It's an astonishing fact to contemplate, but today marks the tenth anniversary of The Judgment of Paris.
Ten years is a long time.
It was ten years ago today that the first Liis images went up on this site. The survey page followed later, then the Timeless Beauty essay. Other model galleries appeared shortly afterwards.
Over the years, we have watched many plus-size magazines (both in print and online) open and fold, come and go. But this site endures.
We have already detailed the origins of The Judgment of Paris in past essays. The realization
that plus-size models represent a reincarnation of Classical beauty came to us when Amy Poland, a Florida-based Ford model, modelled for a Canadian retailer called Cotton Ginny Plus.
Next, our discovery of Sophie Dahl via a Web site called "The Unofficial Sophie Dahl Pages" (constructed, appropriately, by a Greek Webmaster) revealed to us the power of the Internet as a method of mass communication.
The advent of Mode
in 1997, a legitimate fashion magazine featuring models exhibiting Classical beauty, furthered our interest in the potential of plus-size modelling.
And a singular event in 2001 turned us from casual observers of the industry into being actively engaged with it--but of that, more later.
We chose Liis
as our first model because of her look, and because she was a Canadian model. When we created her galleries, we thought that that would be the end of it. But it soon became obvious to us that the condition of the modern fashion world mirrored a predicament in the arts generally: the suppression of Classical beauty in all of its forms through the culturally-destructive efforts of Marxism and related ideologies of resentment (feminism, post-colonialism, etc.)-- ideologies that gained social ascendency throughout the 20th century, particularly after World War II, when the last remnants of the traditional aristocratic order of the West were destroyed. And that congruence was worth examining.
We have no particular "event" lined up to mark this occasion. However, having reached this milestone, we find ourselves reflecting on a number of points that have occurred to us either recently, or at some time over the past ten years.
* * *
THE BIGGEST MYTH:
That material conditions are somehow responsible for so-called beauty "trends," and that therefore thinness is idolized because it is "rare." This is the most colossal stupidity. First of all, there are underweight women everywhere. Second, just think about it: When you
look at a woman, do you decide if she's beautiful based on how "rare" her look is? No. No one does. People with specific deformities are "rare" too, but they are not turned into beauty icons. And if women as lovely as Lillian Russell were ten times more common, would they be any less beautiful? No. Men would simply fall in love ten times as often.
Beauty prompts an instinctual, biological response of appreciation--although with enough visual brainwashing, this instinctive reaction can be manipulated (e.g., getting people used to a thinner and thinner look). The whole "rareness" idea is an absurd premise based on the economic theory of scarcity. This is a perfect example of how socialist, materialist ideologies are warping people's thinking, when common sense exposes these theories as utter rubbish.
THE BEST MAGAZINE:
Not even a question: Mode,
of course. In the U.K., Yes!
was an excellent magazine, and we regret having so few issues of it. Figure
is good visually, as long as it isn't running diet ads, but it lacks Mode
's visual sophistication, and its content isn't as size positive.
The original Mode
remains the standard by which all publications are judged, and more importantly, provides a template for other magazines to follow. When Figure
mimics the Mode
effect (as it does in its Kelsey Olson and Barbara Brickner editorials), it is quite good, despite its mixed-message content.
THE GREATEST LOSS:
Shannon Marie putting her career on hold. Imagine: the industry had a perfect
model, one who possessed beauty on such a level that no one, no matter how size-biased, could ever deny it, and her modelling technique was superlative as well . . . and the industry let her go. It let her go, while many models with plain/homely looks remained. Yes, this was an even worse loss than the death of Mode,
had deteriorated badly by the end of its run, and was finally almost as deplorable as Grace.
On the other hand, if Shannon had been producing campaigns all of these years--like Barbara Brickner--then the public would have viewed twice as many unforgettable, revolutionary images of full-figured beauty, and the cause of size-celebration would be much further along. There is simply no telling of how much beauty the world was robbed when the industry lost Shannon Marie.
