King Edward VI School student Madeleine Hamilton, age 17, has some harsh words for the beauty and fashion industry
Brands such as Asos, PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal have recognised the importance of inclusivity and widened their fashion ranges to suit a broader variety of body shapes.
Increasing numbers of women are celebrating their natural and imperfect, perfect selves in the name of ‘self-love’, with 26.2 million tags on Instagram and counting. Stretch-marks, cellulite, scarring – it is finally acceptable to admit our common, traditionally undesirable, afflictions.
On the catwalks, diverse is beautiful, and magazines such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan have revolutionised the cover-girl by using women who more of us can relate to.
The move is not without controversy, however. A Cosmopolitan cover featuring plus-sized model Tess Holliday sparked huge debate regarding the morality and danger of endorsing body types viewed as extreme.
Women’s beauty magazines are historically highly hypocritical. “How to embrace who you are” is on page 87, followed by the Top 10 weight-loss tips on page 122. They already promote extreme body types – more frequently the skinnier variety. The recognition of the risks of promoting unhealthy bodies led to the introduction of new laws in the modelling industry. Models are expected to have a BMI of 18, a note from a doctor stating they are healthy and there are fines of up to £64,000 for negligent employers. This is a huge step forward in combating eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia in models and impressionable women of all ages.
Nevertheless, I believe that this progression has been offset by the jump to the other extreme: obesity. A beauty magazine would receive huge criticism and punishment for endorsing an almost skeletal cover girl, so why should it be acceptable to use the reverse? It is just as inappropriate to allow an overweight model to become the face of a brand.
Models are used as an example to follow or imitate, and using such extreme body types in the name of inclusivity and self-love is, in my opinion, wrong. Everyone has the right to feel beautiful and comfortable in their own skin, however the promotion and celebration of a disease is morally incorrect. In an obesity epidemic, it is important to stress the importance of a healthy body. Despite all beauty trends and patterns, health will always be the most attractive feature to possess.
Shiny hair, clear skin, symmetry are just a few attributes of health. The beauty industry has been built around this principle, with millions of products designed to even skin tone, strengthen nails and nourish hair. Importantly, muscle tone and an absence of fat also indicates a healthy body. Self-love is important for our mental health and necessary to prevent emotional breakdown due to societal pressures. It also teaches us to be able to look at ourselves and find features that we embrace. However, it is sometimes an excuse to ignore what we owe ourselves: exercise and nutritious meals.
True self love is letting yourself have a cake when you want it but also maintaining fitness and caring for your body – you only get one.