Tuesday, February 14, 2012

From 6 to 16

I've been writing this post for months now - never quite sure when it would be finished, but knowing that I had to write it.

Recently I read a tweet by Lucretia Pruitt that shared Margaret Cho's eloquent rant to Karl Lagerfeld. I agree with Lucretia that Margaret's message should be to the whole industry.

To get you up to speed -  Karl is in hot water because of his ugly comment regarding the phenomenal Grammy Winning singer Adele being "a little bit fat."

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Adele backstage at the 54th annual Grammy Awards

I can't tell you how amazing it was to read Margaret Cho's article . . . she was saying everything I have felt about an industry that convinces women they are not beautiful unless they are a size 0. And Adele's response to his cutting remarks was spot on.

Why is it that some people insist on making a woman's dress size relevant to her accomplishments? 

Some of you may be wondering why I am so passionate about this . . . well, this should help you understand a bit more. . .

Most of my life I have been tall and lanky. At 5'10" I have spent most of my life at about 130-135lbs. And full disclosure - I have more bins of clothes in my attic that are a size 6 than any other size. Call me crazy - but I'm with Margaret - I just cant get rid of them. I am still thinking that one day I'll fit into my favorite Calvin Klein suit or slip on that silk Ralph Lauren gown again.

Some people have suggested that I just go out and buy new "favorite" pieces - and to that I say - you obviously have not tried to find anything for a younger woman in a size 16.

Me at Size 6
You see, it wasn't until I quit smoking nearly 3 years ago that I started to gain weight. Add to that getting married, starting a new business, a few family health scares and deaths and, well . . . let's just say I did not make much time for me.

Thankfully I have a husband who tells me everyday how beautiful I am.

But to be realistic about the obstacles I have to overcome to believe him - as a woman I am conditioned at a young age that I am never good enough as I am.

My hair needs more bounce, my freckles need to be covered up, my skin tone needs evened out, my teeth aren't straight enough . . . I could keep going.

The fashion industry and magazines constantly tell me that I should be thin and young looking for as long as I can pay a doctor to cut, snip, inject and enlarge or starve myself into a designer suit.

For the love of all things sane . . . teenagers and young women that barely eat - are trotted down runways and used by design houses to convince 30+ year old women they need to buy their products.

The next time you go to a grocery store, take a minute to look at the rag mags on the end caps and tell me if you met ANY of those people in person that they would look the way they are 'packaged' to sell a fake ideal. (Some of you may remember the Ralph Lauren model, Filippa Hamilton used in this horribly photoshopped ad that got fired for being too fat at 120lbs. You heard me. 120lbs.)

Me at a size 16
Hell, gain a little weight and the first thing people say is "When are you due" (yes that happened to me.) And no a half hearted apology won't cut it.

So, like Adele, I have no time for people who are so consumed by mean vanity that they use weight gain to try and embarrass people publicly. Petty remarks tell more about the person who says them than the person they are trying to hurt. 

Will I ever be a size 6 again? Maybe, Maybe not . . . but I can guarantee you that my happiness is not dependent on my dress size and neither is my success.

As I am discovering and growing into my authentic self, I see that the people I surround myself with love me just the way I am - whether I am a 6 or a 16.

---

Thank you Margaret for taking the time to share your frustration and outrage with a clenched jaw and justified disgust.

Thank you Adele for being a role model for all women who fight every day to maintain a positive self image and for standing up to the people who try to politely destroy it. Your beauty and strength is just what this world needs.

Thank you Lucretia for sharing the post and pointing out that we do indeed have an industry of "not good enough" that should be ignored.

39 comments:

  1. Amen. And as someone who has met you in person I can say you are lovely, right now, just the way you are!

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    1. I think this is brilliantly written Danielle!

      I kind of took a break from the social web - so of course I missed this. Which was my loss until 10 minutes ago.

      I really, really want to lose weight. But I want to lose this brain-skew first. I have a picture of myself from a point where I was 118 lbs and thought I was "fat and flabby" because I have never, ever in my life stood a chance of looking like those women on the runway and in print. Genetically. In my head, despite the fact that I was telling myself that I had rejected the 'impossible image' that fashion was pushing? I was not like those women, so something was wrong with me.

