The media momentarily broke for a moment in 2016. And I’m not talking about Kim Kardashian’s nude selfie on Instagram.
For the first time ever, a plus-size model graced the cover of the famous swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated. This edition of the magazine has been covered by the likes of Tyra Banks, Chrissy Teigan, even the Queen Beyonce herself. The fact that a much less well-known model – a plus size model, even – would make the cover of the most anticipated magazine edition of the year was a pretty big deal.
The audience’s reactions were mixed. Some were disgusted by a larger woman showing much skin for the world to see. Some unsubscribed from the magazine and body-shamed Graham. Others, on the other hand, rejoiced. Finally, a woman that represents the average American woman on the cover of a usually-skinny magazine! It was a miracle!
Let’s talk about why this important.
Think about the magazines that line the checkout at your local grocery store. It’s no secret that the women on these magazine covers are beautiful. They’re also usually a size six or smaller, surrounded by headlines that advertise ideas for women to lose weight, how to look thinner, how to make their skin or their bodies more attractive.
From the day we were born, women’s minds are subtly, slowly trained to know what the “perfect” woman looks like. She may look like Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lopez or Megan Fox. Maybe someone prefers the looks of Katy Perry over Taylor Swift, but the message from society was clear: perfect comes in a size 4.
As little girls grow up into women, their bodies change. Everybody’s body changes in different ways. Some girls get taller, some get wider, some get curvy and some stay slender. The mystery that remains is why only one body type has been the one that is advertising the clothes that all of these girls wear.
As an overweight girl most of my life, I always felt like I had grown wrong. All the models plastered onto posters at clothing stores, even at Walmart, looked so much different than me. I would try on the clothes that looked so good on the mannequin and then return them to the rack, confused as to why they didn’t look good on me too.
“Fat girls can’t wear patterns,” they say. “Fat girls can’t wear skinny jeans.” “Fat girls can’t wear form fitting clothes.” “Fat girls can’t wear bikinis.” According to Victoria’s Secret, the world’s largest underwear retail company, fat girls can’t wear underwear either. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, one of the most anticipated fashion shows every year, has prettiest size zeros flaunting their fat-less figures down the runway with oversized, bizarre wings on their backs and racey, lacey panties that barely cover their bums. Underwear, too, has been taken over by the skinny industry.
Side rant: Apparently, when you reach a certain size underwear in the department stores, the only underwear options available for you are high-cuts and briefs. Because plus size women aren’t allowed to have fun, I guess.
Let’s get back to my point (yes, I have one).
There’s been a breakthrough in the fashion industry as well as society as a whole in the last few years. Plus size models are covering magazines more often than ever before. More and more companies have stopped photoshopping their models to pretend like fat rolls and stretch marks don’t exist. The REAL woman has been sighted across America, at last!
I hope that someday soon, a chubby little girl like my past self can look at a magazine cover with a plus size woman on it and say “maybe being bigger is okay.” I hope we can all do that, no matter what size you may be.
The truth is, the average American woman is a size 14. The media needs to stop pretending that they’re not. Body positivity is a message that needs to be spread to every woman and girl across the world. No girl needs to grow up thinking she looks wrong.
Models like Ashley Graham (size 14), Tess Holliday (size 24) and Denise Bidot (size 14) have modeled for multiple magazines and clothing lines and are helping women understand that it is okay to love your body the way it is. I assure you, the moment you realize that it only matters what YOU think of yourself, life gets much, much easier (and your wardrobe gets bigger).
Learn more about Ashley Graham’s big break and how she’s making a change for women here (warning, do not click if you are scared of seeing a size 14 woman in a bikini).