Linda, Naomi, Christy—in the early 1990’s, those three names held the fashion world captive with their beauty. Their limbs seemed endless, their facial angles as sharp as Picasso’s cubist drawings and their bodies tall and wafer thin. In that era, the modeling industry turned its nose up at anyone less than 5-foot-9 and girls that weighed over 120 pounds simply “wouldn’t fit” in the size 2 sample clothes provided by top designers. In order to fit the image, this breed, known as the supermodel, engaged in dangerous extreme practices including diets, consisting of cocaine, cigarettes and vodka; and eating disorders, bulimia and anorexia. Recently Kate Moss, the poster-child of the ’90s body-type came out to say that she wasn’t “fed at shoot or in shows.” By 2017, many countries in Europe banned the use of ultra-thin models as a result.
Fast forward to Miami Swim Week 2022. “Curve” models—many with body mass indexes well above what is considered healthy—bounce down the catwalk at the Sports Illustrated Swim show in a display of what has become known as body-diversity or body inclusivity. On websites and in newsletters, lingerie brands like Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty showcase real bodies versus the Victoria Secret’s Angels physiques of yore—stretch marks, tattoos, scars—images with little or no retouching.
If it is any indicator just how very much the pendulum has swung, one of the sponsors of an after-party of Miami Swim, Shake Shake served Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models burgers and milkshakes, while photographers snapped images of them chowing down. But does this image promote an unhealthy lifestyle where calories are no object and lack of physical fitness is encouraged?
Ask 10 women and men and get 10 different answers. Many who grew up on the ’90s image of the supermodel, find the representation of real body types in ad campaigns and on the runways horrifying. While many Millennials and Gen Z are equally horrified when they see images of perfection that don’t fit average and real. Is this the era of normalizing fat and unhealthy as the beauty standard?