Calvin Klein’s First “Plus-Sized” Model?

Calvin Klein recently launched its first ever campaign featuring a model that doesn’t exclusively show size 0-2 models, previously the sole body type represented in Calvin Klein advertisements.

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While it is never stated that the model is plus-sized by the brand or in advertisements, it has sparked some controversy.

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Model Myla Dalbesio is featured in the campaign and is a size-10. According to the New York Times blog, the controversy arose after an interview with Dalbesio in Elle Magazine where she talks about plus-size modeling. In the interview she says, “It’s not like [Calvin Klein] released this campaign and were like ‘Whoa, look, there’s this plus-size girl in our campaign.’ They released me in this campaign with everyone else; there’s no distinction. It’s not a separate section for plus-size girls.”

While Dalbesio states that there is no distinction in the campaign, she is further quoted in Elle saying that, “It’s kind of confusing because I’m a bigger girl, I’m not the biggest girl on the market, but I’m definitely bigger than all the other girls (Calvin Klein) has ever worked with, so that is really intimidating.”

Also quoted in the post is a Calvin Klein Spokeswoman, who said: “The Perfectly Fit line was created to celebrate and cater to the needs of different women, and these images are intended to communicate that our new line is more inclusive and available in several silhouettes in an extensive range of sizes.”

So why is Calvin Klein catching heat for attempting to include a more diverse body type in campaigns? It’s probably because, while more inclusive, the model in many ways still fits a fashion industry ideal. Dalbesio is featured with a flat stomach and toned arms and legs, not exactly ground breaking in terms of diverse body image representation.

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Out of numerous models featured in the campaign, Calvin Klein chose to feature just one “more diverse” model who is really not that diverse at all. Hopefully, consumer dissent will help the brand and industry as a whole reconsider what inclusivity really means. Two steps forward, one step back?

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Other Great Blogs

Below you will find listed a number of blogs that write about similar topics or from which I hope to find some inspiration…

  1. Emmenation — Emmenation is a great body image positive blog. My favorite thing about this blog is the #BodyBeautiful body image series, because I hope to do a series on how media influences body image.
  2. The Militant Baker — The Militant Baker is a body image and fashion blogger whose posts tend to focus on encouraging change in the way we think as individuals about ourselves. Her posts will definitely help me gain some perspective on topics I am not familiar with.
  3. Garner Style — Garner Style is more of an advice based blog, however the premise behind the blog is that it encourages the idea that fashion can be worn by people of all shapes and sizes… not just those typically portrayed in media.
  4. Common Sense Media — The Common Sense Media blog focuses on media messages such as gender stereotypes and over sexualization of children in media. They offer a ton of posts that will help me brainstorm controversial things happening in media to write about as well as insight on the topics.
  5. About-Face Blog — About-Face offers a wide range of posts also regarding resisting media messages and is aimed specifically towards women and girls.
  6. Eating Disorder Hope — The Eating Disorder Hope blog is not exactly similar to my blog in content, however I plan to use this blog to learn about the impact that media and beauty standards can have on an individuals health and wellbeing.
  7. Do The Hotpants — Do the Hotpants is another blog that allows people to share their stories of struggle with body image and beauty ideals. It is also a great resource to connect to other similar blogs.
  8. The Body Is Not An Apology — The Body Is Not An  Apology covers a huge range of issues with body image and media. This is where I began to learn about the Westernization of Asian beauty ideals.
  9. Beauty is Boring — Beauty is Boring is more photography based… but the concept behind the photos is that beauty can be created it is not a standard to fit into.
  10. Musings & Inklings — Musings & Inklings covers a wide range of topics and has some posts that are more on the advice-giving end of the spectrum… but a lot of the posts also focus on ideals such as westernization and the plastic surgery craze in South Korea.

The Westernization of Asian Beauty

What makes one person more beautiful than another? While the definition of beauty varies not only from culture to culture, but also from person to person it is not entirely correct that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Eurocentric standards of beauty such as a creased eyelid, slim nose, and pale skin have been idealized through media and advertisements in the fashion and beauty industries for the pretty much the entirety of their existence. This continuous idealization and portrayal of a specific type of “beauty” in media has a very apparent impact on ideals in other countries.

