In addition to Danielle Brooks serving gorgeous performances in projects like Orange Is the New Black and The Color Purple, the actress has become a body positive advocate. She modeled for Lane Bryant’s #ThisBody campaign and recently wrote a powerful essay for Refinery29 regarding plus-size representation in the media. “Editors, we want to be seen," she wrote. “Designers, we want to be dressed. Retailers, we want options. Women, we must do this together.”
Refinery29 has held up their end of the bargain. In September, they began the “67% Project,” in which they vowed that 67% of images on their site would feature women who are a size 14 or above, the same percentage of plus-size women in the United States. And the industry as a whole has begun to feature more and more curvy or plus models. Perhaps the most famous curvy model working today is Ashley Graham, the first plus model to be featured on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Graham is now a judge on the new iteration of America’s Next Top Model, randomly hosted by Rita Ora (who?). And in a scorching Instagram post, Brooks pointed out that despite Graham’s presence, unlike Tyra Banks’s ANTM, the new version features zero plus-size models.
“After watching #ANTM last night I was super excited to see my girl Ashley Graham but bummed out not to see any plus contestants,” wrote Brooks. “A curvy judge but no curvy contestants?”
She continued, “You had an Asian, African, a red head, transgender, an androgynous sister, even twins...(much love for that) but not 1 plus size woman-when 67% of women are plus in the US?? This could've been a perfect opportunity for them to highlight fabulous designers that also do plus fashion or highlight strictly plus designers that rarely get any shine. They could've also highlighted the struggles that come with being plus. We could've at least gotten to 2%.
“The plus competitor would've been able to lean on the fact that a reflection of herself (Ashley Graham) was in the room reminding her that her dream IS possible,” she wrote. “All these things still would've moved us forward, and would've done more than me posting an IG post. Regardless, We are worth these incredible opportunities. We deserve to be seen. I'm going to continue to push back and speak up for that young girl that wants to model, wants to act, wants to be upfront and needs to be reminded that she is just as deserving as anyone else.”
Brooks is right. ANTM has never really produced any actual top models (yeah, Eva Marcille is famous, but it’s not for catwalking) but it’s widely watched and can serve as a powerful tool for representation. Banks generally seemed dedicated to featuring different types of beauty on the show, and a plus model, Whitney Thompson, did win Cycle 10. I also may or may not have read Tyra’s terrible book, Modelland, a weirdly nightmarish tome about a dystopian land of models, and the point of the whole psychotic thing was to celebrate atypical beauty. So as Brooks points out, it’s disappointing to see that, despite Graham’s presence, the show has failed to include any curvy contestants, something that could inspire thousands of young girls. She’s also right to reference the invaluable exposure that oft-ignored plus designers might get.
Brooks followed up her post with this image of herself in lingerie.
Slay! Slay! Slay!
(Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Turner)