By Elise Solé
A plus-size model is making a point about body positivity by digitally altering her Instagram selfie.
Essie, a 22-year-old model in London, posted a split-screen selfie wearing a gray, one-piece bathing suit. One image revealed her true shape and was captioned, “This girl is chillin’ in her own skin.” The other was altered to give her an hourglass shape and was captioned, “This girl has been Photoshopped to the max, who is she?”
Essie also wrote alongside the post, which received 4,500 likes: “I’m super happy with how I look on the left so I find it hard to actually know what ‘society’ wants my body to look like. I decided, however, rather than just make myself look smaller, to show a different ‘body trend’ that has become more prominent. There is a new obsession with having a rounded bubble bum and a tiny waist, yet somehow no cellulite or stretch marks on said areas.”
She continued: “Obsessions with a certain body type are problematic regardless of what body type that is. Even in the bopo [body-positive] community: People with more acceptable body types are heard far more than those without, and that is not the sentiment this movement was founded upon.”
“Many women in the body-positive community — myself included — talk about the idea of being ‘acceptably fat,’ and I understand that I can be put into that category,” Essie tells Yahoo Beauty. “I know many women who are either top-heavy or have small breasts, yet are still curvy, who feel underrepresented. Hourglass is an acceptable body type, but ultimately we all wear clothes; therefore, we all deserve representation.”
The body-positive trend has inundated social media, with many women posting selfies that celebrate diverse body types in an attempt to overthrow traditional beauty standards. However, plus-size women also face challenges, with curvy models undergoing the same type of scrutiny as their slender counterparts.
As Amanda Czerniawski, a sociologist who went undercover as a plus-size model, wrote in Hello Giggles: “Plus-size models engage in, at times, severe bodily management practices, such as strict calorie restriction to drop a size and even binge eating to gain a size, as well as more routine bodily manipulations, such as applying makeup and hair products, wearing shape wear, and adding body padding to make the body frame more proportional.”
Thankfully, there are exceptions to the rule. Hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar’s new music video for the song “The Heart Part 4” features a close-up shot of a model’s stretch marks and the lyrics, “I’m so f****’ sick and tired of the Photoshop … Show me somethin’ natural like a** with some stretch marks.” Target’s new swimwear campaign also stars a group of women with diverse body types and unretouched stretch marks. And in 2016, lingerie brand Aerie released ads featuring nonmodels.
“I have a big bum and I have cellulite on it,” says Essie. “We need to learn to accept that.”