In fact, it was our discovery that Shannon had left modelling and gone into another field that prompted us to really begin devoting time to this site, starting in 2001. We never wanted the industry to lose such an extraordinary talent again. A major portion of this site's efforts from then until now have been devoted to identifying the industry's most beautiful up-and-coming talents, so that bookers and clients would know which models capture public attention, and which models have the most subversive, size-celebratory effect. But the truth is that no girl has ever been able to take Shannon Marie's place, and none ever will. Amazingly, she would still be younger today that most of the industry's working models.
THE BRIGHTEST LIGHT:
The group of fair-featured Classical beauties that has appeared over the past few years, as de facto "replacements" for Shannon Marie. Valerie Lefkowitz was the bridge--a round-faced, soft-figured, undeniably feminine
girl at a time when such a look was almost gone from the industry. After Valerie diminished, an exciting new generation followed in her wake: Christina Schmidt, Kelsey Olson, Kailee O'Sullivan, etc. (One would also include Chloe Agnew, although she is a singer, not a model.) Each of these girls possesses a truly feminine appearance, embodies Classical principles of beauty, and exhibits distinctively Northern European features. Also--and the importance of this cannot be overstated--they are girls,
not women, and the industry has long needed, and continues to need, an injection of youth. These models could successfully challenge the underweight standard, if only they were given sufficient media exposure.
THE BIGGEST LIE:
The falsehood that "surveys say" smaller models sell better. This is an outright fabrication. Time and again, whenever researchers actually do pit thin models against fuller-figured models in comparative studies, the latter always sell products better--as long as the beauty of the models is a constant.
As for the companies' own supposed surveys, most of these never actually happened. The companies are only parroting the talking points of their competitors. And in the one case where such a survey actually was conducted, beauty was not a constant (i.e., Lara Johnson at any size will always sell products better than Camryn Manheim at any size--but that has nothing to do with size, but only with beauty, because Lara is attractive and Camryn is not).
Beauty sells. Thinness doesn't.
WHY A FORUM ON THIS SITE?
We didn't have one initially, but once Mode
folded, the idea was to achieve a Mode
-like effect at judgmentofparis.com by showcasing images of timeless beauty collected from plus-size-fashion campaigns, and coupling them with size-positive texts.
Also, we wanted the industry to be represented online by its best work. At the time that our forum was created, a number of other boards were very popular, but those mostly featured apprentice work by aspiring models rather than accomplished work by professionals. Those boards showed the plus-size industry in a poor light, because viewers would look at such apprentice work and think, "Is that the best that there is, in the plus-size industry?"
We wanted to create a forum where only the very
best would be shown: images of Mode
-like quality that would bear comparison with the best of the minus-size industry, and win.
WHY A MODERATED FORUM?
For obvious reasons: to avoid profanity and vulgarity, and to keep out trolls--not just spammers, but snarky individuals who enjoy posting messages just to get a rise out of people.
Also, to avoid pointless head-butting. Our opponents are the thin-supremacists, not each other. We have watched in dismay as other "size-acceptance" forums have been riven by pointless internal bickering. It is human nature to be contrarian, and whenever one reads a strongly-worded opinion, one's response may immediately be to react against it, instinctively and impulsively. But a reflexive initial reaction is not necessarily the best
reaction. Therefore, we wanted to create a forum that would engage readers like a book. When one reads a book, one cannot talk back to it. One has to mull its ideas over, turn them around in one's head, wage an inner dialogue with it. And after such a process, one often ends up with a more moderated reaction that one's initial response--in fact, one's mind is often changed.
WHY NO "PERSONAL PROMOTIONS"?
So that if a reader contributes a message, it is for the value of the thought itself, not just as an excuse to plug themselves or their projects.
Also, to avoid an unfortunate situation found on other forums, where industry professionals occasionally use their "credentials" as some sort of false support for their positions, citing industry "rules" as if they were laws of physics, when in fact they are just arbitrary and baseless opinions based on custom. ("You can't argue with me. I'm a photographer.") One of Dr. Helga Dittmar's most important discoveries
, in one of her studies, was the fact that industry professionals have a profoundly different opinion of models and of beauty, particularly in terms of size, than does the general public. If anything, the opinions of industry professionals should matter less
than those of the laity, not more.
