Tyra Banks recently held her second annual "Full-Figured Top Model" search. She gave it a different name this year--an extremely unfortunate one, as the word "thick" is one of the worst possible euphemisms for "curvaceous," and sounds more like a measure of liquid viscosity than a term for a shapely figure (not to mention its connotation of describing someone who isn't very bright).
On the other hand, Ms. Banks does earn credit for upping her show's size parameters. Whenever Tyra included so-called plus-size competitors on her Top Model
TV series, she consistently selected girls who fell into the faux-plus category, and didn't look even remotely full-figured. However, for this episode of her talk show, Ms. Banks required her contestants to be at least a size 18, and weigh a minimum of 200 lbs (which isn't really very much, considering that the participants were all 5'8 or taller).
It's an unmistakable sign of progress.
We must also compliment the Wilhelmina agency for agreeing to sign whoever won this competition. True, the eventual winner of this show barely
looked a size 18, but since Wilhelmina knew that regardless of the specific outcome, they would
be getting someone who was genuinely full-figured, the agency deserves credit for participating.
As far as celebrity judges go, need we say that the presence of Ruben Studdard on this program was highly unnecessary? By contrast, featuring a GQ-type television star as one of the judges sent a much better message, reinforcing the notion that full-figured women are
adored by conventionally handsome men. Mia Tyler was also a reasonable choice, and to Mia's great credit, when Tyra asked her for her thoughts about the Madid ban on underweight models, Mia spoke out in favour
of the ban--as all loyal plus-size models should.* * *
When it came to the actual contestants, our own favourite among the six was, as usual, not the show's winner. However, Tyra deserves praise for once again featuring a candidate who exhibited genuine traces of timeless beauty. Last year, the star was Ashley Morgan, and this year, it was a girl named Megan.
Interestingly, in this year's show, Megan was the "lead" contestant--just as Ashley was, last year. Like Ashley, Megan was the first competitor to be presented to the audience,
and also the one who stood closest to Ms. Banks throughout the program.
The show introduced the candidates by playing brief excerpts from their audition tapes. Megan's tape showed her dressed in pink, with long, flowing blonde hair, looking for all the world like a Rubenesque Barbie doll--an extremely appealing look. No wonder she was chosen.
Tyra also merits praise for posting each model's weight, openly and unapologetically, letting viewers of similar proportions know that they can be gorgeous at any size.
With long, fair tresses, a full, round face, blue eyes, and an opulent figure, Megan exhibited many of the features that have defined feminine beauty throughout Western history.
Paradoxically, Megan also displayed a contemporary quality as well. If she reminded us of any current model, it was of a fuller-figured Kelsey Olson.
It was particularly gratifying to see these qualities in a contestant who is more generously proportioned than the plus-size fashion industry generally selects. Hopefully, Megan's appearance on this program will persuade the industry that fuller-figured models can look just as stylish and attractive as their faux-plus rivals,
and in particular, that plus-size models can have rounded arms and curvy waists, and still look fashionable and alluring.
The candidates' descriptions of themselves were very brief, but Megan shared an interesting and inspirational bit of personal history with the audience. Apparently, she had once been involved with a fellow who treated her terribly, and didn't respect her, and even made negative comments about her luscious curves. She subsequently rid herself of the cretin, and is now in a relationship with someone who gives her the love and reverence that she deserves. She even pointed out her beau to the audience.
Megan's tale provides an important lesson that all plus-size women should take to heart: that they should never settle for someone who gives them anything less than the unconditional adoration and worship that is their due.* * *
It must be said that some of the modelling competitions in these "top model" programs leave much to be desired. While they are undoubtedly designed as TV-oriented entertainment, they reveal little about the candidates' abilities to generate effective fashion campaigns.
The first activity in this year's show was particularly puzzling. It involved blindfolding the models, and taking them to a skydiving centre, where they were photographed in simulated weightlessness.
Even the most casual aficionados of plus-size modelling know that in the real world, shoots like this simply do not happen. (The physical nature of the activity also seemed quite uncomfortable for some of the girls--understandably so.)
