Curvy Is Real and We Love It
In times when media is overwhelmingly present in our lives, women are bombarded with multiple advertisements and messages displaying unrealistic body images, and can sometimes feel insecure about themselves, thinking they do not look like the models that are in the advertisements.
The consequences of this are now sadly well-known, from lack of body confidence to extreme cases of eating disorders. A 2003 research by Lowes and Tiggerman found out that “26% of 5 year olds recommended dieting behavior (not eating junk food, eating less) as a solution for a person who has gained weight, and by the age of 7, 1 in 4 children has engaged in some kind of dieting behavior.
The thin ideal is also represented in magazines and advertisements. A study from 2009 by researchers Wasylkiw, Emms, Meuse, and Poirier said that “most models [in magazines and advertisements] were young, thin whites. Only 6% of the models had rounder, softer body types and 95% of the models in the fashion magazines were characterized as lean.”
Many charities and campaigns in the UK help girls deal with pressures about appearances from the media. Girls Out Loud for example helps promote confidence, positive self-image, and supports girls to think big and follow their aspirations. This organisation has a Big Sister programme where a young girl is matched up with a woman who is at least 23 years old. The Big Sister must be comfortable in her skin and must commit to being a big sister for 12 months and help their little sister navigate through life and be there for her.
The Be Real campaign is another initiative that is made up of individuals, schools, businesses, public bodies and charities on campaigns to change the negative attitudes of body image and to put health above appearances and to be confident with your body. This campaign provides schools with information and programmes about body image, works with the health sector to provide information on how to be healthy without an emphasis on dieting and losing weight. The Be Real Campaign also works with media so that advertisements that are displayed are realistic bodies and not photoshopped ones.
The Body Gossip is another charity that combines arts and education to empower people to be the best they can be and rock their own kind of beautiful. The charity offers The Body Gossip Performance Project that is offered for years 7-9 that involves writing and performing to encourage young people to celebrate their own uniqueness.
Media and clothes stores are also waking up to the issue. Lifesize Magazine is an online magazine that promotes positive body image, and will soon launch a series with influencers talking about their strongest Body Positive Moment. Users will also be able to share their moments.
More and more stores are using plus-size models for their campaigns, for example SimplyBe, and Evans. Online, the offering is much bigger with online specialised stores such as Lane Bryant, Navabi, Yours Clothing and Curvissa. ASOS, the British online retail store also promotes positive body image. Mainstream stores began using more authentic models because it made them more likeable. However, Loana Junge, who is a marketing manager for Lifesize Magazine said, “The bitter truth is that only 1.4% of all models are a size 12+.
This is why we love our reality television show Curvy Girls. The girls we follow on that show, along with plus-size model Ashley Graham, are breaking the thin ideal mold by embracing their curvy bodies and showing the world that any body type is beautiful. Graham became the first plus-size model to grace the cover of Vogue and Sports Illustrated.
We need to remind people that advertisements are photoshopped to the extreme where the model herself is barely recognizable. And we need to remind people that they are beautiful no matter what size jeans they wear.