There was a time when big as applied to women was probably a good thing. A glance at the women in paintings by an artist like Rubens makes it clear that pleasingly plump was the ideal female body type. Even as late as the middle of the last century, softig women like Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell had the figures that women coveted, the bodies that made male mouths water. That all changed as the century progressed. The new emphasis on youth culture found its ideal of the female form in the slender nymphet—curves were out and thin was in, thin to the point of starvation chic. Of course there were still big women, but more often than not they were made to feel freakish because of their size.
What big women need is a new image, a hip image. They need to feel good about themselves. They need role models who are unashamed of their thighs, their stomachs, their butts. Big Sexy, TLC’s three part series which premieres Tuesday, August 30th, at ten, takes a shot at supplying those models.The series introduces the viewer to five plus size New Yorkers, three aspiring models, Audrey, Tiffany and Nikki, and two wannabe fashion designers, Heather and Leslie—women who not only claim to be comfortable with their bodies, but celebrate their size. This is not to say there are moments of doubt; they are after all human beings and human beings suffer their insecure moments. Still when it comes right down to it, these are women who refuse to accept the stereotypical roles set aside for big women. They want everything their skinny sisters want, and they are going to do their darnedest to get it.
We follow them as they visit Fashion Week at Lincoln Center and marvel at the anorexic models while envying the stylish clothes that would never work for them. We see them rejected at a club holding one of the after parties. We watch them at a BBW (Big Beautiful Women) party, and later a round of speed dating. Their experiences are not always very satisfactory, but through it all they remain upbeat and optimistic.
The first episode ends with one of those let’s put on a show moments as the women decide that fashion shouldn’t be limited to petites. Big women deserve fashionable clothes too. With a little help from their friends, they decide to put on their own runway fashion show. There is some drama about bathing suits, but in the end the women come through with flying colors, and there is something empowering as these ladies strut their stuff.
While the idea of the plus size fashion show may not be entirely new, I seem to remember an episode on Project Runway where the designers created “looks” for full figured women, the emotional stakes for these women in this particular fashion show are much greater. This is all about their self image and when they walk down that runway, they walk tall and proud of whom they are. They are big and they are sexy.