No Body’s Perfect

We are all guilty of falling into the trap of trying to look as #flawless as the models we see plastered all over the Internet, in magazines and on TV.  But is this look even achievable for us mere mortals? Most of the time, no.  It’s time we accept there’s nothing wrong with that.  Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.  Eating disorders are on the rise and so too is body dissatisfaction amongst adolescents.  Which makes you wonder, why are people so unhappy with the way they look?

It’s no secret that the average 21st century millennial spends plenty of time consuming media content. So it’s not hard to get caught up in the #thinspo mindset.  I find myself guilty of this all the time.  I’ll be scrolling through Facebook or Instagram and my feeds will be littered with images of fashion runways or celebrity photoshoots.  Which is fine with me, they’re the accounts I choose to follow, and I could simply unfollow if I so pleased.  But every single model in these professional, sometimes edited photos are tall and thin.  Two things I have had to accept, I will never be.  Here lies the problem.  Where I can accept that I will never look like Gigi Hadid or Naomi Campbell, many people can’t.  So is it not time to show these women (and sometimes men) that it’s ok to not be 6ft and a size 4?  

#legsfordays Gigi Hadid struts down the runway at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2015
#legsfordays Gigi Hadid struts down the runway at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2015

The modelling industry is taking baby steps towards diversifying the size and shape of models.  In recent years, plus-size models like Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday have found fame, popularity and criticism for their body shapes; which go against the traditional ‘model look’.  While it is refreshing to see models that are more real looking these ladies have taken more than their fair share of criticism; being branded ‘fat’ and ‘unhealthy’, by skinny, so-called “healthy” individuals.  Who says that just because a person is not a size 6, they are automatically unhealthy? Many plus-size models lead very healthy lifestyles, consisting of balanced diets and exercise.  Queen of the modelling industry, Naomi Campbell came out in defence of Ashley Graham after she was accused of promoting an unhealthy body image:

“She’s not obese! I just think sometimes our bones our bigger and we’re just built that way, that doesn’t mean that we’re fat… I just think that’s wrong. I think if she’s a beautiful person, regardless of colour or creed, she should be able to model.”

When you get down to it, this is the industry’s problem.  Instead of looking for healthy, diverse real people to represent, modelling agencies, photographers and fashion labels prefer to use thin, unnatural physiques, that are unattainable for regular women.  

Ashley Graham in Sports Illustrated's Swim edition 2016
Ashley Graham in Sports Illustrated’s Swim edition 2016
Plus-size model Tess Holliday has received both praise & hate over her body
Plus-size model Tess Holliday has received both praise & hate over her body

But it’s not all bad, celebrities, media organisations and even entire countries are standing up against the unrealistic body types displayed in the media.  In 2015 France joined a very short list of countries that put a ban on excessively thin models in an attempt to stop the idealisation of dangerously-thin models in the industry. This ban requires models to obtain a medical certificate from their doctor to prove they fall within the healthy BMI range.  French authorities hope that this will minimise the number of anorexia sufferers in the country. Last week Buzzfeed held ‘Body Positivity Week’ which was an entire week’s worth of content focused around improving the relationships people have with their bodies.  The articles posted by Buzzfeed’s writers over the week highlight that everybody is different and unique in their own way, despite what we are constantly being told by the media.  Someone who is no stranger to constant criticisms about her body is comedian Amy Schumer.  She was labelled brave for stripping down to her underwear for a photoshoot.  Seems like brave is a very watered-down term these days.  Amy wasn’t too happy with this so-called ‘praise’ and even addressed it in one of the more recent episodes of her show Inside Amy Schumer.  This isn’t the only time she has spoken up and defended her body.  Last month she called out Glamour magazine after they included her in their ‘Chic At Any Size’ special edition. She was furious (and rightly so) that her US size 6 – 8 (AU size 10-12) body was considered plus-size.  Her issue was more with the message it was sending to young women – that a US size 8 is considered plus-size to the media.

There is an entire group that is constantly forgotten and under-represented in the model size debate.  While we choose to focus our attention on the female models, male models are subjected to just as much pressure to look like they’ve been chiseled out of stone.  But for some strange reason, very few people are calling for diversity amongst male models.  I mean it is 2016, and we are fighting for gender equality, right?  Newsflash: men are not immune from body image issues or eating disorders.  Actually, men are just as vulnerable as women are when it comes to body dissatisfaction and developing eating disorders.  The stigma surrounding male body image means that many cases of body dysmorphia and eating disorders go undiagnosed.  That being said, it’s nice to see that men are slowly getting their own ‘body revolution’.  The rise of dad bods are having a hugely positive impact on male body image.  What is a dad bod? The balance between a beer gut and working out made famous by none other than Leonardo DiCaprio.  Even mainstream modelling agencies are jumping aboard the body-positive train, with IMG announcing that they would begin representing plus-size men.

Leonardo DiCaprio shows off his dad bod as he frolics in the water
Leonardo DiCaprio shows off his dad bod as he frolics in the water

We have a long way to go before we see true diversity in the modelling industry. But there is no doubt that we are slowly taking steps towards seeing a combination of different shapes, sizes, races and genders walking the catwalk.  It’s time to accept that no two people are the same, and that not everyone is tall, thin and fit.  The perfect body is not attainable to most people, and it’s time that the media industry truly reflects this.

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