For those of you who haven’t heard of Tess Holliday, she is a plus size model from Los Angeles who is creating quite a stir within the fashion industry.
She is the first UK size 26 model to sign with a major modelling agency and has since fronted campaigns for plus sized fashion label Simply Be, and appeared in titles including Vogue.
In Tess’ own words, she is “fat and proud” and not concerned about what others think about her size. In fact, she is looking to redefine what is seen as beautiful with her #EffYourBeautyStandards campaign. As a result, she has been hailed in the media as an ‘icon’ with the likes of Cosmopolitan magazine calling her an ‘inspirational role model for women’.
Although I do commend Tess for going against the mould and showcasing that beauty is subjective and comes in all shapes and sizes, I can’t help but feel unsettled by her promotion of what is essentially an unhealthy lifestyle.
At 5ft 4ins and weighing 260 pounds, Tess is clinically obese. By her promoting being fat as acceptable, she is arguably, in turn, endorsing the health risks that come alongside obesity. Let us not forget that obesity increases the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease, not to mention fertility problems in young women.
This, in my view, makes the media somewhat hypocritical in their praise for Tess. After all, these are some of the same people who helped to ban the size zero from catwalk shows around the world due to its unhealthy connotations. It was also during Tess’ rise to fame that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned an Yves Saint Laurent advert for featuring an ‘unhealthily underweight model’.
It seems surprising then, that many people have applauded a model who promotes that ‘fat is fabulous’ to her 900,000 Instagram followers and 1 million Facebook fans. Imagine the backlash if a clinically underweight model was to do the same, and that activity was to receive the same level of public praise.
Research shows that in the UK 60 per cent of teenage girls are overweight and 20 per cent of young mothers are obese. Actively promoting an unhealthy body size – be it size zero or a size 22 – can be dangerous for body-conscious young adults who, rather than aspire to a healthy ideal, look the replicate their idols’ beauty standards.
Surely this is a time for brands and the media alike to be praising those who promote overall health and fitness, rather than a specific body ideal. Campaigns like ‘This Girl Can’ and Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign should be applauded.
What do you think? Is Tess an inspiration for women of all shapes and sizes? Or is she a bad influence, glamourizing obesity and promoting an unhealthy lifestyle?
Published, 7th August 2015