American Apparel Sends Nasty Open Letter To Satirist Who Won Their Fat Girl Contest

Remember when we told you about the awesome woman whose joke entry to American Apparel’s “Next BIG Thing” plus size model contest hilariously skewered its incredibly offensive tone? Well, that woman, whose name is Nancy Upton, actually won the friggin’ contest, garnering the most votes by far. The Internet hath spoken!

Unfortunately, the Spandex-clad geniuses at Am Appy finally figured out that she was making fun of them and they disqualified her from winning, in addition to writing a super bitchy “open letter” to her. For a company that has no qualms about mocking plus size women even as they try to bring them in as a shopping demographic after years of ignoring them, they sure don’t know how to take a joke, do they? And they are waaaay tl;dr about it, too. Witness the super-defensive douchebaggery:


Dear Nancy Upton,

My name is Iris Alonzo and I am a Creative Director at American Apparel. Along with four other women, I conceived of the Next BIG Thing campaign for American Apparel. Firstly, we are very sorry that we offended you. Our only motive was to discover and celebrate the many beautiful XL women around the globe who enjoy our brand, and to promote the recent size additions to our collection. Nothing more, nothing less. We would also like to assure you that no one is getting fired over your stunt, as you expressed concern about in a recent interview. We are fortunate to have a great boss who trusts and believes in our instincts and ideas, and we are still very excited about all of our Next BIG Things and looking forward to meeting our new XL brand ambassadors.

It’s a shame that your project attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge based on your personal distaste for our use of light-hearted language, and that “bootylicous” was too much for you to handle. While we may be a bit TOO inspired by Beyoncé, and do have a tendency to occasionally go pun-crazy, we try not to take ourselves too seriously around here. I wonder if you had taken just a moment to imagine that this campaign could actually be well intentioned, and that my team and I are not out to offend and insult women, would you have still behaved in the same way, mocking the confident and excited participants who put themselves out there? Maybe you’ll find it interesting that in addition to simply responding to customer demand and feedback, when you’re a vertically-integrated company, actual jobs are created from new size additions. In this case, for the XL women who will model them, industrial workers that make them, retail employees that sell them and beyond. That’s the amazing reality of American Apparel’s business.

Though I could spend hours responding to your accusations and assumptions, this isn’t the appropriate forum for that, so I will only briefly address a few issues here. In regards to April Flores’ “that’s not our demographic” experience, I don’t recall the name of the confused employee credited with saying that, but he or she was sadly uninformed, and our company certainly does not endorse their statement. For as long as I can remember, we have offered sizes up to 3XL in our basic styles, and as far as adding larger sizes to the rest of our line is concerned, if there is the demand and manufacturing power to support it, we’re always game. There are thousands of brands in the market who have no intention of supporting natural – and completely normal – full-figured women, and American Apparel is making a conscious effort to change that, both with our models and our line. If every brand that tried to do this was met with such negative press, we may have to wait another decade for the mainstream to embrace something so simple.

In the past, American Apparel has been targeted for various reasons, many times by journalists who weren’t willing to go the extra mile to even visit the factory or meet the people in charge. Dov is a great executive director and American Industrialist, but there are hundreds of other decision-makers in our company, over half of whom are women. I suppose you have read a few too many negative pieces about us that have helped to form your opinion of who we are and what we stand for, and perhaps this has clouded your ability to give us a chance. I get it. I read some of it too. As a creative who isn’t always the most tactful and tends to stay away from the limelight, maybe I haven’t spoken up as much as I should have over the past 8 years that I’ve worked at American Apparel. Perhaps I could have shed some light on some issues that have been left cloudy over the years. However, sensational media will always need something to latch on to and success, spandex and individuality (and mutton chops circa 2004) are certainly easy targets. And who knows – maybe the PR ups and downs are all part of our DNA as a company. What I do know is that after all the years I have been working for this company I can wholeheartedly say that American Apparel is an amazing and inspiring place to work. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can represent of a ton of people I know when I say that we really like Dov and we passionately believe in his vision for a beautiful factory with sustainable practices. We are the largest sewing factory in North America, after all…10,000 jobs is nothing to sniff at. A lot of people would be very sad if this company wasn’t around.

