ANTM: You’re Not Fat Enough

Over a year ago, I talked about how America’s Next Top Model consistently shot down the solitary plus size model included on various cycles. Judges primarily cited the industry’s inability to change and/or accept models not rail thin and super tall, along with the plus size model’s sudden and oh-so-confusing (sarcasm!) downward spiral into depression and lackluster performance.

On this year’s cycle, there was again a model included as plus sized (American size 8, maybe 10), Sarah. To my surprise, Sarah wasn’t constantly picked at for her size or for losing momentum and fizzling amid the stress of living with amazingly thin industry approved models, like all the other plus sized women before her. Frankly, I didn’t even realize she was supposed to be the plus-size-offering-of-the-cycle until it was mentioned off the cuff at deliberation. They didn’t focus on her trying to deal with being in a house full of, by comparison, stick figures. She was just a gorgeous woman like the rest of them, doing the model thing, just like the rest of them. She was never at the top of the pack, but she consistently pleased the judges.

Aha, I thought, finally all of the judges are finally on the same page. They’re actually giving her a fair shot!

And that’s when comments started coming at poor Sarah. They weren’t the comments you’d expect, though. They were comments about her losing weight. “You can’t be a plus size model if you lose weight!” Sarah said repeatedly she wasn’t consciously losing weight. I mean, come on, though – put a regular woman in a house with women who are naturally (or even unnaturally) thin, and things will happen. She’ll get depressed or she’ll start becoming more self-conscious or she’ll lose weight or she’ll gain weight. Any or all of the above seem like reasonable reactions in a highly atypical environment.

I knew the writing was on the wall for Sarah the first time they commented on her losing weight. It was soon after this, too, that the handy-dandy editors started including bits about Sarah being uncomfortable with her body. Hmm. 

Sarah was voted off last night and I find I’m pissed off about it. It all just seems so hypocritical – for years, several of the judges (I’m talking to you, Nigel Barker) were so damned opposed to having these fat models in the competition, only to be the ones complaining their fat model is suddenly slimming down a little and subsequently sending her packing.

Fat women can’t win for losing. It seems fat women just can’t win, period. Even when they’re not actually fat.

Comments

  1. says

    Oh, I see! They’ve been criticized for picking on girls for being “fat”, so now they’re going to criticize women for not being “fat” enough.

    And when in either situation the women get stressed, it’s of course the fat that’s stressing them, not the criticism. And the answer is for her to lose weight, not for them to shut up.

    Of course, if a super-confident (allegedly) plus size model came on the show and nothing could tear her down, she’d be labeled “attitude problem”.

    I’m sure they can rationalize how any performance a “fat” model gives will be the wrong one. Kind of like employers who don’t fire people for being the wrong religion, race, creed, or whatever… they just set up situations where that person can’t possibly succeed, then claim poor job performance.

  2. sbg says

    Kind of like employers who don’t fire people for being the wrong religion, race, creed, or whatever… they just set up situations where that person can’t possibly succeed, then claim poor job performance.

    That’s exactly what it felt like. I watch the show with a huge grain of salt (and some Tyra repellant – that woman comes off as so self-absorbed it’s nauseating), but I was just so disappointed in how they made it all look. Who knows what really went down? Ah, editing. But yeesh.

  3. SunlessNick says

    It all just seems so hypocritical – for years, several of the judges (I’m talking to you, Nigel Barker) were so damned opposed to having these fat models in the competition, only to be the ones complaining their fat model is suddenly slimming down a little and subsequently sending her packing.

    And what’s the betting that they think they’re being sensitive?

    Or that it’s all the fault of feminism somehow?

    Even when they’re not actually fat.

    I don’t know how a US 8 and a UK 8 compare, but in the UK 8 is lowest that anyone actually manufactures size tickets or cubes for.

  4. says

    ANTM always has a few token contestants that go against the grain, whether it’s because they’re plus-size, or older than the others, or of a typically unrepresented ethniticty – and these contestants are generally weeded out of the competition within the first few rounds. Tyra wants to pay lip service to diversifying the model industry, but when it comes down to it, she and judges always side with the existing industry. (The happy exception is the number of African American models on the show.) But when she makes such a huge deal over being called “fat” herself, she should do a better job of standing up for those other “plus-size” girls.

  5. sbg says

    And what’s the betting that they think they’re being sensitive?

    I’m now not sure they ever meant the critique – I think they could have been told to get a new attitude, so they followed the motions.

