Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Supermodel's stomach is a starting point

A supermodel baring it all isn't normally news, but Lizzie Miller and her nude photo created quite a bit of it when the photo was published in Glamour magazine's latest issue.

Why? Lizzie Miller is a "plus-size" model.

Miller, who is 20 years old, is 5'11 and weighs about 170 (most stories say she weighs "12 stone," so I'm estimating). Not that her weight would matter in everyday life, but we are talking about the modeling world. She says she normally wears about a size 12-14, and actually has been told she's too "big" for plus-size modeling by two different clothing lines. (Now someone who wears "average" size clothes is too big for plus-size modeling?! What's next, size 8 is sold as "plus-size"? The insanity of this part of our culture knows no bounds.) Miller talks about her struggle with weight as a teen in many interviews, and discusses how she used to look at women's magazines and wonder why she couldn't look like the women in the magazines do. Sentiments familiar to many, I'm sure.

It's not surprising that Miller's photo has generated so much talk. It is rare (sadly) to see a model with a "tummy" photographed in such a natural position, laughing and owning her body. I know her limbs are all crossed, which happens to be something I resort to when I'm trying to hide parts of my body when I'm sitting down, but I think that's more to cover her nakedness than anything else. Miller is clearly a beautiful woman, and I would bet that if she were clothed, hardly anything would be said about her. But she's not, and as a result this is a wonderful opportunity for society and for women's magazines to have an actual conversation about how women's bodies are portrayed and judged.

Will that conversation take place in any meaningful way? I suspect not. Lip service will be paid to magazines featuring more "real"* women, but they won't, and people who read them will continue to be bombarded by images that only genetics and Photoshop can produce. I dare any mainstream magazine to commit to hiring models of all sizes and shapes and colors. Heck, I dare any mainstream magazine to do ONE issue without retouching one photo in it. That issue wouldn't even have to feature "real" women; let the models pose, then publish the photos as-is. (And for goodness' sake, there's no need to Photoshop the body of someone like Kelly Clarkson. Here's an idea: If you don't like her body as it is in life, don't use her as a model!)

If you take a look at any of the comment sections on the articles about Lizzie Miller's photo, you can instantly see how deep this small gesture touches so many people. You can also see how far we have to go until society can get past its thin obsession. There are women commenting on this story and saying that the women who are glad to "see themselves" in a magazine are just jealous of thin people. Men are commenting and saying "sorry, we just want to see hot chicks."

Some of the reaction over this photo being published is heart-wrenching. Miller said she's ...
received e-mails and Facebook messages from hundreds of people, including a woman who said the picture inspired her to throw away her diet pills and laxatives; and from a man who claimed that only now, after Miller's un-self-conscious image hit newsstands, will his similarly proportioned girlfriend believe him when he tells her she's pretty.
That last one breaks my heart, and I can think of so many women I know who that would apply to (self included, on occasion). When you constantly see thin women everywhere you look on the TV, in magazines, billboards, etc., and you constantly hear about how attractive they are, it takes some digging and self-convincing that other women, like yourself, are attractive too.

Miller's grandmother saw the photo, and said "It is beautiful. I hope women get that little glimmer of hope that they don't need to be tiny to be sexy." I hope women have more than hope that they don't need to be tiny to be sexy, but hope is at least a start.

More reading:
Momgrind: Lizzie Miller in Glamour magazine: I just wish this photo wasn't so special
ABC: Lizzie Miller fuels debate about plus-size acceptance
Winnipeg Free Press: Normal-size model likely a flash in the pan
NY Daily News: Plus-size model Lizzie Miller in Glamour begs question: Is it time for magazines to show real women?

Wales Online: Six women bare all to talk about body image

*By saying "real" women, I don't not mean that thin women are not "real." We are all real. I'm just using the term as society does, to refer to "normal" bodies, not supermodels' bodies. I wish there were better words than "real" and "normal" to use!


3 comments:

Razor said...

The strangest part is, this obsession with "thin" is a relatively recent phenomenon. I suppose it's just become so ingrained in our culture because we're bombarded with its imagery everyday... dozens of times per day, actually.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't think it's a good idea for people to glamorize or celebrate an unhealthy lifestyle. People who are dangerously overweight shouldn't be worried about their looks, they should be worried about their health. But that said, it's strange that we're always quick to think of "fat" as unhealthy, but we don't pay as much attention to the dangerously underweight.

To go off your point, it's time to start celebrating "real" women (and men). Lizzie Miller appears to be just that, certainly not that creepy supermodel skinny, but certainly not fat. She's a gorgeous woman who's comfortable in her own skin, the sooner everyone can follow suit, we can start getting over all this bullshit that's been marketed to our culture for the last 50+ years.

google_account said...

I've always been a fan of plus-size models! There's a great site with many images of Crystal and other plus-size models here:

http://www.judgmentofparis.com/

They're all gorgeous.

The site's forum also has thought-provoking discussions about body image and the media.

minara said...

This woman is truly beautiful, but I am sorry, I would never consider her a 'plus-size' model. She doesn't even look like she's as heavy as she says she is, and if she only has that little paunch showing, it's not really all that shocking. When I saw the headline for this story I was expecting someone a little more 'plus-size'. Size 12 is NOT plus-size.

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