That said, we realize that we are in no way perfect and that we’re still learning. We want to do better or differently in many areas, and we are actively working on them every day. You’re literally witnessing a transparent, sincere, innovative, creative company go through puberty in the spotlight of modern media. It’s not easy!

Oh — and regarding winning the contest, while you were clearly the popular choice, we have decided to award the prizes to other contestants that we feel truly exemplify the idea of beauty inside and out, and whom we will be proud to have representing our company.

Please feel free to contact me directly anytime. If you want to know the real scoop about our company before writing a story, I’ve got it (or if I don’t, I can put you in touch with the person that does!).

Best of luck,

Iris Alonzo
Creative Director
American Apparel

In case you zoned out about two sentences in like I did the first few times I tried to read it, here’s a summary:

1.) We’re very sorry we offended you (except we’re really not at all).

2.) The tired, condescending fatty puns were a result of us not taking ourselves too seriously.

Here is what Iris Alonzo looks like (on the left):

3.) Jobs are created by new size additions.

Red herring alert: new size additions were not what Upton was objecting to.

4.) We are retroactively disowning the employee who told April Flores fatties were not our demographic (because we’ve decided we want their money).

5.) Waaaah cry cry, why is everyone so mean to us?

6.) We’re way embarrassed the people visiting our site voted for your joke entry instead of the real ones, so we aren’t going to let you win.

You can read Nancy Upton’s smart take on the whole kerfuffle over at The Daily Beast.

Share This Post:
    • The Real Johnson

      The most offensive part of this letter is that Alonzo turned an adjective into a noun and, like so many douchey marketing types have before her, referred to herself as “a creative.”


      • Rags

        I was thinking the exact same thing! You are so right on the money with this observation!!!! Also, I love your use of the (new) word “douchey”…

    • Lo

      ‘I wonder if you had taken just a moment to imagine that this campaign could actually be well intentioned, and that my team and I are not out to offend and insult women, would you have still behaved in the same way, mocking the confident and excited participants who put themselves out there?’

      No, Ms. Alonzo, she was mocking the condescending advert. Quite specifically.

    • porkchop

      AA has been ugly toward lovely thin girls for ages, with their vacant-eyed mostly naked modeling campaigns. Sadly, no lovely thin girl stepped forward to mock them. Nancy just saw her window to say, “Hey, American Apparel, are you KIDDING? If your viewpoint on women isn’t a joke, it should be. And now it is! Enjoy!”

      The company’s victimized tone and implied belief that their sustainable US factory automatically makes their entire business model immune to criticism is almost Fox-News-esque in its attempt to cast critics as ignorant, mean-spirited, and (why not) un-American.

      Their personal attack on Nancy (she’s not pretty inside and out), and their mean-girl declarations (fat girls should be thanking us!) shows their quirky, free-spirit remarks about being outspoken individuals who are sometimes just misunderstood for what they really are: empty posturing from a label that will never be cool because they are trying too hard.

      Nancy Upton used humorous self-mockery to criticize them, which was awesomely clever and heaped attention on their label. The fact that they did ANYTHING besides embracing those photos as a way to ACTUALLY reach plus-size customers just proves they hate money. Now who’s un-American?

      • You’re trapped

        Weird. I thought it was Liberal and Obama-esque.

    • porkchop

      Marsha: I’m worried, Iris. We’re posing with Dov but neither of us is naked.

      Iris: Oh, it’s cool. There’s a naked girl on the wall.

      Marsh: Oh, thank God! I can relax now. I didn’t even see her at first.

    • Alexi

      Us fatties should all be thankful that AA have blessed us with their new line and even acknowledged that we exist! We’re not worthy.

      I am constantly gobsmacked by how stupid people in business can be when it comes to Public Relations. If they had any sense of humour and didn’t, in fact, take themselves too seriously, they would have kept Nancy as the winner and come out with an open letter saying that they did not mean to offend and that they appreciate the humour behind Nancy’s response (or something similar). This could have given AA the opportunity to turn everything around and actually come out looking good for a change. Instead, they just added another 6 feet to the hole they’re in.

      • Fatima

        Exactly! They missed a golden opportunity by denouncing Nancy. Fucking idiots.

      • Fabel

        Seriously agree. Instead of wasting 348017198572 words trying to defend themselves in a letter that makes them look even worse, AA could have surprised us all by giving Nancy the title & laughing along. Damn.

