Models Who Were Told They Are Too Big, But Really Aren’t

The fashion industry has made strides in inclusivity very recently. Even so, models struggle with the industry’s demand to stay super skinny. We list four models who were told they were too big.

Gigi Hadid

When Gigi Hadid initially started modeling, she was told her body was too athletic. She had thighs, curves and a ‘volleyball figure.’ The now 26-year-old model had just come out of high school when she was subjected to this critique. She was also told to lose a lot of weight in order to make it big. It is unclear what the model’s exact size was during this period but pictures from 2011 and 2012 prove that Hadid was anything but big. While she did not have a traditional stick-thin figure, she was definitely not big. Hadid maintained that she wanted to be a healthy role model for young girls out there.

The Guess model has since lost pounds in part due to Hashimoto’s disease. She has also been body shamed for becoming too skinny. Currently, she is probably a US size 4 and weighs 58 kg.

Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks was subjected to body shaming during the peak of her career. She was one of the most successful black models way back in the late 90s and the first black Victoria’s Secret model. She was told she had curves and that her butt was too big. Banks objected to conforming to the industry standards and became one of the most iconic models of all time.

There was also the infamous swimsuit paparazzi incident which she clapped back on during The Tyra Banks Show in 2007. Banks was a US size 8 during this time and hardly a big girl. But due to the modelling industry and media’s strict standards, the popular model was subjected to shaming and critique.

Banks never backed down and her famous line on her show “kiss my fat ass” has resonated with lots of women world over. Banks has since spoken about being subjected to body shaming during her time in the industry and told she would not make it big with a butt like hers. Lucky for her, she has had a glorious career in fashion and beyond.

Kate Upton

Kate Upton has been one of the more popular names when we think about ‘fuller’ models. While the model gave curvier women more recognition in the industry, she is by no means a big girl. With a flat waist and spectacular abs, Upton is not a fat person. But she has been seen as one since she appeared on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 2011. Upton is surely busty and has wider hips, but the model is still a US size 8. This makes her a relatively small-framed person if we look at the average woman’s size in the United States which is a size 14.

Upton has talked about how she felt when people were commenting on her body especially after her Sports Illustrated cover in 2013. There were debates about whether she was fat or not which left her feeling objectified. She has not let shamers faze her however and continues her successful career today.

Agnes Hedengard

Agnes Hedengard made headlines after she posted the viral “Too Big For The Industry” video on youtube. This powerful video addressed how she had not been getting jobs in big part due to her size. She was 19 at the time and stood in her underwear looking slim and skinny as she announced that the modeling industry thinks her body is too big, adding a sense of incredulity to this statement. Her body mass index during this time, she self-reports was 17.5. Although BMIs are not accurate markers of wellness, they can signify how big or small a person is. With her BMI, she is officially smaller than the average woman.

Her video exposed the modeling industry’s ridiculous standards worldwide. Looking at her now, it does seem absurd that she was told she was too big and needed to be skinnier. In subsequent videos, Hedengard addresses eating disorders prevalent in models and in Western society that are fuelled by unrealistic body standards like the ones she was subjected to.

The women on this list are all beautiful and powerful. Some are trailblazing in their own way and have inspired women with the conversations they hold. Models worldwide are subjected to a high level of body critique and a lot of them experience various kinds of eating disorders. Women who clap back at these shamers and show us what is real and what is constructed are truly the face of the industry. These women were told they need to lose pounds. They are not big or fat, far from it. This characterization also makes bigger framed women and aspiring models even more scrutinized and marginalized. Fortunately, the industry is doing better today than it did five years ago. We have more diversity in models, in terms of size and race. There are more models who go beyond size 14 than there have ever been. Brands like SKIMS and Savage x Fenty are excellent examples of model diversity which has become more prevalent today. Hopefully, we have more of these women to look at and up to going forward.

About the Author

Riddhima Dave

Riddhima Dave is a senior journalism student at Emerson College. Originally hailing from Mumbai India, she has previously worked at Harper's Bazaar India and wants to build a career in multimedia journalism. Along with entertainment, she is interested in social issues, fashion and culture.