We recently did a story on local model Marciel Hopkins who lost 14 kgs in order to enter Miss SA. She has said publicly that this was a very unhappy time for her. Now signed to ICE Models she is a curvy model, and often shares her journey on Instagram.
We all know that models and actresses, in particular, have always felt the wrath of the media when picking up a few kilos. But curvy models on the other hand, are often criticised for losing weight. Their fans feel betrayed and they are branded as sell-outs.
Are there any grounds for the public to claim ownership of these 'inspirational', 'body positive' models? Branded as role models for womankind, curvy models are fetishised and over-sexualised for their curves. Keep it and you're hailed a hero. Lose it and you've betrayed your audience.
After posting this Instagram picture in 2016, Ashley Graham was slated on social media for her 'shrinking frame'.
And back in 1995 the then 19-year-old granddaughter of acclaimed author Roald Dahl, Sophie Dahl, broke onto the fashion scene as one of the first models labelled as 'plus size'.
Her tall frame and shapely curves made her stand out - and for all the right reasons. She changed the industry forever, as she brought curve-appreciation into the high fashion mainstream.
Yet her career was short-lived. She was bashed in 2000 for posing in this controversial ad for Yves Saint Laurent, showing off a much slimmer figure.
And shamed again in 2002 after strutting down the Zac Posen runway as a token 'plus size' model, when her figure was a size 10 at most.
She famously said that she had lost her 'puppy fat', but this really brought the critics out to play.
Her fans said they felt 'betrayed' by her weight loss. But she has always maintained that she has never gone on extreme diets to shed the kilos.
In an interview with SMH she notes that, "My relationship with food has always been uncomplicated. How I view my body hasn't been uncomplicated, but that was because my body was discussed and dissected at great length in a very public forum, when I was at a formative age. My relationship with food was never affected."
Crystal Renn's path was more up and down. She is a great example of a model who used to work at a mere 43 kilos. According to the Mail Online, she developed an eating disorder and survived on lettuce and Diet Coke during her early modelling days in 2002.
But after recovering from anorexia she joined Forbes modelling agency and became one of their curvy models.
But according to ABC her career was brief in nature as she lost weight again in 2010 - going down to a size 8 and smaller.
For this she got a lot of flack. She hit back at categorisation, saying "...by placing a title on my head, which is 'plus-size,' and then the picture that these people have created in their mind about what plus-size actually is, I've basically failed you just with that."
Aussie-born Robyn Lawley is perhaps one of the most famous curvy models working today. She was steered in the direction of 'plus size' modelling at the age of 16 and has worked for big names like H&M and Ralph Lauren and was the first-ever curvy model to be covered by two issues of Vogue in the same year.
But she, like Marciel Hopkins, despises the label 'plus size'.
The Telegraph reports that she feels the term was created by the fashion industry to exclude and segregate a lot of women. This is a big reason why she created her own swimwear line, Robyn Lawley Swimwear, for women size 8-18 as she says women with curves have difficulties finding swimwear.
Yet, there have been several attacks on her figure over the years - mainly commenting on her slimming down.
In 2015, after posting the below picture on Instagram fans were "disappointed" at her apparent weight loss and told her she should be 'ashamed' to call herself 'plus size'.
Here are a few comments that stood out for me:
@glamourcat1Guys she's lost weight. Not saying that she was huge. In the fashion world anything above 4 or a 10 (Australian) is considered plus size.
@psychabrelics For you to call yourself plus sized, even though that's what you're considered to be in the "modeling world," you should be ashamed for even trying to own that. ??????
@jeni.ross@psychabrelics why on earth should she be ashamed???? I can pretty much guarantee that if she wasn't a model, she would not go around calling herself "Plus Sized". The modeling industry has built itself upon the standard that their women are merely walking hangers. And this is a known fact. So yes, maybe she is "OWNING" her size as a successful, working model, and her doing that does not assume she condones the gross standards that are the norm in that "world". The industry that pays her bills gave her the hideous title of "plus sized", and she is merely accepting the hand she was dealt. No one, ( herself included), would ever disagree that of she had a normal job, no one would think twice about her weight. It's comments such as yours that perpetuate said negative stereotypes in our society.
Yes, it's only natural that there is a backlash. It's 'natural' in a world where we can't seem to move past categorisation. But categorising 'thin model' as bad and 'curvy model' as good has also become a dangerously normalised discourse. It is dangerous if we generalise instead of looking at the unique factors at play, reviewing each case individually.
But that's just a tad too much effort, isn't it?
Every body is in constant ebb and flow, it changes and can become altered in various ways as time passes. Just because someone is a public figure doesn't give us license to fetishise their body, or act like we own it.
We cannot demand meaning, and we cannot demand they stay the same or change in a way to suit our definition of them.
Images: Getty and supplied