      From this side of 12 years of shopping on the "plus size" side of the aisle, I can see that I look positively scary-skinny in that picture. But I remember looking in the mirror and not seeing it. Even though I was a then-size 3? Those clothes didn't hang right on me then either. I used to dream of being wealthy solely for the purpose of having a personal designer who would tailor things to *my* figure. I still do, even though I have no idea what would look good on this 'plus size' me.

      I love your post Danielle. It reminds me that even though *I'm* not comfortable being in my own skin at the moment? That should be for my reasons - not because there's an entire industry trying to make the majority of us feel like there's something wrong with our figures because they won't make clothes for us.

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    2. I agree. Funny that you should mention the photo and how, at the time, you felt "fat" and not seeing how beautiful you were when you looked in the mirror. I recently discovered a photo of myself from a vacation nearly 8+ years ago and remembering how "fat" I felt at a size 6. Looking at it now I know that the reason I felt that way was because I had this notion that unless I was a size 4 I would not be pretty.

      Accepting ourselves is tough enough - learning to accept our own flaws, growing emotionally and striving to become a better person should be done without and industry and a mindset wagging its finger at us to be something that cannot be attained without photoshop.

      Do I want to lose weight? You betcha. But I want to do it for me - not because anyone else expects me to.

      Thanks again for sharing Lucretia. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you sharing that post by Margaret. It really did help me find my words to describe something I had been struggling to say for quite some time.

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  2. Thank you for your kind words Jenn. I may have to tape them to my mirror for those days that I may doubt it.

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    1. p.s. I think you're stunning - and I met you when we were both in our 'not a size 6' shapes.

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    2. Thank you Lucretia! Being surrounded by amazing women like yourself and Jenn sure make life better. Grateful for you!

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  3. I think that this is wonderful commentary and an important message but would be supported better by a full size photo of you at a size 16 (as you have at a size 6), not just your head and shoulders in the dark.

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  4. Thanks.

    I disagree with you that my message would be better supported with a full length photo of me at a 16.

    I chose that photo of me at a size 16 because of how happy I was that night it was taken. It was a date night with my husband and he made me feel so beautiful and vibrant. That photo represents my message *exactly.

    This isn't about what I look like in a full size photo at a size 16 but about how an industry and the attitudes of people toward those who don't fit their standard of beauty. . . try to take away that joy in that photo.

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  5. I wasn't trying to take away your joy in that photo. I was simply saying that I thought your choice of photo could be misread -- as I clearly did.

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  6. I think the post is more about how a woman feels than a before and after view like a diet/fitness ad. The photos aren't really the point.

    Our society seems to want women to be shaped like 12 year old boys. Not sure why. Most models are ridiculously thin, like starvation victims. As a straight man, I prefer a woman with curves.

    As a human I prefer a person without the weight of society constantly telling her she isn't fitting into unlikely to be attained "norm". Since it's so unlikely to be attained, I have to ask, how can this be called a "norm"???

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    1. Thanks Brandon. That is exactly what I was hoping would come across. . . less about a before and after of me but more about the message of self love and strength and the unfortunate industry that believes in a 'not good enough' conditioning to sell products and the very real unrealistic and unhealthy pressures to be thin.

      This was not meant to be a "prove I'm still pretty" post - I hoped to open the door to a discussion.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective as a man. :)

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  7. I agree with you Danielle. Beauty is an inside job. Size is just size. Way to much is made of it to belittle women. We dont have the same issues about mens bodies or the way they dress. Its about knowing we are good enough as we are. I think you are more than good enough. I think your light shines. You are a beautiful woman.

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    1. Jennifer, Thank you so much for bringing that point up! You are absolutely right that men do not have the same pressures due largely to the fact that the industry caters largely to the female consumer - cosmetics, fashion, weight loss supplements, plastic surgery etc.

      Man or Woman it *does ultimately come down to knowing that we are good enough as we are and surrounding ourselves with people who love, respect and appreciate us and grow with us as we grow into our own authentic selves.

      I can't tell you how much your kind words mean to me. I keep your book, Le Chic Cocoon, on my bedside table - it has helped me more that you know!

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  8. I am uncomfortable about some uncomfortable feelings that I had last week while on Pinterest.

