[Originally posted on the Judgment of Paris Forum on November 5th, 2004.]
For a variety of reasons, we have never felt inclined to follow that so-called "reality show" about the fashion world, America’s Next Top Model.
True, the program has included one aspiring plus-size contestant among its competitors ever since it premiered, and some might consider this to be a sign of progress, because it informs the general public that "plus-size models" actually exist.
On the other hand, the show sends a troubling mixed message to its viewers, just as those straight-size fashion magazines do which feature one or two token plus-size models in an occasional issue. By including only one full-figured candidate among each crop of wannabes, the program subtly reinforces the myth that curvaceous women are marginal exceptions to some bone-thin feminine "norm," a norm that is supposedly represented by all of the show’s underweight contestants.
In truth, of course, the majority of American women wear plus sizes, and androgynous emaciation is the fringe condition.
Worse, the lone full-figured contestant in the show is continually scrutinized by individuals who espouse the curveophobic aesthetic values of the anti-plus fashion establishment. But those anorex-chic values absolutely do not apply when evaluating plus-size models, who should instead be judged by timeless principles of beauty--principles which are entirely at odds with the fashion world’s androgynous ideal.
With all of this in mind, a reader named Suzanne sent us the following missive just the other day:
I hadn't seen it mentioned yet so I wanted to mention that Kate Dillon made an appearance on America's Next Top Model. I think I remember reading on your site that she's been out of the spotlight for awhile. She's back and as gorgeous as ever! There was one contestant who was going through an eating disorder and Tyra and Kate went to talk with the contestants. Kate did explain what she had gone through as far as having to starve herself just to stay in the business and now she's the top plus-size model. There is still the one plus size contestant in the running to become ANTM. In the previous seasons the plus-size one was one of the first to go. It's also very encouraging to see that Toccara (the plus-size contestant) has been voted number one by viewers for the last 2 weeks.
So perhaps some good may come of this show after all. Kate Dillon has always been an intelligent and articulate spokesmodel for the movement, and based on past appearances, we can affirm that she always looks utterly radiant on television. Seeing her representing the plus-size fashion industry may prompt many viewers to reconsider their aesthetic indoctrination, and to acknowledge, for the very first time, the allure of timeless feminine beauty. What’s more, it may inspire many young full-figured goddesses who have never consider modelling as a career choice to follow this dream.
Who knows? The industry may owe its next Shannon Marie to a girl who sees Kate Dillon on screen and thinks to herself, "That could be me."
Kate at a Louis Vuitton opening, September 2000: