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Elle throws us a bone, with meat on it (see what I did there?) | Manolo for the Big Girl

Elle throws us a bone, with meat on it (see what I did there?)

So everyone else has written about it but I guess I’ve got to toss my lovely Peter Bettley chapeau in.

Fat Girl of the Moment, Gabourey Sidibe — plus-size star of Precious, in case you just got off the boat from Mars– graces one of four covers of Elle this month and people are getting their collective knickers in a twist, and for once it’s not that a fat person is on a magazine.

Nope, it’s skin lightening. Apparently Ms Sidibe’s cover shows her skin several shades lighter than how she photographs in natural and/or red carpet lighting.

Is it whitewashing?

Eeesh, I don’t know. Frankly I wouldn’t put it past Elle, but on the other hand, I really do think it’s the lighting this time. It looks like the lighting rig for that cover was pretty simple and I know from my experience my own skin shoots way way lighter (inasmuch as it’s possible for a girl who has been known to MAC face & body in WHITE as foundation to shoot lighter) in a rig like that than I do in natural light.

But I gotta say, I don’t just love Gabby on the cover of Elle. It’s a gimmick. It’s a bone to the people who complain Elle and its ilk only put thin, pretty, white women on the covers of their magazines (possibly because Elle and its ilk only put thin, pretty, white women on the covers of their magazines). It’s Beth Ditto 2.0 but even less plausible because Beth Ditto truly is interested and interesting when it comes to fashion.

Gabby, talent though she might have, is just the token fat girl 2010.

I’m fat, not stupid. I’m not getting excited over this (and yeah, don’t think we didn’t notice all the other covers are mostly body shots while Gabby’s body is mostly obscured)

Do you know what gets me excited?

When there are all manner of body shapes represented and it’s Not A Big Deal. It’s not part of a Size Issue or some nonsense about Celebrating Your Curves or Realness or (gag) Goddess blahdeblah.

For example:

Here in The Killers video Mr Brightside –which for my money ranks up there in the echelon with Express Yourself, Vogue, and Freedom 90 for Most Important Fashion Videos of All Time— you have a perfectly gorgeous luscious plus-sized woman being treated just like all the other ahem, courtesans.

Super sexy outfit, clearly comfortable with her over-the-top sexuality, she’s a featured dancer with plenty of screen time, and somehow it’s Not A Big Deal. She’s not hidden or dropped in there as a token and her skin almost certainly wasn’t lightened (the heroine’s was, although obviously that was for effect. I’ll also bet you a million imaginary dollars the makeup artist used Mac face and body in White on her, too, albeit in a heavier application than I use). THIS is progress.

And do we have to talk about how cute Brandon Flowers is in his sharp jacket (that, btw, is how a dinner jacket is supposed to fit, slim through the shoulders and arms) or how when Eric Roberts became so filthy hot? Because I am currently associated with the hottest man on the planet (seriously, you would die) and Mister R and his smoking jacket STILL make me need to take a lie down.

18 Responses to “Elle throws us a bone, with meat on it (see what I did there?)”

  1. Nikita September 17, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    Hmmm. Now I am a big girl and I am also black/AA. And I am defintely dark skinned – a very deep mocha color with yellow and red undertones. Sorry, but the lighting on a set can ONLY do so much. Either they REALLY used the wrong foundation on her or they lightened her photo. My skin tone changes from area to area, and looking at Gabby’s photo so does hers with natural light. I note that her natural undertone is yellow in the other shot, but in the Elle it is red. Also, though I love Gabby – what I am interested in noting as a black woman is that there were many AA artist to spotlight. Gabby still? Hmmm. And YES there is a “we are welcome and inviting to big girls kind of idea going on here – definitely – but I want to know where is Blonsky, where is Elle, where are the other actresses and artists of size from different cultural backgrounds – Latina, Indian, etc. This is really beginning to get old.

  2. Madame Suggia September 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    I’d be delighted to be proved wrong here, but has anyone else noticed that in order for a plus-sized (I mean ‘civilian’ plus sized, not ‘model’ plus sized, which is anything bigger than a size 2. Seriously.) woman to have any chance of success in the fashion world/media/showbiz, she has to be a) not caucasian; b) gay or c) a chef. Maybe Elle thought they’d score two out of three here…now if Gabby could just hurry up and come out, they’d have scored big-time.

  3. Madame Suggia September 17, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    Oh yeah…Killers video? STUNNING

  4. Plumcake September 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    @Madame Suggia: I think you might have a point, although Nikki Blonsky had a career for a minute there. I don’t know if you count Beth Ditto as gay –I believe she’s bisexual and her partner is transgendered.

  5. wildflower September 17, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    I’ve never been into Big Girl Icons ™, but I love her and gobble up her interviews. I love how she sounds so cheerful, sane, casual, good-natured, and intelligent. Especially in those interviews in which she expressed annoyance at how people were conflating her with Precious, the character. She expounded on her loving family and healthy self-esteem, and somehow she communicated that without sounding like, ZOMG! I have just FINE self-esteem, so leave me the heck alone, hrrmph! I mean, she sounds like she has a *genuinely* healthy self-esteem! It’s wonderful!

  6. Nariya September 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

    1) I think she is suspiciously lighter than her natural skin tone. As Nikita says, lighting only does so much– even bright, direct studio lighting.

