Body Issues – An Art Series

Body Issues - An Art Project featuring reimagined magazine covers.

It can’t just be me who thinks there is a severe lack of plus size beauties on and in magazines these days? I know we’ve made some strides over the years, and entire months are devoted to so-called “plus sized” models. But realistically, it’s getting kind of depressing that the industry is claiming someone who is a size 12 is a “big girl.” Come on!

The truth is that we are being told from the moment our eyes open that there is only ONE way to be beautiful – through having a “perfect body.” Nevermind that there are more size 16 Americans than there are size 6. It is never said that a 6 is too thin. No, it’s always that a 16 is too fat.

I get about 12 – 15 magazines sent to me each month, and I’ve actually stopped looking at them. Either they feature unrelatable images of super thin models or they are full of so-called “real women” who like to eat and play. The only difference between the “real women” and the stick-thin models is that the “real women might actually have more than a mouthful of boob.

Don’t get me wrong – there are some utterly gorgeous gals out there who are naturally thin. They are perfectly proportioned and will probably never have any issues with their weight. We call these women “lucky” or “blessed.” But why the hell are we equating thin bodies as the ultimate goal?? I know there’s the argument that a lot of people make that being overweight is unhealthy. In reality, I know a TON of overweight and even obese women (and men) who are WAY more active than I am. They run marathons or can bench press a car. But because they are not body perfect in someone’s mind, they are unhealthy.

I think back to some of the “iconic” magazine covers that I’ve seen in my life. And the thing that sticks out about all of them is that the celebrity or model on the cover is looking absolutely flawless. And I get it. Magazines are profit-machines who want to make a ton of money. They sell you on perfection. They make you think that your favorite celebrity is naturally amazing at all times. Because it is important to them that the people you idolize look beyond your imagination. They have to be better than anyone else because it helps them sell makeup or weight loss drugs or skincare products.

The truth is that even the model or celeb doesn’t look as good in real life as they do on the cover. Each one is beautiful, stunning in real life, no doubt. But they are not flawless. If you think Kim Kardashian never gets cellulite or Beyonce doesn’t occasionally have a muffin top, you’re mistaken. Real life is not a glossy magazine photo!

So I decided to see what some classic covers would look like if the models were overweight or obese. I started with this one of Kim Kardashian because it seriously makes me laugh whenever I see it. I just don’t understand the appeal. If you’re going to love a big butt, then love a BIG butt!

Body Issues - An Art Project featuring reimagined magazine covers.

Break the internet, indeed!

A woman’s body is idolized for its soft curves. But where is the line drawn between curvy and lumpy? Why is one preferred over the other? In ye olden days, we know that weight was a symbol of status and beauty. Larger women were seen as more desirable. They had money (only the poor were thin) and they were someone you want to marry. Now, though, health is considered a fad. The more natural the food, the higher the price. The more full of sugar and chemicals and fat, the lower the price.

Here’s another Kim K one from the same magazine.

Body Issues - An Art Project featuring reimagined magazine covers.

Could you imagine if this was the cover chosen? I remember when Kim was pregnant, and her body was slammed from here to heaven because she put on weight. She was CRUCIFIED in the media for something that millions of women go through every day. She grew a life inside of her – she performed an honest-to-god miracle – and yet she was judged harshly for how her body looked (ie – normal).

Of course she had to get back to a perfect body after giving birth. She was pretty candid with her struggle. But at the same time, she was not entirely relatable to the everyday woman who has no nannies, no personal trainers, no money and no dietitians to see her through her weight loss journey.

I don’t blame Kim. She makes a living because of her body. It is her job to keep it amazing, and she does a great job. I have no doubt that she puts a lot of work in daily to keep it tight and toned without losing her trademark curves. And truly she’s done a lot for the body positive movement, given her assets. In my teen years, it was J-Lo with the big butt. Then Beyonce made curves more popular. But it was Kim who really convinced me that people could be open to larger bodies. You just need the right person to appeal to the masses.

Speaking of Beyonce, I couldn’t resist this cover from Vogue.

Body Issues - An Art Project featuring reimagined magazine covers.

It’s definitely different when the model is bigger, isn’t it? Beyonce has always been curvy, but she’s also a naturally thin type of curvy. At certain angles, she is just plain thin. And there’s no judgement here. Thin or fat, tall or short, I am a big believer that all bodies are beautiful. But when you see how various women pose for photos specifically to hide certain “problem areas,” it can really get you down. I’m guilty of it myself. We all want to look our best – especially when we know that others might see us. But at the end of the day, I wish there was more “realism” and that we were shown respect for that realism.

Body Issues - An Art Project featuring reimagined magazine covers.

And here’s the ultimate betrayer of women – Playboy. This magazine is completely dedicated to showing women as the ultimate sexual objects. They are LITERALLY all about the body on display. I doubt you’ll ever see a “plus size special issue” of this magazine. It would go against everything it stands for.

You can believe that whomever you see on the cover of Playboy is going to be thought of as the epitome of “body perfect.” So to have “heroin-chic” model Kate Moss on the cover really drives the point home that skinny is perfection. My version is definitely not that.

Body Issues - An Art Project featuring reimagined magazine covers.

Perhaps the most iconic cover of my generation was Janet Jackson on rolling stone. I remember all the boys in my middle-school class hiding this issue in their desks and passing it around. It was the first “porn” they were exposed to, and they took great delight in discussing how awesome it would be to grope a topless woman. I remember overhearing a group of boys talking about which girls in our class they wanted to fondle. I secretly hoped to be on their lists because to me it would mean that they had seen me as beautiful. And since I’d definitely “developed” faster than the other girls in our class, I thought for sure they would consider me top of the list. But to my adolescent horror, they ran down their list of girls, and I was not on it. In fact, none of the girls they’d chosen even had boobs. They were simply skinny with long hair and nice clothes. I didn’t yet understand the many feminist emotions I was feeling then. I was just simply depressed that I wasn’t deemed good enough to be treated like a sexual object by my peers.

I plan on creating further magazine covers, but I’ve been in the process of trying to figure out my thoughts and feelings surrounding body confidence and the way the media treats women. If you have ideas or suggestions on iconic covers I should recreate, let me know in the comments. And if you have any thoughts on feminism or body issues, or this art project as a whole, please feel free to *politely* discuss in the comments, as well. I’d be VERY interested to hear thoughts.

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Katie is a 34 year old professional mommy blogger who runs the popular site, A Mother Thing. She created this site as a fun distraction and to chronicle all of her more creative pursuits. She is too pop for the punk kids and too punk for the pop kids. She loves Doctor Who.