The female side of the blogosphere formed a celebratory conga line this week, with a picture of "plus-sized" model Lizzi Miller from Glamour's September issue (page 194) spreading like swine flu, triggered off by editor Cindi Lieve's blog post in response to the positive feedback the mag's received about the shot. Lieve writes:
"I'd loved this photo at first sight myself--we'd commissioned it for a story on feeling comfortable in your skin, and wanted a model who looked like she was. But even so, the letters blew me away: "the most amazing photograph I've ever seen in any women's magazine," wrote one reader in Pavo, Georgia. From another in Somerset, Massachusetts: "This beautiful woman has a real stomach and did I even see a few stretch marks? This is how my belly looks after giving birth to my two amazing kids! This photo made me want to shout from the rooftops."
The emails were filled with such joy--joy at seeing a woman's body with all the curves and quirks and rolls found in nature. (Raising a question: With all the six-packs out there, do you even know what a normal belly looks like anymore--other than the one you see in the mirror?)
So what's the story behind the photo? "The woman on p. 194" is actually 20-year-old model Lizzi Miller, and this is her second appearance in Glamour, shot by fashion photographer Walter Chin. A size 12-14 and avid softball player/belly dancer ("I like exercising when it's fun"), Lizzi moved to New York City from San Jose three years ago to become a model (a "plus-size" one by modeling industry standards, though hello, at size 12 she's actually "normal size"...but I digress).
"When I was young I really struggled with my body and how it looked because I didn't understand why my friends were so effortlessly skinny," Lizzi told me. "As I got older I realized that everyone's body is different and not everyone is skinny naturally--me included! I learned to love my body for how it is, every curve of it. I used to be so self-conscious in a bikini because my stomach wasn't perfectly defined. But everyone has different body shapes! And it's not all about the physical! If you walk on the beach in your bikini with confidence and you feel sexy, people will see you that way too."
The fact that we are all so ecstatic about Lizzi's little tummy speaks VOLUMES about women wanting to see themselves – and their bodies – reflected in the pages of the glossies. To that end, Glamour has done a very generous, altruistic thing for the female population. I hope this issue sells its knickers off. But it also speaks VOLUMES about the types of images we've become accustomed to seeing, which make Lizzie the exception rather than the rule.
Jezebel's Margaret writes: "Being the ladymag with the most body diversity isn't that hard when your competition is Vogue. Both pictures of Miller were included in articles about body acceptance and May's plus-size swimsuit spread was a rarity. Every other model featured in this month's Glamour was very thin."
And it's not like Lizzie made the cover; she was relegated to a "three by three inch" spot tucked inside the mag while Jessica Simpson scored the cover. But, as Mia Freedman – who as editor of Cosmopolitan once placed a size-16 Sara-Marie Fidel on a flip-cover also featuring Britney Spears – writes, "baby steps". The glossies tread a very thin line between aspiration and reality (Kelly Clarkson Photoshopped for SELF, anyone?): but is what we consider "inspirational" changing? And are the glossies using the obesity epidemic, in addition to the fashion industry's insistence of providing small "sample sizes", as a scapegoat for keeping their girls within the trim size 6-12 body range? Viva la body diversity revolution, I say.
Girl With a Satchel