Plus-Size Models Are Changing Perceptions of Beauty

Courtesy of Tess Munster
Courtesy of Tess Munster


By Izabella Santana

Flipping through fashion magazines reveals countless pages of women defining what society believes to be a perfect body, but the photos misrepresent the majority of what women really look like.

Females above size 12 are rarely shown in commercial magazines, but two women are changing that.

In January, Tess Munster, a size 22 standing 5-foot-5-inches, became the largest plus-size model to land a contract with a major modeling agency. Signed with MiLK Model Management in the U.K. Munster has given society a new figure type to follow. She is a body-positivity activist working hard to tell women what she really thinks real beauty is: confidence.

“I understand not everyone knows what I’m about,” Munster told the Huffington Post. “But to me it’s a simple concept. It’s all about loving your body regardless of your size, and chasing your dreams.”

Ashley Graham, another plus-sized model, was featured in Sports Illustrated in the February issue. The two women represents a growing segment of today’s women.

In 2012, an article published in Plus Size Magazine showed the real statistics of plus size modeling. Photographer Victoria Janashvill put together the campaign with model Katya Zharkova, and put her image next to the statistics of plus size women. It shows Zharkova alongside a thin model to show the big difference between what is considered normal and what is considered plus-size in today’s society. Modeling agencies consider a six plus-sized.

“More than 50 percent of American women are a size 14 and up,” said Anthony Higgens, director of MSA Models.

“The majority of plus-size models on (modeling) agency boards are between a size six and 14,” the editors wrote in the Plus Size magazine article.

Though the majority of women in the U.S. are considered plus-sized, they are not represented in major magazines or modeling agencies. Being the first size 22 model, Munster represents a large portion of the women population.

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Angie Sanchez, a SAC student, followed Munster’s Instagram account when she first found out Munster was a plus-size model.

“Tess Munster makes people not feel ashamed of showing their bodies,” Sanchez said.

Munster uses modeling to campaign against size discrimination, bullying and ignorance.

In 2013, before signing with the agency, Munster started the #effyourbeautystandards campaign on Instagram where women send photos of themselves embracing their bodies.

“I created the hashtag because I was tired of being told what I could and couldn’t wear by the media and how I should cover my body because of my size,” Munster told the Huffington Post.

SAC health educator Christina Duong explains how worrying too much about someone’s appearance can cause them to perceive themselves negatively.

“I believe that in today’s society there is too much emphasis on being thin, when in actuality being too thin or constantly thinking about diet and weight can be physically and mentally dangerous as is being overweight or obese,” Duong said.

“Lots of girls want to hide that they aren’t skinny,” said Sanchez. “But we should love and accept who we are and not go on crazy diets just to achieve an unrealistic perfection.”

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