    To my own surprise, I started a "fashion" board on my Pinterest account. At first I thought I’d populate it with popular Pinterest posts—like braids—and whatever caught my eye. Then something looked odd to me. I saw an outfit on a person that was pretty cool. The odd thing was the person in the clothes. Something looked off. The person didn’t look like the model I would expect. She was bigger. She looked like…me?
    It pissed me off that this seemed weird to me. It pissed me off that I thought that other people would think it was weird, too. I didn’t like the thought running through my mind that if I started pinning all of these “plus-size” models, my Pinterest followers would think, What is all of this? I searched for “plus size” pins and found great outfits, great models, great photos. But it still made me mad that some of these women were considered “plus-size.” Look, I understand that the “industry” thinks some of these women are bigger than their normal but I hated that that standard was also normal in my mind.

    I started repinning like crazy. I found new and interesting boards and blogs. I loved the looks. And then I decided something.
    I decided to remove the words “plus size” from the comment field of the pins that included it. If I were to edit the comment, I’d add something about what I liked about the look.

    I felt bad because I thought it might not help if other people were actually looking for “plus size”—if they were actually entering that in the Pinterest search field. They’d probably get the original pins, just not mine. I wasn’t sure. I just wanted these to be fashion like any other pin in that category would be.
    You wouldn’t search for “skinny size” looks the same way. That’s the norm.
    I've had this cockamamie vision lately that I have a great, classic fashion sense. That I could randomly rise to stardom as a fashion critic that runs through celebrity and runway looks stating, “Love it!…Hate it!...No comment…” I could be that fashionista that isn’t really that fashionable herself. I could be like Martha Stewart or Karl Lagerfeld (oops)—people considered creative but people who also wear the same outfit all the time. I think this random belief in my fashion sense—and the idea that maybe others will pick up on it—is part of why I even started a fashion board on Pinterest.

    I don't think I am a person that other people think of as fashionable. I think that people may say that I have a classic (at the best)/boring (at the worst) style. I like "classic" colors (navy, black, gray, white, cream, mustard, etc.) and I like to have staples that I can mix and match. Aside from that I have a perhaps lame approach to fashion.

    Maybe because I hate that the industry supports a disposable culture. Maybe it's because I don't like the way I look in clothing. I don’t enjoy shopping for clothes because it seems like every time I do I've gained some weight since the last time I shopped. I basically only shop for clothing when I have to—if I've worn out my staple pieces or if I've gained weight or if I feel like I need something for a special occasion. I tried to trick myself this New Year by saying that my resolution was NOT to just lose weight but to finally be able to shop for clothes for fun. More fun because I might be smaller at some point this year.

    I work at home and don't wear a cute office outfit every day to do so. I almost always feel too cold wherever I am so even if I am wearing an outfit that I like, I wear a jacket and scarf over it all. I prefer what I guess you could call "modest" clothing (which also includes usually classic looks and it keeps me warm!).

    “Modest” clothing. That’s what they put in the Plus section at the back of the store, right?

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  9. Look, I do want to lose weight. I want to lose weight for my health. I want to lose weight because I am mad about why I gained weight in the past year. I want to lose weight because I want to fit into my small but workable wardrobe which includes pieces that I really liked and that I thought looked good on me. Again, this New Year I resolved to feel like I could shop for clothes for fun this year. It’s silly but really true sometimes.

    There are standards in the plus size modeling world. Non-fashion-industry people like me have formed ideas about what “curvy” means and so on. There are the people that peep up and remind everyone that while we bash the models’ bodies (and the people that say they should look that way), they themselves were born with a naturally thin figure and it sort of hurts when people say that that isn’t sexy either.

    It’s complicated. Yay, humans.


    I suppose for reference, my board would be good: http://pinterest.com/adenhailemariam/fashion/

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    1. I agree that it is difficult for both sides of the scale. Having been tall and thin the majority of my life (I take after my Father) and being called names like string bean, hearing *all the skinny jokes, having people ask me if I eat etc. to the opposite side of the spectrum where shopping for clothing is a chore & a person asking me if I'm pregnant at a public event are now supposed to be the norm.

      It is sad to say that regardless of what size a woman is, there is an industry and a mindset that will tell you there is something you need to change, or improve to be more beautiful - to be accepted - to be loved.

      Thanks so much for sharing Aden. I really appreciate the time that you took to share your story and the struggle that you face. Nice to know that we are in this together and that as we learn and grow our hearts become more compassionate to the unique challenges each woman may face.

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  10. Danielle, I've met you... You are gorgeous just the way you are! This was a wonderful post!!

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    1. Thanks Jessica! Appreciate your kind words.

