Embarrassed American Apparel Agrees To Meet With Nancy Upton, Plus-Size Model Contest Winner

Earlier this week, we enjoyed a delightful “open letter” from Iris Alonzo, creative director of American Apparel, to Nancy Upton, the Dallas woman who won the company’s plus-size model contest by spoofing the nature of the contest. Iris Alonzo was not amused that the lovely Nancy Upton bested the competition with her hilarious pics in which she posed laying in a bathtub of ranch dressing and indulgently squeezing chocolate syrup in her mouth. Iris Alonzo was also not amused about the piece Nancy Upton wrote for The Daily Beast entitled “My Big Fat Photo Spoof,” which explained her actions: because American Apparel was “co-opting the mantra of plus-size empowerment and glazing it with its unmistakable brand of female objectification.” Why, the company was so hopping mad it told Nancy Upton they would be giving the prize to someone else. “While you were clearly the popular choice,” she wrote, “we have decided to award the prizes to other contestants that we feel truly exemplify the idea of beauty inside and out, and whom we will be proud to have representing our company.” Harsh.

We posted Iris Alonzo’s open letter (sent to us via email) on Wednesday and urged readers to write. I have no idea of knowing how many of you did write her, but one Frisky reader got in touch to say she heard back from American Apparel’s creative director. We’ve got their email exchange after the jump!This is the email that Frisky reader Shea Grimm wrote to Iris Alonzo:

Dear Iris,

By now you’re probably rethinking your response to Nancy Upton after she won your “Next Big Thing” contest. At least, I hope you are. In case you are actually still thinking that your response was fair, justified, or even just good business sense, perhaps this email (and the many lke it you will and no doubt already have received) will disabuse you of that notion.

The whole condescending contest was bad enough, but the way your company handled the fallout says even more about you, and it’s not good. Nancy Upton is a beautiful girl and you could have reached out to her and made something very positive out of all of this. Instead you only confirmed that the underlying problems and attitudes in your company that led to the poorly thought out contest promotion in the first place, are deep-seated and permeate your brand. This is a big problem. Do the right thing. Apologize to Nancy, follow the rules of your own contest and award her the prizes, give her a modeling contract, and turn all this nasty publicity into a win not only for American Apparel but for plus-size women and clothing lines. Show America that you’re not who your email response says you are. Until then, neither I nor anyone else I know, will be purchasing anything from AA.

Shea G

What a great letter. Here is the email Shea received from Iriz Alonzo in response:

Hi Shea,

Thanks for your feedback.

I agree. I should have taken a deep breath before clicking send and not let my anger and defensiveness get the better of me. I’m not a mean girl and I am not proud of how I came across.

Just so you know, the contest rules stated that we would select two winners from the top 10 voted upon. We seriously considered selecting Nancy, but she made in very clear in a few interviews that she wasn’t interested in working with us even if we did pick her, so we left it at that.

Also, I did apologize to Nancy Upton and she has agreed to come to LA to meet myself and my team face to face, to see the factory and then decide how she feels about our company. I really appreciate this opportunity to hopefully show her a better side of myself and AA.

Again, thanks for your email. I’m taking the criticisms to heart.


This response was a hell of a lot more mature than the original “open letter,” given how she shows some self-awareness about just how poorly she and the company came across. To quote Frisky commenter Sassy, “Does [it] not occur to Iris that the nasty sentiments she wrote in her letter exudes a manner that is totally an oxymoron to what she actually says her company is about?” I couldn’t have said that better myself.

I’m pleased the company has apologized to Nancy Upton for their crap behavior and invited her to come to Los Angeles, meet their team, and check out the company herself … although I suspect that neither will ultimately budge on their opinion of the other. But at least the company might not shove its foot so far in its mouth next time.

If anyone else receives a response to an email to American Apparel, feel free to forward to me at {encode=”[email protected]” title=”[email protected]”}.

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