Hands down, there's nothing more frustrating than flipping through a swimsuit catalog filled with tanned, stick-thin, bikini-clad models lounging in boats and hammocks.
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That's why it's so refreshing to log onto retail clothing company H&M's website where they've recently unveiled their new beachwear line featuring a model of normal, healthy proportions wearing both one-piece suits and (gasp!) bikinis. There's no a mention of the suits being plus-sized—it's just a woman wearing some bathing suits and she happens to not be super skinny.
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The model, 23-year-old Jennie Runk, is reportedly six-feet-tall and considered plus-size per industry standards. For a clothing company with a history of featuring tanned, taut models (and most recently, Beyonce writhing sexually on the beach in a bikini for a campaign), prominently showcasing a woman with healthy proportions—not burying her in a "plus-size" section—is refreshing. Granted, when you click on a product, you're led to the plus-size section but the point is, normal-sized women are nabbing the spotlight on a fashion website. And by not mentioning their sizes, the message is: It's really no big deal. An H&M spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
Has the uber-skinny model had her day in the sun? It certainly seems that way. Last week, the Internet rushed to defend Oklahoma City Thunder cheerleader Kelsey Williams when a CBS Sports Radio 610 blogger who wrote under the byline "Claire Crawford" called the cheerleader chunky and posted a poll asking readers to weigh in on Williams' body. The mean-spirited post was removed, however readers complimented the cheerleader for having a healthy body type and called for the blogger to be fired. On Tuesday, CBS dismissed the blogger. Also: For Elle Quebec's May issue, the magazine cast 5'9", size-14 cover model Justine Legault. Inside the issue, Legault talked about her love of food and her unconventional career. According to The Daily Mail, the reaction to Legault has been overwhelmingly positive.
The celebration of healthier body types has spread to celebrities too—surprising since people who court publicity are usually considered fair game. In July of 2012, when a blogger at Skinny Gurl described model Kate Upton as having "huge thighs, NO waist, big fat floppy boobs [and] terrible body definition", the blogosphere responded by hailing Upton for being an inspiration and reinforcing a positive body image. And even Kim Kardashian, who usually garners little sympathy for anything she does, has hoards of supporters who rush to her defense for every "Orca" joke that gets posted.
There's even a new bathing suit line for plus size women. Style blogger Gabi Fresh joined forces with Swim Suits For All, a company that sells bathing suits for all body types. See various styles here. Are healthy bodies staging a comeback?
"There are a few reasons why there may be a backlash against very skinny body types right now," says Beverly Hills based psychotherapist Bethany Marshall. "Unlike in the past where advertising executives would dictate beauty standards, these days anyone with a smartphone is a critic. Because there are so many ways to voice your opinion—Facebook, Twitter—when people don't like something, they say so. And companies are listening more and responding to customer needs."
What's more, according to Marshall, right now many of our cultural icons—Adele, Kim Kardashian, and Christina Aguilera—are women with healthier-looking bodies. The more we're exposed to them, the more we consider their body types normal. After all, the average American woman weighs 166 pounds.
"In a perfect world, there has to be a balance between what people want and what they're presented with," says Marshall. "Ads have to be relatable but also aspirational. This H&M ad seems to have achieved that."
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