Your Secret Weapon: Confidence (Part II)
Natalia Zurowski, Features Columnist
(continued from Part I)
I Beg Your Pardon?
What I find to be most appalling is when people think that pointing fingers at other women's figures and labelling them as 'not the ideal' is just and morally correct. The concept is mind-boggling because it is as though they believe their standards of beauty are part of some objective universal norm that in reality does not exist.
One model recently criticized for her appearance is Karlie Kloss, who was named 'The New Body' by Steven Meisel; a title previously held by (and arguably still belonging to) Elle Macpherson. As I mentioned earlier, beauty is subjective. There is no specific all-encompassing definition. However, that does not justify persecuting other women in order to get one's point across. The media, critics and the public alike, have all scrutinized Kloss' figure as boyish, unfeminine etc. The have labelled her as a negative role model for young girls and women. Message boards and forums on various websites (The Daily Mail, Vogue UK etc.) discussing Kloss' figure are filled with comments like "feed her," "eat something," "she looks disgusting," etc. These comments are derogatory, inappropriate and only contribute to hurt women's self-esteem. What I want to know is, since when does putting down others accomplish anything? You know what that kind of behaviour is called? It's called bullying. Some bullies that I would like to call out are personal care brand, Dove, and world-renowned retailer, Ralph Lauren.
Let's take a closer look at Dove. Their slogan, "real women have curves" initially comes off as well intended, however this type of marketing is actually hypocrisy. Dove claims to promote a positive female image when in reality they contribute to the problem. Dove is pointing fingers at the fashion industry for setting unrealistic body standards even though they themselves are setting a standard at the expense of other women.
In the case of Kloss, her thin frame is owed to her athleticism as well as being a professional ballet dancer from a very young age. Is it fair to judge her and call her anorexic or bulimic (or according to Dove, not a real woman)? Of course not! She is just as much a real woman as you, your mother and all the other women in your life. Why is it that women who are voluptuous are immediately deemed healthier? How are slimmer or lesser curvaceous women any less of a woman? It is a completely unfair and pretentious judgement that I have never been able to wrap my head around. What critics seem to forget, despite it being common knowledge, is that some people are born with higher metabolisms, while others are not.
In contrast, Ralph Lauren was under fire for publishing an ad featuring model Filippa Hamilton (external link: Jezebel.com), looking unbelievably thin with her head appearing to be larger than her pelvis. Although the company took responsibility for their actions, it struck a negative chord within the fashion industry and the public. How are women supposed to live up to such a liquefied advertisement when the model promoting the brand does not even look like herself? Putting out such highly retouched photos is dishonest, shameful and hurtful to all women. I want to make it clear that I am not promoting any particular body type. When women go to unhealthy lengths and extremes to achieve their figures, I feel it is wrong. Starvation, over-exercising and other extreme excessive regimes are not proper ways to lose weight. The main point that I want to emphasize is that women come in all different shapes and sizes. An image should portray a female's natural physique that she was born with it and/or has attained by healthy means. I realize that this all seems unbelievably straightforward but if it were, why would people continue to make such nonsensical judgements?
Even other models can be destructive, critiquing and sizing up other girls. I understand that competition is intense, especially when there is a well-paying job on the line, but where is the empathy? I see girls getting unbelievably upset that a client dislikes their look, only for them to go and badmouth their housemate or a girl from their own agency. The excuse, "that is just what girls do," is hardly valid. This industry can be fickle enough and models know firsthand how hard it can be. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat with another model hugging her and listening to her cry over her weight. I am not suggesting that everyone needs to be friends with everyone else, or even like them for that matter. What I am suggesting is for models to try to be a bit more compassionate and sympathetic towards one another. This includes other women as well.
There are those who are doing their best to celebrate the female form, without prejudice. The Pirelli Calendar (Calendario Pirelli), an annual calendar specially produced for Pirelli's clientele and VIP's, has done a wonderful job of celebrating the female form. The calendar has been around for over 35 years and is renowned for capturing the "essence of [and] celebrating feminine beauty" (Pirelli). While viewing the behind the scenes footage of the 2012 Pirelli Calendar, I felt the calendar did a fine job of reinforcing my main premise for this article: "Find confidence within yourself and embrace your uniqueness." From the woman that epitomized the waif movement herself, Kate Moss, to the voluptuous Lara Stone, the behind the scenes video showcased a range of different models posing nude.
Despite some viewers finding the video to be overly-sexual, it did a fantastic job of highlighting the female form by tastefully presenting models of different shapes and sizes without prejudice. Although each of them were different from one another, they were all equally beautiful and unique because they each exuded that air of confidence and were comfortable in their own skin. I am not promoting nudity or advocating the use of it in advertisements. What I am saying is to find that same confidence as those models and be proud of your curves no matter how big, small or non-existent they may be. Confidence is something that comes from within and develops with age. The only way to have it is to truly, fully and honestly believe in yourself and what you can do. Companies like Dove and Ralph Lauren can learn from Pirelli by promoting strong and self-assured models of various shapes and sizes; as opposed to being on extreme ends of the spectrum.
So what is the ideal body type? The answer is, there isn't one! As I outlined earlier, beauty is subjective. Models come in different shapes and sizes and fall into different categories based on which market segment their particular look is targeting. These categories include, but are not limited to: runway, editorial, swimsuit or lingerie, commercial, plus-size etc. Whether you feel one of these body types is more 'ideal' than the other is fine. You are entitled to your opinion. However, by no means does that allow you to undermine or belittle any of the other women in one of the other categories. Putting a particular body type on a pedestal is only reinforcing the problem of insecurity and low-confidence in women and young girls today; models or not.
Whether your knees are gangly, your hips curvaceous, your breasts small or large etc., I want all models, as well as other women who may be reading this, to remember you are beautiful and you are unique. Most importantly, you are you. There is nobody else like you on this planet and that fact alone should be large enough of a reason for you to be a confident person. Although each of us is comprised of 99.9% of the same DNA, the remainder 0.1% is comprised of individual strands that differentiate each and every one of us from the other. The female form comes in many shapes and sizes and should be celebrated for that. Nobody is the same, no body is the same; and I think it is important for everyone to bear that in mind.
As Liisa Winkler stated in her recent interview with Modelresource, "... find out who you are ... take the time to figure it out and whoever it is, that person is enough." She could not have put it any better. A healthy dose of confidence can be your secret weapon and once you find it within yourself, hang on to it. As long as you are happy and have your head held up high, your opinion of yourself is what matters most, not anybody else. Always remember to be proud of your body and embrace your uniqueness because every body is different, literally.
Natalia Zurowski is a Chantale Nadeau model in her final year at Western University.