Sports Illustrated Feigns Plus-Sized Acceptance
The infamous swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated is attempting to break ground this year with pages featuring two “plus-sized” models. Ashley Graham and Robyn Lawley are among the first of their kind to be labeled as above-average and still be signed to major modeling agencies. However there has been debate from several news sources (including CNN and the New York Post) about whether or not these women are accurately presenting a positive body image.
Ashley Graham wears a size 16 and has been featured in Vogue and Glamour magazines as a plus-sized model. At a full size above the national average (most women in the U.S. hover around a size 14), Graham is displayed in Sports Illustrated in a bikini that shows off all her fabulous curves. She has rounded legs and a little bit of a tummy with minimal artificial contouring. Baby steps in the right direction at least.
What many people did not hear about was that Graham is only featured in a paid advertisement. She is not one of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models given real recognition. That honor goes to Robyn Lawley. Lawley is new to the fashion scene, but she has already gained momentum by winning the Aussie Cosmo Fun award and becoming the first plus-sized model signed by Ralph Lauren.
The problem is: Lawley comes in at a size 12, which is rather small for a women over 6 feet tall and puts her below the American standard size. Her photos in Sports Illustrated are posed in a way that emphasize her well-endowed bosom while hiding her legs and shading her stomach to give the impression of toned abs. If anything, the spread is trying to make an already thin woman look, well thinner.
Kirstie Clements, former editor-in-chief of Vogue, was among the first to work with Lawley in the U.S. “When a plus-size model first turns up to the studio, she may be an anomaly to a team normally used to working with size 6s,” Clements stated. The odds of a size 6 being given the chance at a Vogue shoot are already an anomaly, a 12 is more of a miracle. “But once photographer Max Doyle started shooting Robyn, we quickly readjust our preconceived notions of beauty. She doesn’t actually look plus-size to me at all now,” Clements finished.
Well the reason for that is probably because Lawley is not plus-sized at all. In the model’s defense, Lawley told TIME magazine “I don’t know if I consider myself a plus-sized model or not. I just consider myself a model because I am trying to help women in general accept their bodies.”
That’s a noble mission, but a difficult one at the least. As long as Sports Illustrated is calling these beautiful, average women “plus-sized,” the fashion world is going to continue idealizing thigh gaps and zero body fat.