The celebrity fallacy
(Originally posted on the Judgment of Paris Forum, September 7, 2004, in response to a post linking an article that asserted that Lane Bryant was considering enlisting Kirstie Alley to be their spokesperson.)
Lane Bryant has always been somewhat enamoured of celebrities, for reasons which elude the present writer--and undoubtedly elude many of the company's customers as well.
Quite simply, Hollywood celebrities are not to be trusted as role models for size celebration.
And this is not entirely their fault. The very nature of Hollywood culture is such that, out of the hordes of wannabe actors and actresses, the few who "make it" tend to be those who are most adept at remolding, reshaping, refashioning, and reinventing themselves into whatever form a given project demands of them--or worse, whatever form advertisers want them to fit.
If there is a supposed tinseltown "trend" towards celebrating curves, then an actress might temporarily enhance her figure. But if the perceived "trend" is moving in the other direction, then she will just as readily diminish herself--and profit by shilling for whatever diet company subsequently makes her the most lucrative offer.
Think of all the celebrities whom the public has tried to embrace as size-positive starlets, only to watch them succumb to the curve-o-phobic Hollywood standard.
And what happens to all of the fans who look to these icons for inspiration? They are sacrificed in the name of "career imperatives."
It is to Figure's great credit that, from its very first issue, the magazine has ignored celebrities altogether, and has instead offered its readers a far better crop of role models to emulate in terms of body image. And those superior self-esteem icons are, of course, plus-size fashion models.
By the very nature of their job, plus-size models are required not to defer to the thin-supremacist mainstream media, but rather, to retain their naturally shapely figures. This makes them excellent crusaders for curvy chicks--whether they embrace such a role or not.
And many of the more enlightened plus-size models do deliver size-positive messages, not just through their images, but through their words as well. In Barbara Brickner's new interview for Elena Miro, she tells her interviewer that she would advise other full-figured women
to always be themselves, to appreciate being the way they are and to love themselves just as they are . . . Don't renounce yourselves, or what you are, for anyone or anything.
How inspiring. "Be yourself," instead of "change yourself." "Love your body," instead of "punish your body."
Isn't this a far, far better message to be sending to Lane Bryant customers, and to plus-size women in general, than the potentially mixed messages that most celebrities are apt to deliver--by their on-screen antics, and by their opportunistic, career-minded actions?
It is our belief that Lane Bryant would be better served by raising its fashion models to celebrity status than by throwing its fortunes in with changeable Hollywood celebrities. Many plus-size models have compelling stories to tell, and would make excellent spokeswomen for body love. Whether the message is, "I have always loved my curves" (which applies to Barbara Brickner, Valerie Lefkowitz, Mia Tyler, Megan Garcia, etc.), or "I stopped starving, and learned to love my curves" (Kate Dillon, Shannon Marie, Crystal Renn, etc.), they would champion the cause of size celebration most effectively.
And they would look a lot better in Lane Bryant clothing, as well.
Barbara making even a dull dress look beautiful--at Lands' End, Fall 2004:
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