After many, many years of fighting, we're finally at a point where plus-size models are kind of… normal. For the most part, this is great. Ashley Graham, Iskra Lawrence, and Barbie Ferreira are names and faces that get more recognizable every day. But there's one glaring problem: All these women pretty much look the same.
Look at Graham, Lawrence, and Ferreira:
They're three of the most successful plus-size models working today, and they're all tall, white, athletic, and on the small side of the plus-size spectrum (Graham is a size 16, while the others are size 14). They carry their weight in the "right" places—they have butts and boobs, not bellies or double chins—and they have the envious hourglass figure.
They're beautiful, and we get that that's kind of the point. But they also set up problematic standards for plus-size women. It's the same thing that happened when we first got obsessed with ultra-thin models—suddenly, that's what beautiful was. That's what we aspired to look like.
It's hard to criticize the plus-size modeling community when we still feel so lucky that we have it in the first place. But the truth is the lack of diversity (in terms of size and background) we see among its models hurts plus-size women and the body positive movement.
So brands like Torrid and Lane Bryant that carry clothes up to a size 30 should show us what size 30 women with different body types and backgrounds look like in their clothes. Representation matters, and women deserve to see people who look like them modeling the clothes they're going to buy.
Tess Holliday is a good example—she's larger than most other successful plus-size models, and she doesn't have the typical hourglass shape.
Diversity should always be a priority, but it's particularly important for companies who exist to be more inclusive than the rest of the fashion industry. We need plus-size models who are women of color and differently abled and size 20 and size 40 and everything in between.
We're finally at a point where plus-size bodies are getting mainstream attention, so let's not stop here. If plus-size fashion can learn how to accept all bodies, no matter their shape, size, or color, we'll all be better off. It's worth it.