On May 22nd, People magazine’s 2015 Body Issue hit newsstands with a cover headline of “The World’s First Size 22 Supermodel!”
Tess Holliday, with her high cheekbones, luscious red locks, and exuding confidence, was the supermodel gracing the cover.
In January 2015, Tess Holliday, whose legal name is Tess Munster, became the largest professional model ever to sign a contract with MiLK Model Management of London. Holliday is a part of MiLK’s Curve group, as she carries 280 pounds on a petite 5’5’’ frame.
Pre-People cover, Holliday wrote a blog, Size-22 model: Why I love my body and want other women to love theirs, for Today.com’s Style section. After detailing the struggle she experienced to accept the way she looks, Holliday discusses her social media movement #effyourbeautystandards, which was launched in 2013. The movement’s goal, is “to allow women to feel OK about wearing a bathing suit or pretty lingerie, to feel sexy enough to be in photographs and confident enough to post them online if they want to.” Holliday hopes to push back against society’s “unrealistic idea of what the female body should look like,”— a valiant, heroic task. Yet, unfortunately, not with her as the figurehead.
Holliday’s Body Mass Index (BMI) is approximately 44.6. Anything above 30 is considered obese. Therefore, according to this widely accepted measurement of health, Holliday is obese.
“I don’t have a health condition and I’m not going to die if I don’t lose weight. I just happen to be curvy,” Holliday once told plusmodelmag.com.
Nonetheless, Holliday’s above rationale is flawed, according to a study completed in 2010 by Amy Berrington de Gonzalez of the National Cancer Institute. In fact, study participants with a BMI over 40 had a 250% increase in the risk of death compared to study participants in a normal weight range. By remaining morbidly obese, Holliday has made the decision to jeopardize her health.
Unfortunately, due to the media’s portrayal of Holliday, she has become a role model for women and men who support the #effyourbeautystandards movement. Thus, Holliday is not only harming her health and wellbeing by being significantly obese, but is also harming society’s health and wellbeing by preaching that it is perfectly fine to embrace one’s own obese body without acknowledgement of the adverse health effects.
Obesity increases an individual’s risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, colon and breast cancer, gallbladder disease, and osteoarthritis. Obesity is a problem to avoid for health reasons. Yet, somehow this section of the issue is disregarded in the media’s positive portrayal of Tess Holliday.
To most of society, she is a heroine— the individual who could be responsible for paving the way for a world of inclusion, teaching others self-love, creating a more compassionate and empathetic society. To those pondering the societal risks of having a significantly obese person represent the #effyourbeautystandards movement, she is a liability— the individual who could be responsible for paving the way for a world of obesity, teaching others that being significantly overweight is acceptable as long as one embraces him or herself, creating a society that is nervous of expressing to an individual that he or she needs to lose weight due to possible unfavorable health effects.
It is pertinent to understand that the #effyourbeautystandards movement is most definitely a valiant, heroic task. The movement’s goal to “inspire others and let them know that they can be who they are,” which Holliday states in her blog on Today.com, is beautiful.
But, quite simply, Holliday should not be the movement’s figurehead, as she is flawed by her belief that an individual’s decision to choose obesity is reasonable.
If one can avoid becoming obese through exercise and healthy eating, then he or she should. Obesity is not something to simply accept and embrace. The health consequences have the potential to be too devastating.
Tess Holliday, with her high cheekbones, luscious red locks, and exuding confidence, is undoubtedly beautiful. But she is obese. She is jeopardizing her health by remaining obese. She is jeopardizing society’s health by being portrayed as a role model. If the media continues to represent Tess Holliday as a heroine, her faulty rational that obesity is acceptable may potentially lead to an epidemic.