Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

February 3, 2010

In Response to Plumcake’s Question of Yesterday…

Filed under: Abominations,The Fat's in the Fire — Francesca @ 4:34 am

…comes the cover of the March issue of Vanity Fair, according to which everyone in “New Hollywood” is a thin white woman:

Fat Black Males need not apply

Whether the problem lies with Hollywood, or with Vanity Fair, or both is up for discussion.





  1. Asking why the white media for women doesn’t want to show us any diversity in terms of beauty ideals is a waste of time. Magazines make money by selling advertising–and all their advertising revolves around stuff you’re told you must buy in order to meet the impossible standard of beauty they’ve created and maintained, largely through photoshop. The fact that that standard is unrealistic only makes this business model more effective: the more you feel you’re not able to meet the standard (because you’re too short, or too old, or the wrong colour, or too fat, or too “not enough” whatever), the more you’ll be driven to buy the products being pushed by the magazine. If they actually showed realistic examples of women in fashion pages, everyone would feel like they have their own beauty–they don’t need to do anything to alter that to be beautiful. And that translates as “no sales”. No sales where beauty products, inappropriate but “fashionable” clothing, status items, surgeries, diet programs, and other artifacts of self-hatred are concerned equals a lot of out-of-business magazines.

    Understand this, and you’ll understand why these images of beauty held up as standards will never change. The ones we’re presented with in film are part and parcel of the whole fashion industry too, since the vast majority of the movies from Hollywood are really just long commercials for product. There are, of course, examples of exceptions–but that’s just it, they are exceptions. Rare, tolerated on occasion, but never ideas which receive full financial backing or sponsorship. They’ll never become “the status quo”. On purpose.

    Hollywood is not the only place in the world making films–there are plenty of great films that don’t cost billions to make out there, and they still tell great stories about all kinds of people in all kinds of situations without the need to sell you crap you don’t need. A lot of those films are made by women–some even big women, even big women who aren’t white. You’ll always see yourself in those films with a great deal less moral criticism focused on your buying habits and appearance. Maybe we should all adopt the “recovering anorexic” treatment: just stop buying “those” magazines, stop paying to see “those” movies, stop supporting the media that tells us we’re valueless unless we meet some hate-filled fantastical ideal.

    Comment by ChaChaHeels — February 3, 2010 @ 9:52 am

  2. I guess Monique and Gabby from Precious don’t count? Being nominated for an Oscar doesn’t count? I’m one of the whitest white people you’ll find and I think the demographic on the cover is skewed. But when did Vanity Fair EVER represent anyone other than the glitteratti?

    Comment by mdegraffen — February 3, 2010 @ 10:20 am

  3. Not very “new”, Vanity Fair.

    Comment by JennyKnopinski — February 3, 2010 @ 10:38 am

  4. But!! There are brunettes AND redheads!! That’s positively revolutionary!

    Comment by LL — February 3, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  5. Hmm, I disagree with ChaChaHeels’ cynicism (even though I ADORE her screen name). I think there have been improvements in representation of women in advertising and media, it just isn’t reflected in publications like Vanity Fair. Take the flak over Christina Hendrick’s “fat” photos in the Times. People were outraged, the Times columnist apologized. I think mainstream media continues to trot out their extremely narrow vision of beauty, but people are pushing back more and more often. Case in point: the great column in the Guardian this past Saturday about young fat fashion bloggers:
    And today, there was a great critique of the Vanity Fair cover on, of all places, Yahoo:
    Of course magazines like Vanity Fair, Dwell, or high fashion magazines are going to lag behind, because they are terrified of losing advertising (that I agree with), but these small revolutions are chipping away at that, I have to believe.

    Comment by Alexis — February 3, 2010 @ 10:54 am

  6. I would just like to repeat this comment from the Jezebel post (not my words, but I agree):

    “Dude, it’s VANITY FAIR. That magazine is an embodiment of everything that gets the upper classes beheaded during revolutions.”

    Is it right? Hell, no. But I’m not exactly surprised considering the source. All the more reason that this country needs icons that aren’t actresses or celebutantes.

    Comment by Evie — February 3, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

  7. As ever, I blame the patriarchy. Vanity Fair and “Hollywood” are points on a vast spectrum consisting of racism, ageism, ableism, sexism, and fatism that is endemic to our western culture. Since I’m feeling irritable today, I think I’ll throw in consumerism too. You would think someone – ANYONE – who works at Vanity Fair might’ve noticed the pale complexion of this group.

