Plus-size model of the moment, Tess Holliday is the face of Simply Be for their Catwalk Contender campaign. Women of size 12 upwards are encouraged to post photos of themselves on social media with a top prize of a one year modelling contract with MiLK Model Management.
The size 26 model continues to reinforce that she believes she is a ‘body activist’ representing women who don’t conform to society’s out of reach beauty standards. She is admirably unaffected by negative comments about her weight and in all respects completely owns her body.
It is pretty safe to say that most of us can’t realistically look like Victoria Secret models and this ‘ideal body shape’ can leave women – and men – feeling inadequate.
Body ideals have changed over the years from the curvy shape of Marilyn Monroe to the willowy figure of Twiggy. In the 90s the craze was ‘heroin chic’, which prized an extremely thin frame, pale skin and oversized clothes.
The mantra of ‘strong is beautiful’ is the healthy and fit motivation of today’s fashion models and judging from past crazes it’s an inspirational, albeit difficult, state to achieve.
It is bothersome that ‘plus-size’ is anyone considered a US size 8 (size 10 to us) and over. It is even more alarming to have obesity applauded in the media while countless campaigns struggle to tackle Ireland’s overweight epidemic.
Holliday is happy with her body and good for her, but it is not acceptable that her example encourages people to accept their dangerous body weight and pretend they aren’t risking their lives for the sake of feeling accepted as ‘who they are’.
‘Who we are’ shouldn’t be measured by our waistline, but we can’t judge our self-worth if we are allowing obesity to be seen as a life-style rather than a life-threat.
“Everyone has their vice, but mine are visible. If I shot all day and I want a f*****g hot chocolate and a chocolate croissant I’m going to eat it. Am I going to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner? No. Is it OK to do it? If you want. But, you know, no one is coming at celebrities for smoking two packs of cigarettes. Or people who post a photo with their drink at the end of the day. So why is it OK to do that to me? Life is shitty, so why would you judge somebody for dealing with it in the best way they can?” – Tess Holliday (Source: The Guardian)
By comparing her life and work to other serious health threats like smoking and alcoholism, she is placing herself with these epidemics yet still not acknowledging that she advocates obesity in a glorified media-fuelled spotlight.
There is a huge difference between someone with a curvaceous body and someone who is clinically obese and it is this denial and misuse of female empowerment that should seriously alarm people.
It’s not okay to starve yourself and make yourself ill to lose weight and it’s definitely not okay to tell the media that eating is ‘my vice’ as Holliday put it, which only tells people that it is acceptable to use food as a coping mechanism.
It’s important to have self-confidence and it’s a delicate balance between having that, and knowing when it’s time to take our head out of the sand and take action. It’s hard to truly believe Tess is completely unaffected by negative comments and social media bullies.
“I know what it feels like to be that woman who feels like shit. I don’t want anyone to have those feelings. But I’m not a f*****g saviour.” – Tess Holliday (Source: Buzzfeed)
It doesn’t seem to make sense to be a ‘body activist’ yet not shoulder the responsibilities of being a role model for women around the world. Right now she is living the dream against all odds and she is totally unapologetic about how people view her.
But maybe that’s just it, she doesn’t want to be a role model, rather she encourages people to be their own role model and live how they want to live.