BIGGEST GENERATIONAL CHANGE:
Trust in the internet. No change is as noticeable to us as the difference in attitude towards the Internet between models who began their careers ten years ago, and those who began their careers more recently. Today, models readily communicate with us, providing us with information and images, which we share with the public--an equitable and effective relationship. But models whose careers began a decade ago (regardless of their personal age) still regard the Web with suspicion, perhaps remembering the days when it was a fringe medium populated by odd individuals. On the other hand, models whose careers began more recently are part of the Myspace/Facebook world, and see the Web as a practical means of communication. This change is very welcome, and makes our job in running this site much easier. But really, one could have spared a lot of trouble, and this site could have become effective much sooner if the industry and its models hadn't initially been so Web-shy.
BIGGEST MISTAKE TODAY:
Internalizing the standards of the staight-size industry and applying them to plus-size modelling and plus-size fashion. To use a crude metaphor, this is like attempting to make cats look like canines, training cats to behave in a canine manner, and then faulting them if they don't end up acting sufficiently canine-like, while valorizing cats that have canine feature. It's madness. Cats are cats, and the most feline among them are the most captivating, on their own terms.
Some straight-size industry standards are universal, because they have nothing to do with size (e.g., models should have good teeth, clear skin, etc.). But all standards that are size-specific are not only not applicable to plus-size models, but even harmful. Full-figured beauty is based on softness, rather than hardness. Soft, undulating curves are more appealing than a flat, "toned" figure. Round faces are more attractive than oval ones. Plump chins are superior to harsh jawlines. Generous waists and hips are hallmarks of femininity. Soft fullness is pretty; bones are not. Shorter models are preferable to taller models because their proportions look fuller. And so forth.
The error is in trying to make plus-size models look like straight-size models. They are not. (Thank goodness.) And the less straight-size they look, the better.
MOST SURPRISING DISCOVERY:
An understanding of fashion. When we read Mode,
we did so to admire the beauty of the models, not to notice how they were dressed--except to approve when an outfit was form-fitting (e.g., Barbara Brickner in her famous knit dress). But the "New Femininity" showed us that, yes, there are
styles that suit full-figured women perfectly, styles that plus-size models can showcase better than thin models can.
Which leads us to another conclusion: heterosexual men relate to women's fashion the way non-cineastes react to movie cinematography: they are affected by it, but they never stop to consider why or how. But just as the casual movie-goer could easily appreciate cinematography if he stopped to think about it, (why, say, the chiaroscuro of a film noir amplifies the movie's themes,) so could heterosexual men expound on women's fashion, if they got over their initial puzzlement by it and gave it a little thought. If they did, then many of today's designers would quickly change their fashions and make them more feminine and romantic, because their female clients would prefer such styles, based on their suitors' reactions.
A PROMISING DEVELOPMENT:
The increased use of videos. It is not a coincidence that our favourite post-Shannon-Marie models (Christina, Kailee, Kelsey, Marritt, Charlotte, Valerie when she was fuller-figured, etc.) are all brilliant on video, as was Shannon herself, while other plus-size models who are successful but lack the timeless look are not distinguished on film. Video is undoubtedly the future of the industry, especially with the increased use of high-speed modems, and given the quality improvement in online video-delivery methods. As the public sees these curvy young goddesses in living motion, opinions about the true nature of beauty will change.
As always, what the industry needs is very simple: models who are fuller-figured, and more beautiful. Either quality alone is insufficient. Only if a model is gorgeous and
visibly plus-size can she change public perceptions. An attractive but thin model will simply reinforce beliefs in the primacy of thinness, while a large model who isn't visually appealing will reinforce negative frumpy/matronly stereotypes. Again, Shannon Marie was the perfect blend of both, and her images provide an enduring template for the industry to follow in discovering new talent.