    Bless their hearts, every one of them looks miserable, don’t they? Does the “new hollywood” not enjoy their success in the least? Compare that grouch-fest with Gabby Sidibe’s recent magazine cover – was she on Essence, I think? Such a cheerful kid, every time I see her I want to hang out with her. The girls on the VF cover? Not so much.

    Comment by Jezebella — February 3, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

  8. They aren’t just white, they are LILY white. Could be that spray tan and fake bakes are over? That might be a good thing.

    Comment by Lisa — February 3, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

  9. Maybe Vanity Fair thought Gabourey S. from Precious was getting just too much press. I mean she’s not even 30 year’s old yet. She still qualifies as young Hollywood.

    It’s probably a combo of VF, Hollywood, and the Media (initial cap done on purpose). As a fat African-American woman, I’m kind of used to it.

    Comment by brooklynshoebabe — February 3, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

  10. @Lisa, not only are they lilly white they look awfully fragile.

    Comment by brooklynshoebabe — February 3, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

  11. I read EVERY fashion magazine. I enjoy them, and as a woman of color, they don’t in any way make me feel bad about myself. Never have. They excite and delight and inspire me.
    Your mileage may vary, of course.
    But VF is as dull as ditch-water. I don’t read it because they never write about anything I find remotely interesting. If someone leaves a copy around, I don’t even do more than flip through it.
    I mean, I read T&C (which is so a handbook of the revolution), and the Economist, and New York, and all kinds of other ‘ruling class’ nonsense, and I still can’t find anything worth reading in VF.
    It’s like they’re so pretend ‘Aspirational’ in such a misguided ‘mainstream’ way, they just end up saying nothing? The whole thing ends up reminding me of ‘society events’ in places like Scottsdale.
    I don’t know if all of this makes sense, but frankly, I don’t expect anything worth reading from VF, race aside.
    And Annie Leibovitz seems a perfect personification of their non-appeal: Anointed, somehow (but by whom?), and without any actual interest or touchstone to what’s really happening in fashion and art and culture whatsoever.

    Comment by Holls — February 3, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

  12. Quick warning: Don’t read the comments on Shine unless you’ve got some sanity points spare this week.

    Comment by Margo — February 3, 2010 @ 6:05 pm

  13. Question: How many women of color at in senior media management in this country? (and no fair trying to use Andre Leon Talley)

    Comment by Toby Wollin — February 3, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

  14. Fashion magazines can be delightful. (British Elle and Vogue used to be fun). Sure, they are trying to sell things, but they can do it artistically, with an edge or beautifully. Cool new make up ideas don’t make me feel inadequate: they make me feeel like trying new looks (with or without purchase).

    But in the past five years, I have found so many fashion magazines BORING. The same spreads of models who look like elongated children (no completed puberty here). Uninteresting clothing and styling choices. I let my subscriptions lapse. Maybe things will change because more consumers are also bored, don’t buy the magazines and the internet creates more competition . Then they’ll have to try something else, like ditching the yawner, self-reverential cover above.

    Comment by Debs — February 3, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

  15. Oprah Winfrey is a fairly powerful media icon. And she’s pretty fabulous. I just wish she was nicer about her own weight…she’s awfully hard on herself.

    Comment by Lisa — February 4, 2010 @ 1:20 am

  16. I have to agree: it is Vanity Fair. But I also think that the mindset of people in Hollywood also have something to do with the choices.

    Comment by All Women Stalker — February 4, 2010 @ 4:28 am

  17. You can’t compare magazines like Oprah’s, or Ebony, to magazines like Vanity Fair or Vogue. Sure, Oprah’s selling ads and so is Ebony: but these magazines spell out a mandate to uplift–and actually to undo some of the damage of the whole white media image making machine. They exist as a counterargument, an attempt to make some kind of balance in a giant hegemony.

    I’m hurt at being called cynical! I don’t believe I am, as the truly cynical simply would give in. I don’t think I want to encourage that–but I do believe I like to promote all the other options out there in the spectrum, and that was my intention in my post. The only way to change VF and Vogue and Glamour and all those other mags is to just stop buying them, stop reading them. There are plenty of other publications that aren’t fueled on making you feel like you’re not good enough/thin enough/wealthy enough/smart enough. Give them your cash and your attention, and they’ll become the new standard, even if they do just for you.

