Fashion, Plus-Size Modeling and Race: When ‘Diversity’ Isn’t So Diverse

Lisa Respers France, CNN, May 26, 2015

From the beginning I have been a fan of model Tess Holliday.

Not only is she gorgeous, but at 5-feet-5, 280 pounds and a size 22, she looks a great deal more like me than most other models, even among plus-size ones.

Which is why I was thrilled to learn that Holliday–who captured headlines when she became the first model of her stature to sign with a major modeling agency–made the cover of People magazine. There she was, in all her bountiful glory, with the headline “The World’s First Size 22 Supermodel!”

TessHolliday

But I was disappointed when I looked at the models featured inside the magazine as members of “The Plus-Size Revolution.” At first glance there appeared to be no women of color among the four women featured. (Further research revealed that model Denise Bidot is Puerto Rican and Kuwaiti.)

My first images of plus-size models were African-American women.

{snip}

If you were African-American, it was expected that you would have some “junk in your trunk,” and when I complained of being a buxom, overweight teen one of my aunts retorted that “only a dog wants a bone” and that I would see in the years to come how much men appreciated a woman with more “meat on her bones.”

Over the years there has been much debate as to whether the classification of obesity is even fair when it comes to women of color.

A study published by the British Journal of Nutrition found that Body Mass Index, or BMI, which measures body fat based on height and weight, may not be accurate for those who aren’t Caucasian.

“This scale was created years ago and is based on Caucasian men and women,” Molly Bray, an associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, said in an interview with BlackDoctor.org. “It doesn’t take into account differences in body composition between genders, race/ethnicity groups and across the life span.”

The standard of beauty among the black women I know and grew up with was never about how thin you could be but rather about how well you “carried your weight.”

Perhaps that is why I never quite understood the level of celebration now over fashion being “more inclusive,” with larger models everywhere from the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to the cover of People now. After all, I grew up surrounded by BBWs (big, beautiful women) of all shades who were as fashionable as many of the women one might see strutting the runway.

{snip}

The struggle for inclusion among African-American models of any size has been a long one, predating even the appearance of Beverly Johnson as the first black model on the cover of American Vogue in 1974. Supermodel Tyra Banks has spoken about the “unwritten rule” that only one black model was allowed to reign in the industry at a time.

{snip}

Topics: ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • David Ashton

    Maybe the day is coming when the maid in Tom & Jerry will be back on screen as an acceptable model, with the Cinderella stereotype banned as body racism in the interests of “diversity”. Poor old Aunt Jemima whose modern pancake-mix image has tried to make black ladies loveable, of course, will still be outlawed, according to puritan rules of the “David Pilgrim Fathers”.

    • Jason Lewis

      I bought the complete Tom and Jerry dvd set for my kids. Each dvd actually has a warning at the begining regarding the images of Mammy.

      • Red

        I purchased a similar one that had the same warning right after the usual FBI warning… The cartoons here are a product of their time… Blah, blah, blah… It was wrong then just as much as it is wrong now… Blah, blah, blah…

        These warnings are becoming more common. For me, it’s an indicator of how good the show is.

        • TruthBeTold

          The original ‘trigger warning’?

        • David Ashton

          I quite liked old Mammy. But then I’ve always had a soft spot for a few black entertainers – like Al Jolson.

          • propagandaoftruth

            Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Count Basie, Etta James, Louis Armstrong…even James Brown, various Motown and Stax artists…

            I also enjoy certain black entertainers. Most of whom are dead.

          • David Ashton

            Only joking about Asa Yoelson. I was “so excited” by a Pointer Sisters’ number because of a romantic memory, but that’s more or less it, quite honestly. Some blacks have very good singing voices, but swaying about, and jumping up and down, are not my scene. I don’t want my High European Heritage turned into a mess of “sex, drugs, and rocknrap”.

        • Alexandra1973

          Surprising they don’t cut it out altogether.

    • Jaggers

      I’m still pissed they made Aunt Jemima take her bandanna off. I don’t know why, but that really rubbed me raw.

      • Kenner

        Yeah, she seems naked without it.
        ….Okay, I’ll just have the hash browns, thanks.