Furthermore, as C.N. Le mentions in a post about Asian beauty standards, elevated status of Europeans politically, socially and economically throughout history has placed them at the top of the global hierarchy. This means western culture, the United States especially, has a huge influence on media and advertisement globally, therefore shaping an “ideal” that doesn’t equally represent people not of European descent.

So what impact does Western idealization have on cultures of people who do not fit those standards? The influence can be seen everywhere, in advertisements, beauty products, and is especially noticeable in the glorification of plastic surgery.

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One beauty product in particular that serves as a perfect example of glorifying western beauty is monolid tape. A monolid is an eyelid without a crease, and is a common feature of many people of Asian decent and this product literally is used to tape your eyelid to its self creating a crease — talk about uncomfortable. What is wrong with a monolid? Absolutely nothing! If advertisements and media represented more people with a monolid, this product probably wouldn’t even exist.

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Promotional head shots for Miss Korea 2013

The head shots for the Miss Korea 2013 Pageant feature a group of women looking eerily similar, which many claim is a result of “westernizing” plastic surgeries.

Plastic surgery is huge among Asian cultures, even encouraged. According to an article by CNN, the majority of facial procedures performed on Asians are considered “westernizing” procedures — and one in five women in South Korea are receiving these procedures. Even more unsettling is the fact that Miss Korea 2012 admitted to having plastic surgery, stating that, “I never said I was born beautiful.”

 

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SK-II Advertisement

Advertisement and celebrity endorsement even go as far in Asian cultures to use actors and models who have received plastic surgery to obtain more western features. The SK-II advertisement shown above features a celebrity who has admittedly had a rhinoplasty to achieve a more three-dimensional nose, as well as double eyelids. Serving as a constant reminder that according to media Asian features are not as “beautiful” as western ones.

What needs to happen is a change in the way we as both producers and consumers portray and support idealization of beauty in order to create a wider— more diverse definition so that men and women of all ethnicities can be embraced and celebrated – instead of paying money for products and procedures to fit a standard. As C.N. Le writes in his article, “beauty can wear more than one face when millions of beholders make it known.”

 

Media & Body Image in Adolescent Girls

Does Media Influence Body Image?  The idea that media has a direct impact on body image, especially in adolescent females, is probably not new to many people… however there is some debate on the validity of that statement.

A study by Texas A&M International University actually suggests that peers may influence body image issues, not television or advertisements.

An opposing argument from research conducted by Kasey Serdar focuses on a number of psychical and psychological effects directly related to medias portrayal of ideals.

 

So what actually influences body image in adolescent females, the media or their peers?

According to the study by Texas A&M IU, TV exposure and social media use did not predict body dissatisfaction… however, body dissatisfaction was strongly related to peer competition. This would suggest that media has no influence on how adolescents view themselves basing self-image solely on peer opinion, which seems a little far-fetched.

After all, what shapes peer opinion? It is unlikely that the portrayal of ideals and perceived “norms” have no impact on peer opinion when it comes to body image in adolescents.

Serdar makes it very clear in her research that sociocultural standards of beauty are present in almost all forms of media, and are constantly imposing an unrealistic, unobtainable ideal upon females. The prevalence of these standards results in women perceiving a standard for normal, that is not really normal at all. This skewed perception then results in a number of psychological and psychical disorders related to poor body image such as anorexia, bulimia, and body dysmorphic disorder.

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This recent photo shoot of Kim Kardashian is a perfect example of how images in media can distort body image, especially in young females. Footage of the shoot later aired on Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s where viewers were able to see Kim in her true, unedited glory… however, that image is quite different than the retouched version presented on numerous media platforms.

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Kesler Tran Photography

Another great example of retouching in media is this photograph of actress, Zendaya. Obviously dissatisfied with the manipulated image, she writes in her post “These are the things that make women self conscious, that create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have.” Her reaction to the image speaks for its self and reinforces the skewed perception of beauty media projects on viewers.

It is an undeniable reality that media projection of ideals has focused on a specific standard and to say that it has no influence, particularly in adolescents, on body image could not be further from the truth. While peer opinion may have a significant impact on self-image that opinion was in one way or another impacted by images presented in media. This unrealistic idealization and its impact on body image will continue until more inclusive images are the new “norm”.