This post was originally published on February 5, 2015.
It feels like major developments in body positivity are on the horizon: Last week, #effyourbeautystandards founder Tess Holliday was signed by MiLK Model Management. Then yesterday, it was announced that Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue will feature its first ever plus-size model. There was only one problem with the latter: SI didn’t cast the model, but rather allowed swimwear brand Swimsuits For All to place an advertisement starring plus-size model Ashley Graham. Today, however, the publication announced that it officially cast Robyn Lawley as its first plus-size model. And it is a huge step in the right direction.
Sports Illustrated is a brand based upon living a healthy, active life, and their annual Swimsuit Issue historically features many curvy (albeit still slim) women like Tyra Banks, Christie Brinkley, Carol Alt, and most recently, Kate Upton. While other magazines, especially fashion magazines (NYLON included), have not made great strides in casting more full-figured women in editorials, SI has a great opportunity to feature beautiful women of all shapes and sizes. After all, the Swimsuit Issue is inarguably founded upon sex and there should never be just one way to be sexy. That’s why we are so glad that SI has officially cast a technically “plus-size” model as one of its 2015 Rookies.
That being said, the idea of a “plus-size model” is a bit disconcerting, as by industry standards, it simply means that the model is a size 8 or above. This makes it so that many—like Myla Dalbesio and, at times, Crystal Renn—are below-average size (in 2010, the average size for an American woman was a size 14). Certainly Lawley would not be considered plus-size outside of the fashion industry—she is thin, with a flat stomach and slender frame.
Some people believe that showcasing plus-size bodies promotes inactive, unhealthy lifestyles. (Please note: We do not always agree with the last statement. It is simply an opinion that many others have expressed.) What’s missing from that argument is the fact that using exclusively under-weight models might encourage unhealthy lifestyles, too—like, um, eating disorders.
The “plus-size” model is a relatively new concept and the idea of the “perfect body” is constantly evolving. It’s time to start showcasing a wide range of bodies in a positive light. As Graham said in a press release, “I know my curves are sexy and I want everyone else to know that theirs are too. There is no reason to hide and every reason to flaunt. The world is ready for more curves in bikinis.” Although Lawley is certainly a step in the right direction, we would love to see more full-figured women in the pages of largely circulated magazines. And hopefully that will come in 2015.