You are currently viewing BIG WOMEN IN A SKINNY WORLD? AN INSIGHT INTO THE PLUS SIZE WAR ZONE – by Hemangi Malshe

Women are big hearted, big in their minds, big in their pockets, have a big appetite for life and at times, big in size too. So is it a continuous struggle being plus-sized in a world filled with zero sized women? Yes – “said” emphatically and vociferously! Society especially in this world dominated by social media, has transformed a woman’s body into a war zone where people shoot arrows of mockery and judgement causing her to bleed with wounds of insecurity and self-hate. 

Well, it’s time to get a “plus sized” mindset change and shape your mind. Plus-size is here! And, how! Birthing of the Plus Size took place sometime in the ‘70s when the focus shifted from the typical size requirements imposed on models to sizes much larger than expected. Many considered it to be a kind of body positivity with fashion opening up its arms and accepting larger proportions but there were many others who felt it to be a body negativity suggesting an out of ‘normal’ size focus.

American models like Ashley Graham, Tara Lynn, Barbie Ferreira, Tess Holliday, Tabria Majors, Jordyn Woods andBritish model Iskra Lawrence who are today a part of the size industry have expressed their feelings about the term ‘Plus Size’. They insist that all that the word does is put women into ‘pigeon hole’ categories with misleading size labels. Meet…

ASHLEY GRAHAM: 34-year-old American model and body activist Ashley Graham was one of the first plus size models to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Ashley is the ambassador for ‘Swimsuits for all’, an online retailer for women’s swimwear. ‘Swimsuits for all’ inspires women to feel confident in swimwear no matter what their sizes are. In 2016, she also created a one-of-a-kind Barbie made in her image, a doll without a thigh gap!! Thisplus size model, incidentally, not only dealt with body shaming but also with racism, as she was in relationship with 30-year-old African American film director Justin Ervin. At that point, she also faced family pressure of non-acceptance.  Ashley and Justin have been married for about 12 years now. Now a mother to three beautiful children, the model continues to promote self-acceptance

TESS HOLLIDAY:  37-year-old model and mother of two kids is no stranger to being body shamed. Having dealt with all sorts of degrading comments about her size, she started the #effyourbeautystandards movement on Instagram. The movement speaks for itself. Tess admitted to being bullied growing up, feeling as if she couldn’t do all the things she wanted to because of her size. The model decided to pull back, thinking she’d do people a favour by not showing her body, but as she grew older, she realised that her existence could always possibly be upsetting people on some level orthe other, which she frankly could do nothing about.Incidentally, the model has been accused of glorifying obesity, but she addressed her haters saying “I’m FAT AND HAPPY. Don’t force your ideals on me or my body because I’m doing just fine without your approval.” Tess also wrote a book titled: “The Not-So-Subtle Art Of Being A Fat Girl: Loving TheSkin, You’re In” (2017). The book tells you to beautifully celebrate yourself and get rid of the worst habit of all time, which is comparing yourself to others.

ISKRA LAWRENCE:  32-year-old British model is the brand ambassador for the national eating disorders association. She was a role model for Aerie – a clothing brand from American eagle outfitters. Iskar’s Ted Talk hits straight into all of our realities. She said, “The most important relationship we have in our lives, is the one we have with ourselves, and we’re not taught about it.” Having given birth to her son in 2020, she also spoke about how pregnancy triggered her eating disorders and the struggle of dealing with those feelings. When trying to fit into the smaller size didn’t work out, she found out about plus-size modelling, where again she was told she needed to “change” and go up twodress sizes. Exhausted from the demands, she set out to change the industry. Finally at peace with her body, the model does not allow her photos to be retouched. Saying: “I work out not to be skinner but to be healthier.”

TABRIA MAJORS:  32-year-old African American model got people talking after her debut with ‘Sports Illustrated’.The model has a very curvy body that she loves to flaunt. Having more than a million followers on Instagram, she keeps sharing her thoughts about beauty and what it means to her.However, Tabria’s life was not a garden of roses. In fact, she wasn’t looking at modelling as a career. She began as aproduction assistant in Los Angeles before being spotted on Instagram in 2014. Much later in 2015, she decided to give modelling a try. Emerging as a finalist for the swimsuit issue didn’t end her troubles but made her realise that success as a model was an expensive issue as she had to bear expenses to maintain her looks and the photo shoots for publicity were none-the-less expensive. Besides such stress on her pocket, she had to deal with emotional strain when her fellow models looked at her with disgust. Tabria Majors, today, has worked with big fashion brands like Calvin Klein, Victoria’s secret and Fashion Nova.

BARBIE FERREIRA: 25-year-old American model and actor is known to be an outspoken supporter of the ‘Body Positivity Movement ‘. The model never took offence to the label ‘Plus Size’, but spoke about the fashion industry’s nuisance tendency to label every model who was not sample sized, as “plus size”. This label seems to her derogatory and terrible. ‘Fat’ in fact seems better and more lovable. Barbie says that though growing up fat was terrible, life changed when she was able to come to terms with herself. It was only when she began to care less for the wagging tongues that she felt free. Today she makes money because of her body size. Barbie says that the key is to surround yourself with the right kind of people so that you can grow as a person, rather than letting people tag you as different and getting sucked into the same agenda of the “One Type of Beauty”. Today she believes in body positivity and feels that if you can’t help others, at least help yourself.  The model, however, feels bad for all the body shamers, but chooses to forgive them. After all, being fat is as natural as being thin. Any size is not the sum total of who you really are.


In India too, the glitzy fashion world has opened their arms to being real, being you – plus or zero sized. The Real Women Dove campaign launched in 2004 was the first ever campaign to feature and celebrate real women across the globe. Indeed, Real Women come in all sizes. They are not trophies. The world doesn’t have to bother about their looks, colour or size to locate beauty in them. Every woman is beautiful in her own way! Every woman has the right to be confident about the way she looks without the labels of size attached to her garments. Slotting women into volume causes a sense of insecurity and self-hate. However, when these gritty plus-sized models in a radical movement bared their bodies and souls openly, not to promote obesity or to demean size zero, but simply as an attempt to promote the concept of ‘love your bodies as they are’, things changed for the better. It was as if they had stepped out of the trapped fixtures of body shamingto inspire others to live life without self-hate and to shrug off the chains of fixed and acceptable size structures.