    2) I don’t know if you should dismiss Gabby as “token fat girl”. Isn’t that kind of a disservice to her? She did a fabulous job in the movie, she’s an entertaining and effervescent person… She’s a joy to watch and people want to know what she’s doing and wearing. Just cause she isn’t “interested in fashion” (how many Elle cover celebrities honestly are?) doesn’t mean she wasn’t chosen for her other interesting qualities, such as her tendency to dish out humorous quotes and pose like a fiend on the carpet.

    I can’t see the cover of Elle clearly so I can’t tell if there is a reference to size on it (looks like it says “What 25 looks like” – age, or dress size?), but if there isn’t, aren’t you just assuming that she was chosen because she’s big? Maybe she was, in fact, chosen because she’s fabulous.

    I’m not saying that you should be contented now that one more fat girl has appeared on the cover of Elle– but being automatically dissatisfied because she happens to be fat doesn’t make sense either. She’s a lovely, entertaining and interesting young woman– much more so then the Kardashians or the Keshas of the world, IMO– and we shouldn’t reduce her to her size.

  7. Peaches September 17, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    Id like to know where she shops. She always looks so fashionable and well put togther. And I adore her character on The Big C on Showtime.

  8. TheRotund September 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    I had to watch the video several times. I felt like I was playing Where’s Waldo, only it was Spot the Fatty.

    That does not actually reek of progress to me, especially since it is a small-fat woman of color – in a brothel. Two exotic fetishes represented in one! I mean, yeah, filthy hot is hot but both her size and her blackness are placed in the context of sexual deviancy. That ain’t progressive.

    Elle has claimed that these four covers represent 25-year-old women who are changing the world. While I’m not entirely sure how Megan Fox qualifies… I’m not really looking to get into an argument with Elle.

    However, I WILL argue with you re: the lightning. I mean, yeah, lights wash people out but her skin tone is entirely different.

    And, if you look at this photo of Nicky Blonsky and Gabby together at the recent One Stop Plus Fashion Show, you can see that even under photog lights, Gabby is distinctly darker than she appears on the cover.

    http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/09/16/article-1312440-0B35718C000005DC-459_634x501.jpg

    I think Gabby IS interesting when it comes to fashion because she is so much larger than the usual “fat” celebrity. Christina Hendricks, yes, I am looking at you. Gabby’s body looks like MY body and so I want to see more of her in more places. She’s also hella smart, funny, and very talented. Gabby represents not just the upper end of the retail size range, she is a dark-skinned black woman and to fuck with that in her representation is reprehensible – but also pretty much what always happens in these situations. I think it is a mistake to brush it off.

  9. Madame Suggia September 17, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    “Plumcake Says:

    September 17th, 2010 at 2:30 pm
    @Madame Suggia: I think you might have a point, although Nikki Blonsky had a career for a minute there. I don’t know if you count Beth Ditto as gay –I believe she’s bisexual and her partner is transgendered.”

    You’re totally right, of course, but I do think Nikki Blonsky is maybe the exception to the rule? Beth Ditto doesn’t count (well, of course she *counts*, she’s fantastic!) but for the purposes of this thought train, I guess ‘gay’ would actually mean ‘not exclusively heterosexual’.

  10. Debs September 17, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    I gave up on Elle in part for their covers. A bland actress promoting another terrible “rom com.” Another over-exposed, alleged “It Girl,” Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan. Plus the interviews with these women written so reverentially.. (Gee, they’re tinier and/or prettier and/or smarter in person!!!) So, this cover is great in its subject matter—a fearless and talented actor and is a big girl of color as well. I wish Elle would choose other interesting cover women of different ethnicities and sizes ANd feature models of different sizes in REAL clothes. (not spandex playsuits).

    But the real point, that was an evil tidbit, Miss Plumcake. Any details about Mr. Hotness? Would his picture be a good way to resurrect the Mosnday Hotness feature?

  11. Liz September 18, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    The bit that bothers me about the Sibide cover is not so much the skin as the hair. It’s just an awful wig.

  12. Catrina September 18, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    There’s ALWAYS one fat hooker/courtesan/burlesque dancer/whatever. I don’t really care so long as they’re not being made fun of or made out to be an object of disgust (Cold Mountain, anyone?), but I do find it funny that there’s always one.

  13. annie September 18, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    why do my comments not show? Yesterday’s was just a link to a relevant and interesting essay.

    Please let me know if I’m banned for some reason and I will comment no further.

  14. Plumcake September 18, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    @Annie. Your comments get caught in our moderation filter because you’ve got “anal” in your email!

  15. annie September 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    Good grief! That happened to me once before, long time ago. I just spelled my name backwards for my email. But the essay I linked is well worth a read, IMHO.

  16. Lisa from SoCal September 19, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    Does anybody besides me think that they did a bad job styling this in general? Who picked that necklace? Why a glam necklace but…basically invisible makeup? I’m confused by the alterations more than anything. If they did lighten her, it’s stupid because she has beautiful skin on the righthand picture. But…everything about the Elle cover strikes me as kind of feh and hurried.

  17. Lorraine September 20, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    The cover is wrong in so many ways. OK, we’ll have a black woman on (only if we lighten her a few shades and put some fake hair on her) and we’ll have a fat woman on (only if we zoom in so you can’t see as much of her body). It’s such a blatant case of throwing a bone to fashion minorities that it’s insulting.

  18. larkspur September 20, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

    I’m posting kind of late to this one, but I have to jump in. I agree that the magazine is trying to “show” how open-minded they are, but I don’t care – I just love Gabourey Sidibe!! I think she is prettier in the righthand picture, but I just love her attitude in general. She’s funny, interesting, has a great sense of self – what more do you want?