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  11. Thank you for putting this out here! As a not-size-two fashion blogger, I am faced with challenges, mostly with myself to be brave enough to put myself out there. It helps when others put themselves out there, too.

    Thank you!
    Meggy from Chasing Davies

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    1. Thanks Meggy! As I mentioned in the post one of my biggest frustrations in being a size 16 is the lack of choice when it comes to clothing. Seems that everything is matronly. I love vintage 40's & 50's classic fashion (when women's curves were celebrated) and have decided that I just need to either hire a seamstress or find a clothing line that doesn't make me feel frumpy.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing :)

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  12. As Adele said on the 60 Minutes Interview about the "gorgeous" women on magazines. "I've seen them (in person) and they don't look like that either"! I have struggled with weight issues my entire life and have just recently discovered that in spite of what the scale days, I like me. Someone asked me the other day, "if you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?" I shocked myself by instantly answering "whiter teeth"! I have "dieted" my entire life and that was my first answer!! Our bodies are just a vessel that transports our souls through life....I like whats on the inside, so if it's okay with the rest of the world, that's the part I'll keep working on. Great post!

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    1. Jo Ann, over the last 3 years it has been tough - but loving me as I am (what ever size that may be) is the most important lesson I could have ever learned. Even if I were still a size 6 their is a whole industry in place to remind me that I am not perfect without their product.

      Love that you said our bodies are a vessel for our soul - how true!

      As we all learn and grow into our own authentic self, we find kindred spirits along the way to may the journey that much better. Thank you!

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  13. This is an incredible post Danielle! Not that I am surprised by that, but it's a refreshing read! People are beautiful for many reasons, the least of which is outward appearances. Our society has allowed this to happen and even encouraged it. We have allowed the focus to be on outward appearances instead of who the person actually is; the whole person.

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    1. Thank you John! I agree that we all need to consider the whole of a person and learn to appreciate them for their uniqueness. Appreciate your kind words and positive influence everyday! :)

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  14. Bookmarking this to read again. Thanks for a great post, Danielle!

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    1. Anytime Kristy. Look forward to hearing your thoughts on this and some of the links to articles. :)

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  15. What a fantastic fantastic fantastic post. As a mom of four children, I can tell you that even SLIM they are called FAT at school. It is crazy what the media puts out there for young impressionable kids to read. AND ADULTS too. I am so happy that you wrote those words. We have never met IRL, but I bet you are one fabulous woman!
    Cheers!
    Lynne

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    1. That is just horrible that children have to endure such teasing. I have heard from parents that young girls (as young as 8) are watching their weight and "dieting". What happened to just being a kid?!

      Lynne, I completely agree that the media (and overly opinionated people) put too much attention on the size of person vs. their accomplishments.

      I look forward to meeting you in person one day and having a cup of coffee to chat about what we the consumer can do to change these unrealistic body image pressures.

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  16. I know you only from the remote fringes, but I can certainly say that you are a star, Danielle, every square inch of you!

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    1. Thank you Mary. Every woman should feel that way. . . I appreciate your kind words. :)

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  17. Well written D, and for the record, I love you just the way you are....don't change a thing!

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  18. All I can say is you are such a beautiful woman.

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  19. I am so proud of you, Danielle, for writing this post and think you look just lovely in the size 16 picture. I am certainly impressed by the lovely designs models were pictured wearing on the runways, but have to tell you, I am shocked at how sickly and skinny these young women are. I am so proud of Adèle for being so self confident about herself and her beauty in the face of distorted industry ideals. Life happens and most women are not a size 6. I'd rather be rounder and healthy than skinny and a smoker. Which I too, used to be :-)Kuddos to you, twitter friend!

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    1. Thank you Barbara! It took me months to finally find my words. I started and stopped on this post for what seemed like forever.

      The industry wouldn't survive if we all believed that we were beautiful as we are. They have no stake in changing their ways or to consider the lives that are damaged by unrealistic photoshopped images they use to sell their products.

      Thank you again for reading and commenting. Really appreciate your kind words. :)

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  20. LOVE THIS POST! I'm learning the posts I worry about the most are the ones that readers respond the most to. As you can see that's so true for you on this one. ;) ~hugs~

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    1. Thank you Sherry! I have to admit I am a believer! And agree now 100%.

      I went through my drafts last night and decided no more holding back. I'll give you the credit for the inspiration. . . there is no substitute for sharing from the heart. :) *hugs right back*

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