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plus size ‘role’ models and body politics

Clementine Ford recently wrote an article about our obsession with plus sized role models over at Daily Life. She speaks about the “real woman” debate (we all know my feelings on that, repeat ad nauseum until I’m blue in the face) and the pitting of women against women. She makes mention of the fact that though straight sized models are a small proportion of the population, so too are plus sized models.

Plus size model, Robyn Lawley made this comment:

I’m a normal size. It’s skinny models that should be called minus size.

Eye roll. If you could see my face right now, you might be forgiven for thinking it froze that way.

Whether Robyn Lawley is “normal” sized, minus sized, plus sized, whatever – she’s her size. She can choose to identify herself however she wants to, and as much as I’d prefer she didn’t insult smaller models in the process, she has the right to choose how she wants to identify and describe her body.

But again, I repeat, she doesn’t have the right to ascribe these identities onto any bodies other than her own.

Her agency is Bella Model Management, a plus sized modelling agency based in Sydney. They represent Australian plus sized models that have exploded in the overseas market and are huge in Australia too – I see Alana H in a great deal of campaigns, as well as Belinda and Ljubenka.

The “rules” for becoming a plus sized model seem to be more stringent than the “rules” for becoming a straight sized model.

You have to be at least 174 cm tall, but no more than 185 cm tall. So, no shorties or no basketball players. You can only be a size 10 to a size 18. Let’s not even get started on the concept that plus sized in the modelling world starts at a size 10 and apparently those over a size 18 don’t exist. I know the modelling world is a completely different world to “regular” world.

Next, you have to have “healthy” clear skin and teeth. I presume that only straight sized models can get away with smoking then?

Preferably, models are aged between 16-32. Well, we all know that modelling has a relatively short shelf life for women. Unless you get a contract as an older model. I know there are definitely still some around.

Lastly, you have to be proportionate – as a general rule, your waist should be 10 inches smaller than your hips. Shit, I’m out. My hips don’t lie.

These “rules” all come from the FAQ from the Bella Models website.

So, how “normal” is this? Or rather than using the word “normal”, which is a word I have huge problems with, how commonly do most women fit within these “rules”? Not very commonly, I believe.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fashion industry. I’m not immune to lusting after an outfit because of how the model looks in it. I realise that I’m being sold an aspirational image, that in some instances, in order to sell me a product I have to feel bad about a body part in order to buy it. I know this. Sometimes I just like looking at pretty things and people without thinking of the statement behind it (although I always end up doing so).

What concerns me, besides the bullshit competition statements like Robyn Lawley’s invokes, is that some people don’t know this or don’t realise it. Modelling is a job. Yeah, it’s one based on the right looks and bodies, but it’s still a job. The models are incredibly lucky and I’m sure work very hard at what they do. They know they have a relatively short shelf life compared to some other industries. I’m sure some models don’t want to be seen as role models or be looked up to at all. But they are. And they should be careful about the statements they make. Particularly when it relates to bodies other than their own.

(Image Credit)

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