Traditional beauty suggests four guidelines to becoming more attractive:
1. Stay out of the sun.
2. Keep away from the gym.
3. Grow out your hair, as long as possible.
4. Eat whatever (and as much as) you like.
This forum provides a free reservoir of ideas and opinions, which is why it puzzles us whenever projects are devised without seeking the responses of our readers. For example, if one were thinking about creating, say, a calendar featuring plus-size models, might it not be a good idea to solicit opinions here, as to models, locations, styles, etc.? After all, our readers constitute the intended audience for projects of that nature (unless they are vanity-publishing projects intended merely for the participants themselves, and for their families). The opinions here are freely given. Other approaches have been tried and failed, so why not try ours?
Some parts of the industry do, thankfully, adopt the Mode
approach (Torrid at its best, Fashion Bug occasionally, Reitmans, MXM, etc.). Others are still stuck in the faux-plus mindset. Imagine how much more powerful the plus-size industry could be, as a force for change, if all of the retailers that are currently using non-plus-looking models, or producing unremarkable campaigns, would try the size-celebratory approach advised here.
A BIG MISUNDERSTANDING:
Plus-size retailers should not market solely on the basis of current customers' opinions. They also need to "create customers" for the future by introducing the public to attractive, fashionable images of visibly full-figured and beautiful models in order to improve customers' opinions of themselves. Statistics show that underweight women spend more on clothing than full-figured women do. Why should this be the case? This can be changed. If plus-size retailers reformed their customers' views of themselves, then all of the money that those customers now throw away on diet-starvation and exercise-torture could be devoted to buying fashions--fashions that they would know they deserve, in line with their improved self-esteem.
THE BIGGEST DISTORTION:
Regardless of whatever feminism has accomplished recently in its sham attempts to promote "body diversity" (a notion that actually undermines the restoration of Classical beauty), the grim fact is that feminism itself, from Mary Wollstonecraft onwards, is directly responsible for destroying the timeless ideal of voluptuous beauty, and initiating today's androgynous standard. The proto-feminist novels of Charlotte Bronte, Kate Chopin, etc. seethe with resentment towards Classically beautiful, full-figured women. The related ideology of Marxism championed feminism's androgynous ideal in its reduction of human beings to gender-neutral drones. (The Soviet Union constantly identified women as menial "workers," no different from men.) And today, as one designer shockingly admitted
during the size-0 furore, the fashion industry continues to promote the feminist concept of women as "career"-oriented beings whose skeletal appearance is meant to reflect machine-like "efficiency" and cold functionality.
It is no coincidence that during those periods in history when feminism metastasizes (the 1920s, the 1960s, etc.), standards of appearance for women become more emaciated and androgynous. These developments do not represent challenges to feminism--they represent the triumph
of feminism, the imposition of feminism's androgynous ideal. Conversely, it is when the stranglehold of feminism weakens, and society more freely embraces traditional, natural human relations (e.g., in the 1950s) that true femininity returns, and the full-figured ideal is rediscovered.
Counter-intuitive as this may seem (thanks to modern political propaganda), feminism is the worst thing that ever happened for women's body image, and if it were to wane in influence, then the Classical ideal would be restored, to the benefit of women everywhere.
AN ALLY, NOT AN ENEMY:
Efforts to fight the modern underweight standard are all too often hijacked by political ideologues, and turned into an assault on beauty itself, to the detriment of size-celebration. This resentment-based attack on beauty as a concept foolishly validates one of the enemy's premises: that beauty is contingent upon thinness. Not only is this not the case, but the opposite is true: timeless beauty is predicated upon a full figure. Beauty is not an impediment to size-celebration, but rather, its chief ally, and the greatest potential for restoring the full-figured ideal is realized when physical beauty and generous womanly proportions merge in single representative individuals--i.e., in plus-size models.
The conceptual basis of this site can be gleaned from many sources, but three are especially significant, and closely related:
(1) Friedrich Nietzsche and his concept of master morality vs. slave morality. Marxism and its cohort ideologies of "social justice" are institutionalized manifestations of slave morality, while the traditional European aristocratic heritage (beginning in the Classical world), which produced all of the cultural glories of the West, operated on the basis of master morality.
