Ashley Graham made history this month when she became the first plus-sized model to ever grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
After 52 years of seemingly unattainable bodies on the covers of the swimsuit issue, Graham suddenly represented a change in focus. Her body, still obviously beautiful, represented a much larger portion of the population. For the millions of girls and women in America, it suddenly seemed OK to not be a size zero.
Then 68-year-old three-time cover model Cheryl Tiegs swooped in and burst the collective bubble, stirring a storm of outrage in the process. Asked by E! News if she thought there should be more full-figured women featured in the magazine, her response left more than a few jaws on the floor.
“Actually I don?t like it that we?re talking about full-figured women because it?s glamorizing them, and your waist should be smaller than 35 (inches), Tiegs said. “That?s what Dr. Oz said, I?m sticking to it. No I don?t think it?s healthy. Her face is beautiful, beautiful but I don?t think it?s healthy in the long run.”
Boom. Just when America was making progress and insecure, overweight people saw a glimmer of hope, the stereotypical pretty girl stepped in and reminded them of what they’ve probably heard their whole lives: no, in fact, it’s not OK.
Tiegs seemingly doubled-down on her comments following the interview, posting a since-deleted tweet that read “To clarify re bodyweight. Being anorexic/bulimic/overweight all connected to health problems. I want all to be as healthy as they can.”
She also retweeted a male follower who agreed: “Spot on!” Andrew Christiansen (@_archristiansen) wrote. “Same here being overweight is hell on the body.”
And this is the very fine line that represents the problematic place in which today’s society is situated. Tiegs isn’t wrong in her assessment based on standard health protocol. Being overweight isn’t healthy and it does cause negative effects on a person’s general health and wellness in the long run. And, given her clarification, it seems that’s what Tiegs was getting at.
But to hear such sharp words at such a delicate time after making as much progress as our culture finally has seemingly made was devastating to millions of people who grew up hating their bodies and still might today.
There are approximately 319 million people in America, per Google, 157 million of whom are women, per the United States Census Bureau. It’s estimated by the national association for anorexia nervosa and associated disorders that up to 4.2 percent of those women suffer from bulimia nervosa (and similar disorders), while over 68 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.
The point: Overweight or underweight, those very basic numbers mean over 225 million people in America are unhealthy. So while it’s completely fair to call Tiegs’ comments about Ashley Graham insensitive, that’s the point Tiegs probably meant to get across.
But it’s 2016, America. So let’s all take a deep breath and realize two very important things: It’s important to take care of your body physically, but it’s just as important to be proud of it. One way or another.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@Eonline