On January 22nd, American plus-size model Tess Holliday announced that she had been signed with MiLK Model Management in the United Kingdom. Holliday is the first model of her size – at 5’5” and size 22 clothing – to be signed with a major modeling agency. Typically plus size models come in a very narrow variety with an average height of 5’8” or taller and never wearing larger than a size 16/18. Holiday is also one of the founders of #effyourbeautystandards; a Tumblr blog and hashtag that promotes women of all sizes and encourages them to wear what they want. You want to wear bikinis and sleeveless shirts? Go ahead!
“I want YOU to join the movement by wearing whatever the fuck you want- stop hiding your body because society tells you to.”
While Holliday was elated at the news of becoming the first model of her size to be signed with a major modeling agency, many people felt otherwise:
“Just to be real; nobody wants to see cellulite on themselves, let alone a “model” […] Has the meaning of “model” changed!?”
This is just one of the many comments made online about the success of Holliday – one of the “nicer” comments actually; most are frothing-at-the-mouth levels of rage and slurs. As for the statement above, the meaning of “model” has indeed changed a little. We currently live in a society where young girls and boys are raised to feel inadequate if they don’t look a certain way. Some of the most notorious models and celebrities that walk runways and act are driven to extreme measures to keep up with industry standards.
Any time a woman in Hollywood gains a few pounds she automatically becomes a spectacle for people to question, poke and criticize. Many tabloids flaunt front covers that either shame celebrities for gaining weight or praise them for losing weight and advertise how you too can shed “20lbs in two weeks.” Honest! Never mind that losing that much weight in such a short amount of time (even if the promise wasn’t bullshit, which it is) would in most scenarios be highly unhealthy.
People have made comments saying that Holliday is “glorifying obesity” by being confident and loving who she is as a person – physically and mentally. Why is Tess and the plus size community receiving so much hate for simply loving who they are? Americans sink billions of dollars into an abusive beauty industry that profits off of people believing they’re naturally ugly. These attitudes don’t come from nowhere; they have to be maintained and promoted to keep beauty industry profits the windfall that they are. We are bombarded with images of people that are anywhere from 10-30% underweight and masked in layers of makeup.
The weight loss industry profits from this as well, seeing as we are constantly being told that we’re not thin enough. Americans spend around $60 billion a year1 on weight loss products, gym memberships, et cetera – cynically preying on desperate people. Capitalists don’t care if you like yourself or if you’re happy with who you are. As long as you consume what’s being sold to you business stays happy.
Tess Holiday defies that in her own way, but as long as we live under a capitalist economy that produces for profit, not human need or – God forbid – human fulfillment, its cultural standards will remain the dominant ones. That’s the real “unhealthy lifestyle.”