Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Underrepresentation Of Black Plus Size Models In Mainstream Fashion

I received the link to this story in my "In" box this morning.....I found it to be a very interesting read and decided to share it with my fam......

Something is lacking in the current push to include plus-size models in mainstream fashion publications (or "separate-but-equal" media outlets such asVogue Italia's "Vogue Curvy").

What's lacking, specifically in the fashion establishment but less so in the satellite world of "fatshion" blogging, is representation of models/women of color. I want to speak specifically about black plus size models/women because there is a very particular perception of blackness conflated with female fatness as compared to other races, and it's an identity I inhabit on a daily basis.

A popular (white) misconception is that fat is more acceptable in the black community. This is patently untrue. Hip-hop

culture is often pointed to when one is making this argument. If you watch any hip-hop music videos at all, it's clear to see that the fat on the women featured is in specific places. Booty, hips, tits. As the inimitable Sir Mix-A-Lot stated, "When a girl walks in with an itty-bitty waist and a round thing [booty] in your face, you get sprung." (emphasis supplied) There is definitely a line between acceptable fat and unacceptable fat. Those fat women who are fortunate enough to be considered "thick" are subject to an even more extreme hyper-sexualization of their bodies than average sized or thin black women are. As the features considered sexually desirable not only by black men but also white men are exaggerated on a fat female body, these women are often portrayed as more sexually available, yet can also be portrayed as ghetto princess or hoochie - "Jezebel" and "Sapphire". But cross that line dividing "thick fat" and "just fat" and you quickly enter the territory of the desexualized fat black woman: the Precious, the mammy........

CLICK HERE to read this article in it's entirety.



TavyDay said...

oh wow, interesting blog. very well put... i'm still developing a complete opinion... interesting.

(yes, i'm making my way through your blog today - a wonderful distracton from work.)

TavyDay said...

Okay, so I'm back with my more to say on this piece; I had to ponder over what significance it holds for me. In the few years that I've ventured into the world of plus modeling, there have been two things told to me, that I shall never forget and has aided in my sheer determination to show that My Black (and fat) is Beautiful! Starting out, I was told by a photographer that I was in no physical shape to make it as a plus model and would be better suited as an exotic BBW. His opinion offended me; I felt he had no right to comment on my weight or pending career. In my inexperience, I truly believe that the benefit of being a plus model was being able to be fat and a model at the same time. Even in my ignorance, his suggestion that the world would only care to see me as an exploited, fat, sex object by the BBW admires felt very wrong. As time went on, I began to scour the internet for any and everything PLUS. I studied portfolios of professionally paid models and noticed most of them were on the smaller side of fat; they were thick, toned and in shape. I saw no rolls - I had those. No stretch marks- had those too. And barley any stomach - while I was sporting stomach(s). Seeing this really shook my confidence, but I ventured on. It was through Gwen DeVoe's Plus Academy and Blurr that I met you, as well as other positive plus women that would soon become my NYC family. Finally, women that looked like me, with no one telling them they were too FAT to dream, or too BLACK to succeed.

It was during this time that I was told by a "thinner" plus model that the difference between a PLUS and a FAT model was that PLUS models went national while FAT models would only ever gain local acclaim. This made me question; am I really too fat for print modeling? I already know that at 5’5, runway would not be my place in the world of modeling. Bombarded by paler faces, I also questioned; even if I do lose weight and tone up, would I then be hindered by my complexion?

I have come to the conclusion that working out and getting fit could never hurt me as an individual; therefore, it couldn’t hurt my modeling career. I also know that I will forever be a black woman and that my complexion only becomes a factor in my success if I allow it to. As I am, I will continue to pursue my dreams and to polish, refine and learn as much as I can... No matter the stigma – when you try, how can you fail? Personal success should be just as important as any other recognition.