How Diverse Is Diverse?

PLUS

A couple of months ago, I submitted my entry for a Marie Claire plus size contributor competition. As I didn’t get through, I thought I would share with you guys the article that I wrote, as I feel the subject matter is pretty dang relevant right now. Hope you enjoy!

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Plus sized bloggers and models have been making serious waves within the fashion industry over the past couple of years; they have been key to opening up the much needed discussion surrounding body positivity, acceptance and diversity. From plus size models like Tess Holliday and Ashley Graham to bloggers worldwide, the general message preached to the masses is the importance of self-love and to recognise that every ‘body’ is beautiful, no matter how much you weigh.

But is that really the case?
With the sudden surge in plus sized models and bloggers being used in brand campaigns and magazine/online features, it is very easy to spot the common theme among the ladies often featured; white, raven haired, with high cheekbones and often hour glass shaped. While I acknowledge and appreciate brands and companies featuring plus sized women, I cannot help but notice the lack of models and bloggers of ethnic descent who are constantly being left out or side-lined in favour of their Caucasian counterparts.
In the US, bloggers of African American descent are more frequently used within advertising, featured and collaborative campaigns; bloggers such as Gabi Gregg from Gabifresh.com recently worked with Swimsuits For All in creating a bikini collection and Chastity Garner-Valentine from Garnerstyle.blogspot.com can be often seen working with Target and plus size fashion site Rebdolls.com with her own plus size line.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for plus sized bloggers and models of colour across the pond. Despite the recent surge in UK bloggers and models of colour popping up within social media and gathering a social online presence, we are still inundated with what seems to be societies’ standard of what an acceptable fat person should look like. For a community that claims to be inclusive and diverse, how diverse are we really? Within the UK especially, we are often fed images and articles of the same 3 or 4 plus size bloggers on a rotational basis and I wonder what message this sends to the masses who may not fit the ‘idealistic fat girl’ standard?

Plus size women of colour like myself, just like within the beauty industry ache to be seen and represented within the media. Even if you take the “plus” away from it, POC within the media in general have always had to compete against, or live up to the European standard of beauty. From birth we have been told that we are not good enough and that our skin and ethnic features make us substandard to the European ideal. Fast forward 20 years later and we are in a position where the media and society have appropriated or have been inspired by black and other POC features and culture, (music, style, slang words, big butts, lip injections) cloaked it in whiteness and have deemed it “edgy, “sexy” and “cool”, yet those of us who have always been a part of culture and perhaps possess the so-called “ethnic features” are underrepresented and are held back in favour of their whiter counterparts who have either acquired it artificially, or are seen as ‘slaying’ because of their natural body shape.

Isn’t it funny that, and I’m speaking very broadly here, the physical features that have always defined POC from caucasians (lips, hourglass shape, bums etc) are currently being celebrated and deemed as beautiful, but on white bodies? What a time to be alive.

While It’s great that we have plus models such as Philomena Kwao waving the UK ethnic plus size flag, there is still so much more that could be done to ensure a fair representation within the community.
On the flipside however, it can be argued that perhaps some bloggers and models of colour in the UK do not often put themselves out there for opportunities within the community. “I think just as much as the industry needs to recognise the POC bloggers, the POC bloggers need to stand up to be counted. You have to be in it to win it right?” says Lucia, a plus sized blogger who owns Ucantwearthat.com.
As a black, British plus size blogger who has been watching her contemporaries slay so effortlessly overseas, I have always tried to raise the discussion on bloggers and models of ethnic minorities being featured more within the media, however this cannot come to pass if we cannot take a stand collectively and challenge brands’ standards of beauty. Online editorials such as Volup2 often feature models and bloggers of all body shapes and ethnicities, which I think is brilliant and can only hope that one day, their formula is one that will be taken on by other brands and editorials.
In line with this, it is also fair to point out that POC bloggers are still relatively new to the scene. With the exception of myself and a couple of other bloggers, a large amount of British POC are still working to establish their online presence and build up a solid readership. It can be only fair to accept that perhaps another enemy here is time. For a community that promotes diversity and the beauty of being unique, it would be nice if it diversity could manifest itself within the racial spectrum too, as we are all beautiful.

3 comments so far.
  • A perfect post!

    I’ve noticed this when they choose a plus size model to represent. It’s always a white woman with that hourglass shape. It’s disappointing that companies actually believe they are making a change and being diverse when it’s all the same. 🙁

    The community needs to continue promoting diversity itself and POC bloggers. Not just the idea of it. No more cliques!

  • Lesley

    Great post Steph. I think there’s always more to be done with promoting diversity. A lot of ‘minorities’ are constantly ignored and it’s quite frustrating to see the same ‘ideals’ features in the media x

  • Lea

    This is such a great inspiring post, so well written. I agree with every single thing you wrote- we need more promotion in regards to ethnic groups and in the modelling world. xxx

    Lea
    http://www.sincerelyshug.co.uk