“I realised how strong my thighs are and a hashtag I like to use is thick thighs save lives”, Ashley Graham, body positivity advocate and a voluptuous model speaks on self-video about her difficulties with accepting her body and loving it.
Over the past few years, we have seen a rise of ‘plus size’ women in the modelling industry and on front covers of magazines. From the likes of Philomena Kwao, Denise Bidot, Precious Lee being the first black plus size model to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. And bringing it back home, one of South Africa’s plus size models, Mel Vaughn who is represented by Boss Models. Ashley’s 2015 #CurvesinBikinis campaign with swimsuitsforall skyrocketed her career, making her the first plus size model to appear in a Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit ad.
In the video released in 2016 to promote the ad, Ashley takes us through her body journey and how it saved her life. “When I stopped taking care of my body, the rest of me fell apart”, she states that was when she developed negative images of her body, from not liking herself to mental challenges and eventually physical setbacks. In one of her first lingerie campaigns she approached the make-up artists to ask if the stretch marks on her thighs needed to be covered, they told her no. She defines that moment as a realisation that everyone has them (stretch marks), “they are a part of my growth, a part of who I am as a thick thighed woman.”
#thickthighssavelives started trending when woman globally shared pictures of themselves embracing their bodies. Others shared their stories and why their thighs are to be respected. Their thighs have gotten them through all kind of important things in their lives, allowed them to walk away from abuse, guides them, brings them closer to people and most importantly, supports them and allows them to stand strong.
However, self-proclaimed plus size model, Alex LaRose feels differently about the industry’s labelling of ‘plus size’ models. “In modelling, plus size is 8 and up and woman don’t identify with that”, in an interview on HuffPost live, Alexa shared her views on the negative repercussions modelling interpretation has on the average woman. Plus size models are relatively smaller than the average woman and this could cause low self-esteem and body image problems to woman who don’t identify with the category of plus size that modelling.