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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kinda-Big Kinda-Sexy

Last week, the show “Big Sexy” premiered on TLC. It’s about five plus-sized women living and working in the fashion world of New York City. They are a working model, an aspiring model, a fashion designer, a makeup artist, and manager of a plus-sized clothing store.

It is definitely refreshing to see a show about plus-sized women that is not dedicated to their struggle to lose weight. All five women are very attractive. They believe in themselves and are determined to succeed in love and life no matter how challenging it is for us plus-sized girls. That is a great message that definitely that needs to be out there.

However, I couldn’t help but notice quite a few contradictions with the show. I titled this blog entry “Kinda-Big Kinda-Sexy”, because out of the five women on the show, only one of them struck me as being notably big. The other four could be described as pudgy, chubby, or plump, but definitely not obese. Not that I considered the largest one obese, either … but she was the only one who had a body type remotely close to mine.

The opening scene of the show was immediately contradictory, because it showed aspiring model, Tiffany, squeezing and struggling to get into not one, but TWO body shapers! She was on her way to a fashion show with her friends, and she was hoping to get some modeling gigs by meeting with the designer after the show. I can understand her wanting to look her best and minimize all the lumps and bumps that are anthrax to the fashion industry, but I couldn’t help but think about what a hypocritical message it sent. The show is supposedly about five confident plus-sized women who love themselves and their bodies, yet here was this beautiful young woman huffing and puffing to squeeze her body into this elastic sausage casing. (We all know that’s what they really are.)

Tiffany is also the needy one on the show, constantly needing to be reassured and reminded that she is beautiful and sexy, to the point of grilling her ex during a game of pool about why they broke up and what he didn’t like about her.

Another scene that annoyed and bemused me was when the working model, a beautiful girl named Nikki, refused to get into a bikini for a fashion show – and this was a fashion show featuring other plus-sized women! She isn’t even fat – she is a little on the big side, with no lumps and bumps that I saw. But she adamantly refused to wear her bikini without putting on a cover-up. So much for body confidence and self-love … and this woman is a frickin’ model. Why would anyone go into a modeling career if they weren’t 100% confident about their looks?

The makeup artist, Audrey, had conflicts about appearing in the fashion show because she was afraid her mother wouldn’t approve. Her mother was a stick-thin former fashion model who had always lectured her about her weight.

The only one of the five who genuinely seemed not to give a shit what anyone else thought of her was Leslie, the manager of the plus-sized clothing store. She was also the only one who got any action at a BBW party they attended, which just goes to show you … confidence is attractive.

Granted, the show does reveal the reality of life for plus-sized women. One scene showed them being denied entry to a nightclub (unless they paid $30, when all the skinny chicks were getting in for free). Another scene showed a fashion designer being unconvincingly polite to aspiring model Tiffany when she asked her if she’d ever hire her to do a show. (She said yes, but we all know she was full of shit.) One disturbing scene at a BBW party showed a contestant at a thunder thighs contest shake her body in a frantic quest for attention and acceptance that I thought was incredibly demeaning.

The show did do a good job of demonstrating how difficult it is to actually love yourself in this society, and the contradictions we sometimes feel. A lot of us waver back and forth in our self-esteem. How many of us can actually say that we feel great about ourselves 100% of the time? It’s just not possible, with all the criticism we hear about large bodies on a daily basis.

That’s why I can only say they were “kinda sexy” as opposed to Sexy. A lack of self-acceptance, self-esteem, and self-love is not sexy at all, no matter how good you look. Any faked confidence you exude is easily detectable. Fake-it-till-you-make-it may work well in theory, but in actual practice, it’s as solid as a house of cards.

That’s the challenge for all of us. To love ourselves ALL THE TIME … not just every now and then.

Big Sexy airs Tuesdays at 10:00 pm EST on TLC.

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