The average height for a female model is between 5’8 and 5’11. The average weight is around 120 pounds. The issue with this? The average height for a woman is somewhere around 5’4, whilst doctors consider 135 pounds, give or take, to be a healthy weight for a woman who stands around 5’4. For a woman who stands 5’11, a healthy weight would be around 160 pounds, 40 pounds heavier than the typical runway model. The problems this creates are obvious. Not only do people develop unrealistic expectations of the body, but they also develop a skewed perspective. Now, there are women who are healthy at 5’11 and 120 pounds, just as there are women who are healthy at 5’2 and 160 pounds. Every body is different. The problem though is the terminology being employed to describe women.
Throughout the 1940’s and through to the 1960’s, it was not uncommon to see curvaceous women modelling clothes. Marilyn Monroe was considered perhaps the greatest sex symbol of her era. Her figure was far more realistic than that of a typical runway model. At 5’5 and ranging anywhere from 120-140 pounds, Monroe would have struggled to get access to a runway today, just as we see models like Kate Upton get rejected by high-fashion magazines because of her curvaceous figure. The pin-up models of the post-WWII era shared similar features, but this too was a problem. It also created unrealistic expectations. These women were very busty and wide hipped. Many women, who were thinner or more petite, had no way of achieving the standard of beauty embraced in the era. They could not make their breasts bigger or their hips wider and so found themselves outside of the scope of what was projected as beautiful.
There was a shift somewhere along the line. Models like Twiggy became not only popular, but the standard. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s the anorexic look became standard. Stories of models starving themselves are not uncommon and few models with healthy figures were able to make a name for themselves, though exceptions were made for women like Tyra Banks who, though more curvaceous than most runway models, is still extremely slim and tall compared to the mean. Recently there has been an influx in what the industry refers to as ‘plus-sized models’. Crystal Renn, for example, wrote an autobiography about her experiences breaking into the modelling industry and the unreal expectations that she had to meet and the subsequent eating disorders she endured. Renn eventually developed a healthier figure (meaning she put on some weight) and struggled to find work but was eventually accepted by the industry. Since publishing her autobiography, Renn has lost considerable weight, but this should be seen as neither a loss nor a victory. If the weight she is at is one she is comfortable and happy with, then it should be one that others should accept.
The issue is that models like Tara Lynn, Cortney Maylee Christina Mendez, Ashely Graham or Canadian model Elly Mayday, are not what would be called ‘plus-sized’ by normal standards. They are, for the most part, models who are of average size or even leaner then many women. Models such as: Jada Sezer, Teer Wayde, Jolee Blon‘, Gigi Marie, Georgina Horne, or Allison McGevna, are women who are perhaps a little bustier than the average woman, but they are not ‘plus sized’; they are ‘regular sized’. They are beautiful and no larger or smaller than the average woman. They stand in sharp contrast to a runway model
because they are not as tall and are not as emaciated, but that does not make them ‘plus sized’. In my mind, there is no reason to differentiate these models from other models. To refer to a girl who is 5’4 as ‘plus sized’ when a model who is 5’11 is simply called a model is mindboggling, considering the fact that the latter is 7 inches taller than the average woman. To call a model who weighs 140 pounds ‘plus sized’ when that is below the average weight of a woman seems absurd. The terminology we employ for models is skewed and warped based on unrealistic expectation created by the fashion industry. We need to embrace different kinds of beauty without feeling the need to put labels on them. There are tall lean women who are as beautiful as short petite women who are as beautiful as curvaceous women or full-figured women. There are women with pale skin who are just as beautiful as women with tanned skin or dark skin. There are women with red hair who are just as beautiful as women with dark hair or blonde hair. We wouldn’t think of labeling a model based on her hair colour or skin colour, so why label her based on her height or her weight? Can’t we just all agree to drop the ‘plus sized’ label and simply call a model a model and recognize that there are all kinds of beautiful?