The arts

Curvy Girls Rule the Art World

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Open any magazine or watch any ad on TV, and you’ll see straight-size women are the norm for beauty, and they have for decades.

Women like Ashley Graham, Melissa McCarthy, Tess Holliday, and Rebel Wilson are finally smashing long-held ideas that all beautiful or successful women have to be thin.

While all these women are beautiful and talented, curvy women have been celebrated in art for thousands of years. Allow me to indulge my inner art nerd as we take a quick tour of curvy women through the centuries to show you that plus-size women have actually been en vogue longer than you may think.

Note:

  • As you will see in a lot of fine art, some of these ladies are nakey. So if you’re expecting all these ladies to be clothed, they’re not.
  • I realize I am leaving out artists in Africa, Asia, and Australia, which is a huge chunk of the world’s population. I know there are fantastic examples of art that I am leaving out, but I am just not as conversant in art from those continents.
  • I also know I left out female artists. I found a couple that would have been good matches for this article (especially Marie Fox), but due to copyright laws, their paintings are not available on the royalty-free sites I use. Seriously, though, check out Marie Fox – she’s good. 

Venus of Willendorf (25,000 – 28,000 B.C.E.)

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Discovered in Austria in 1908, this faceless woman is estimated to be almost 30,000 years old. Archeologists think she may have been used as a fertility goddess because such emphasis is placed on her curves. Whatever her purpose, this fun-sized 4″ statute is one of the oldest surviving stone figurines ever found.

The Three Graces (1635)

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There is a reason the word “rubenesque” is synonymous with curves. In Ruben’s day (Belgium, around 1600), having extra weight on you was a sign of wealth and good health. You could afford to eat more than the working classes, and this was considered ideal beauty. I swear you can see cellulite on there!

Bather Admiring Herself in the Water (1910)


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Auguste Renoir was one of the most notable Impressionists active in France in the late 19th century. His early works feature women at work, in cafés, or gardens. But when he moved to the south of France in his later years, he painted more nudes. And many of them were true girls with curves. I wasn’t able to find much background on this particular painting which is held in a private collection, but it is an exceptional piece celebrating lady curves!

Woman Undressing (1983)

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The most recent entry on this list, Fernando Botero is an 84-year-old Columbian painter who often paints larger people, often reproducing famous pieces of art such as the Mona Lisa. When asked why, he simply answered, “An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why.” His non-reproductions may seem to have a cartoonish quality, but I think this one shows the intimacy of a woman alone at the end of a long day. Though we can’t see her face, the fact she has rolls and a booty is something many ladies can relate to!

 

Hopefully this little tour of classic art will help you realize that plus-size women have been artist muses for hundreds (and thousands!) of years. Back fat, big butts, jiggly arms, cellulite, stomachs, double chins and all – we are beautiful women inside and out and we deserve to be celebrated!

What can be done to make beautiful, plus-size women mainstream again so that all sizes are celebrated? Comment below!

11 Shows to Fill the ‘Downton Abbey’ Void

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Oh, Netflix, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

It’s been just about two months now since the iconic Downton Abbey went off the air. I don’t know about you, but I have been struggling to find shows to love and characters to root for as much as I loved the Crawleys and all those who worked for them.

Thanks to some great Netflix suggestions, friends’ recommendations and good ol’ BBC series, I have compiled a list of 11 shows dealing with class, history, and families for you to enjoy as you mourn the loss of Robert, Cora, Bates, Mrs. Patmore, et al.

Shows with a * denote they are still in production.