    I don’t know how a US 8 and a UK 8 compare, but in the UK 8 is lowest that anyone actually manufactures size tickets or cubes for.

    Our smallest size is 0. Size 2 models are already considered chubby.

  6. sbg says

    Tyra wants to pay lip service to diversifying the model industry, but when it comes down to it, she and judges always side with the existing industry. (The happy exception is the number of African American models on the show.) But when she makes such a huge deal over being called “fat” herself, she should do a better job of standing up for those other “plus-size” girls.

    And more the fool me for actually getting lulled into thinking they were making headway this year.

  7. says

    I don’t know how a US 8 and a UK 8 compare, but in the UK 8 is lowest that anyone actually manufactures size tickets or cubes for.

    To try to give you some idea without attempting number conversions… generally, if a woman wears size 8, her weight is going to look about “right” to you. If anything, she may seem a bit on the slim side.

    It used to be everyone wanted to be a size 6 – now that’s no longer awesome and fantastic enough. Being a size zero – now THAT’S a real woman.

    Just wait. They’ll go to negative numbers. They will. It’s all about having some kind of stat that makes you a somebody in the eyes of some other somebody.

  8. Tessa says

    The numbers have long since ceased to be even vaguely meaningful for me – in the past three years I’ve gone from an eight to a six to a four in various stores, and it’s not my body that’s changed. I still have a vague idea of what people mean when they say a size eight – it’s about the size I still am, but it’s no longer the size on most of the tags. o.O

  9. SunlessNick says

    To try to give you some idea without attempting number conversions… generally, if a woman wears size 8, her weight is going to look about “right” to you. If anything, she may seem a bit on the slim side. - BetaCandy

    Hm, that’s about UK 14-16.

  10. sbg says

    The numbers have long since ceased to be even vaguely meaningful for me – in the past three years I’ve gone from an eight to a six to a four in various stores, and it’s not my body that’s changed.

    They’re meaningful in that they make shopping, what I consider a chore and not a pleasure anyway, even more aggravating. If every time you go back to a place your size changes, how are you supposed to stay sane?

  11. Tessa says

    If every time you go back to a place your size changes, how are you supposed to stay sane?

    I know – it drives me insane. And I think it serves to create a sense that your body is less stable than it really is, which I think may feed into some of the body image issues women face.

  12. scarlett says

    Well I consider myslef to have fairly good self esteem when it comes to my body (and yes, that’s the invidible privlidge of being tallish, slimish and blond…ish :p) there are some chains I just wn’t go into because they’re labels are two smaller than anyone else’s – so the same size of jeans in Target would be an 8 and a 12 in Roads. And I think if I, who has a pretty good self-image, gets offput by this and intellectually gets that a Roads 12 is still an 8, what does it do for people who believe they have to be an 8 at any cost to go to Roads and find they’re ‘really’ a 12???

    Plus, it’s annoying to have to take in at least 2 sizes of everything until you work out where a particular place sits on their size calculating :(

  13. says

    Nick, that sounds right – I know your numbers run higher than ours.

    SBG, Tessa and Scarlett, so true about the bullshit numbers. I’m heavier than I was in high school but still wearing the same size according to labels, and I know that’s because they redrew the size charts at some point so that what’s currently a size 12 was probably a 14 or larger when I was in high school. But it’s all an attempt to appeal to my ego, which is apparently supposed to explode in shame if it sees anything above a 12 or something.

    Hell, when I was a size 6 years ago – back when that was THE size to be – I still felt fat because I have always and will always have big, muscular hips and thighs, which is just not how a woman’s supposed to look, ya know. Guess God fucked up. :D

  14. scarlett says

    And I think it serves to create a sense that your body is less stable than it really is, which I think may feed into some of the body image issues women face.

    I hadn’t thought of it like that, but that’s pretty much what I meant.I KNOW I haven’t put on two sizes worth of weight between trying on jeans in Target last week and trying on jeans in Roads this week, but I still feel a bit crap about it. So how the hell is someone who doesn’t really know that supposed to feel when they think they’re a size 8 but another store tells them they’re actually a 12.

  15. sbg says

    And I think it serves to create a sense that your body is less stable than it really is, which I think may feed into some of the body image issues women face.

    That’s a great insight, Tessa, and I think at least partially true. We all have fat days and thin days and normal days anyway, but the fashion industry really compounds the issue. I can’t tell you the number of shopping trips that have left me with nothing to wear and depression to overcome. And it’s silly. I know that even as it’s happening to me, and sometimes knowing it’s ridiculous helps pull me out much quicker.

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