    • Ken

      You know what’s the real tragedy?

      Women of all sizes will go “meh” and continue to buy from Am Appy.

    • Onagh

      So, how come Iris didn’t mention what size she wears? Does Am App even employ one woman above a size 4?

    • George

      Oh for goodness’ sake. They’re a company, not a junior-high girl – could they not have sent a less passive-aggressive, bitchy response?

    • Marilyn @ Lipgloss and Spandex

      Nancy Upton’s photos are fabulous, not only as a response to American Apparel’s “fat girl contest,” but as modelling photos in general.

      While I do like some of their clothes, American Apparel’s business practices have really turned me off from their brand. This contest was just another reason for me to dislike them, but their letter to Nancy is the final straw for me. The Gloss’ response to the letter is spot on.

    • August S.

      Well I was offended too– until I read that Iris and four other women came up with the campaign. I’m so relieved! I thought it was sexist, demeaning, and fat-shaming with “jolly” language, but now that I know it was created by women, everything’s fine!
      (The one bright side of this for me has been the conversion of my irrational dislike of American Appeal into a total rational loathing.)

    • Liz

      @Porkchop—This is poetry: “The company’s victimized tone and implied belief that their sustainable US factory automatically makes their entire business model immune to criticism is almost Fox-News-esque in its attempt to cast critics as ignorant, mean-spirited, and (why not) un-American.”

      Such a terrific point!

      I also wanted to point out that the photo of Dov Charney with the catty PR rep who wrote this letter appears to be of a business meeting… on a bed. Whaaat?

    • Steve P

      Those who dish it out can’t take it; that’s par for the course. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and it’s time plus-sized women got some respect. Tell the folks at American Apparel “If you can’t stand the heat, then get the he’ll out of the kitchen!”

    • Annie

      I’m going to cross AA off the list of places where I shop- and I’m pretty sure I can convince several of my friends not to shop there anymore either.

      I want nothing to do with a stuck-up company whose views are obviously “skinny women are beautiful and fatties….well, you can try.” American Apparel- you are one company out of a million. Get over yourselves. You don’t define beauty.

    • John

      She’s hot. Judging by that photo, I’d say she looks good enough to eat…..if you get my drift.

    • Christine

      Sigh. From bad to worse…1) nancy is considered “plus” size? Really? 2) AA has been “targeted in the past”….hmmmmm let’s all think about the reasons for that really hard for the next four seconds.

    • Niki

      since when is tossing an XL size onto a handful of items in your line that in reality, fits like a juniors large and isnt cut differently at all to accommodate hips, boobs, and booty considered “adding a plus size range!!” anyways?

    • mcpelvic

      Whatever happened to the customer is always right? I guess it’s been a trend since the late 80′s for the store to be always right. What I mean is that if people make fun of a brand, or say it sucks on their blog, the company should be concerned and address the deficiency, not sue or write open nasty grams to people who are just trying to keep it real.

      AA sucks for doing such a thing.

    • Normalsize

      The real problem here is that all Americans are getting way too comfortable being fat. Yeah I said it, more people are dying from obesity related diseases everyday and while women are crying about not fitting into clothing and asking clothing designers to size up our healthcare system is overrun with sick people who are just too fat and sick to take care of themselves. Wake up people! It is not normal to be a size 3x what you call a normal size woman is overweight, lose some weight already! Get off the couch, eat better, go for a walk and stop blaming clothing designers, the fashion industry and hollywood for your fat problems. More children are suffering from childhood obesity than ever so clearly we do not have a thin problem we have a fat problem. Being 30 lbs. overweight os not normal it is a problem and it is unhealthy it increases your risk for everything from arthritis to heart disease and cancer. It’s better to prevent diseases than to treat them after they happen. You all need to stop crying and get off your A$$. I’m not saying this woman is hideous but she could go for a walk and eat less for sure. I am 5’3 110 lbs and guess what I have maintained my weight within 7 lbs since I was 14 and I am 33 now. You know how I stop eating when I am full I workout pretty regularly and I get off my a$$. Miracle? No! Do I diet NO! Do I restrict myself NO! I will have drinks with friends here and there and eat desserts here and there I do all these things in moderation and never overdue any of it and when I am on vacation I enjoy myself but never overdue that either. It is very easy people. I do not want to hear about medical issues because obesity due to medical issues actually effects about 1% of the population and normally people are sick due to their weight issues not the other way around. I think this sympathy for fat people has gone way too far and not calling people fat when that is exactly what they are is ridiculous. Look I am short call me short if you are fat I will call you fat, not big boned or full figured, you are fat. We need to stop making it co comfortable to be so unhealthy out of shape and overweight it is not acceptable. It is something that is controllable being a certain ethnicity, old, short, tall, male or female is not but being fat and out of shape is. Put down the fork people and stop complaining and if you want to wear certain clothes get some motivation and drop some weight so you can fit into them. I have some news for you a lot of styles do not look good on you when you are a 3xl anyway and by no means should come in that size anyway. I would rather see designers focus on making clothing and jeans for shorter people since it is something that we cannot control and I am tired of having my jeans tailored.

