Beauty, Lookbook

Stop pretending that plus-size women are somehow not normal

I’d probably be rich if I had been given a Euro for every time I’ve heard this.

Ashley Graham is a name that clearly rings a bell to many of us, but some people still may not recognize her.

Before recently, her name was often linked to the words “plus-size model,” and in order to refresh the memories of people who forgot who she is, all it took was a reference to her gorgeous Sports Illustrated cover for her to be recognized.

By now, Graham’s name has been in everybody’s mouth after appearing in the music video for DNCE’s single Toothbrush. In said video, Graham played the role of Joe Jonas’ love interest, and apparently, that is something we should be celebrating.

It’s brilliant, my 15 year-old-still-in-love-with-Joe-Jonas-self is very pleased to see that. Click To Tweet

Do not get me wrong. It is great that a plus-sized model has appeared in a music video where stereotypical top models would appear. It is great that Joe Jonas considered her to play the role of his love interest as he plays the role of the guy who is head over heels for her, runs after her, and just can’t get enough of her.

It’s brilliant, my 15 year-old-still-in-love-with-Joe-Jonas-self is very pleased to see that.

What is not great is the certain type of dialogue that has occurred since the release of the video. There have been very specific comments that stand out. Most of them were written without any sort of hidden intention, but they are worth an analysis. The most common comment worthy of this analysis is equal to this one: “It is about time they considered plus-size models for these roles – they finally considered real women.”

Upon reading this often repeated comment, I frown. You had me at the first part, but not the second.

That discourse excludes women without curves or who are simply flat. Click To Tweet

I get it.

We get it.

We are tired of beauty standards, and we are tired of beauty canons. But do we have to throw a group of women out of the canon in order to insert another group of women and modify said canon? I have read the “real women have curves” discourse more than a thousand times, I am sure. I’d probably be rich if I had been given a Euro for every time I’ve heard it. But that discourse excludes women whose complexion does not allow them to have curves or who are simply flat.

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Are they really less of a woman because they do not have curves and are visibly skinnier or fuller?

My point is: Ashley Graham having a role in that video is brilliant and such a big step ahead towards another beauty canon – or towards the abolition of a canon per se, and I think we should cherish it. However, sometimes the way we are celebrating this small victory is leading us to discriminate and perpetuate the detrimental cycle that excludes certain women.

Additionally, DNCE, and more-so Jonas, deciding to add Graham does not make them special or unique. They are special already because their music is great and they give everybody good vibes with their rhythm and catchy lyrics, but they’re not ‘better than the rest’ for deciding to include Graham. If we elevated them above the rest for including Graham, that would mean we are assuming that not including plus-size models or POC models is a normal thing and that we should be grateful that a band has decided to include someone who does not fit the Western beauty canon.

We need to start normalizing these situations.

DNCE have already taken a big step, as many other people have done in the past, and we are grateful for it.

We need to start normalizing these situations. Click To Tweet

But we need to keep moving forward.

It is interesting how we are treating this topic. Instead of normalizing this type of beauty and body, instead of welcoming it and embracing it, we are over-celebrating it.

Trust me, I am beyond happy this body is being celebrated – I have never considered myself a girl who would fit into today’s beauty canon – but by over-celebrating it, we are just destroying others’ self-esteem.

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Saying “real women have curves” may be as harmful as saying “real women have a size below 12.” We are complimenting one specific type of beauty and offending the other – and somehow we have learned to accept those type of comments.

So, does this mean we shouldn’t celebrate it?

Oh, we definitely should. Not only “plus-size” bodies, but all kind of bodies.

Let’s celebrate the fact that we’re alive. Let’s celebrate our diversity. Let’s not push each other; let’s not make a competition out of this.

Celebrating this new era correctly will hopefully lead us to normalize it – which should be the aim with this video that has already won many people over. I am hopeful that eventually, we may see more plus-size models and POC models in the spotlight for them to become a part of this canon. 

That's a universal truth we have decided to ignore. Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, beauty is subjective.

I think that is one of those universal truths that we all know but we decide to ignore. We obviously do not find the same kind of people beautiful and attractive – and that’s absolutely fine – and truly fascinating. How boring would life be if we all liked the same stuff anyway? However, just because you do not find it attractive, it doesn’t mean it’s not.

You know what they say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Now that’s a universal truth we have decided to ignore – we need to fix that.

And we can start right here.

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Cristina Sánchez

Cristina Sánchez

Cristina Sánchez is an English Studies student with Spanish blood and a big film enthusiast. She lives in Spain but is planning to get back to England as soon as possible. Her other interests include: binge-watching TV shows, binge-reading books, looking at expensive make-up and writing about herself in third person.

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