Has Size 22 Supermodel Tess Holliday Tipped The Scales In Body Diversity’s Favor?

Tess-Holliday

By now you have no doubt heard of Tess Holliday, formerly Tess Munster. She is a blogger, model and positive body image advocate that has been taking the world by storm (and to task!). She made history earlier this year by becoming the first size 22 model to be signed by a major modeling agency (Milk Model Management in the UK), and continues to speak out about the importance of being confident in your body no matter what size.

Here’s the thing about promoting body image confidence as a size 22 woman, it comes with plenty of negative reactions. While Tess has a plethora of support from fans and girls just like her who have been waiting for eons for a role model to represent them, there is a lot of noise from naysayers who claim she is promoting obesity etc.

In promoting women like Tess and other plus size models whose message is about confidence, we too have been on the receiving end of accusers saying it is dangerous to promote people like. First up we need to make it clear that nowhere on this blog do we promote obesity. But do DO promote confidence and happiness from within wherever possible.

Let’s not confuse the idea of being confident and happy with the same as promoting obesity, it is not. There have been many plus size and curvy women using their platform to talk about the importance of health and fitness, but from a place of confidence and strength, not just wanting to look like everybody else. In our minds, it just makes sense to LOVE yourself to a place of health and wellness, rather than hatefully and depressingly make your way toward some goal weight the world forces upon you.

What Tess Holliday is doing is giving permission to millions of men and women to not hate themselves while on their journey in life, but the rest of the world should not take that as her giving the green light to obesity. Just because someone isn’t a size 0-4 doesn’t mean they should hate themselves. Each person’s health and body image journey is their own, and we as the public should be more encouraging and promote a culture of acceptance and empowerment, rather than negativity and shame.

With that in mind (and out of the way!) let us bask in the glory of this:

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That’s right, Tess was chosen as People magazine’s cover girl for their 2015 body issue. Can you imagine what a massive statement that makes?!?! To put it in perspective, US Weekly chose Jennifer Lopez as their Body Issue cover girl.

“I think a healthy body image comes from being the best you, not competing with anybody else. You know, I’m not a 6-foot tall model…I’m not a size 2. I think it’s about focusing on yourself and just trying to be the best you,” she said in an interview. Take away the source of that quote, and it could be attributed to anyone, including Tess Holliday because hey, it pretty much sums up her message as well.

In an interview about her ground-breaking cover, which it should be noted is also ground-breaking because it overshadows a Kardashian-Jenner family member…jus’ sayin’, Tess, whose real name is Ryann Hoven, says she doesn’t feel the need to lose weight and it has nothing to do with health decisions.

“When people are telling you, ‘You’re fat and gross,’ it does the complete opposite. At the end of the day, they’re not paying my bills,” she said.

Many are saying that People’s magazine’s statement of putting their very first size 22 supermodel on their cover sends a loud and clear message that plus size women are not the rarity anymore, they are well and truly a substantial and much needed voice in the body image conversation.

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“I really want to be able to show my body off because there haven’t been many plus sized women at all showing their bodies in a big magazine. They’re usually always covered up. I really like to portray something sexy and positive,” Tess told Entertainment Tonight in an interview about her shoot.

Tess may be at the forefront of this conversation, but it isn’t hard to see how body diversity is literally infiltrating every part of society today. People like her have inspired a wave of body positive campaigns and movements amongst many different groups of women.

To give you an example of how far-reaching the body image movement has become, check out this campaign from two Singaporean women called I AM. Priscilla Boh and Kayde Ling who own a plus size store were inspired by Lane Bryant’s ‘Im No Angel’ campaign and wanted to create a message tailor-made for the body image struggles Asian women face.

“Being Asian with conservative upbringing, Singaporean plus-size girls often lack body positivity and confidence of their physical appearance. These ladies who suffer from low self-esteem end up hiding and being afraid to show their true self and beauty. The purpose of this project is to encourage the girls to accept and love themselves for who they are,” Kayde Ling told website Bustle.

