It’s time to change the definition of beautiful

Rebekah Devorak | Asst. Opinions Editor

I’ve always been tall. My best friends in elementary school didn’t even reach my shoulders, but I never really noticed. Almost every one of my teachers, however, would look at me and ask the same thing: “Do you want to be a model when you grow up?”
Back then, I didn’t even know what modeling was. I didn’t understand any of the pressures that women felt on a daily basis because they were constantly bombarded by the media showing and telling them what it meant to be beautiful. Back then, dirty cheeks and scraped knees were beautiful to me; who cared how we looked when we were having so much fun?
But as I grew older, I started to notice it. When I would read a fashion magazine or watch a television show, it was like a little voice popped into the back of my mind. It was a whisper that grew louder the more I was exposed to society’s standard of beauty. It told me that these women were in the magazines and on the television shows because they were beautiful, and they were beautiful because they had long legs, shiny hair and perfect skin.
Girls in America are enticed at such a young age to buy in to this idea of “one size fits all” beauty. But it is not just an American problem. Girls all over the world, from every culture and generation, have been pressured to do the same.
That begs the question, will society ever get to a point where all women are accepted as beautiful, regardless of size or appearance? Right now, it’s the Karlie Kloss-es and the Cara Delevingne-s that are in practically every fashion campaign in print. Right now, women are fighting to prove that perfection doesn’t always have an average measurement of 32-24-34. But will it ever get to a point where we see a thinner model, an average-size model and a plus-size model back-to-back in a magazine or on a runway and not even flinch?
The only way to know is to try, and that’s exactly what is happening in the fashion world right now. Models of all shapes and sizes are sparking a revolution on and off the runway.
One of the models making headway in the industry is Denise Bidot. Bidot, a size-14, became the first plus-size Latina model to walk in two straight-size runway shows in the Spring/Summer 2015 New York Fashion Week. Straight-size runway shows typically only use models that fit into sizes zero through four. What’s even more impressive is that the shows Bidot appeared at in September, Chromat and Serena Williams Signature Statement Collection, are not historically known for using larger-sized models. She’s also starred in campaigns for retail powerhouses Forever21, Nordstrom and Macy’s.
Off the runway examples are become increasingly prevalent, as well. Swimwear companies are starting to use curvier women in their campaigns. Model Ashley Graham, size-16, became the first plus-size girl ever to be featured in the Sports Illustrated annual Swimsuit Issue this year. Her photo spread in the magazine included the hashtag #CurvesInBikinis, showing women (and men) that anyone of any size can rock a two-piece. In addition, this past summer the Swedish mass retailer H&M used a curvier, more voluptuous woman to showcase its regular-sized swimwear and beachwear products.
Some companies aren’t even bothering with models at all. Pittsburgh-based brand Modcloth, which specializes in vintage and retro clothing styles, used its regular employees to model a new line of swimsuits this year. The goal of the campaign was to prove that all women deserve to wear something that makes them feel confident, regardless of their size. Given the onslaught of positive reactions on the company’s social media pages, I’d say that women agreed.
Considering that the average American woman’s waistline is now 37.8 inches, according to a 2014 study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s refreshing to see models in the public’s eye that more similarly reflect the masses. The state of America’s health in regard to weight is a different discussion; what is important here is that more body types are finally being celebrated and shown off as beautiful.
I love Karlie Kloss’s feminine style and Cara Delevingne’s eyebrows as much as the next girl, but it’s empowering to flip through a magazine and see a photo shoot of a woman who looks like a friend or a family member. It’s comforting to know that beauty doesn’t have to look the same for every woman on the face of the planet.
There is plenty of room left for improvement within the fashion and beauty industries. Magazines can take a stand against retouching photographs or Photoshopping out (or in) parts of someone’s body.
Neither of those are necessary to have an inspiring and intriguing fashion magazine. At the end of the day, we can only eradicate a cookie-cutter perception of beauty when society starts to truly celebrate what makes us unique as women, scraped knees and all.