They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what do you do when the eye of the beholder has been conditioned to see beauty in a certain way? They also say that beauty is found within, but what do you do when society at large has been conditioned to judge from the outside?
An email sent out to Pepperdine students on September 17, 2012 asked for female students to volunteer to model for the annual SavvyChic fashion show and luncheon. It explained that the event “raises operational funds for the Boone Center for the Family at Pepperdine.” Sounds like an excellent event to volunteer for, right? Well, unless you’re a size 2 to 6, you can’t. Sorry.
Over the summer, I worked at Victoria’s Secret, and although I absolutely loved the job, there was one thing that truly bothered me. Looking at the models on the marketing around the store, I noticed that the majority of them were blond-haired, blue-eyed and extremely thin.
Victoria’s Secret sets a standard in the industry not only for lingerie, but also for models. So, why not a have a more standard representation of the clientele wearing their product?
According to Glamour magazine, “the average American woman is 164 pounds and 5 feet 4 inches. That’s about 35 pounds heavier and six inches shorter than the average supermodel.
According to the Body Mass Index, with these measurements, the average American woman would be classified as overweight and the average supermodel would be classified as anorexic.
Everyone is beautiful or handsome in his or her own way, but not everyone is healthy. I’m not just talking about being unhealthy due to being overweight here. You can be unhealthy and underweight as well, which is equally as bad.
Dictionary.com states that a model is “a standard or example for imitation or comparison.” Supermodels are not an example of the average woman and they are not an example of health. Their bodies should definitely not be imitated and, in most cases, they cannot be. This problem is especially relevant for young girls who constantly, both consciously and subconsciously, compare themselves to the idealized images of these supermodel — an obsession that is only further exacerbated by men who have bought into the images produced by such companies as Maxim, Playboy and GQ. Out of this twisted comparison comes a skewed image of what beauty actually is.
The need for change in the modeling industry has been an ongoing debate for some time. The problem, however, is that the argument is typically centered on modeling agencies and the corporations that perpetuate the artificial images.
It is important to realize that, at the end of the day, Victoria’s Secret and companies like it are businesses with interests in promoting a specific image. These models are, for lack of a better word, products, and are being presented as such.
The excessive painting and primping is akin to that of a McDonald’s commercial, or any other fast food company, in which the water-doused ingredients are shown freefalling in slow motion as they are graciously caught by the welcoming bun.
Clearly, this image does not map onto reality. In reality, the burger is greasy, imperfectly constructed and unhealthy. Therefore, it is important for us as consumers of these products to understand the role we play in ensuring that images such as these continue to degrade the self-esteem of young women, and even men, worldwide.
I believe that the modeling industry needs to change the type of image it is putting forward. There needs to be a change from the unattainable to the attainable, which is being healthy. Models should be images of what a healthy person looks like.
If we as consumers start rejecting the skewed image of beauty currently presented, then those companies will have no choice but to conform to our wishes and demands — or risk losing us as costumers; such is the beauty of the free market.