‘Health should be a personal choice for somebody’. The words of Tess Holliday, the first plus sized model to be signed to an elite model agency this week as she gives an interview on CNN. But Holliday is being criticised for her looks already, whilst her and many other plus size models rejoice at the milestone overcome into the fashion world. And Holliday isn’t just getting criticised because she’s plus sized or ‘curvy’, she is getting criticized because she is fat, and much more than that, she is medically described as obese. At 5″5 and a UK size 24, and weight 18st.6lbs, Tess’ BMI (Body Mass Index) is 42, which is obese on the scale. In fact, it’s off the scale obese, yet the recently signed to MILK model management star claims she’s ‘healthy’ and works out ‘when she feels like it’.
So should Holliday be praised as a role model for ‘normal’ women or criticised for glamourising and okaying obesity? 1 in 5 children aged 11-15 in the UK today are diagnosed as obese, the figure a horrifying 1 in 3 in America. So where do our governing standards on ‘health’ as a promoted body image lie?
Whilst the media has been hounded for decades about promoting an unhealthy body image in the view of thin models such as Kate Moss to more recently Cara Delevigne, it has never really had the balls to be the same about so called ‘fat shaming’. Instead, when plus sized women are used for modeling purposes and as a size framework for mannequins in shops, they are show as a ‘realistic’ portrayal of women today.
Now I’m completely all for a positive body image, and I believe that no form of any media should force anyone to be ashamed of their shape. But I also believe in the media helping to promote a positive body image and I believe even more so that people should promote a healthy body image for themselves and to the rest of society. Actual role models in the media for ‘healthy’ sized women such as Holly Willoughby, are slated for highlighting their healthy shape and the fact that, shockingly she may have cleavage in some of her attire. But Holly Willoughby has been voted the UKs no.1 role model for the second year in a row, but how many people would know that? That kind of positive press is virtually ignored.
The reality is, Tess Holliday is promoting the right attitude to her viewers by exclaiming she loves the skin she’s in but her point is completely contradicted by the fact that she’s medically proven as obese. She is not healthy, fact. If she was healthy she would not be the size she is, her heart wouldn’t be under the pressure it is, her bones wouldn’t be under the pressure they are, and it’s all because of her size. She’s a beautiful girl, and when she’s interviewed the compliments made by awkward ‘normal sized’ news anchors are about her facial features, everything below the neck is very much brushed over.
Just because this particular model is seemingly representing a more realistic view of women today doesn’t make it something to praise and to promote in the media as the norm. Because Tess Holliday’s body shape is not ‘normal’, it is not average and it is certainly not ‘healthy’ on a medical scale. It’s as bad promoting Tess Holliday’s body shape as it is that it has taken this long for the modeling industry to accept someone in their books over a size 2 and promote them to celebrity status. Neither end of the spectrum is right in their portrayal of a ‘healthy’ body shape, and that’s the problem the media need to focus on correcting instead of fueling self doubt amongst readers and viewers and adding to the tug of war that will never be won.