      • Jamie Peck

        If we had a #trollpatrol section, I would move this comment there. I would also thoroughly enjoy disemvoweling it. But since we don’t currently have those abilities in our system, I will just leave a note that that’s what I would like to do to it, and leave it at that.

      • Ashleigh

        I know you said you don’t want to hear it, but if you want us to hear you, hear us. Dear “Normal Size” do you know how lucky you are? I had a medical problem when I was 14 and had to go on pills to help the side effects of the medical problem. The problem was my menstrual cycle, I got it 3 times a month and it was heavy, so my doctor decided to put me on birth control for three months to see if they could get it back on track, within three months I had gained 30 pounds because the pill made me feel always hungry, a feeling I had never felt before. Also I got extreme cramps when it was not there. The doctor had told me these were some of the possible side effects. They had put me on this pill instead of the others that had less side effects because my father had blood problems and they were afraid of more serious side effects. I was “Normal size”, actually small for my height of 5 feet even at the time. They took me off the pill and I maintained my weight for a little while, gaining about 10 pounds(With my height change also and stretched stomach going back to normal size) until they decided to try and put me on a different pill to help with the pain I got now twice a month. This pill had less of a side effect of 15 pounds in three months. due to the fact that I never had to deal with my weight before and I was only 15 I didn’t think much about my weight so I never really checked it until I got to the doctors. at this time I worked out four times a week (In the gym, for volleyball, Softball, and off season training) and still gained the weight. there could have been other things in my body going on because my food intake on the second pill didn’t go up as much as most would think. it has been two years and I take at least 3 30 minute walks a week, about one hour kickboxing per week and diet, I am on no pills due to my body’s reaction to them, and still have only lost about 15 of the 55 pounds. I try very hard, maintaining my weight is easy, its losing it which is hard. I noticed that you said “Unhealthy”, “I have maintained my weight”, and “need to stop crying and get off your A$$” I am not completely unhealthy, or healthy for I sometimes eat chocolate and cookies, but I don’t spurge on foods. If four years ago someone told me I would be overweight, I would have laughed at them, today I know how hard it is to LOSE weight. I eat half as much as my friend who is “NORMAL SIZED” friend, she just has a fast metabolism and only has to maintain weight. I am happy(Sarcasm) you don’t mind judging people without knowing their story, and it is great to know that you can do the easy thing of maintaining weight. it is also just peachy to know that you don’t have to work as hard as those you are judging with “I stop eating when I am full I workout pretty regularly and I get off my a$$. Miracle? No! Do I diet NO! Do I restrict myself NO! I will have drinks with friends here and there and eat desserts here and there I do all these things in moderation and never overdue any of it and when I am on vacation I enjoy myself but never overdue that either. ” I do all but drink, I don’t drink anything but Milk and Water with occasional 100% Fruit Juice. If you don’t want us all to say that “SKINNY, NORMAL SIZED, people are B*****s, then don’ t call every “Fat” person lazy. once you have LOST 50 pounds, I will be more open minded to your criticism. until then, don’t judge until you’ve worn their shoes and walked around a little. AGAIN MAINTAINING IS EASY LOSING LOTS IS HARD!

