In What World is This a “Plus-Sized” Woman?

If you’ve read through our magazine before, you know that its managing editor (me) is concerned with women’s issues, including those regarding body image and perception. It’s something that I care about not just as a writer, but as a woman living in a society that prizes smallness, and as a woman who often struggles with her own insecurities about her weight and her perceived failure at being skinny.

This insecurity often colors my interaction with topics like “plus-sized” models, because I get very excited that these women are becoming more popular and representing a greater percentage of the population, but at the same time (if I’m being totally honest) I experience moments where I would give almost anything to be able to fit into a size 0 dress and weigh 115 pounds. In these moments, I don’t “own” my size, like some women can and do; I don’t feel confident about or with my body. I am plagued with self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy.

Even though I have these conflicting feelings, I can usually rely on my brain to talk me down and provide a more accurate picture of reality. And I’m pretty sure it’s my brain and not my emotions that are flabbergasted to find that this woman below, Crystal Renn, is considered “plus-sized.” Seriously? In what world?

Crystal Renn (screenshot taken from http://youtu.be/oXuwi0X-OyQ)

Crystal Renn (screenshot from http://youtu.be/oXuwi0X-OyQ)

I found a list of “Best Plus Size Models: Who Is Dominating the Industry Right Now” on the Huffington Post. The first pictures of women they put up, labeling them as “plus size,” look like they don’t have a pound to lose. And I get that the modeling industry and agencies have placed this label on these women. What I don’t get is why the Huffington Post has to accept these labels. Wouldn’t an article entitled “Best Models: Who Is Dominating the Industry Right Now,” which included pictures of models of all sizes go further in supporting the cause of changing the dominant cultural ideologies of super skinny=good? Relegating these women into a class by themselves, albeit a celebrated one in this case, is still exclusionary; it still reminds us that these harmful ideologies exist and it works to fit into them rather than trying to do away with them all together. It’s a mad world that we live in, and HuffPo is not helping make it any more sane.

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5 responses to “In What World is This a “Plus-Sized” Woman?

  1. I tend to agree with TheSkinny If that is plus size we have a looong way to go. However, her body looks prtety realistic to me whcih is great in that Kellog’s is refraining from selling the unattainanble. Q is, will women find this image aspirational? I think, yes. She is airbrushed just enough to make the weight loss goal seem attainable and targeted towards health as opposed to super skinniness. I only see images of women such as Miss Special K, Crystal Renn pre-drastic weight loss & The Dove-ettes increasing in the media. Marketers have come to realise that while the weight-loss industry is still very lucrative at the same time women are tired of feeling less than in the skin they are in now, pre 30-day carb free diets. Celebrities own a signifcant portion of what was model territory in the 80s & 90s magazine covers, brand ambassador campaigns ( The Face of brand x ). They have become desigers’ muses The Olsen twins for Lagerveld, Anele Mdosda & Poppy for LoinCloth&Ashes by Anisa. Traditional models completely own the ramp only. My personal opinion remains the same the plus/real-size model has the power to save the modelling industry where a model’s pofession is just that of a model, not model/major actree or singer. If only it will wake up and smell the coffee at a tad faster rate

  2. I genuinely wish writers did their research prior to writing an article. Yes, the picture displayed is one where Crystal looks fit, and she was, years ago. A simple google image search would have led you to all the before/after and the current pictures of her, and she is, indeed, plus-sized.

    More over, perhaps, you should get acquainted with the actual definition of “plus sized” as per the industry jargon and not simply the assumption that it means “fat” which is the conclusion you are jumping to.

    • @Anonymous: First off, thank you for reading and for your comments. We are happy to have someone take a critical stance on one of our articles and you are the first one to do so. Thank you for helping to create a dialogue on this issue.

      For us, the problem with the term “plus sized” is that although it might be industry jargon as you deftly point out, the general public isn’t acquainted with that jargon. To those outside the fashion industry, “plus sized” is a loaded term that automatically carries negative connotations. It is associated with large and, yes, overweight women, whether that is the right association to make or not. So when most women (or men) see Crystal Renn in the pictures you pointed out labeled as “plus size,” they are automatically conditioned to associate that image of her with fat or unhealthy, when in reality that picture is simply Renn at a healthy weight. Instead of understanding that “plus size” models like Renn are healthy, most women take the image of the very skinny (and, from Renn’s own accounts, unhealthy) Renn as healthy and something to strive for because they associate “skinny” with healthy, beautiful, etc. So, I don’t agree with you that Laura was jumping to any conclusions with this article. Rather, she was pointing out the problematic associations with the term “plus size,” which I believe is a fair critique.

      As a final point, since we are only able to use free images, we have a very limited amount of pictures to choose from for our articles. We will try to make sure to choose the best possible images for our articles in the future.

  3. @anonymous: I appreciate the research that you did in finding those pictures of Crystal. I did not label her “plus sized,” though.The Huffington Post did, and I was responding to their label. So they labelled the woman in the picture “plus sized” in a general sense as though it spanned her whole career, but as the featured picture shows, she is not really a plus sized model, or at least not only a plus sized model.

    I’m not in “the industry,” which is kind of the point. “The industry” is made up of a tiny population of the overall people in the world who wear clothing. To someone in the modelling/fashion world, perhaps “plus sized” means something different, but to me and average women like me, it represents “fat.” Maybe you could consider writing a piece for Little Utopia from your point of view. We’d be interested in hearing your perspective on the issue.

  4. i think she looks great she is one of my most fav plus size models i realte to her so much since i went through alot of things she did, struggling with weight and modeling, i did a little modeling when i was young i am also a inspiring plus size model but have been having babies lately so haven’t tired out for anything. Crystal is lovely no matter what size she is i just hope the weight loss was in a healthy way. keep up the great work crystalDo you like this comment? 1 0

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