Real bodies don't need labels, do they?

Last updated 05:00 23/05/2013
Justine LeGault
COVER GIRL: Model Justine LeGault on the cover of Quebec Elle.

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Skinny, plus size, slim, buxom, waif-like, full-figured - women have a myriad of ways to describe our bodies. Isn't it about time we dropped the labels?

When the Quebec edition of ELLE magazine released their current issue with model Justine LeGault gracing the cover, it made headlines around the world. It's unusual for the ELLE brand - as their covers typically feature sample size celebrities and models. For the record, sample size is an New Zealand size 6-8. In the US it's a 0-2 (New Zealand size 4-6).

Justine LeGault is undeniably a gorgeous woman - with her tousled blonde hair and flawless complexion - but it's her body that has people talking.

If we can get past the concept that it's apparently news-worthy to see a larger than sample size woman in a fashion magazine, we can then ask the question; why do magazine titles feel they need to announce that the model you are looking at is 'plus size' or 'curvy'?

While the ELLE cover is a fantastic example of demonstrating that a cover girl doesn't have to be sample size, it would have made more of an impact if there was no reference in the cover lines. For those of you who (like me) tuned out and passed notes in high school French class, the main cover line reads; "Size, age, ethnicity... and if fashion has changed models." It's great that Justine is on the cover of ELLE, it's just a shame they felt they needed to dedicate an issue to diversity to do so.

Too often we see editorial or advertising shoots featuring larger than sample size women that practically shout to readers that the model is bigger than typical models.

The recently closed Madison magazine featured Robin Lawley on the cover of their March 2012 issue. The cover line read: "First Australian cover, Robyn Lawley - 'You don't have to be skinny or small to be beautiful."' The main cover line read "super sex curves" and 'curves' was in the largest type of any other word on the cover except the title of the magazine. We can see Robyn Lawley is bigger than Miranda Kerr, pointers are unnecessary.

It is a sentiment shared by new CLEO editor Sharri Markson. "In both our fashion and beauty pages, we have girls alongside models showcasing make-up products and clothes," she says. "There is no fanfare around this in CLEO, it is just seamlessly incorporated into our pages."

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Labels can also have a damaging effect on women that are sample size, in particular; 'Real woman'. It's a term exclusively used to describe women size 12 and above.

What exactly are we saying when we use it; that a woman who wears a size 8 isn't a real woman?

That due to their lighter weight, slender shape or smaller size they are not 'woman' enough?

Because that's just ridiculous.

One of my close friends is a model. Modelling is what she does for work, in the same way that writing is what I do for a living. We both have a family, relationships and friends.

We went to school and university, we have travelled. We've had bad hair days, we've looked bloated, we've looked fabulous, we've had disappointments, we've wished we were more like Gwyneth Paltrow and on more than one occasion we've eaten three tim tams in a row simply because they were in front of us.

She is a person, a woman, a daughter, a girlfriend, a sister, a friend and so many other things than simply a model. She is as much a 'real woman' as I am.

In a surprising move US Vogue released their June issue with swimsuit model Kate Upton on the cover. While she is certainly smaller than Justine LeGault and Robyn Lawley, she is most definitely bigger than the usual picks for Vogue.

Although the March issue featured singer Adele on the cover. In both cases there is absolutely no mention of size, body, shape or weight in the cover lines. If the notorious Anna Wintour can do it in Vogue, so can anyone.

If a magazine chooses to incorporate women of varying sizes in their pages it would do more for the self-esteem and mental well-being of their readers if they did so without making a song and dance about it.

Instead they should place them throughout the magazine as if it were normal... for the simple reason that it is normal.


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