Role Model?

By Caralyn Green
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 20, 2009

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Whitney, season 10 winnner of ANTM.

After 10 "cycles," America's Next Top Model is finally a chick with a booty. Whitney, the bodacious Barbie blond from Florida, won in Wednesday's season finale, becoming the first plus-sized contestant to secure the Seventeen cover, the Cover Girl Wal-Mart display and the bright future as either a Kohl's catalog model or Brady Bunch bride.

Well, it's about time.

And gleeful as I am that a full-figured woman is finally the winner of something other than I Want to Marry Ben & Jerry (I made that up, but would totally watch it and probably even compete), I'm not as thrilled as I wish I were.

I'm happy for Whitney, and I think she's drop-dead gorgeous, but it's not like she's really expanding the boundaries of beauty. Like, she's tall and blond and has high cheekbones and a cute lil' nose and perky breasts and legs for days. Sure Whitney probably eats more than Kate Moss, but she's still as conventionally beautiful as the next Victoria's Secret pin-up. And it must be stated, Whitney is by far the thinnest, whitest, blondest plus-size girl to compete in ANTM, with the exception of last cycle's Sarah, who was too insecure to make it to the top.

It'd be swell, though, to be like, "Whitney looks like she doesn't starve herself, and she's America's Next Top Model; the entire fashion world will take note and start booking girls with thighs wider than their wrists."

Unfortunately that's not going to happen. Whitney's win is nice, but one measly reality TV star is not going to change an entire industry overnight.
It helps. As do the verdicts in Madrid, Milan and (arguably) London for designers to steer away from ultra-skinny minnies in their shows. As does model Ali Michael's June/July Teen Vogue article and recent appearance on the Today show about how she was sent home from Paris fashion week for gaining 5 pounds. Her legs, supposedly, were too fat. The gangly 18-year-old spoke of her disordered eating, of losing her period for a year, of her hair falling out, of the lasting repercussions of anorexia and bulimia (osteoporosis, heart failure, infertility, death), and of how she was far from alone in such behaviors and symptoms.

The gulf between models and mortals seems to be widening. Catwalkers are shrinking to size zero while the average American woman, according to the CDC, is 5-foot-4 and 163 pounds, which, yeah, qualifies as clinically obese. It's no healthier to be obese than it is to be ana, but there's gotta be a healthy medium, right? At a curvy-but-slim size 10, ANTM's Whitney might just be that medium.

Which raises another concern about Whitney's win. As dubious as I am about designers and editors embracing fuller-figured models so readily, I'm equally concerned about Whitney's ability to actually succeed in the modeling biz. You see, Whitney is what ANTM is calling "full-figured," but as a size 10 she's neither emaciated enough to walk in a Dior show nor plump enough to shop at (or model for?) Lane Bryant.

I too am a healthy size 10, so I can speak from experience when I say it's a tough size to be. Contrary to whatever Tyra Banks may say, we're nowhere near plus-sized. Lane Bryant starts at 14, and Torrid--Hot Topic's plus-sized sibling--starts at 12. But step into a Barneys or even Express, and you'll find most garments come in S, M or L (no XL in sight), that size 10 is the largest in stock, and that the 10s are not quite designed with tits and ass in mind. (You try wearing a strapless, backless minidress with curves to support; actually, don't.)

So I'm psyched Whitney won America's Next Top Model, and that standards for beauty might be shifting in the slightest for the better. But not so easily convinced that this single instance is indicative of any greater change. Yet.

{ image0}In other news ...
In the midst of touring with Rilo Kiley, local indie poppers Spinto Band released a few new tracks on their MySpace, as well as the video for "Summer Grof." It's a nice gesture, boys, but we're ravenous for the rest of Moonwink. Release date? The freakfolk sisters of CocoRosie have gone and released themselves a digital-only single, "God Has a Voice, She Speaks Through Me" on Touch & Go. It's more of the usual, but if the usual is so trippy, cat-cawing transcendental, there's no reason to be unusual. Slightly unusual: ScarJo's album of Tom Waits covers. Out Tuesday. Speaking of actor/musicians, LiLo is officially coming out with a line of leggings. Details have been revealed: ankle zippers, shimmer and padded knees. Yes, padded knees. For all that ... kneeling. So, how boring was The Hills finale? At least the next season, which premieres in August, looks slightly more eventful: Lauren gets a man-mate, Audrina expresses anger (an emotion other than confusion!), Whitney continues to be the most emotionally and occupationally stable member of the cast, and Heidi and Spencer? Well, who cares about them anymore? A bunch of other season finales are coming up, but honestly, I don't watch TV in real-time, only on the Internet, so I have no idea about such things. Google 'em yourself. I can say, though, that one season premiere I'm already looking forward to is the CW's 90210 spinoff. Full House's Aunt Becky has been cast as the MILF, a bunch of unknowns are itching to be the next Gossip Girls, and Jennie Garth-as-Kelly is coming back as West Beverly High's guidance counselor. Kelly probably didn't even need to get her degree for the job. She's been through the school of hard knocks (rape, violence, drugs, a fire, a cult, dating a guy who spends more time on his hair than she does). Also potentially promising: the CW's Stylista, a Devil Wears Prada-type reality show from Tyra Banks in which peons compete to be Elle's fashion news director. All these "journalism is fun" movies and shows are cute, but need to stop. They're making it even harder for those of us who want to succeed not because we admire Betty Suarez, but because it's the only thing we're (kinda) qualified to do.

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