Healthy-Size Models Appear in Beauty Ads


    By Eva Armendariz

    Turning the glossy pages of fashion magazines, readers see photo after photo of tall, thin, sometimes pale, sickly-looking women staring back. The spectacular detailing and clean lines of the beautiful clothing is almost disregarded as women readers devour the slender proportions of waif-like models.

    Using advertising venues, the fashion and beauty industries have been part of a disturbing trend involving unhealthy weight loss measures, eating disorders and unrealistic beauty and size expectations. Many issues regarding the connection between advertising and unhealthy trends have led the fashion and beauty industry to respond to the alarming rates of thinness among women and show that beauty is not only found in a size 2.

    “All this talk about fashion models and extreme dieting. How did our idea of beauty become so distorted?” is a question posed at the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty Web site.

    Launched in September 2004, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty began using real, average women, instead of models, for their advertisements to show that beauty is found in every woman.

    “By using real women with real curves and real bodies, we”re simply trying to broaden the definition of beauty and encourage women to take greater care of themselves,” said a Campaign for Real Beauty representative. “We believe that for too long, beauty has been defined by narrow stereotypes. We believe in real beauty, beauty that comes in many shapes, sizes and ages.”

    Featuring the short film “Evolution” on their Web site, the Campaign for Real Beauty shows how many of the beauty advertisements are far from reality. In June 2005, Dove featured six women from different walks of life and of different sizes and shapes. The ad portrayed their confidence in themselves.

    “Dove believes all girls deserve to see how beautiful they really are and is committed to raising self-esteem in girls everywhere,” said a Dove representative in an e-mail.

    A push for healthier models occurred in September during the Madrid Fashion Week, in which the Madrid City Council ordered that every model in the show must have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 18, and that models who are 5 feet 9 inches must weigh at least 123.5 pounds. Recognizing the adverse affects of super-thin models on Spanish society, the counsel banned too thin models and required they receive medical attention. According to a CNN article on the ban, organizers want to project the idea of health and beauty, as opposed to the “heroin chic look.”

    “Fashion is a mirror, and many teenagers imitate what they see on the catwalk,” said regional official Concha Guerra in the CNN article.

    A type of renaissance is happening in the art, music, film and fashion worlds, including a true embrace of the sexes, said James Holden, a fashion photographer stylist who has worked in the fashion industry for almost a decade.

    “Fashion is resorting to the feminine side of things,” Holden said. “It”s very progressive for the female for her not to be ashamed of who she is and the different shapes the woman comes in. It”s very positive. … Gone are the days of the androgynous, pale model. The female models are of all shapes and sizes now. It helps the majority know that they can be beautiful too.”

    A woman”s confidence in herself embodies true beauty, Holden said.

    “It shines forth. I think that the most important thing is that women can feel comfortable being themselves, being liberated as being a woman, as being a free thinker, being very passionate,” Holden said. “If you are carrying yourself with a confidence, then it comes through, and people will gravitate towards that. … When the [confidence] outshines the materialistic side of things, then it”s really quite beautiful.”

    For more information on Dove”s Campaign for Real Beauty, visit

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