There has been an ongoing (and completely useless) debate about whether Kate Upton should be considered a plus-size model because she’s not a Size 0. In fact, when she graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue two years ago, some (totally ridiculous) people even called her chubby. (Pause here for laughter.)
Calvin Klein took some heat recently for hiring a plus-size model whom critics argued wasn’t plus-size enough. Then there’s Victoria’s Secret, who in an ongoing effort to try and sell a fantasy, was taken to task by some women who felt as if their reality was being judged in the process.
It seems like no one can win. That might be about to change, though.
The Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is coming out on Feb. 9, and one of the models featured on the inside in an advertisement for a company called Swimsuits For All is a very real, plus-size woman. Model Ashley Graham is a Size 14 or 16 (depending what you read), and sexy as hell — a fact that she owns.
“I know my curves are sexy and I want everyone else to know that theirs are too,” Graham, 27, said, according to Us Weekly. “There is no reason to hide and every reason to flaunt.”
She has curves in all the right places, which is to say, basically, in every place. There’s no high-waisted bikini and modest bra cup happening here. Graham dons a skimpy black bikini and leaves little to the imagination. She flaunts what she’s got, she said, in part to help further the image of what should be appealing vs. what Hollywood has tried to tell us is ideal.
“Jennifer Lawrence is the media’s poster girl for curves — she’s tiny,” Graham said in an interview with The Edit magazine. “There needs to be more education in schools, because that’s where eating disorders start. It’s not just about being healthy; it’s also about loving who you are.”
The more we can see women who aren’t pin-thin in the spotlight, the less pressure regular women might be under to fight for an unrealistic reflection in the mirror. Among the things that Kim Kardashian is famous for (besides the obvious), for instance, is her larger-than-normal-famous-person curves. It’s hard to put a finger on the Kardashian appeal, although it could just be that despite the trappings of wealth that she oozes at every opportunity, her body is more relatable to plenty of women compared to typical models and movie stars. When you catch a glimpse of her cellulite, non-perky breasts, or less-than-lithe build, it’s easier to humanize her. (Of course then she opens her mouth and you remember, but still.)
Sure, it would be better if Sports Illustrated paid Graham to appear in the magazine instead of taking money from an advertiser to have her in there. But the fact that a larger, beautiful woman is being featured in one of the most well-read publications of the year in a provocative, confident, and sensual way is still a giant leap in the right direction. Swimsuits For All could have chosen a women’s magazine like Cosmo, O, or More to make a big splash — but by choosing this issue of this magazine, they’re making a statement that they’re where they belong, which is among women equipped with confidence, charisma, and bodies that won’t quit.
Considering how many steps back plus-size women usually have to take to move forward given all the criticism and nitpicking they endure (remember: Kate Upton is chubby by some standards), Graham’s presence in the annual mammary mecca is really a victory.
Photo courtesy of Swimsuits For All