LYZ LUPO: #DROPTHEPLUS VS #KEEPTHEPLUS – THE ONLY THING THAT HAS TO BE CHANGED IS THE STIGMA ON THE LABEL ‘PLUS SIZE’!

Today is the 15th of March 2016, and it’s the sad moment where I had to realize that my beloved Plus Size Community is about to split into two different branches. I don’t know what to do anymore. This is my first personal post as the editor-in-chief of Style & Curve. The recent incidents inspired me to write this, but let’s start the story from the beginning.

  1. The Problem

‘I think the word “plus-sized” is totally outdated….I don’t want to be called a label, I want to be called a model.’ ~ Ashley Graham

This is one of the statements that Ashley Graham gave a few days ago during SXSW panel and the most provocative one. I feel hurt and dissapointed, not by the intention behind those words, but by the way they were expressed.

A few days ago I saw the pictures from Ashley’s shooting with the Cosmopolitan, and in this interview she practically said the same thing again. See picture below:

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© Ashley Graham for Cosmopolitan

This statement shows that she supports the #DROPTHEPLUS movement. And not only that, she and 4 other ‘PLUS SIZE’ models created their own charitable movement called Alda. See below what this project is all about:

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© ALDA women

So their intentions are good. Additionally, see the quote below:

The fashion industry is in the middle of an acceptance revolution. Models of all shapes, sizes, and gender identities aren’t just being acknowledged, but celebrated. At the forefront of this revolution is 28-year-old model Ashley Graham, whose TED Talk went viral this year, and a collective of models calling themselves ALDA, working tirelessly to promote self-love, health, and confidence. ~ Yahoo Style

I am totally for an acceptance of all sizes in the mainstream fashion industry, but their wish to keep out any labels and to remove the term ‘PLUS SIZE’ is nothing that I can support. Their idea is similar to the proposition of the #DROPTHEPLUS campaign.

Last year in February the hashtag #DROPTHEPLUS was all over the news after ‘PLUS SIZE’ model Stefania Ferrario, shared a picture of herself where she refers to herself only as a ‘model’:

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© Stefania Ferrario / Instagram

She created then the page named #DROPTHEPLUS and added this information about what it’s all about:

“The media regularly publishes photos of models and emphasises that they are “plus sized models”. Why are they not referred to simply as “models”?“Plus” implies bigger than “normal”.  Any model above US size 4 is considered a “plus sized” model. The average American woman is US size 14. Mixed with all the other body image pressures facing women, the implication that most women are “plus sized”, not “normal” is very dangerous to women and society. The origins of the term “plus size” hints at its outdatedness. It arose in the 1920s to describe the clothes that did not meet the decade’s notorious, slender body ideals. It’s a great step forward that models in the current “plus sized” category are now being used by major fashion labels, but it’s a step backwards to have them constantly referred to as “plus sized”. When the major labels first started using these models, perhaps the “plus sized” term played a positive role in alerting the public to this important change. But it’s now time for complete acceptance, it’s time to drop the label. They’re all “models”, no matter what shape or size. The fashion industry is one of the world’s most influential industries on women. To be labelling a size range “plus”, that actually encompasses the majority of women in the world, is not only harmful, it’s absurd! If something in an industry is causing damage to people, then it needs to be reformed. #droptheplus is a part of a much bigger movement to reform the hyper-influential fashion industry. Italy, Spain and Israel adopted laws in 2013 to prevent the industry from using models with an excessively low Body Mass Index (BMI) and France is currently in the process of bringing in the same laws. Things are beginning to change for the better.”

