Our Varied Reaction to Obese Swimsuit Models
Obese models elicit quite a varied response from the general public. They can be seen as glorifying obesity to simply representing the average American. They can be insulted by strangers behind keyboards or praised as pioneers in the field breaking down unrealistic beauty standards.
Recently I saw an article posted on social media by Health Magazine about an overweight model who was not allowed to continue filming her bikini photo shoot in an international hotel because of her size. The author of the article was certainly framing the issue as one of size discrimination- the bikini model was not allowed to continue filming in the gorgeous hotel because she was too large and not attractive in her bikini. The comments in the comments section for the article were much more diverse: some responders defended the model’s ability to model wearing any clothing anywhere, some praised her for healthy self-esteem, others were very, stating they did not want to see an obese person in a bikini to the pointing out the bigger issue that an obese person may not be the best representative of health and why then was this being posted by Health Magazine.
A similar reaction was seen recently in a Venus commercial in which an obese female was seen in a bikini with the message “slay the day.” This commercial seemed to elicit the same varied responses by those who have strong opinions on these things. Some people felt she embodied the “average” American woman and reflected reality for many women. Others felt similarly it was a great display of loving your body at any size. A large number of people were very quick to criticize that Venus was glorifying obesity and modeling a very unhealthy weight. Others critiqued seeing someone of her size in a bikini and deemed her unattractive. Finally, others voiced the inability for women to “win” as thin models are often called “too thin” and now an overweight model is called “too fat.”
Whatever your opinion, this as a great example of what is often viewed as a dichotomous discussion but what should really be a complimentary discussion. Enjoying yourself- loving the body you have and the skin you are in is a great message at any size. Self-esteem and self-worth should not be tied to a number on a scale or the size of your clothes. Enjoying your day- your day at the beach, your day at a photo shoot, your day with your children, your partner, yourself, should be a priority every day regardless of your physical size. Loving your physical self and being comfortable in what you wear is truly a phenomenal goal for women and men of all ages and all sizes.
But this is also very complimentary with wanting to be a healthier version of yourself. Cherishing yourself, loving yourself, treating yourself well, is complimented by eating well, being active and taking care of your mentality. In fact, I see them as interrelated. Sophia Bush is quoted as saying “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.” This quote absolutely encompasses my thought on this. You can both love yourself while working to improve yourself. You can be confident at your current weight while trying to lose weight, build muscle, develop a health mentality, eat healthier etc. You can be happy with yourself while also wanting to be more of something.
As for the Venus commercial and the model in the photoshoot; I’m glad they started a discussion about self-esteem, self-confidence, body acceptance, unrealistic fashion industry standards, health, obesity, and the many other topics that have stemmed from these ads/articles; I hope that discussion continues. But more importantly, I hope that we start to talk about and realize that you can love yourself as you are and still work on yourself.