Plus Size Models: A response to Donal O’Shea’s interview with The Sunday Independent

Irish Professor Donal O’Shea (Ireland’s leading obesity expert) has spoken out recently against the ‘plus size revolution’ in modelling. Twenty-seven ‘plus size’ models were seen on the catwalks during New York fashion week this year, the most in the event’s history. O’Shea puts forward the viewpoint that ‘curvy’ models are sending out the wrong message and ‘normalising something that isn’t normal’.

First of all ‘plus size’ does not necessarily mean ‘unhealthy’. A plus size woman is classified as being a UK size twelve and up, it’s unfair to generalise and suggest that all ‘plus size’ women are overweight. This is simply not true. Take for example the plus size model Robyn Lawley; a size twelve model. She is incredibly toned and has a personal trainer, a quick glance at her Instagram page and there is the perception that she eats quite healthily. Take one look at her pictures and it’s impossible to say that she is fat. This opinion seems to be shared by many on this side of the pond also.

In an interview by The Irish Times in 2014, with Irish plus size model Brianna Connaughton she expressed that ‘being plus sized does not necessarily mean that you’re unhealthy nor does being a straight-up slim model’. Why is it we look at models like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner and think ‘wow they’re so skinny, they must be extremely healthy’ when some of these people are close to be dangerously underweight. Being underweight is just as dangerous as being overweight and this fact should be more prominent in the media. Besides all of this, it is important that women’s bodies should be celebrated, regardless of size.

O’Shea’s points can be understood but he over-generalises. Likening plus sized models to sumo-wrestlers is a bit of an extreme. It is important to be healthy. Obesity is becoming a major problem in Ireland, and the issue needs to be addressed. Despite this, it is unfair to attack plus size models who are trying to make a positive difference. Most people do not have the same proportions as Heidi Klum, in other words, we’re not all 5ft 11 and size 6. All different types of bodies should be represented in the media because there are millions of different sized women in the world. However, it is refreshing to see the figure of an average sized woman being represented on runways and in magazines – a more familiar woman that we can relate to.

-By Ciara Lynskey

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