Big(?) Girls Don’t Cry, They Win America’s Next Top Model

I did my usual perusing of NYMag.com a few days ago to find America’s Next Top Model on the homepage, with a picture of some beautiful girl and the headline that “Miss Tyra threw a curveball” by selecting the first-ever plus-sized model to win. I haven’t seen the show in many a season, because Tyra Banks continued to be Tyra Banks and you can only see a marathon so many times, but needless to say, I was intrigued.
I frowned and scrolled back up to the picture. Hm. Come to think of it, her legs don’t look like they could be snapped in two by a twelve-year-old. But plus-sized? She didn’t really look plus-sized. I was perplexed. The consistent theory was that this “oversized” model was picked from the beginning as part of Tyra’s personal agendato make reality TV history. Or something. Making a point that you don’t have to be skinny to be pretty.
It’s a great message, it is. Except this Whitney character really isn’t not skinny. But in the context of an industry full of waifs, she instantly becomes the fat girl. It’s like picking the hottest guy in a classroom only to find that he’s less attractive on the street among other civilians; you can’t base your judgment of a person in the confines of one element.
Further Googling of Whitney Thompson ensued, and my chest started to tighten as I searched for what size she was. I felt compelled to know, and I felt even worse that I cared. Why should I? This girl’s size doesn’t affect me. And I don’t want to care, but I grew up knowing to care because of the connotations of size. I care because she’s probably around my height, 5-11 (and a half, close but not quite six feet), and so whatever label she gets is probably going to apply to me.
Most of my friends probably have an average height of 5’4″ and I grew up having conversations with people who couldn’t imagine anyone actually being anything bigger than a size six. At my smallest, on a very very good day and with a very forgiving label, I’m an 8, but pretty much always an even 10 and a 12 for my work pants (tall girls, I highly endorse BCBG for suiting). Bringing that size up in conversation always gets a great response, the widening of eyes, then the consequent rolling of them and the “Yeah but you’re tall.” Like it never occurred to them before that a size ten girl isn’t overweight. But even if I’m not fat, I’ve been made to feel that way since I can remember.
Yes, I’m tall, and maybe you can’t see it now, but I’ve been dieting since age 10, and it took me till the end of high school to get out of the chubscout stage. And still, I wasn’t self-classified as skinny. You never are if you’ve ever struggled with your weight. I was felt and looked better, that was it.
You can see why I refuse to discuss my actual weight altogether. Good for crazy-ass Tyra wearing her weight screenprinted on a bathing suit for the cameras, but for me? Thanks, I’m all set. I’ll leave it to the imagination of the masses before hearing gasps over that sizable number, or have someone try to kindly justify it with my being a “bigger girl.” It’s all about connotations, alright? “Big” is not an acceptable adjective. It’s like telling a girl who’s naturally very thin she looks anorexic. You’re striking a nerve. People don’t have control over their genes, you are what you are and you make lemonade with those lemons of DNA. There’s no need to always say what you’re thinking; if you’re different at all, you know what’s on an observer’s mind before they state the painfully obvious anyway.
Finally, I find a website that advertises Whitney Thompson as a size 10. Which means that I could borrow her jeans, I am also plus-sized, and the mass population considers me fat. Which must mean that even I could be a plus-sized model… even though I’m not plus-sized.
If I were thinner, I’d be happier, right? Because then I’d be just like everyone else… and only comparing other superficial things with them instead of it being my weight or my size. So the media teaches us, every day. I wish the weight had never even been an issue. The girl takes great pictures. Let her model in peace.
At this point, lectures from former women’s studies professors are popping in my head, saying that the labels are socially constructed and if we didn’t buy into them, they’d lose any sense of validity they have. Writing a paper and understanding these concepts and putting the idea into practice are just not the same, unfortunately. Alas, I am but one woman and these things take time.

Internet Dating: Lies, Lies…and Models?
Internet Dating: Lies, Lies…and Models?
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