Over the past few months, the Advertising Channel has been taking a deeper look at some of the trends in the way marketing and advertising campaigns have been approaching their female audiences.
It’s fair to say that the Dove Real Beauty campaign kick started this trend, and has done a good job of creating viral videos that seemingly empower women to embrace their true selves. Of course, this being advertising, it isn’t always that simple. Even Dove has to abide by some basic advertising rules, and unfortunately that means their campaign for every woman does not actually include every woman. However, it’s a step in the right direction.
Recently, Aerie ditched photoshopped images. Again, that was not the whole story. But this
got me curious about how a woman who is both a customer, and a model, would feel about this kind of advertising. Not just any model either, but one that is considered “plus sized.” So, I reached out to Vanessa Heart, a Denver-based model who can certainly see both sides of
the equation. As a business owner and entrepreneur, she also brings an incredible amount of savvy to the table.
Here, in this two-part exclusive, Vanessa reveals her thoughts on the industry, and what it is like to experience this as both a model, and a consumer. In part one, Vanessa gives us some general feedback on fashion and beauty advertising.
In part two, we’ll see what Vanessa thinks of specific campaigns from the likes of Aerie and Dove.
PS: Could you tell me a little about your background as a model, and how you got into the industry?
VH: I got my start in the modeling industry when I was 17 years old. I had made some friends whom owned a small halter-top company and they had asked me to pose for their new line of clothing, which was published in brochures and magazine ads. Soon after that I submitted photos to various magazines and to my surprise my first 3 photo shoots were published.
From there I found my niche as an alternative rockabilly/punk rock model that also dabbled in fashion modeling. I modeled for various clothing lines, websites and magazines for many years. After a several year break from modeling, I returned as a ‘Plus Size Model’ or sometimes referred to as a curvy model.
PS: You are considered a plus-size model, even though your stats indicate that you are below the average size of the American woman. How do you feel about this? Is it time that we reevaluated our “standards?”
VH: I actually just read an article that said that a Size 14 is the Average American Woman Standard and the article questioned that if this was the standard then why is it so difficult to find and purchase a size 14? Do I feel like an exceptionally large woman? No, I do not. Do I think it is ridiculous that I can walk into a store and they sell XXS & XS and not an XL…You bet I do. Am I disgusted at ‘vanity sizing?’… yes I am.
I think that the fashion industry and American women are so obsessed with their weight that they don’t know what a healthy woman looks like. Healthy doesn’t always equal skinny, and in many other cultures thin women can represent unhealthy, poor, or starving. Yet the American emphasis seems to be in ‘starvation fashion’ and society would like to blindly think that all women can naturally be tiny without eating disorders. While some women naturally are thin, more women are developing eating disorders to try to compete with this American standard.
As a teenager, I struggled with eating disorders cause I thought that the only way I could be loved was if I was thin. This was instilled in me from my teachers, other students, friends, television, fashion magazines, parents... everywhere. As a obese child I was constantly told how worthless as a person I was cause of my weight. HOW TERRIBLE IS THAT! Your self-worth will never be determined by your looks… it should never be determined based on something so superficial. It is wrong. It is wrong to teach our children that.
As an adult, I celebrate my body, all size 14 of it…cause I know that I feed it healthy organic foods and I am happy with myself and the life I live.
I love being a plus size model cause I like representing what should be the ‘standard’ woman. Especially considering that my size is the average for an American woman and I feel that clothing companies and the fashion industry need to start creating more clothing meant for curves and sizes over a 9. I know that personally, I would really love to not have to special order every piece of my clothing online, because stores don’t carry anything in my size. And I’m sure these frustrations are amongst the majority of women in this country.
PS: What’s your opinion of the standards set by the beauty and fashion industry?
VH: Well, they are unrealistic. If we are talking about models, then these women have a lot of pressure to be so tiny that almost every model I know has some sort of massive eating disorder. Starving women for an unrealistic standard of ‘beauty’ is disgusting to me.
I have personally been through it. And at the end of my journey, I’m here… a healthy size 14, and I can honestly say that I wish that we would start excepting more ‘healthy-size’ models. I’m not saying all models need to be my size, but if we could start excepting that the average women is not a size 0, then I think the fashion industry would be representing women in a better light.
PS: When it comes to beauty and fashion, is advertising there to sell us a dream, or talk to us about reality? Is there room for both?
VH: I think there is room for both. You can sell a fantasy with realistic expectations. Women of all shapes and sizes want to be sexy, we want our bodies to be appreciated, no matter what size we are.
PS: What is the biggest change you would like to see happen in the modeling industry and why?
VH:I think we are seeing it. The biggest change I always wanted was more curvy models in advertisement. I can now open a JCPenney catalog and see a gorgeous size 18 woman, and it makes me really proud to see the industry accepting and celebrating women of all sizes.
.Now read part two of this interview here
, and see what Vanessa has to say about the recent attempts by fashion brands to produce more realistic advertising imagery.