Curves are not unhealthy

Elizabeth Avalos, Staff Writer

For years the modeling industry has been criticized for the strict body standards that models are obliged to meet, but many women fall short of — no pun intended.

Things that are essentially out of their control, like height and weight, have heavily restricted and standardized the “model” body type as that of tall and slender.

Despite the criticism, the industry’s “model” body type has prevailed and many young girls and women all around the world envision themselves walking runways and appearing on magazine covers, aspiring to have this unattainable, overly thin body type.
When I saw plus-sized model Ashley Graham was selected as one of Sports Illustrated’s 2016 models for their annual swimsuit issue, it sparked optimism. The newly-christened SI model became the magazine’s first ever full-figured model to grace their cover. To me, this industry-breaking moment screams progression.

But apparently not everyone viewed it the same way I did. Supermodel Cheryl Tiegs expressed opposition and negative remarks about SI’s decision to feature Graham as one of their swimsuit models. Tiegs, who has also graced SI’s covers before, publically criticized the magazine’s decision to feature a model who is five-feet-nine-inches tall and weighs 201 pounds.
“I don’t like that we’re talking about full-figured women because it’s glamorizing them because your waist should be smaller than 35 inches. That’s what Dr. Oz said, and I’m sticking to it,” Tiegs said in an interview with E! News. She explained that although Graham’s face is very beautiful, her weight is not healthy in the long run. Tiegs has since apologized for her remarks, but Graham has also addressed her initial criticism.

“I kind of rolled my eyes, I was like, ‘Oh whatever, another one of these ladies.’ But what’s great is that—the fact that she said it—it means that other women think like her. And what that means is that we really need to change the industry,” Graham told E! News. “There are too many people thinking they can look at a girl my size and say that we are unhealthy. You can’t, only my doctor can!”

Although Graham addressed the criticism and explained that it did not get through her thick skin, I still found Tiegs’ remarks ironic. Especially given the strong tensions that have surrounded the modeling industry due to health concerns, for many years.

Tiegs believes that SI’s swimsuit cover of Graham promotes an unhealthy body, but an intense and unhealthy appetite for thinness has dominated models that are currently in or aspiring to be in the industry — the same industry she succeeded in — for many years.
In 2013, former model Georgina Wilkin told British newspaper The Telegraph that the length of her battle with anorexia had already far surpassed the length of her modeling career, and that she still battles the disease.

“At the end of the day, my modeling career lasted for three years and as a result, I’ve had anorexia for eight,” Wilkin said. She explained that her agent would tell her she looked “great” when she had not eaten in 48 hours. Wilkin chose to speak out to encourage young girls not to compromise their health in exchange for a few successful years in the industry.

Despite this, there are people like Tiegs who believe that the first-ever plus-sized model in SI’s history is the one promoting an unhealthy body, instead of the thousands of skinny models who incessantly compromise their health to walk a runway, land a magazine cover and meet the unrealistic physical body standards of the industry.

My vertically challenged stature and larger-than-size-zero waist has never had any modeling goals or aspirations. However, I fully recognize that there are many women who do not meet the current, unrealistic body standards who do want to model. While an occasional Instagram selfie tends to do it for me, I fully understand and value that many other women have significantly larger objectives. And they deserve to have them, regardless of their size.

Unless a doctor tells a woman she is unhealthy, no self-entitled model has the right to speak for another woman’s health. Plus, I doubt when a young girl sees Graham on the cover of a magazine or on the runway, she is going to rush to In-N-Out and eat five double cheeseburgers to have a body like hers. But, perhaps the aspiring model who has been skipping dinner for quite some time will now feel compelled to pick up a french fry and not throw it up seconds after swallowing it.

This is why remarks like the ones Tiegs shared will always bother me. Contrary to popular belief, skinny does not unequivocally mean healthy. Graham’s body does not mean unhealthy. Whether a skinny girl or a curvy girl is healthy or unhealthy is something that only a girl’s doctor can assess.

So go ahead, girl. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, treat yourself to a pizza with extra cheese instead of a dry salad every once in awhile. You deserve it.