Meet the new faces of “plus-sized” modeling. This week Ford Modeling Agency unveiled Ford+ Models, its new division of plus-sized models meant to turn the industry on its head. According to the agency, Ford+ models range in size from 8 to 18, and are an attempt to widen the playing field of what it means to be beautiful. After all, when models like Lara Stone (who is a size 4) are considered “too fat” to be real models, it’s clear that the modeling industry’s notions of beauty have grown very, very narrow. Said Gary Dakin, who’s running Ford’s plus division: “There are better clients, jobs, photographers, rates, etc.,” for plus-sized models. “The girls have evolved too … they are challenged now more than ever to be better and they challenge the industry right back.”
Except for one small thing: do any of these women look plus-sized to you? We’re hesitant to rally behind Dakin and Ford’s initiative because it seems that Ford+ isn’t really championing plus-sized models. Instead, they’re simply sliding the scale so that normal, healthy women are now deemed plus-sized. We’ve long understood that the fashion industry has a skewed approach to weight, body shape and health, but it seems rather glib — even for the industry — to refer to a size 8 woman as plus-size when the average American woman is a size 14.
But really, maybe it’s the term plus-sized that’s the problem. It gives a strangely perjorative bent to a woman’s form. As though a woman who is heavier is somehow “more than” what she should be. As though there is a starting point of normal that we’re all set to, and when we veer off that so-called “normal” path, we become uncontainable and outsized. After all, there’s no terminology for the terminally underweight — the model class among us — though those bodies come with their own set of health problems. Instead, model forms are lauded and applauded. And plus-sized women, of which approximately 90 percent of us would probably fit — according to Ford+’s definition — are simply told we’re too much.