Having said that, Megan looked very cute in her skydiving jacket. Her images suggested a possible winter fashion campaign for ski apparel. Therefore, regardless of the "action" photo results from this segment, Megan was the de facto winner in terms of actual fashion modelling, as the contestant who looked best in her skydiving outfit (and thus, the one who could model such an outfit most effectively).
* * *
The second activity featured the models exotically styled in "wild" hair and makeup. Through no fault of her own, Megan was given a particularly unremarkable look in this segment--the weakest of all of the contestants. However, a different participant, named Victoria, who might have been our second choice among the six competitors,
was definitely given the most appealing "exotic" hair/makeup arrangement, as the following screen captures show. The snowy white styling complimented her fair skin tone in an attractive way.
Sadly, Victoria was cut first, right after the the skydiving activity (described above), so her "wild hair" photograph was never shown on national television.* * *
The "wild hair" round yielded another elimination, of course, leading to a very cute "group hug" among the remaining contestants.
Note that even as she participated in the hug, Megan--like a true model--remained instinctively aware of where the camera was, and played to it.* * *
The next round saw Megan's regrettable elimination, which was shocking and disappointing, because this segment followed a wardrobe change, and Megan returned in what was by far the most gorgeous dress presented on the show.
The wardrobe for this program was generally quite good (with a few notable flops), but Megan's alluring dress certainly stood out. It embraced the model's figure in an extremely appealing way, lingering over her every luscious curve.
Alas, however, this segment didn't involve fashion modelling, but product promotion--requiring the girls to hawk a particular brand of tea. Megan, who went first, admittedly didn't have the best "gab" of the remaining contestants (although she was quite lively--again showing some Kelsey Olson-like touches).
But it shouldn't have mattered. Megan's radiant, angelic beauty alone could sell this brand of tea better than any words ever could.
All it would take would be an image of Megan in this dress, on some product packaging, to send customers rushing to their local stores to purchase the item.
This segment also constituted a quasi-runway show. Watching Megan ascend the table, viewers were treated to a glimpse of her Betty Grable-like legs--shapely, soft, and curvaceous.
The table subsequently became a de facto catwalk, as Megan intuitively did an even better job showcasing her curve-adoring dress than she did promoting the tea.
Few models ever become spokespersons, and this "tea" segment didn't really test the girls' skill at making the case for size celebration (something that Megan did very well, with her boyfriend/respect comments), but simply appraised their potential as "promotional" models--or at best, as actresses in TV commercials.
Plus-size modelling mostly consists of print fashion and runway work--i.e., promoting clothing--and in that respect, Megan's runway showing in this seductive, figure-embracing dress was incomparable.
She should have won the competition right there.* * *
Before we leave this topic, we should mention one particularly bewitching habit that Megan displayed, which undoubtedly helped her capture the hearts of the show's viewers.
Like Charlotte Coyle, and several other plus-size goddesses with long, magnificent tresses, Megan has a tendency to play with her hair. Several times during the program, the camera caught her absent-mindedly caressing her golden locks,
or even plunging her hands into her hair--making herself that much more irresistible.
But the most intoxicating moment of all came towards the end of the show, with Megan dressed in that body-embracing dress. The sight of her playing with her tresses recalled the poses in several of Titian's most famous paintings, which similarly depict goddesses holding their masses of hair in generous handfulls, looking for all the world like land-bound mermaids, still inclined to tempt mortal men to their peril.* * *
All in all, one has to compliment the Tyra Banks Show, and Ms. Banks specifically, for being occasional allies of size celebration. This is the second year in a row that Tyra's program has showcased genuinely full-figured models on national television, each year selecting at least one contestant who exhibits timeless beauty to a considerable degree.
With Megan in particular, one might even say that Tyra has thrown down the gauntlet to the plus-size industry, discovering a model who is young (20) and attractive--and who obviously knows it. By showing the world the richness of Megan's beauty, Tyra has demonstrated that plus-size fashion most certainly can be modelled on genuinely full-figured goddesses,
and that women with truly opulent proportions can be attractive, stylish, and (as this show's title indicated) remarkably sexy as well.
All in all, this was a fine showcase of plus-size beauty, and very much on the cutting edge of the industry, in terms of promoting truly curvaceous models. Congratulations to everyone who made it happen. We wish the winner success, and hope to see more of Megan, and models like her, in the future.