Perhaps the body image conversation is closely tied in with the rise of feminism and female empowerment in society today. With the huge emphasis on gender equality around the world and women have a much louder and powerful voice than ever before, it has been a great opportunity for women to bring issues that have long been a concern for them, but have for too long been silences by social cues, moral codes and cultural restrictions.

Positive body image is something that affects all generations of women, yet it is the millennials who are blogging, vlogging and using social media to become a much more powerful form of currency than we have ever seen before. We have become accustomed to hearing celebrities and famous personalities being the spokespeople for important issues, but now that everyday women, like Tess, have a voice, it can surely make some people feel uncomfortable and threatened.

Actress Kathy Najimy, best known for her roles in ‘Hocus Pocus’ and ‘Sister Act’ recently delivered a speech at the University of Washington School of Public Health for their ‘Weight and Wellness Speaker Series’, titled ‘Women and Body Image’.

In an interview with Crosscut.com about her speech she said her ongoing struggle with body image in the public eye and her fluctuating weight has everything to do with feminism.

“I’m a feminist, and under the umbrella of feminism comes all of the things that have to do with respect and self-esteem and the future of women and girls. Certainly body image is right up there at the top. I think that we spend so much time thinking and worrying about our weight. Whether we’re too thin or too fat or what we just ate. How we look in our clothes. What we are compared to other people. What upsets me about that is not only that it’s unhealthy and unfair (and not good for the spirit) but also that it stops women from doing all the things we could be doing, which is changing the world,” she said.

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She recalls a magazine cover she once saw which showed actress Kristie Alley with the headline “she’s too fat” and underneath were the Olsen twins being touted as “too thing”.

“It hit me — it’s the same thing. It’s really not about losing weight, gaining weight, or anything other than us recognizing that no matter what we do, we are in the category of wrong. That is what I’m interested in looking at. What could we do with our lives and in the world if we weren’t so preoccupied with how we looked? I don’t think we would get as fat as we get and I don’t think we would get as skinny as we get. We would just be living,” she said.

It ties in with the feminist movement because the body image bullies re-emphasize that a woman’s worth is solely tied to her physical appearance, and that is what advocates like Tess are working to free women from.

“I think people lose weight because they are told they aren’t worthy unless they are thinner, right? It does help with health and it might start out like that, but I think the mechanism that has been inserted into our mind is about how we need to be thin. For a woman, we are told it is the most important thing. For men, it is how smart and successful you are, talented, good at things. For girls, you’re taught your worth is your size. It’s hard to battle that. Our body shame wasn’t there before the world told us it should be and that’s interesting to me,” said Kathy.

Kathy admits social media makes it even worse for the younger generation, as it was something she didn’t have to battle against. Tess Holliday, however, faces criticism from the interwebs on a daily basis, yet she knows how much more important it is to keep speaking up, despite the critics.

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You can’t fault me for…discussing or not discussing “health”, saying I’m not body positive or a feminist for those reasons & criticizing me for my CHOICE to express myself goes against everything feminism is. Why don’t I deserve the same support I’ve shown others? Why are women so mad that I’m talking about being body positive & truly practice what I preach to the best of my ability? Are we really that self consumed that we can stop ourselves from kicking someone when they are down? I have been bullied & beaten my whole life for my appearance & size.. & if you haven’t noticed I still am today. It doesn’t make me less deserving of the success I’ve had and worked hard for because I’m a “pretty fat girl”. Don’t get pissed at someone for doing the best they can. This is the last time I’m addressing any of this because again.. It’s my CHOICE,” wrote Tess in an Instagram post back in February.

Whether you are a size 22, or a size 2, having a healthy, positive and confidence sense of your own body is your right. We have said it before and we’ll say it again, positive body image is the right of EVERY woman, not just a privileged few.

Thank you Tess Holliday for being the cover girl millions have been waiting for, and igniting a generation of girls and women to know that we should care less about what the world thinks of us, and value ourselves according to what we have within, not just without.

Here she is talking to Today show’s Savannah Guthrie about the significance of her People magazine cover:


 

 

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