      • PissedOffScientist

        Maybe the gansta disciples, crips, or bloods thought her bandanna color was dissing their fraternity?

  • Susannah

    More “black privilege” is in the works. Now black women will be able to shovel in the fast food, junk food, and eschew exercise; they will not be considered obese because that is the White man’s construct which shouldn’t apply to them. They require separate standards, just as with everything else under the sun.

    • Whitetrashgang

      Nothing better than a 250 lb woman with a IQ of 75 to brighten your life.

      • MBlanc46

        The duck ought to come down and give you a hundred bucks.

      • ghettovalley

        Not to mention all of her exotic odors.

        • Whitetrashgang

          That’s why you buy a gas mask, and a push up bra.

          • ghettovalley

            If I had to date a large black woman, I’d probably just buy a rope and a stool, and then hang myself.

          • kenfrombayside

            If you had to date a large black female, your first requirement would be a gas mask.

    • Blackfish

      and when they develop obesity-related illnesses like heart disease or diabetes, YOU get to pay for it!

  • Mr. L

    i believe men of every race would agree that black women are the least desirable in the world.

    • Groovy

      That’s got to be true. Remember, the number for
      white on black rape in the U.S. is zero

      • Kenner

        Approximately zero. Remember beer goggles?

        • John Smith

          I think you’d need an IV drip of straight Everclear to touch one.

        • Whitetrashgang

          99.99 percent of men would die from alcohol poisoning before that could happen.

      • Remember that the Uniform Crime Reports class greaseritos as “white” whenever they are the perps.

        • serious123

          Oh my goodness. Laughed until I cried. Where did you ever come up with “greaseritos”?

          • carriewhite64

            He makes up words occasionally, and they are usually quite appropriate and descriptive.

          • My maternal grandfather used to do that as well, so as they say in Ohio, “I got it honest”.

            He also loved vegetable gardening.

          • Reynardine

            Our friend here on Amren, Bossman, inspired it. Please, call him a greaserito whenever possible, he loves it!

          • I once wrote here that one of the nice aspects to going crazy is that you get to make up your own words. One of the overwhelmingly sad aspects is that after one gets better (?) one misses all the fun one used to have.

          • Reynardine

            Greaserito sounds like something they’d sell at Taco Bell for the “fourthmealer” lard lad crowd. Wash it down with some of that Baha Blast…

    • MBlanc46

      There’s empirical evidence for it. A couple of years ago a survey conducted by a psychologist at (I believe) the LSE establishing that fact was briefly posted on the Psychology Today website. It soon disappeared after a firestorm of political correctness.

      • Was that not written by Kanazawa? He wrote some politically incorrect stuff. A few of his writings were not totally supported by scientific evidence, so he fell in disgrace.

        • MBlanc46

          The author was Japanese. That could well be it.

    • IstvanIN

      Even Neanderthals didn’t want them.

    • Light from the East

      Maybe black women should start their own version of fashion magazines. But I am not sure whether they can successfully make it.

    • David Ashton

      There is a risk in mixed societies when black men also think so. How many porn movies, I wonder, put white “studs” with black “hos”, rather than the reverse? A few mixed race celebrity women are quite nice looking, e.g. Alesha Dixon, but not my type. Actually I feel quite sorry for black women with pithecoid features who look in a mirror in western societies and are forced to degrade themselves to appeal to black men.

  • Deacon Blue

    This is starting to become farcical. if you are a fat f*ck then suck it up, see a nutritionist
    or buy a book and get your fat *ss into the gym or walk around your neighborhood for
    an hour 3-4X per week. This, “woe is me, I am fat, its not my fault, stop fat shaming me!”,
    crap is really irritating. Next they will try to mandate that we “find fat chicks attractive.”
    Guess what? I don’t. I don’t find Black women attractive and for sure a fat Black woman
    is really unattractive to me. Sorry, I don’t like the looks or feel of lumpy, cottage cheese
    or stretch marks. Sue me! I also don’t like the smell and demeanor of Blacks.

