“You look like a model.” This is a phrase that’s thrown around often. But, what does looking like a model mean? Does it simply mean someone is pretty or attractive, but isn’t that in the eye of the beholder? Or, does it mean that someone is close to fitting the unrealistic beauty standards we have set? Most of us have encountered the pressures of Eurocentric beauty standards in our lives. We have seen them in magazines, in commercials and, of course, online.
Before writing this article, I had the chance to interview Rachel Wentworth, the co-owner of the lingerie store Forty Winks. Forty Winks does things a bit differently. Not only do they ensure that fitting for undergarments is a comfortable experience, but they also have, on their website, something called “The Middle Layer.” On this page, women of all different sizes take pictures in lingerie and model it. The page includes larger and more petite people, as well as people of color and pregnant women. Wentworth believes diversity is important because without it, they wouldn’t be representing their customers: those who fall beyond the “thin, traditionally female, skinny women who [often model] lingerie.” It is essential that we look at the importance of representation, especially in an environment that people already feel so vulnerable in.
However, since so many different body types exist, “inclusivity isn’t entirely possible,” Wentworth says. Wentworth says on inclusivity: “That word gets thrown around. Brands use it in a way that doesn’t ultimately feel sincere.” While it is unfortunate that not everyone can be represented, “showing the depth of the human race” should be a priority, according to Wentworth. Certain groups, specifically transgender people and people with disabilities, for example, are extremely underrepresented and should get a lot more space in the industry.
Transgender people are underrepresented when it comes to the model industry. Not only is diversity important in terms of shape and size, but also regarding race and gender identity. There are men who have breasts and women who don’t, for example. It is hard, especially with gender dysphoria, to shop for an item that society claims is “meant for” a gender that you don’t identify with. When it comes to modeling, being trans-inclusive is extremely important because, once again, representing everyone should be the goal of advertisement.
I don’t think I have ever seen a model in a wheelchair. People with disabilities rarely get a platform. This goes to show that even brands that claim they are inclusive still don’t truly represent everyone. Unfortunately, representing everyone can be hard to do because as Wentworth says, everyone has a different body, but we must still work to be as inclusive as we can. Brands should try to represent real people, not just one image of the perfect person.
Photoshopping can also set an unrealistic standard when it comes to body image. Seeing a body that has been heavily photoshopped may make customers try to achieve that unrealistic expectation.
“I don’t need to see a perfect body, I don’t have a perfect body, none of us have a perfect body”Wentworth
The unattainable goal of having a “perfect body” is one that is damaging our society more and more.“People feel bad about their bodies because of capitalism and because of what is presented as the ideal. But there is no ideal. People are on different nonlinear timelines with their bodies.” Wentworth thinks “brands should meet people where they are.”
Companies thrive off of making people — especially women — feel bad about themselves. But, the point of a company is to be the right fit for the customer, not the other way around.
Whenever I am online shopping, I scroll through pages and pages looking at bodies that don’t match mine — and never will. However, since all of the models’ bodies match, my first thought is that my body is the one that’s “wrong.” With more diversity in this industry, more and more people will feel represented and will feel like they “look like a model.”
As Rachel Wentworth states, “[We must normalize] body hair, cellulite, things that are part of [the] human experience but stigmatized by a culture that doesn’t care about health, mental or physical, but only about capitalism.”