Jennifer Lawrence and the New Normal

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Jennifer Lawrence in Harper’s Bazaar

In her interview for Harper’s Bazaar‘s May issue, Jennifer Lawrence makes the following statement on body standards in Hollywood:

I would like us to make a new normal body type. Everybody says [to me], “We love that there is somebody with a normal body!” And I’m like, “I don’t feel like I have a normal body.” I do Pilates every day. I eat, but I work out a lot more than a normal person. I think we’ve gotten so used to underweight that when you are a normal weight it’s like, “Oh, my God, she’s curvy.” Which is crazy.

Just like Hollywood, the fashion industry has a distorted sense of reality when it comes to body types. Fashion considers any model over a size 8 as plus sized.

The media landscape is inundated with images of idealized women who are remarkably smaller (and often medically classified as underweight) than the average woman. According to the CDC, the average weight for adult women 20 years and over is 166 lbs. (She also has an average height of almost 5 feet 4 inches and a waist circumference of 37.5 inches.) This translates to a size 14 in women’s sizes.

According to the Oxford dictionary, “normal” is defined as “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.” So, no, Lawrence is NOT “normal” when compared to the average American woman. On the other hand, when compared to her fellow Hollywood starlets (a small, cherry-picked subset of the population), she is, indeed, “curvy.”

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Whitney Thompson for America’s Next Top Model

Similarly, when Whitney Thompson was declared the first plus-size model to win the coveted title of America’s Next Top Model in the television series’ tenth cycle in 2008, many debated whether she should really be referred to as a plus-size model since she, at a size eight or ten at the time, did not embody their image of plus size. However, as Tyra Banks argued during a judging session, Thompson was not considered “big” except when judged as a fashion model. She may be “average” to consumers, but, in sharp contrast, she was “plus size” to the fashion industry.

Beyond this critique of the nature of “normal” body types and sizes in Hollywood and beyond, a crucial element of Lawrence’s statement is her focus on bodily labors. She admits that she works out, a lot, everyday. She puts a significant amount of time and effort into achieving her particular body.

Actresses like Lawrence and fashion models work hard for their bodies, bodies that are still atypical bodies in terms of various dimensions including height, weight, and proportionality. They are deemed special in the eyes of the entertainment industry, but they still do so much to improve upon themselves. As Lawrence admits during the interview, “The bare minimum, just for me, would be to up the ante. At least so I don’t feel like the fattest one.”

Hollywood and fashion provide us with only an illusion of what actual bodies look like. If you want to see what “normal” looks like, take a walk down any Main Street, U.S.A. There, you will find real, diverse bodies.

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