    Just remember, its not her fault she is Black and fat. Society made her what she is.
    It’s White racism that she has to scarf down buckets of fried, fatty foods laden with
    salt and preservatives, drink liter after liter of purple drank and smoke 2 packs of
    Kool menthols per day. Because as a White man this is absolutely my fault somehow,
    I guess I should just eat that sh*t sandwich and man up and accept her in her rotundness
    and Blackness too.

    • Ron Cheaters

      I know someone who gets up before anyone in the house just so she can gorge herself in privacy. Eat like a lumberjack.
      Then she to lecture’s everyone that; by her eating more, she’s actually losing weight. And I can’t convince her that 1 meal a day is plenty, especially if you never get up off your fat-ass to do anything. Also overeating stimulates more-eating.
      Then I mention how frequently we need to have the septic-pumped, because it take’s a whole roll of toilet paper for her to wipe.. that’s like 24-rolls a week for one person.
      This is my girlfriend’s daughter, at their place.. when I’ve had enough, I go back to my shack, and I’m glad to be back.

      • Fathercoughlin

        You need to drop that zero and get yourself a hero.(Or heroine??)

      • carriewhite64

        Hahaha. I could have survived without that story today.

      • Whitetrashgang

        Holy crap, you might need a helicopter soon.

        • IstvanIN

          Too small:

      • Yancy Derringer

        A whole roll… LMAO. What goes on down there to require an entire roll? (Never mind!)

      • Usually Much Calmer

        “Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you’re not going to hire them.” -James Watson

        So much of success is nuance, in the details. Why would you trust anything important to someone who cannot calibrate their own intake and metabolism? That system is not that complicated!

    • Whitetrashgang

      So your idea of hell is fat black woman?Maybe we should put on on the American flag for starters.

      • How ’bout the twenty-dollar bill?

      • Deacon Blue

        I would rather mount you as you appear in your avatar than a fat
        Black woman. I would rather have permanent, non-melting ice
        cubes put under my eyelids than mount a fat Black woman. I would
        rather have my meals at Taco Bell than mount a fat Black woman.

        So yeah, Hell is an apt descriptor.

        • David Ashton

          “Mount” a good verb.

    • David Ashton

      No-one can help how they are born, but they can help how they eat.

  • MekongDelta69

    Yeah – Just my kind of gal – a 5′ 5″ 280lb. black beast…

    • Finally – Oprah’s beauty secrets are going mainstream!

  • Jason Lewis

    Keep pushing that on us. Still not attractive.

  • Charles Martel

    So blacks being fat is a good thing now? BMI be racist.

    • John Smith

      Mo’ fried chicken, Dawg.

  • Jaggers

    No. That woman on the cover of People is not a supermodel. Nice try though feminists and cultural marxists.

    • Blackfish

      A super sized model, maybe

      • Katherine McChesney

        280 pounds of fat.

  • Kenner

    Tess has a pretty face– not really shown to advantage on this cover– but she is really, really fat, and her heavy arms are covered with big, blocky tattoos. Obese and heavily inked. She thinks she’s ‘redefining beauty’. Another deluded feminist.

    • phillyguy

      Your right, I seen better at 3 o’clock in the morning in a after hours bar.

    • Fathercoughlin

      yuck

    • MBlanc46

      They’ll be able to force mainstream public discourse to toe the line about not finding fat people attractive to be bigotry. But it will be an “emperor has no clothes” situation. People (with the possible exception of a few over-the-edge multiculturalists) will know that they don’t find fat people attractive.

      • Exuberant Auditor

        Not even the “over-the-edge” multiculturalists will find fat or obese attractive. The only ones who will will be the BBW fetishists like Craig Stephen Hicks.

    • Lygeia

      The reason why she has been given a modelling contract is that there is a new standard for being a model: having 10,000 or more followers on social media. Because Tess Holiday has a lot of followers on social media, she is being given a modeling contract.

  • Red

    I’d rather have the plus-sized white woman on the cover of that mag than a ghetto queen.

    • Katherine McChesney

      All of them are disgusting to look at. Rolls of fat with giant tattoos are repulsive.

      • John Smith

        At least she could lose weight and would still be human.

      • Alexandra1973

        I think tattoos look trashy to begin with, especially on women. Even more so on fat women.

