Last week Cosmopolitan magazine in the UK featured Tess Holliday on it’s cover, and the controversy mongers haven’t stopped complaining about it. One in particular, Piers Morgan, was particularly vocal, both direct to camera, and to the Cosmopolitan Editor. He accused her of using the cover as clickbait, just to get on TV. This seems somewhat ironic given Piers’ own affinity to court controversy with his social commentary, to generate the greatest amount of column inches. Heck, he followed up this one by bringing up the Beckham’s again.
But not focusing too much on Piers, and giving him his desired column inches, what I wanted to look at was the magazine cover itself, and more specifically, the realness of the imagery.
Tess Holliday is undoubtedly plus-size. She makes a living out of it and seems to be perfectly happy. Whether she is or she isn’t is not really something that anyone other than her internal circle can know. Because in this day and age of social media, we can all appear Insta-happy, regardless of what the reality is. And that is challenging. What is even more challenging is that the very essence of Instagram being a realistic view captured on a mobile, and subject to minimal editing, has been eroded with the ability to create pictures on a desktop and upload, using any photo-editing software available. And there are many. The days of photoshop being the domain of IT geeks and professional photographers are long gone.
Even Gigi Hadid, one of the most photographed models in the world today is not immune to this photoshopping epidemic. Despite her sister and herself, together with Kendall Jenner, representing the trifecta of supermodels, the number of times that photoshopping has resulted in her losing basic body parts including kneecaps, arm bones and the ever-disappearing moles, is astounding. And she was the 5th highest-earning model in 2017. If even she isn’t beautiful enough for the flawless masses, what hope do the rest of us have. Perhaps more importantly, what hope do the scores of fledgling models and plus-size models have. A quick google search of plus size model presents a wrath of pictures, but few of them are household names. Hunter McGrady, Tess Holliday and Ashley Graham aside, plus-size models are still very much secondary to the supermodel holy grail.
Let’s talk Ashley Graham. She is amazing. She has always been plus-size, and has made it her unique selling point. She was the first ever plus-size model to feature on Vogue’s front cover, albeit with a reasonable degree of editing. The worst part of that is that the editing that is the most obvious is not actually to Graham, but to Gigi Hadid’s arm, which covers part of Graham. And the cover was meant to be celebrating fearless females, for goodness sakes. Don’t promote femininity and then also cover it up!
Photo-editing can make anything look a certain way. With the increase in Augmented Reality, the likelihood is that our children will be so au fait with editing images that the guilt-driven purchase of the annual school photo will probably only slightly resemble the child that I gave birth to. I mean, really? Whilst I am a huge supporter in AR, and what I see it can do for the fashion industry, it does worry me that we are moving more and more towards viewing the world, and everything in it, through an adjusted lens. We can take a picture of ourselves and see what we would look like in a dress, without visiting the store. What is to stop us from seeing what we will look like 3kg lighter. That screams trying to consistently achieve something we are not, rather than being confident in what we are.
So, I reflect back to Tess, and that cover. She is beautiful. She is confident. She is unique. Let’s let her be that way. Let’s let our daughters be that way. Let’s celebrate the positive here. A plus-size girl that no doubt would have had her challenges in life has come out of them, whilst likely not unscathed, but she has come out of them confident. In times where we are hearing more and more younger and younger children are impacted by bullying which they can’t avoid as social media is 24-7, isn’t that something that should be celebrated?
Having the rhetoric about positive body image is not new. I remember being at high school, which quite frankly was quite a few moon cycles ago, and reading about the damage that seeing only one type of model could do to a person. I remember feeling the need to conform. I never could though, because I was given boobs, and no waist, and dancers legs. Thankfully, and for no other reason than I didn’t get pocket money to purchase the magazines, I wasn’t that influenced by the pictures. But that won’t be true of my children. Images are everywhere. And those images are so often subject to such extreme modifications that the end result hardly looks like the beauty that it originally captured. And why? The person who was chosen for each image was there because they were deemed beautiful. And we make them more so?
So, it is not my place to comment on whether Tess Holliday is healthy, or not. I have absolutely no idea. Neither does Piers. But she is body confident, and she is promoting a body that more accurately reflects her own than many of the other images available today. She is confident enough in herself to show what she truly looks like. And my goodness, wouldn’t it be awesome that we were all so lucky. Let’s celebrate realness. Let’s celebrate uniqueness. Let’s celebrate confidence. At StopTheGape, confidence is what we love. Good on you Tess!
Till next time,