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Plus Sized Models

Sep. 14, 2016
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model: /madl/ noun- a person, typically a woman, employed to display clothes by wearing them. 

There’s been a new acceptance and trend of high fashion labels becoming more inclusive of different body types, specifically plus-size models. Many of them are gaining notoriety by breaking the mold of the traditional tall and slender model. But you have to wonder why they’re still separated by the term “plus-size”. It feels as if the modeling industry is still telling us that women over a size 2 don’t belong in this world or on the cover of Vogue, that they need to be contained to their own separate zone. This ultimately allows for the stigmatization of the term “plus-size” to continue by constantly reminding us that they are not just models but something else.

So if plus-size models are not just models, then what are they? The very textbook definition of a model is free of specific body sizes. So why do we live bound to the idea that there is a right type of model? Why is there this need to separate models into different spheres as if they aren’t meant to mix with each other; as if the addition of “plus-size” puts her at a lower status. It feels as though the plus sized model is being discredited when in reality, both put in the same amount of work; the job isn’t easier for one or the other.

There is empowerment in being a full figured model, but even then, instead of using adjectives that carry stigma, why not throw out the word and just call them what they are… MODELS. This isn’t meant to downplay the incredibly amazing movement that is the appreciation of all body types, but rather to put a halt to the continuous segregation of the “right” body type vs. the “wrong”. 

This dichotomy of having a model that looks like Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner vs. one that looks like Ashley Graham or Robyn Lawley creates a worldview that sees one as less attractive simply in the way they’re marketed through the use of the term “plus-size”. Gigi and Kendall walk basically every major fashion week runway, while Ashley and Robyn get spreads in Sports Illustrated. Think about the message that that’s sending: yes, we will accept “plus-size” models, but we’ll sexualize them and take away the seriousness of their work and ability. It continues to market the coveted position of this generation’s “it girl” as the “regular” model type, not even giving a chance to the rest.

If the modeling world destroyed the term “plus-size” and simply relied on marketing and producing careers under the simple “model” term, the world as a whole would benefit. The term “plus-size” is stigmatized, and while it celebrates a certain body type that has for so long been shunned and criticized as imperfect, it still maintains the negative undertones. The term is often interpreted as synonymous with fat or unattractive. Even though we see so many beautiful plus-size models, it doesn’t change that that is what we think of when we hear this term. In a survey done by, they asked women how they felt about the term “plus-size”, and the responses were overwhelmingly negative. “I don’t like the word ‘plus-size’…makes me wanna put a bag over my head.” The concept that this term can be redefined and reclaimed is not impossible, but it really just shouldn’t exist. All it does is perpetuate the separation of women by body types putting us in a hierarchy of power solely based on measurements, that sometimes we simply cannot control. The modeling world has the ability to destroy the term from popping up in clothing stores and other commercial spots to stop women from feeling alienated and excluded when they go shopping, buy magazines, or just live their day to day life. In short, if women outside of this industry don’t want to be defined or described by the term, then why should the modeling industry continue to use it?

This industry needs to appreciate the Tess’s and Ashley’s in the same way that it loves the Giselle’s and Adriana’s, so that it can transcend this divide and put an end to the idea that there is a “right” and “wrong” body. All bodies deserve to be celebrated equally. We need to rejoice in the fact that each is so wonderfully one of a kind. Women are labeled and bombarded with criticism everyday for everything we do, and by taking control of this one term and taking away it’s power to segregate us it allows us to take control of how we are defined. The term “plus-sized” will not define, restrict, or overshadow us in the modeling industry or the world.

Cover Image via ShutterStock