        • Weisheit77

          Yep, yep, and yep…
          I don’t have any and I’m starting to feel like a rebel for it. I like being rebellious. When grandma (well not mine) has a foot or calf tattoo I think we can safely say it has become main stream. Not to mention how ridiculous some look. My current favorite is the motto tattooed in flowing cursive. Are you too dumb to remember your favorite line? The dumbing down of America is quickly approaching terminal velocity.

  • Mangosteen, $1000 chair

    Wait a second…if race isn’t real, and just a “social construct”, then why would black people have a different BMI than whites?? HMMMM.

    • De Doc

      Shush! Learn to check yo’ privilege!

    • PissedOffScientist

      Institutional racism in the free school lunch program.

    • Reynardine

      Another micro-aggression, that will be a night in the box…

  • Heinrich

    Manchelle without makeup ….
    .

    • John Smith

      .577 Nitro Express

      • Reynardine

        “I think we’re going to need a bigger boat.”

        • How about a Greener harpoon gun? Isn’t that what Quint used a bit in “Jaws”? I had a surplus dealer who had one in 37mm caliber and was going to buy it in mid-2000.

    • Katherine McChesney

      Love her ‘dreads’.

  • De Doc

    This gal featured on the magazine cover would have been really sought after in the 1800s. Though, mostly in context of a whaling skiff chasing her with harpoons at ready.

    • Katherine McChesney

      Black men would love her.

      • PissedOffScientist

        I’d rather have her over an African woman, so I can’t fault a black man for agreeing with me.

  • connorhus

    Some junk in the trunk?

    A size 22 is a shipping container filled with junk.

  • John Smith

    Yeah, negro women are usually fat and ugly and most folks don’t want to see any negro models, but especially not Refrigerator Perry’s twin sister.

    • PissedOffScientist

      Even the skinny african women are not remotely attractive.

  • Tarczan

    This fat woman with the tattoos on her arms (I looked up the photos) is gross. A normal male can’t possibly think she is attractive. Carve off 150 pounds and get rid of the tattoos and she has a chance, but this is the Cultural Marxists trying to destroy the western image of beauty. This is ridiculous.

    • De Doc

      She does present good sport for the hoggers out there.

  • Cuddles

    Hideous broads fighting for the spotlight, they should be running for cover.

  • IstvanIN

    Black, white or brown, 5’5″ and 280lbs can not be healthy.

  • WR_the_realist

    Tess Holliday is gorgeous? Not to these beholding eyes. Too be sure, the typical runway model looks anorexic. But leave it to the fashion industry to be incapable of finding a happy medium.

    I will grant this: Tess Holliday is better looking than the fat black women Lisa Respers would like to replace her with.

    • IstvanIN

      Yeah, whatever happened to the normal,healthy girl, with curves, you know breasts and hips and a small, shapely behind all in proportion? The kind of girl who can play softball and run after a 3 year old? Regular, cute, not flabby, not tattooed like the graffiti on a trollley

      • HE2

        whatever happened to the normal,healthy girl, with curves, you know breasts and hips and a small, shapely behind all in proportion? The kind of girl who can play softball and run after a 3 year old? Regular, cute, not flabby, not tattooed like the graffiti on a trolley. The ones you can actually get your arm around her waist…
        Me! Me! I got here first. Choose me!
        5’2″, 115 lbs, and hooo boy, can I run after a three year old.

        • Exuberant Auditor

          Your zest is endearing.

          • HE2

            I guess one might call it “zest.”
            Just the opposite of overeating, I have to remind myself to stop, sit down and eat. So much to do, so little time in a day.
            My man is trim and fit also, in fact, we both weigh the same as when we married.
            In this ‘burb one does not see a fat person. Everyone jogs, works out, eats well. In town, yes, blacks and lower functioning Whites tend to be morbidly obese.
            I admit to being a “weightist;” it repulses me.

          • Exuberant Auditor

            By “zest”, I just meant “enthousiasm”, or “exuberance” to use the qualifier of someone I know.

            Glad to hear you guys are fit. All Amrenners should be.

