these girls were merely the latest in the wave of trends, many of them simply naturally thin, it still created a twisted reality for the female consumer.
At the time there were calls for equality, of realistic shapes and sizes representative of real women on the runways, and on the pages. Girls and women were striving for an unrealistic aesthetic, that even many models are now coming forward, revealing the unhealthy habits it took to obtain. Many of those same models are admitting that even at their thinnest, they were told it wasn’t enough.
In a powerful post on her Instagram, model Emily DiDonato showed clearly the impact of ‘perfection’ on a young woman. The constant struggle to be thin, to be what the industry wants, can push girls to the brink, and Emily had had enough. Featuring photos of herself from earlier in her career matched against her current healthy and beautiful look, she holds nothing back in terms of what can drive a young model to an unhealthy state.
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Now and then .. I posted a video on my YouTube channel talking about my road to self love and body confidence. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in my body. I’ve fluctuated over the years from a double zero to a size 10 and I remember being so embarrassed and ashamed of that. I wish I was kinder to myself because I am only human but I thought models were meant to be a 00 and stay a 00. I was always hesitant to talk about body positivity or body diversity because I am aware being a size 6 or 8 is nothing ground breaking but in the modeling industry, my size hasn’t always been represented, celebrated or accepted. For me, feeling comfortable in my skin has taken a lot of work and effort and I wanted to share that with you guys. ❤️ Link in BIO!
Modeling, to some, is a fantasy. Perfect girls in beautiful settings and luxurious clothing. It should come as no surprise, then, that lingerie giant Victoria Secret considers itself to be the proprietor of such fantasies. So much so, that in 2018 marketing director Ed Razek gave a controversial (but not unexpected) interview in which he stated that that Victoria’s Secret would not feature transgender or plus-size models in its fashion show, arguing that their brand was based on fantasy and being “politically correct” wasn’t part of their brand. So, apparently showing real women, regardless of size or sexual identity, is nothing more than being politically correct? Needless to say, VS was met with a firestorm of backlash in the months following the interview. So much so, that the 2019 Victoria Secret Fashion Show, a production that is considered the highlight of the year for the brand, will not be happening.
Well, it seems that finally, finally, someone is listening. There has been a slow, but still noticeable shift in representation for all shapes and sizes, in various platforms bucking the trend of beauty for what is considered ‘real’.
For those who may hate the stance of VS, but still want to see beautiful girls strutting in their knickers, look no further than Savage x Fenty with Rihanna. Finally, sexy lingerie for all women. Their 2018 Fashion Week show was praised for its inclusivity and body positive message.
STILL living for the #SavageXFW18 show! 💅| What was your fave moment from the show?
— Savage X Fenty by Rihanna (@SavageXFenty) November 13, 2018
But it doesn’t stop there.
Take Nike for example. The sports giant turned more than a few heads this past summer with their release of body positive mannequins, and an entire campaign centered around athletic gear for ALL women. Model Paloma Elsesser rocked the campaign with her beauty and curves, showing that all women can look good in sports wear. The reception was mostly positive, with fans praising Nike for branching out from its typical athlete and fitness model persona.
— Ashley Stokes (@_AStokes_) June 6, 2019
The ads didn’t stop at just featuring a curvy model as the face of the campaign, but also strived to include education and information rather than sticking with the traditional flashy tag line. For example, Nike asked women to consider if their bra size is actually the right one for them: “Most women wear a band too big and cup too small. Raise your hands above your head. If the band moves up, you may need to size down.”
But, not everyone was on board with this new body positive line. Trolls far and wide came out from under their bridges to bash Nike for daring to step out of the ‘perfect fitness’ image. The criticism was met with loud and proud voices calling them out for fat shaming, asking ‘you say you want us to work out more, but what do you expect us to wear?’ For some, the idea of clothes for every person seemed unrealistic. Or, fine on paper, so long as they didn’t have to acknowledge it in the store.
Tweets such as this caused quite an uproar:
Tanya Gold: 'The new mannequin is obese, and she is not readying herself for a run in her shiny Nike gear. She cannot run. She is, more likely, pre-diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement. What terrible cynicism is this on the part of #Nike?' https://t.co/51VmvUCxLE
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) June 9, 2019
Overall, trolls aside, the campaign was met with terrific reception from women of all sizes, proving that people are ready, and want, more inclusive representation.
Many celebrities have been quite vocal over the years about learning to accept their bodies, in an industry that tends to lean towards the perfect Hollywood figure. Chrissy Teigen, our fav outspoken she-hero, didn’t hide the fact that her body changed after the birth of her second child. If anything, she was completely candid about the physical changes she underwent, and accepting her new look. Not long after the birth, while vacationing in Bali, Teigen posted a photo of herself with the caption ‘Mom bod alert’, following it up with another message not long after:
“Instagram is crazy. I think it’s awesome people have killer bodies and are proud to show them off (I really do!!), but I know how hard it can be to forget what (for lack of a better word) regular ol’ bodies look like when everyone looks bonkers amazing. Also I don’t really call this ‘body confidence’ because I’m not quite there yet. I’m still super insecure. I’m just happy that I can make anyone else out there feel better about themselves!” – Chrissy Teigen, Instagram
Demi Lovato has always been a vocal warrior for acceptance in many realms. Open about her struggles with addiction, Lovato has also spoken about her struggles with her body image.
“I was on Instagram and I started comparing myself to these Instagram models, and I just thought to myself, someone needs to show my fans and anybody that’s looking at my account that what you see isn’t always what’s real.” – Demi Lovato, E!News
Even models struggle with their body image, which some may find hard to believe. As we stare at these perfect creatures, their flawless faces and toned bodies something of myth and legend, we sometimes forget that they are people too, struggling with the same insecurities as the rest of us. Recently, quite a few models have stepped forward and spoken out about their struggles to accept themselves and learn to love their curves.
For example, Victoria Secret model Nina Agdal recently blasted a magazine which refused to publish a cover she had recently shot because she didn’t look quite like her portfolio, and didn’t fit into the sample sizes. Agdal, who has always been outspoken about healthy, strong women and empowerment, took to Instagram to set the record straight:
“After a tough year of taking a step back from the insensitive and unrealistic pressures of this industry and dealing with paralyzing social anxiety, I walked into that shoot as a 25 year old WOMAN feeling more comfortable in my own skin and healthier than ever before. Some days I’m a sample size, some days I’m a size 4, some a 6. I am not built as a runway model and have never been stick thin. Now more than ever, I embrace my curves and work diligently in the gym to stay strong and most of all, sane.” – Nina Agdal, Instagram
With models like Ashley Graham and Tara Lynn showing that beauty comes in all sizes, curves and all, it seems that society is finally, slowly, catching on. Nike’s barrier breaking campaign is hopefully just the start to what is becoming a true cultural shift away from the impossible, and towards acceptance, love and empowerment for ALL.
Society doesn’t come in one shape. And while some companies are still turning a blind eye to the changing times and calls for equality, others seem eager to take on the challenge of changing stereotypes and pull no punches in terms of featuring women of all sizes.
Who are some of your favorite body positive celebs? What are your thoughts on the recent headlines of positivity and acceptance no matter your size? Let us know what you think in the comments!