      • anne

        i weigh 180. i am 5’4″ am i fat? no i just happen to weigh 180 because muscle weighs more then fat. so weight isn’t accurate honey. yeah the bmi says i am overweight however my doctor has countered that, by stating unless paired with other test it can be severely in accurate. if i weighted as little as you i would be dangerously close to being under weight even though i am only an inch taller. i find it funny that is always the skinny b*tches that say fat people are way too comfy being fat. yeah you’re not helping. so seriously stfu. i have dealt with weight issues and i have to say people like you that complain about fat people don’t help go rent a fat suit and wear it for a little bit. also the assumption that all fat people are fat because of eating issues is a gross misunderstanding what about all the disease and health problems and medicines that cause weight gain? i am on a medicine right now that i am at risk of actually gaining more weight but i can’t stop taking it because if i do i have a psychotic episode. or is the fact that i have a genetic mental disorder that is the reason i have to take the medicine MY fault as well.

      • E

        Fast metabolisms don’t exist and muscle is not heavier than fat,those are two common myths that someone made up to excuse their weight, but medical and scientific research proves otherwise. Go ahead and do some research before you blame it on those two ‘facts’. With that being said, I am also on birth control pills and have been for 2 years now and I did gain some weight initially, but once I followed the a more normal diet, the weight came off and the cravings went away. I’m 5’8 and 140 lbs and was 155 when I gained weight on BC pills. Just look at what you’re eating from another perspective and you’ll see how much you’re actually eating,not just how much you THINK you’re eating.

      • Squiffy

        I can consume thousands of calories today, totally gorging myself nonstop for days on end, and I never manage to get an ounce over 160 lbs. The only time I can get higher than that is with strength-building exercise (muscle mass.)

        I went through a bad period in my life where I was lazy as hell, sitting around all day and shovelling food in my mouth. Not even good food. Greasy take out, though I still endeavoured to eat my food groups somewhat.

        Shouldn’t I have gotten a little fat at least?

    • Morgan

      It’s a bit startling that everyone is acting so wounded. They were trying to have fun with their lingo in an advertisement, and someone became offended. American Apparel did not say anything offensive.

      I’m also sad that the blog reader “zoned out about 2 lines in”. Seriously?! You’re a BLOG writer! And you’re not willing to ready more than two sentences of a very well-written letter?

      The authors of the letter made some fantastic points, and instead of complaining about the fact that they are trying to reach out, perhaps you guys could actually keep an open mind.

      AA said it best in the above letter when they stated, “If every brand that tried to [include a plus-sized line] was met with such negative press, we may have to wait another decade for the mainstream to embrace something so simple.”

      After seeing what AA went through, would you really want to create a plus-sized line? It makes the plus-size demographic appear volatile, easily offended, and quick to cry “they’re prejudiced!”. Any smallish retailer will stay away from that drama as far as possible.

      • K

        Are you saying that YOU read the whole thing before scrolling down to troll the comments? By the way, the writer states she zoned out “the first few times I tried to read it”. Pay attention, sweetie, before making a point.
        I did (seriously) read the ENTIRE article and found the letter to be longwinded and not very eloquent at all actually. I think the letter tries to make Nancy Upton seem “volatile and easily offended” and tries to make it seem like she ruined the experience for all the other fatties who should be creaming themselves at the thought of “modeling” AA clothing (Yes, that was sarcasm). “Trying to reach out” to fatties is, like, so hard for them right? And everyone is just a big, FAT bully right? Just because Iris wears flowers in her hair and maxi skirts doesn’t make her innocent, ok? In fact, I can tell in the letter how angry she is and that’s bad for a company! Know why? Because it’s fucking unprofessional.
        That initial fat-pun loaded announcement was over-the-top and highly patronizing. I suggest reading it again. I’m not plus-size (size 2, if it matters) but I also disagree with a lot of the ways AA conducts business, especially some of the “personalities” within the company.

    • LeAnn

      I read your post about GASP and was appalled at how they treat “real people”. This store doesn’t sound much better. Do these stores know that the average size of women in America is a size 12? They are losing millions because they refuse to create sizes for these women. The arrogance of these companies is astonding! Thanks for sharing both these posts. It shows us where NOT to spend our money. :)

    • You’re trapped

      Marketing fail.

      When you troll people in marketing and they troll you back and WIN, you celebrate them for it. And if you’re really smart- hire them.