Rare is the opportunity to applaud editors on their decisions about who graces the covers of their magazines. Typically we are inundated with page after page of conventional images of beauty and its homogenous definition of thin, young, and flawless (and usually Caucasian). However, it’s important to publicly recognize when magazines bravely step out of that comfort zone and choose to feature women who defy this standard but are every bit as beautiful. Recently, Elle Quebec magazine featured on its cover model Justine LeGault who, for many in the fashion industry, is considered “plus size.” Perhaps what is most encouraging (though not surprising) is the amount of positive feedback both LeGault and Elle Quebec have received after the issue was released in May. Says LeGault, “The fact that I only got positive feedback about my Elle cover truly makes me happy. It seems people aren’t so shocked anymore to see curves in the medias [sic]. This is great news!”
Thankfully, LeGault was not the first “plus size” model to grace the covers of major magazines. The Vogue Italia cover featuring Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine, and Robyn Lawley (Ralph Lauren’s first “plus size” model) also dared to bust stereotypes in June 2011, while Plus Model Magazine’s photos and statistics in January 2012 chose to boldly address the issue of weight in the modeling/fashion industry, highlighting several damning statistics.
V Magazine even released an entire issue in January 2010 entitled “Curves Ahead,” further embracing the much needed departure from the norm.
Magazine spreads such as these have recently inspired Jennie Runk (H&M’s newest swimwear model) to speak about her experiences as a model and what she believes is needed in the fashion industry: “Our bodies are built to be naturally different sizes. To denote any of these body types negatively is only hurting all of us…”
And while models like Runk and LeGault are certainly inspirational, it is notable that these women are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to bodies represented in media images. Given the overwhelmingly positive reaction by the public in response to these recent magazine spreads, it seems that a representation of body diversity is increasingly demanded by consumers and even from within the industry itself. So what can you do? Write the magazine editors and clothing distributors. Use your blogs and your social media accounts. Talk with your friends and family to draw positive attention to these kinds of images. Let’s reinforce the idea that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and deserve celebration in every form of media. Perhaps with a loud enough collective voice these types of images will become normative and women like Runk and LeGault will no longer be identified as “plus size” models, but simply “models.”
By: Dr. Christine Peat