After this photo was released, a heated online discussion erupted. Suddenly, everyone wanted the term ‘PLUS SIZE’ to be removed. I can understand why they said it, but it was almost getting too much for me. I prepared a post about it for Style & Curve, but then I didn’t publish it because there was too much of a fiery discussion about this topic. I felt that I should rather stay quiet, before I say something wrong. However, people discussed about replacing ‘PLUS SIZE’ with the term ‘CURVY’, in which I didn’t mind this being used. In my view, ‘CURVY’ is more unifying. I already used curvy regularly and I still kept using ‘PLUS SIZE’, but the discussion began to cool down. Only until Ashley Graham said it on the Ellen Show that she doesn’t like the term ‘PLUS SIZE’ on February 24, 2016. See the video below:

Watching this video, I thought to myself: “Ashley, why are you proud to be the first ‘PLUS SIZE’ model featured in SI, but still not happy with the term ‘PLUS SIZE’ in general?” And many other people had the same thoughts as me, and here comes their reaction.

  1. The Reaction

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Madeline Figero-Jones & Ashley Graham during the Fashion Night Out by Lane Bryant n September 6th, 2016. Photo by dezignintervention.blog.com

Madeline Figueroa Jones the editor-in-chief of PLUS Model Mag shared the picture of Ashley from the Cosmopolitan shooting a few days ago and said this about the quote: ‘Wow Ashley Graham really? This is a big generalization. Maybe it’s not to your liking but many of us embrace the term plus-size. This is not how we fix the situation; this is how we add fuel to there. smh!!!!’– and here is another one of her comments: ‘We can agree to disagree. The fact is that the term PLUS SIZE is a fashion industry term. When there were no bloggers, magazines and limited clothing companies to offer us clothing WE (the plus size women) used our voice to demand for more. The reason why the industry is where it is, is because we found our pride and created our OWN fashion week Full Figured Fashion Week ™ (New York, Los Angeles and Canada) , our own magazines and get inspiration from plus size bloggers. We adopted this label because we were invisible in the fashion industry. Many of us embrace it and wear it as a badge of honour because we have come from the darkness and are being seen.’ 

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© Phat Girl Fresh

Furthermore, blogger Phat Girl Fresh had to say this about the article quote: ‘I am totally against dropping the plus. To me dropping the plus is an indicator that there is something wrong with the term and that is far from the truth. Yes, we are all women and that is the most important thing however, we are different and we belong to different communities and those communities need to be acknowledged for several reasons. One being that it connects us to one another and that is a vital part of our growth. Another reason is that allows us to be empowered and empower one another.  Curvy, thick, sexylicious and whatever else you want to call yourself should be housed under the community you belong to. Every plus size woman is not curvy, there is a difference between thick and fat.  I really think that statement like this set us back a bit because it divides the community and takes our attention away from more important topics. I also think that it disconnects you from people who look up to you and support you brand.
Just my 2 cent (more like a dollar).’

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© Bianca Bombshell

Pin-Up Model Bianca Bombshell wrote this: .I think there is just an association to the word Plus Size and Fat, and Fat is such a taboo word…that it is almost like some girls are ashamed to be in that category. I think that if you can be proud to say…sure, yeah…I am Plus Size (according to the current standard) and being able to own that label….will help people stop labelling people… we have to own it, be proud of it.’

Jamal Milligan from Jersey City, New Jersey said this: ‘Here’s how I truly feel about it. Maybe I’m a guy and I have no absolute clue on how fashion industries or society work. The term “Plus Size” isn’t a label at all. It’s what is part of us. People, mainly women, been breaking glass cielings for decades, of trying to show that bigger sizes are beautiful, especially when we live in a world that has alot of history and present of discrimination, by gender, sexual orientation, skin color, religion and even size. None of these type of discriminations are exactly the same thing, however, there are so much suffering to breakthroughs that makes have the types of appearances, lifestyles so powerful. What Ashley or Raven Symone said about being “not labeled” is just ignorant and disrespectful to those who fought for them and gave them opportunity to be successful because of them breaking glass cielings of their appearances that they are discriminated for.’