(2) The Classical concept of proportionate equality as opposed to numerical equality, about which we have written before
(3) Oswald Spengler's dire cultural predictions, as enumerated in works like The Decline of the West,
which, to paraphrase a contemporary jurist, remind us that societies don't always evolve, they sometimes rot
(a predicament that is currently plaguing the West).
THE MOST DEVIOUS PLOY:
Weight-control profiteers appropriating the "health" argument, and using their resources to fabricate an "epidemic" out of whole cloth. Eating disorders like anorexia are genuinely on the rise, yet the diet-starvation and exercise-torture industries drown this out by pretending that there is an ob***** "epidemic." Virtually all of the research in the field of weight has been tied to diet money, so no wonder that these researchers produce whatever results they're paid to manufacture. And on a fundamental human level, if a few young girls are actually not
starving themselves, but eating well and becoming curvy, how can anyone regard this as a bad thing? Would they rather have even more girls become anorexics? Common sense maintains that women are healthier (and look better) when they eat naturally and develop feminine proportions. Yet the daily anti-plus assault of the mass media (entirely funded by diet/torture money) convinces people of the opposite, that somehow the starving look of the runway is the "ideal." To turn visible sickness (emaciation) and promote it as health, while turning visible health (voluptuousness) and promote it as a "flaw"--that is indeed the most devious ploy, and it still boggles the mind that it works.
CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
So say the oppressors to the oppressed. How convenient for them.
No, we can't "just get along" until the oppression ends.
Of course the proponents of emaciation don't want disputes. Their androgynous standard is in place, and they don't want to lose their aesthetic monopoly. They cry "discrimination" whenever anyone criticizes the gaunt appearance of their waifs, yet they routinely discriminate against all plus-size models, and indeed against all women who don't fit their inhuman and anti-feminine standard of appearance. They rail against bans on size-0 models, yet they themselves ban all models who wear a plus size. Their hypocrisy is limitless, and it's shameful that the press lets them get away with it. But we all know that the teeth of the press only bite in one political direction, and the "free" press is only "free" for those who own it.
Here's a metaphor. Let's say that there are two groups of people. One group prefers red, but can't stand green, and the other group prefers green, but can't stand red. There is no way that either group will ever be reasoned into the other point of view, because their appreciations are based on impulse, not reason. (That's how aesthetics work.) Each group will inevitably want to paint the world in the colour that they prefer. The group that loves red will want to paint the world red, and vice versa. And if the group that loves green allows the group that loves red to paint the world, then they will have to live in a red world and feel nauseated every day of their lives. There is no middle ground, no way that they can "just get along," because the world will either be one colour or the other, red or green, and if one wins, the other loses--and suffers. And let the group that loves green not think for a moment that the group that loves red will freely allow them to paint half the world green. Not a chance. Because on a basic level, the group that loves red thinks their colour is the right
one. "But green is ugly," they will say to themselves, and thus justify keeping the world red forever.
Thus, the proponents of the skeletal look have painted the world their colour, and keep out all traces of the other colour--the full-figured look--because on some irrational level, they consider their aesthetic opinion the only objectively "correct" one.
Now, what if it gets more complicated? What if it turns out that this red is a toxic
colour? What if it turns out that this red is a lead-based paint? Now not only does it behoove the proponents of the other colour to paint as much of the world green as possible, simply in order to live in a world that they can stand to look at, but also for human well-being. Similarly, the standard of appearance that the anorexia-worshippers have imposed is acutely harmful to women, resulting in eating disorders and widespread needless misery. Not only is it necessary for timeless beauty to be restored so that we can live in a world that doesn't visually disgust us, but so that the world doesn't physically damage the majority of women who live in it.
You cannot "just get along" with someone who is trying to poison you. You have to do everything you can in order to live. Likewise, our society, our culture, must do everything it can to survive, before the poison, before the rot of the modern world, finishes us off completely.
* * *
Let us hope that ten years from now, the state of Western culture, and the social recognition of full-figured femininity, will be much improved from what it is today.
Lillian Russell--the beauty that we have lost; the ideal that must be restored:
- Fairest of them all...