  • John Smith

    Maybe he has “a thing” for Wookies?

  • LeonNJ

    I can clearly see now why white men go to south east Asia or South America to find their future bride. I can’t blame them.

    • Weisheit77

      You forgot North East Asia.

      • Usually Much Calmer

        They come here!

  • bubo

    5 foot 5 and 300 pounds. Basically the same as Marilyn Monroe, right?

  • She’ll look like Rachel Jeantel after she grows a few more neck-folds.

    • Weisheit77

      I almost watered my computer with coffee on that one.

  • Rhialto

    Considering the hyper-depressing articles posted in today’s Amren, this article about lack of Black flab provides some much need comic relief.

  • Magician

    I am a fan of neither women who looks like the girl shown in the photo above, nor women who look malnourished

    And another unfortunate fact is, anatomists report that it is biologically impossible for women to have naturally large breasts while having a thin waist.

    Majority of skinny women do have small breasts, and it is not wrong, or something to be ashamed of, if a young skinny woman happens to have small breasts.

    Even many skinny white Hollywood actresses have very small breasts.

    I have included photos of Kate Hudson and Keira Knightley and no, I am not a fan of women with such bodyshapes. They look like boys!

    I hope anyone here can confirm this but, there are some women who are very obese even if they do not eat all that much.

    • Spikeygrrl

      White omen will continue to starve themselves (or buy liposuction), buy breast augmentations, and as we age buy wrinkle-free facial skin (e.g., Botox) as long as that’s what White men are dating and marrying.

      There’s a weirdly long-lived meme that women tailor their looks to please themselves and/or other women. What a steaming pile. Any woman who tailors her looks to please herself or other women is a lesbian.

      Red-blooded White women tailor their looks to please red-blooded White MEN. We always have. We always will.

  • Exuberant Auditor

    It is no secret that the females of the black race are chubbier on average, and also that the males of that race have a higher treshold for chubby attraction and a lower one for skinny than their white counterparts. Same for skin tone: white male have more tolerance for “plain white” than black males whose ideals are somewhere along the tones of mulattas. Other racial differences to be added to the list of social construct.

    By the way, the woman on that magazine is fat and those modelling on runways too skinny.

    • HE2

      I think they call the thin look of models, “heroin chic.” It does not look healthy.

      • Exuberant Auditor

        It’s neither healthy nor appealing. Have no idea why they make them do that.

  • Alexandra1973

    Meanwhile associating us females with kitchen work is sexist.

    What’s wrong with the kitchen? I have my computer set up in here! Only room with a phone jack for my DSL.

  • Alexandra1973

    I could stand to drop 90-100 pounds myself (I’m 5’3″ and a size 18-20). I don’t like how I look, so I’m wanting to change it.

    I probably look about average compared to everyone else around here, sad to say!

    My sister is easily twice my size and if I’m visiting family in Michigan and she tries to hop on a scooter at Walmart I tell her to get off her duff and walk…I have a bad ankle and I walk! LOL

  • Weisheit77

    One bone of contention here; my sister is a working model. I don’t know if you all know what the gap is, but it’s the space between a model’s upper thighs. I was walking with my sister a few years back and saw some girl in tight jeans and remarked, “she looks like she’s wasting away from a disease”. I was referring to her legs; I might have even made the point that she should go do some squats at the gym for a few years. My sister then told me that in the modeling world that is highly sought after. I said, “eww, who defines the beauty standards in the modeling world?” My sister quickly replied, “Jews and homosexuals”. The scales fell from eyes at that moment.

    Don’t blame it on normal white men. I like my women to have some meat (muscle) on their legs.

    • corvinus

      Don’t blame it on normal white men. I like my women to have some meat (muscle) on their legs.

      But then you get stupid women trying to rationalize that we mean “fat” rather than “muscle” when we talk about “liking meat on their bones”. After all, muscle would require working out, whereas fat comes from simply being lazy.

      Nowadays, obesity is a far bigger (heh) problem than being underweight.

  • Weisheit77

    See my above comment.

  • Katherine McChesney

    I was told that the fashion world embraces bulimia to keep the models weight down to fit the smaller sizes for fashion shows.