A plus model also responded saying: ‘Well that was a huge slap in the face!! The PLUS SIZE industry has helped shape her career and has provided her with yearssss of support. A shame. Smh’

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© Estrella Fashion Report

Blogger Estrella Fashion Report only had this to say: ‘#PROUDTOBEPLUS’

I can understand that #DROPTHEPLUS movement doesn’t want ‘PLUS SIZE’ to be excluded. I want that too. So, just dropping the ‘PLUS SIZE’ and being left with the problem on how to name all the different sizes is not the solution. I don’t see why Ashley also wants to get rid of the term ‘PLUS SIZE’. She started as a ‘PLUS SIZE’ model and she gets booked as a ‘PLUS SIZE’ model. For the ‘PLUS SIZE’ community her comments feel like a slap in the face, equally for me. The more I hear her saying the same things on and on again, the more I feel insulted. It seems so wrong to hear her saying these words, after she was the lead model in the #PLUSISEQUAL commercial and after being praised for her wonderful achievements as a ‘PLUS SIZE’ model. Therefore, I can totally understand the concerns of the ‘PLUS SIZE’ community regarding #DROPTHEPLUS movement including why they want to #KEEPTHEPLUS. As Madeline said, when no one wanted to promote ‘PLUS SIZE’ fashion the community created their own events. And those events are still very relevant. That’s why we need to #KEEPTHEPLUS alive.

  1. My Solution Proposal

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. ~ Wayne Dyer

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© Style & Curve

What we have going on in the USA is mainly a split between two branches of a movement in two different ways. With Ashley Graham achieving all those amazing things that seemed impossible for ‘PLUS SIZE’ models in the past, now looks as if the movement has reached it’s peak (P.S. It’s only the start and hasn’t reached it’s peak). On one side are the successful models who suddenly don’t want to be labelled ‘PLUS SIZE’ anymore. And on the other side we have the passionate followers, supporters and the creators of the ‘PLUS SIZE’ movement. So let’s face it, the models didn’t make the movement. It started with women like Gwen DeVoe (creator of the #fffweek) and Madeline Figueroa Jones (creator of #PlusModelMag). They are the creators of the ideas that got us into this big international movement.

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Gwen DeVoe (left) and Madeline Figueroa Jones (right)

Moreover, how can we still manage to overcome the segregation from the straight size fashion? Maybe I’m being too positive right now, but how about asking to #ADDTHEPLUS or #INCLUDETHEPLUS? I don’t see any reason to remove a word that has a positive meaning for so many women out there. Why do we need to ask for a change by pushing people away from us? Why can’t we try to unite the different fashion industry sections instead of laying bricks? Is that so difficult? We should suggest a peaceful transition instead of demanding constantly something that will be negative for all of us. The bigger the ‘PLUS SIZE’ events become, the more the straight size fashion section will be happy to work with ‘PLUS SIZE’ brands. The better the ‘PLUS SIZE’ models become, the more models achieve what Ashley did and she has no monopole in this. Our enemies are not the straight size brands; our enemies are not the thin models. The one who wants to exclude is the media. If you look at the audience during a big fashion week event, most people are average size and some are even ‘PLUS SIZE’. They are there because they love what we love: fashion. Sure you have to accept that the designers use mainly straight size models, but my plan in the future is to get them to also use ‘PLUS SIZE’ models. You think that is impossible? It is not if we correct the stigma of the label ‘PLUS SIZE’. ‘PLUS SIZE’ doesn’t mean automatically fat and lazy. Many ‘PLUS SIZE’ women are very active and eat healthier than thinner women. And why is that? Because ‘PLUS SIZE’ women are the ones who have the constant pressure to lose weight. We are getting this told by the media, by our family, by our friends and mostly by our doctors if we go to them. But the truth is, we are all active. Many of us know all the details about diets and some of us are well informed. What hasn’t been widely addressed is that we might have sicknesses that make it harder for us to lose the weight. We all have the right to exist in the way we want to, as long as we hurt no one. So, I can understand why some are #PROUDTOBEPLUS. I can also understand if some models don’t like to be labelled, but I cannot respect an agenda that is going to destroy my beloved ‘PLUS SIZE’ movement. To me all human beings are created equal. I want unity and not segregation!

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© Style & Curve

Kind regards,

Lyz Lupo