    Comment by ChaChaHeels — February 4, 2010 @ 8:20 am

  18. I agree with the previous comments– they aren’t only all white, they’re virtually identical. Maybe the editor has a type? You know, like those guys who you don’t even realize have changed girlfriends because the new one is almost exactly like the last one. Could be they were chosen based on what someone in management wanted to bang.

    Comment by daisyj — February 4, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

  19. Thin white YOUNG women. Don’t forget “young.”

    Comment by Constance — February 4, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

  20. Looks like a group portrait from the eating disorder unit of your local mental health clinic.

    Comment by gemdiva — February 4, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  21. Well, you can’t fault VF for choosing all YOUNG women. They are, after all, talking about the “New Hollywood,” which definitely implies a generational shift.

    In addition to them all being similar-looking, something else bugs me… it’s the schoolgirl clothes and the ankle socks. These ladies are all–what–late teens to late 20’s? So why are they dressed like little schoolgirls? It sort of heebie-jeebies me.

    Comment by wildflower — February 4, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

  22. @wildflower True dat.

    Comment by Lisa — February 4, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

  23. I will be in the front ranks criticizing HOLLYWOOD for its horrific and artificial standards imposed on both the women who work there and the women who watch the work. However, I’d prefer that we not criticize the women’s bodies. The implication is that it’s OK to criticize THEM because they’re THIN. No. If it isn’t right to criticize women just because they’re fat, it isn’t right to criticize women just because they’re THIN, either. I don’t want to merely exchange one “WRONG” way for women to look for a different “WRONG” way for women to look. I don’t want the women who are naturally thin to see reflections of their bodies on those covers and hear, “Oh, you look anorexic!” They’re the only ones who will recognize their bodies on that cover; the women who ARE anorexic, generally speaking, will not.

    I want to see more DIVERSITY, I don’t want people told that there’s something wrong with their looks because they’re lily-white, or because they’re thinner than I’ll ever be. I want to see all different sizes and ages and ethnicities on a “New Hollywood” cover.

    Comment by La BellaDonna — February 4, 2010 @ 7:18 pm

  24. Now that I think about it, there’s something else weird going on here… these girls may be all young, thin, and white, but for heaven’s sake, not all thin white people look alike! Why were they dressed and made up to look like they are in uniform instead of celebrating the differences even among them?

    Comment by wildflower — February 4, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

  25. I understand this story is going to be on ET tonight.

    Comment by mdegraffen — February 5, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

  26. I’m with La BellaDonna’s comments.

    I have no issue with thin white women, the problem is that that’s the only standard of beauty. Thin, curvy, black, white, whatever, diversity is beautiful. And even though VF isn’t showing it here on the magazine, I think Hollywood itself is making some strides to represent other races, nationalities, and body types. Of course it’s not without its problems but I’d like to give some credit to the fact that I can see an Indian man, a beautiful black woman, a curvy latina, along side lily-white women in Hollywood.

    Comment by graciela — February 5, 2010 @ 5:01 pm

  27. My first thought was how in the world could they have left out the beautiful young woman who starred in Precious?

    Comment by Beth Rang — February 5, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

  28. While I agree 100% about the need for more diversity in this group, one argument against Gabourey Sidibe being included is that I don’t see her lasting in the industry. She’s an incredible actress, but do any of you see any other roles that she could take on in Hollywood as it is now? She’s incredible, but I don’t think she’s going to be the future of Hollywood any more than most of the actors from Slumdog Millionaire last year. They were perfect for that role, but aren’t versatile enough for lasting success.

    Comment by JeanM — February 6, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

  29. Oh- I did something wrong, my browser didn’t save my post. I was saying I am glad this kind of talk is going on, about the real deal! i saw a news story about it at yahoo, too, I’m glad people are beign honest about this issue!

    Saw a blog post about it at Plus Size Clothing Mag, too, they were talking about lack of plus size models in Beneton ads, and true “diversity” curious to know your opinion about it too–

    It’s here:


    Comment by Rose K — February 11, 2010 @ 6:45 am

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