|28th November 2009||#1|
Join Date: July 2005
Emme on Entertainment Tonight (video)
No plus-size model has received more publicity, been on television more often, and been interviewed more frequently, than Emme. One could share any number of video segments features the original "plus-size supermodel," but this particular video comes from 2003, and has never been posted online before.
Just as we recently compared the Crystal Renn and Kate Dillon narratives, now we can add Emme's story into the mix, in a three-way comparison of plus-size-model bios, as relayed by the mass media.
Like Kate and Crystal, Emme confronted a weight-related ultimatum from the fashion industry. Her requirement was measured in pounds, not in inches (as Crystal's was), but it was a similar, sign-your-health-away moment.
Not included in this video is Emme's oft-quoted reflection about how her father bullied her about her weight, even physically marking so-called "problem areas" on her body. This history of youthful bullying is something that she shares with Kate Dillon.
The pattern of all three models is thus broadly the same (a full-figured youth; enduring weight-related pressure from the fashion industry, culminating in a crisis point; then finding success in the alternative path of plus-size modelling).
However, Emme's story has a commendable variation, because unlike Renn and Dillon, when Emme was told to diminish herself, she refused. She realized that self-imposed starvation would be physically devastating, so she rejected it. Emme's stance is, in hindsight, quite impressive, given the poorer choice that many girls make when faced with this devil's bargain. Emme said "No" to killing herself at the make-or-break moment when many other girls succumb. There is real depth of character in that decision.
One of the most alarming patterns that one sees when comparing the three models' stories is the declining point at which each model bifurcated from straight-size fashion. For Emme, she knew that she couldn't go below a size 12, and rejected a straight-size career at that juncture. For Kate Dillon, her breaking point was a size 8. Crystal was, at best, a size 2 or 4 when she was told that she needed to starve even further. This downward trend of the size limitation on models is terrifying. The industry was already far too thinness-dominated in Emme's day (the day of the so-called "supers," such as the overrated Cindy Crawford, pictured with Emme below). It was much worse by Kate Dillon's time, and by Crystal's day, it had become an inhuman nightmare, which it continues to be today.
It truly seems as if the more pressure society puts upon the fashion industry to stop forcing models to starve, and to desist from poisoning the body image of young women, the more the industry digs in its heels and resolves to impose an ever-more-androgynous and emaciated standard of appearance. This mindset is like that of a spoiled child. If the industry were a single individual, one would call this behaviour sociopathic. (And after all, what is the fashion industry but a collection of individuals?)
As for the plus-size aspect of the industry, this too has suffered. It is a mark of how much better full-figured modelling was when Emme ventured into it that at a size 12 she was asked to gain weight, and to reach at least a size 14. There was much wisdom in this policy, and one wishes that the industry had retained it. It is a genuine pleasure to hear Emme identified as a size 16 in this segment.
In fact, the video includes several clips of size-16 Emme at a fashion show in her modelling heyday, which beg the question: How much progress has there really been in plus-size fashion? Has there been any? Or has it, in some ways, actually declined? Yes, there is one biannual plus-size-fashion event in Milan, and occasional one-off full-figured-model appearances in "regular" fashion shows, but those are all confined to faux-plus girls. (FFFWeek and the recent JMS show are singular exceptions.) In this video, one sees the top plus-size models of several years ago, each at least at a size 14, walking in a fashion show covered by Entertainment Tonight (!).
In other words, although there may appear to be more opportunities for plus-size modelling today, the parameters have been driven tragically downward, size-wise. How significant are plus-size models' appearances in magazines or on the runway if those models are so innocuously thin that they are virtually indistinguishable from straight-size waifs? The answer is: not significant at all. At a faux-plus size, the fashion industry knows that such girls are no threat to the underweight aesthetic, which is why their token appearances are permitted.
One could argue that there was a better chance of seeing size-16 models in quality print advertising, and on the runway, in Emme's day than today (although the fashion itself was certainly worse).
(Could that be a young Natalie Laughlin at the left of the picture, above?)
She was also good at her craft, as evidenced by this gentle yet pouty expression.
Just as Crystal, in no small measure, owes the existence of the plus-size-modelling option to Kate Dillon's groundbreaking work, so Kate owes her opportunities to the trailblazing that Emme did. It was Emme who brought the concept of a "plus-size supermodel" to mass consciousness, with a fairly solid pro-plus message, and with an accessible kind of beauty.
The pity is that the fashion industry only ever allows one plus-size model to be in the spotlight at a time, one girl to garner media attention and tell "the" narrative (1. a youth of body dissatisfaction; 2. a weight confrontation with the fashion industry; 3. carving out a plus-size career). Charlotte Coyle's press presented a similar story, as did Alight.com's bio of Shannon Marie, and Whitney Thompson's history was similar as well (although Whitney had the exotic variation of being an America's Next Top Model winner).
It's high time for more than one full-figured model to achieve widespread public recognition at any given time, and it is also time for a new narrative.
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