• Thu, Sep 8 2011

Woman Hits Back At American Apparel’s Plus Size Model Search

You may remember American Apparel’s recent announcement about a plus-size model search for their new XL clothing. If you do, you may perhaps also recall how ridiculously off the mark the tone of the announcement was, kind of like it was written by someone at VICE whose only goal is to defensively mock everything in the world:

Think you’re bigger, better and more booty-ful than the rest? Submit a recent photo of your face and physique for a chance to be our Next BIG Thing.

Calling curvy ladies everywhere! We’ve heard your requests, and our best-selling Disco Pant (and around 10 other jazzy styles) are now available in size XL, for those of us who need a little extra wiggle room where it counts.

To announce these welcome additions to our line, we’re looking for fresh faces (and full-figures) to star in our XLent new campaign.

In the announcement, they said that whichever lucky lady won their big, impressive model search would get free clothing (sized for the extra large!) as well as an opportunity to have — for just a brief second — what skinny girls have every day: their own moment to shine. (Look at you, Dov Charney, here’s a fucking cookie for being so inclusive!):

If you think you’ve got what it takes, share a few photos that put your best curve forward for a chance to win a trip to our Los Angeles HQ and factory. Runners up will receive an enviable assortment of our favorite new styles in XL.

Anyway, apparently one lady was just as not-amused about the whole thing as we are, and decided to submit something of a rebuttal into the contest. Nancy Upton, 24, teamed up with photographer Shannon Skloss to take pics of herself seductively eating a chicken wing, dousing herself in chocolate sauce, and lustily admiring a pie as she holds it in front of her vagina. They are fucking awesome, and Upton — despite being covered in various foodstuffs — looks beautiful.

Dodai Stewart of Jezebel contacted Upton to get the deets about why she decided to do the photo shoot. Here’s an excerpt of what Upton had to say:

I read Margaret’s article about the contest on your website and followed the link over. I immediately thought, based on the way it was written, “Wow, they really have zero respect for plus-sized women. They’re going to line them up like cattle and make puns about them until they’re blue in the face.” And then, as corny as it sounds, it just occurred to me that based on their “Hey, come on, fatties, we want you to play, too” tone, wouldn’t it be kind of brilliant to respond in a, “Thanks for letting me play, just let me try put down the pizza, first” similar mocking tone. From there, I realized I knew a great photographer, I had a free couple of hours on Sunday and a little extra money in my pocket to drop on some ranch dressing and a chicken.

I just hope they see a missed opportunity. If they’d gone about the contest differently or, what I think would have been really great, if they had just suddenly start running ads with sexy plus-sized women and simply said, “Now available in sizes through 2XL,” the impact would have been huge (no pun intended, believe me) and VERY positive, I think. People would have said, “Wow, good for them! How progressive!” But instead, they used cutesy, tired euphemisms and this faux-chummy supportive tone that a lot of people found cheap and insulting. It smacked of that feeling when someone does something well or does a good deed and then nudges you and goes, “See what I did?”

On her Tumblr, which she created around the photos, Upton points out that the intention of her pics wasn’t in any way to make fun of the other women who had entered the contest. Rather, she’s careful to clarify that the shoot was intended to mock American Apparel and their moronic foray into the world of plus-sized clothing and models:

A lot of people have been asking why I did this, what I was trying to prove, if I meant to hurt other models by taking these photos, etc.

I’ll clarify two things:

1. I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone who chooses to display their body to other people, be they plus-sized, petite or anywhere in between. I believe the women who entered the American Apparel “contest” are beautiful, brave people, and my attempt here to respond to the company’s course of action is JUST that- it is in no way a comment or critique of the women who have submitted photos.

2. I don’t believe that beauty should be qualified as BECAUSE of someone’s size or IN SPITE of someone’s size. Beauty is beauty, it’s fluid, it’s objective and it doesn’t need to be justified to or by anyone.

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  • Abigail

    Ohmygosh. Too funny. I do agree that the contest came off very mockingly.

  • Alex

    What a gorgeous, amazingly witty and self-confident woman! Love the photos and the spirit in which they were conceived.

  • carrie

    I’ve never seen a drumstick look so sexy.
    Amazing shots.

  • Michelle

    I’m so glad to see that you’re covering this story, but her last name is Upton, not Urban.

    • Jessica Pauline Ogilvie

      Oops, you’re right — thanks. The post has been updated.

  • porkchop

    whoa. The one where she has Jackie O shades and is jamming a whole rotisserie chicken into her mouth is awesome. It’s like all the proportions are in sync.

  • Alicia

    Not only does she look sexy as all get out, but these are darn funny shots! Sexy AND funny… awesome.

  • Lo

    This is the best satire I’ve seen in ages – it’d better become a calendar. (For December, they can use the rotisserie chicken shot twice). Upton’s also the hottest ladymodel I’ve seen in ages.

  • Chickalupe

    This may be the best story about fashion or modeling that I have seen in the history of EVER. I love this woman now! I want her to be my best friend and sit by the pool with me while we devour chicken in gorgeous opera gloves and sunglasses. Can that happen immediately, please?

  • Charisse

    I’m so so glad Nancy Upton decided to do this.

    I remember a friend had posted a link to vote for another friend who was entered in the contest & when I went to their website I was so appalled at the tone of the whole thing that I couldn’t even vote for anyone, I just wanted no part of it.

    What a clever way to take a stand against AA’s continued ridiculousness.

    Nancy is a triple-threat: Smart, Funny & Beautiful. Her tumblr on the whole situation is great too.

  • Kate

    She is beautiful & the shoot is great. The ranch-dressing bath grossed me out though. And I love ranch dressing.

  • Jennifer

    So unfreakingbelievably well done and so awesome on so many levels. I bow to the genius of Nancy.

  • sigh

    I’m on my third viewing of these epic photos and they just get better every time. Big ups to Nancy for sticking it to the man with so much class and charm.

  • Cassie

    Her name is Nancy UPTON. Not Nancy URBAN.

  • lex

    I goddamn love this woman.

  • Chloe

    Damn, she looks fucking sexy.

  • Erica

    Well, for starters.With a lighthearted phrasing like” need a little more wiggle room” it isn’t any wonder their winner seemed to be treating the whole contest as a joke. It was met by her exactly as it should have been. Her kitchen floor shot was tantamount to the red eyed outdoor shots of the ad photos that may not have gotten a model submitting a portfolio in the door at some agencies. Nancys swimming pool shot with the long gloves is fantastic. Just as an opinion, you all have gone too far.