If you’re an adult, I’m going to make the assumption that you have heard the phrase: “A house divided cannot stand.” – Jesus (then requoted by President Lincoln.) No matter what situation you apply that quote to; the meaning rings true.
So let me begin by telling you a story.
A week or so ago, a few people tagged and redirected me to a casting call for something called HipsTV in Atlanta. The show boasts of being the first all plus size panel talk show. I was genuinely excited about it. I thought to myself, talk shows aren’t really my thing but I’ll give it a shot. I headed on over to their Instagram page and was met by something I found very disturbing.
First things first, the ethnicity qualifier upset a lot of people; but as I understood they already had African-American women on the panel so they were looking to diversify. That aside, when I saw the clothing size limitation I was immediately put off.
If you’ve followed me long enough on any social media platform then you know I have no qualms about respectfully sharing my thoughts. So they responded very vanilla like with “O we’re just trying to reach our target audience but yea sure come down and show us what you’ve got!”
Right after they pulled their post down because I think they realized they made a boo-boo. Now in no way shape or form was I slightly interested in attending this shamockery of a casting call; but I followed through only because I made a point to address them about the blatant prejudice. Also because I needed to see for myself. I got dressed that Sunday of the casting call and headed out to see what was up.
I arrived at 640 West with hubby in tow and was greeted very pleasantly by staff. However, immediately I saw I was a fish out of water. In a room full of plus women, I was visibly the largest. It was clear that enough people saw HipsTv’s original qualifications post.
Needless to say, I was told “Thank you for coming.” as they moved onto selecting other finalists. I was dismissed. I was not surprised. I didn’t fit the look of the other women on that stage or who sat in the judgment panel. I was not the look they were looking for. And unfortunately, that’s a common theme in the plus community.
Body diversity is a unicorn, an ever developing concept; but one that has not seen complete execution. HipsTv is not the first offender and unfortunately they will not be the last. HipsTv is just a microcosm in a much larger problem- no puns intended. The plus community is so vast and made up of all types of women (and men). Whether they identify as consumers, trendsetters, bloggers or influencers. The issue? The more visible of the bunch tend to look a very specific way.
As the fashion industry pretends to be all-inclusive and acknowledge plus women; it tickles me pink that their representation mostly consists of size 10 women or 16 at the most. Some plus size brands pat themselves on the back for including up to a size 24 or 26; yet and still, they tend to use a very specific looking model to represent the brand. Usually an hour-glass figure, or pear-shape; what I affectionately refer to as “polite fat”.
But the truth is, there’s far more “impolite fat bodies”out here. We’re oddly shaped, curvy in all the weird places, bountiful in some areas and lacking in others. A lot of us have fat bellies and hips that don’t exist. And guess what? We shop! One of the most difficult things as an extended plus woman is having to guess what clothes will look like on me. I discussed that in a previous article after shopping Torrid. I don’t have the option of in-store shopping because most brands carry their larger sizes online. When I am online shopping; these brands simply do not include visual representation of how clothes will look on a body like mine.
I am not asking to rid the sites of smaller plus women because that extreme wouldn’t be realistic either. I am asking for more diversity in the body types and sizes they display. I am asking for inclusion. As a woman who wears a 30/32 I get messages from the larger plus size women who say thank you; because they now have an idea of how something may look on them after I’ve posted a photo in a look.
I have read and watched videos from various individuals in the fashion industry that refer to focus group studies; the claims that people within the plus community don’t want to see the bigger women, that sales don’t add up. And I get it, brands are here to make money. That’s why brands such as Lorenza James by Elle Dove, and Richee Luxe get my dollars; because they’re willing to showcase us unapologetically. They’re determined to include that diversity, and that makes me a loyal and committed consumer.
Some days I feel like there’s simply no purpose in my voicing these thoughts. I’m one person on a planet of billions. Do my thoughts on the plus community really matter? Am I truly making a difference? The reality is,on a large scale; probably not. But there’s something ever hopeful in me that eventually, what I’m saying will make an impact. Until then…
I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.