Can We Stop Calling Ashley Graham “Plus-Size”?

So in case you haven’t heard, there’s a big uproar over Sports Illustrated featuring a voluptuous, buxom beauty on the cover. Ashley Graham. Ashley Graham!! The 28 year old size 16 model was selected to show her shape off to the magazine’s 20,000+ regular readers. And as you might imagine, this has created quite a stir. Here she is, looking fabulous in this untouched cover shot.

And she’s not alone. Another gorgeous lady who’s been corralled into this category made the issue as well. Robyn Lawley, a size 12 blonde bombshell, makes an appearance looking absolutely phenomenal, and far from “Plus”. As some have noted, Lawley actually beat Graham to the punch of being the first “Plus-Size” model to grace its pages, making it into an issue of Sports Illustrated previously.

In interviews, both girls expressed dissatisfaction at being labeled as “Plus-Size”. Recently, Lawley expressed further unhappiness at the term, claiming that her curves were being used as a publicity stunt. And she’s not completely wrong. The announcement has blown up all over social media, and as exciting as it seems, it may not be the revolution we all were hoping for.

“With my ItalianVogue cover [in 2011] for example, there’s only been one, and it hasn’t happened again. I think American Vogue has only featured Adele. I think it’s probably going to be coming. But it can’t just be one issue every five years, and everyone yipping and yawing and getting excited, and then nothing happening afterward.” -Robyn Lawley, Allure magazine

Both models are outspoken about body positivity and acceptance at all sizes, and practice what they preach in their design careers. Lawson has created a fantastic line of swimsuits catering to larger sizes. And Graham has her own lingerie collection, which proudly proclaims:

“I AM STRONG. I AM BEAUTIFUL. #IAMSIZESEXY”

My question is, when can we stop calling Ashley Graham and girls like her “Plus-Size”, and start accepting them as normal instead? These women are sexy and successful; and the only “Plus” thing about them is in their patience, and the attitudes they hold towards fashion, beauty, and what it means to be a woman. Sexy isn’t a size. You aren’t a size. You’re not a label or a number, either. It’s time we set aside the scales and measuring tapes and started appreciating ourselves rather than trashing and belittling. While I still may be unhappy with the term, the fact that this is happening is cause for celebration. Beauty comes in all forms, and it’s time we started showcasing it. And to all you haters out there, try not to get down on someone else just for loving themselves, just the way that they are.

“We’re making girls lose weight to fit samples, rather than the other way around. We should make the clothes fit the girls. I find it remarkable, because beauty comes in all shapes and all sizes. It always has and it always will. And if you’re looking at catwalks, it’s not diversified at all. It’s the same body type [one] after another. I’m sick of it. I don’t see myself being represented in fashion, and I love fashion.” -Robyn Lawley, Allure magazine

Real Beauty: A Cry to Bare It All

What is beauty?

I found myself deciphering that question one day while watching the unknown faces drift by. Every one of them I managed to summon some positive comment or characteristic for. Surprisingly, most of them were less about physical attractiveness and more about personality. A gentle smile, a kind laugh… the natural allure of a person’s sparkling eyes. Beauty, the most undermined and over abused topic in our daily lives, is not dead, my friends; it’s merely strung up in a coma and in desperate need of some fluids.

Let’s talk for a second about what it means to be beautiful. 

Beauty comes by many definitions. This, perhaps, is the most compelling:

The qualities in a person / thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind.

So beauty, by our very definition, is a fallible, feeble concept. A matter, as we so often put it, of taste. And yet we have been bombarded, dare I say overwhelmed in our waking lives with the all-consuming trends of today. “Buy this, and you’ll know allure.” “Wear that to receive acknowledgement.” “The brighter, flashier, younger–the better!” Beauty has become a beast we can no longer afford to feed. Thanks to outrageous societal norms, even the most naturally blessed can now look at themselves and find flaw. It’s not enough to merely be beautiful, or thin, curvy or fair; golden skin and flowing locks just don’t cut it anymore. We’re in a generation of disappointment and dashed expectations. If I don’t look like the men/women/kids in magazines, if I can’t command the presence and glamour of the stars in the media, then I’m undeserving of attention. Less than is our new popular phrase.

The unworthiness bug is catching quick, and hundreds of petitions and cries for realistic role-models aren’t changing things any. The fact is, this is a worldwide crisis, and it starts with judgement. Now I’m not talking about judging others strictly, but rather drawing from the outside and coming to judgments about ourselves. My nose is too big, my calves could be smaller, and on and on! Just a short time ago, awareness of our own image wasn’t even that great – and now we have social media and other self-obsessed hobbies to keep us company. It’s no wonder that public morale is down. Instead of spending time with others, we’re turning all of our energy (and destructive energy at that) inwards. In a world of so much connectivity, we have never been more alone… and we’re suffering for it.

What we’ll find is that we’re filling this world with angry, unrealistic people. People who watch television and think that celebrities look that flawless all the time, or that someone who has good skin or a great figure doesn’t have to work hard to achieve those things. Instead of expressing our humanity in a positive way, we reflect negatively upon ourselves and spend time brooding over how we could be better. And makeup is largely to blame. It’s one thing to improve your appearance and boost your confidence by covering up a pimple, or dabbing a little color on your lips. It is far another to conceal and fearfully hide every aspect of your true self.

Best accessory? Your smile.

Best accessory? Your smile.

And if you respond with, What if that is my true self?” Here is my answer: Does any of that make you happier? Each day, does it get easier to accept that you are a beautiful person, inside and out? Or is that mask on your face just helping to grow and fester your own backwards sense of insecurity? The truth is, beauty comes from inside. Cliché, I know, but that’s realer than any woman in a Covergirl commercial. And if you don’t believe me, try going without that face for one day, and see how, emotionally, you fare. Until you can step outside with a bright smile and a confident heart, maybe it’s time to reconsider your daily “beauty” routine.