It came as no surprise when über skinny supermodel Kate Moss proudly stated that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. The rest of the population would probably disagree (especially once you’ve tasted chocolate cake). For those aspiring models whose diets don’t consist of coffee, celery and cigarettes, Perdeby takes a closer look at the plus-size modelling industry.

BERND FISCHER

It came as no surprise when über skinny supermodel Kate Moss proudly stated that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. The rest of the population would probably disagree (especially once you’ve tasted chocolate cake). For those aspiring models whose diets don’t consist of coffee, celery and cigarettes, Perdeby takes a closer look at the plus-size modelling industry.

Although plus-size modelling only became recognised in the 90s, it is a fast growing industry. Originally beginning in theUnited States, today there are numerous established agencies catering primarily for full-figured models as far as theUnited Kingdom,Canada,Germany,Belgium, theNetherlandsandAustralia.

Our size zero obsessed society is starting to include more plus-size models in advertising campaigns for clothing and cosmetics. However, full-figured models may still feel discriminated against in the world of haute couture, which religiously follows a so-called Vogue-like philosophy. This exclusive fashion clique pretty much only accepts the super skinny. In spite of this, some of the world’s best fashion designers have recognised the potential market for haute couture fashion for “normal”-sized people. Both Jean-Paul Gaultier and John Galliano used plus-size models in their Spring 2006Paris fashion shows.

Many argue that this sudden inclusion of full-figured models is simply a statement to the rest of the world in order to gain favour with the media and critics.

In 1997, MODE, a fashion magazine specifically aimed at the plus-size fashion community, became increasingly popular among fashion followers. This was the first magazine that fought to establish full-figured models as celebrities in the industry by including names of models next to fashion spreads, along with quotes on self-esteem. The magazine, however, did not last and while it was struggling to stay afloat, well-known fashion houses Versace and Valentino stopped their production of plus-size clothing which MODE relied on, causing it to plummet into closure.

Vogue and V, two of the world’s top fashion magazines have also been criticised for only using plus-size models in dedicated issues of their publications. Vogue uses full-figured models and celebrities during their annual “Shape Issue” and V magazine does not shy away from calling their special instalment “The Size Issue”.

The Anna Wintours (and other devils wearing Prada) of fashion may not admit that they favour skinny over fat but it is evident in their work and lack of active enthusiasm. Although television shows such as America’s Next Top Model have featured full-figured models and even had plus-size winner or two, it remains true that few have been successful at making the transition from reality star to working model.

Kate Dillon, an example of a woman who has achieved great success, began her career as a typical model. She developed anorexia but after overcoming the disorder, she re-launched her career as a plus-size model. Dillon has managed to score advertising campaigns with Gucci and Nine West, has appeared in several versions of Vogue around the world and had the privilege of working with top fashion photographers such as Mario Testino. She was featured as a special guest on America’s Next Top Model, giving advice to contestants on how to deal with self-esteem, criticism and body issues.

South Africahas followed in the footsteps of other countries advocating the acceptance of full-figured models by launching a reality show entitled Diamond in the Ruff, set to hit our screens on 1 November. The show has opened its doors to inexperienced models of all sizes. Noni Gasa, well-known industry expert, stylist and one of the four judges to appear on the show, said that “only the usual suspects” had attended the auditions held inDurban,Kimberley,Bloemfontein and Kroonstad. “I think there is an element of disbelief and distrust because there never really has been a model search opened for plus-size models, so they certainly aren’t sold on the concept yet,” Gasa said. She hopes to see more full-figured models at theCape Town, Musina, Polokwane andJohannesburg auditions.

Crystal Renn, former plus-size model, has caused a stir following her recent weight loss. “I don’t want young women to think being thin is the only way to be beautiful. Beauty is not a pant size. I’m known for my body and I’m proud of my body,” Renn said a few years ago when she was still a full-figured model. Renn claims that she was not pressured to lose weight.

An unimpressed fan tweeted: “Crystal Renn’s losing weight is proof that everyone wants to be thin, regardless of how many times they say ‘I love my body the way it is.’ ” The battle between skinny and not-so-skinny will probably continue for years to come. Fashion connoisseurs will always maintain that skinny is the new black – therefore, society should try to resolve this matter by not equating beautiful with thin.

Photo: Esther van Eeden

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