I was very skeptical when I heard about Essence’s special “Voluptuous Issue” this morning. I thought maybe it would be a gimmick like Vogue Italia’s “Black Issue”. And I didn’t see a need for a special issue celebrating full-figured women because Essence seems to do just that on a consistent basis. One of the reasons I’m not a big fan of this lady mag is because each month they have a section on how to wear a certain outfit in any size. The problem is the first size is an eight. I’m no where near that size, so I felt excluded each time I picked up the magazine. I also, for the life of me, couldn’t figure out why a magazine would celebrate a lifestyle that could lead to health problems. According to the Obesity Society, black women and men have the highest prevalence of obesity than any other race or ethnicity. But after reading the magazine, I had a greater understanding of the thinking behind this issue.Guest editor Mo’Nique definitely brought her F.A.T. (Fabulous and Thick) philosophy to the issue, which featured a plus-size fashion guide with Beverly Johnson’s daughter, Anansa Sims; a sexy pumps guide for women with big feet; and a few full-figured celebs discussing their favorite beauty products and way to stay in shape. I never really considered Jennifer Hudson, Niecy Nash or Sherri Shepard as full-figured, just average, because they look like most of the black women I know. But it was refreshing to see real women discuss how to stay healthy while maintaining curves. Sherri’s admission that fears of amputation or a stroke caused by her diabetes prompted her to lose weight was important because 14.7 percent of blacks aged 20 years or older have diabetes, according to the Center for Disease Control. Unfortunately, the “The Plus-Size Sister’s Guide to Good Health” and “The Plus-Size Fitness Revolution” were buried in the back of the book.
I was, however, really annoyed by “What Men Think: What Do You Love About Full-figured Women?” While I understand plus-size women need to know they’re attractive, I think this article fosters a double standard. I have never seen an article with women discussing why they love full-figured men. And even Mo’Nique fostered this double standard in her movie Phat Girlz, in which her full-figured character struggles to find acceptance, but falls in love with a really buff guy. To be fair, Essence did conduct a poll that found 59 percent of readers said they’re attracted to heavyset men. However, I would like to know the total number of people who answered this poll.
I don’t think Essence took a real gamble with this issue because black people are used to seeing and admiring women who are curvy. They did however do something that no other lady mag would do: admit that the majority of women are not a perfect size zero. I mean, could you imagine Anna Wintour, who sent Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley to fat camp, allowing a full-figured model to grace the cover of Vogue or be featured in a fashion spread? I didn’t think so. In the end, I don’t think this special issue was a gimmick. I think it was a way of presenting our ideals in a healthy, yet entertaining manner. And as someone who has been slim all my life, I learned a quite a bit about the concerns of plus-size women.
Do you think this special issue of Essence was necessary? And do you think more lady magazines will ever cater to full-figured women? Please let us know in the comments.