When Thin Stops Defining Beauty

Delta Winds cover 2010Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


When Thin Stops Defining Beauty

Alexandra Eriksen-Hisel

Young girls everywhere open up magazines, watch TV commercials and look at billboards only to find thin women in tiny clothing advertising anything from electronics to fast food. The American media hint that if you are thin you will be sexier, happier, more successful, and have a fulfilling love life. Yet being thin guarantees none of those things. Celebrities go to crazy lengths to demonstrate an unrealistic view of women with extreme cosmetic surgeries, strict diets and hours of exercise a day, and some are still not happy with themselves. How will this affect the self-esteem of American women if we don't start showing that the average woman is not a size two? Are women bound to this cookie cutter shape, or is thin just a trend soon to die? Will it ever be possible to change the rose-colored glasses that American culture sees through? I believe there's hope.

There are some women in the media who are trying to change the mold that has been set by pop culture and help regular women and girls to be happy with their body image. Tyra Banks, once a super model, now talk show host and producer, has said that her lifelong goal is to "help young girls see the beauty in their differences." On season ten of Banks' "America's Next Top Model," a plus-sized model named Whitney Thompson won the grand prize for the first time. Since then there has been a rise in the popularity of plus-sized models.

As a guest on Tyra Banks' talk show, Crystal Renn, a famous plus-sized model, promoted her autobiography Hungry. The book is about her struggle as a teen with anorexia and bulimia to be a thin model. She later found more success and happiness when she realized she was meant to be a plus-sized model. In the book Renn shares her opinion on the media's fixation with thin women: "I believe there is a cycle to everything--Wall Street, the housing market, and modeling, too. Back in the Victorian days, it was all about a full figure, in the '50s, it was about the boobs, in the '80s it was shoulders and in the '90s it was waifs. It can only go up from here." Renn's inspirational story is just another step in the reformation of the American women's body image.

The January 2010 issue of Marie Claire focuses on the top five plus-sized models in America. There are many different photos of all the models spread throughout the issue. The magazine even features a nude shot of one of the models. It was refreshing to see fewer thin models when reading that issue. This subject was such a hit that Marie Claire now has a permanent column dedicated to tips and tricks for plus-sized women. If every beauty magazine could recognize full-figured women the way Marie Claire did we would be headed toward a brighter and more accepting future for women.

Some countries just have their preferences. For example, although American culture puts pressure on being unnaturally thin, in West African culture thin women are looked down upon and thought of as unattractive. There the women who are overweight are considered beautiful. According to Abigail Haworth in "Forced to be Fat," a tribe in Mauritania, Africa, has families who put their teen daughters on high calorie diets and send them to force feeding camps to make them a "Trophy Wife" for their future husbands. Not that I believe this is how America should be but this shows that being fat or thin has nothing to do with being beautiful but everything to do with cultural trends.

Being a curvy woman myself, I find much comfort in seeing larger women shown in such a positive light. Just being healthy should be the main priority on every woman's list. If more women in the media would set good examples, curvy women could and would stop being ashamed of their figures. Young girls wouldn't have half as many self-esteem issues if the pressure to be thin were eased. I think change is possible.

Works Cited

Falcon, Ashley. "Big Girl in a Skinny World: Fashion Resources." Marie Claire 27 Jan. 2010. 12 April 2010 <http://www.marieclaire.com/fashion/fashionista-blog/plus-size-fashion-re... >

Haworth, Abigail. "Forced to Be Fat." Marie Claire 12 April 2010 <http://www.marieclaire.com/world-reports/news/international/forcefeeding...

Renn, Crystal. Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves. New York: :Simon and Schuster, 2009.