  1. Upstairs, Downstairs. Originally ran 1971-1975 and with a 2010-2012 reboot, this is the upper-class-versus-lower-class TV show to end all shows. It follows the rich (and eventually titled) Bellamy family from 1903 to 1930. Drama abounds in the morning room and servants’ hall alike. If you can get past the kitschy costumes and sets, as well as the relatively sluggish pace of the storylines compared to modern BBC shows, its great acting, solid writing, and surprisingly timeless storylines shows why Downton carries on this TV legacy.
  1. The Paradise. The Victorian Age at its finest in this 2012-2013 BBC treat loosely based on Emile Zola’s Au bonheur des dames. We follow the plucky young Denise Lovett in 1875 Newcastle as she takes a job as a shopgirl in Britain’s first (fictitious) department store. She rises through the ranks quickly as The Paradise’s owner recognizes her talent, gumption, and slowly reciprocates her feelings. It’s a great premise and I love the sets and costumes, but the characters do fall somehow flat. Still, a recommended watch on Netflix.
  1. *Last Tango in Halifax. I promise you will devour the 24 episodes of this BBC treasure. Set in northern England, it is about two families—one academic, the other agrarian—and how they come together thanks to their aging parents played by Anne Reid and the superb Derek Jacobi. The characters are rich and full, and the plot lines are soap opera-ish with enough realism to make you want to love these characters. Easily viewed in many PBS markets and on Netflix.
  1. *Call the Midwife. I am only a few episodes into this 42-episode series. Widely available on Netflix and on PBS, I do love the class commentary in south London in the 1950s. Sweetly acted, based on gripping source material, and attention to historical accuracy, I can already tell I am going to love this one.
  1. North & South. Based on a Victorian novel, this 2004 BBC gem can be knocked out in 4 hours. Margaret Hale and her genteel but impoverished parents move to the north of England in an industrial town. She finds the customs, accent, and treatment of workers to be almost out of her league, especially her conflicts with local mill owner John Thornton. A Victorian look between the classes, this an enjoyable albeit predicable miniseries. Look for Brendan Coyle (aka Bates) as an earthy millworker.
  1. The Time in Between (or, ‘El tiempo entre costuras’). This Spanish series (2013-2014) covers the 1930s through the eyes of a young seamstress named Sira. Dragged to Tangiers by the man she loved, he abandons her and she must make her own way. Spain was just beginning its own civil war, so Sira must be very careful how she plays her game. I’m not finished with this series, but the pacing, acting, sets, and costumes always leave me wishing I had time for more episodes.
  1. The Forsythe Saga. A delightful 2002 miniseries based on the books by John Galsworthy covers three generations of the tortured Forsythe family (1906-1921). Best of the lot is Damian Lewis as the cold, repressed, but deep Soames Forsythe. Obviously the books develop the characters much more, but the acting, costumes, and sets are top-notch, and the whole series can easily be knocked out on a lazy weekend day.
  1. Agatha Christie’s Poirot. I am not a fan of detective shows, but I very recently finished this series on Netflix. It started in 1989 and only just ended in 2013. David Suchet is the finest incarnation of Christie’s persnickety, shrewd, urbane, yet charming and complex Hercule Poirot. Rich sets and costumes aid in the great stories told, even if the one-off characters are not particularly interesting.
  1. *Peaky Blinders. This “based on a true story” series follows the fictional Shelby family in 1920s Birmingham. Cillian Murphy is the ice-eyed Tommy Shelby, the leader of a mob family. A family man of honor yet ruthless in pursuit of power, Tommy is the badass to end all badasses. This is by far the bloodiest entry for this list, but the gripping stories, the nuanced characters, and the historical accuracy sucked me in. Not to miss on Netflix. Be warned, though: blood and boobs abound.
  1. Fawlty Towers. Only 12 episodes were produced in 1975 and 1979. This brainchild of Monty Python’s John Cleese sets the bar from which all other BBC comedies can be measured. Cleese is trying to bring a bit of class to his hotel, but is constantly thwarted by his sweet but inept porter Manuel, his capable maid Polly, and his shrewish wife Sybil. The jokes fly fast and furious, both in witty dialogue, slapstick humor, and situational comedy at its finest.
  1. Keeping up Appearances. Filmed between 1990 and 1995, you can catch this popular sitcom on Netflix and many PBS stations. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced “bouquet”) always comes up with schemes to better her middle-class station in life, much to the chagrin of her long-suffering husband, Richard. Lots of slapstick humor, double entendres, and a real comedy of errors, this comedy is sure to leave you laughing over the pretentious Hyacinth, even if many of the jokes get repetitive.

So, even though we mourn the loss of Downton Abbey, there are plenty of shows on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, BBC America, and PBS to keep us happy and provide us many hours of viewing entertainment.

What have you been watching lately? Comment below to share your latest TV obsession with us!

The Lane Bryant Ad That Was Banned & Why You Should Care

Size discrimination. The final frontier.

From mainstream media to how people treat us in everyday life, far too many people still judge us women by the number on the scale and our clothing labels.

You would think in the tolerant 21st century we would have to put up with less and less of this crap, but sadly, this is not the case.

This became sadly evident in a recent 30-second Lane Bryant commercial that was banned from the airwaves by both ABC and NBC:

Starring SI cover girl Ashley Graham, new mom Tara Lynn, Denise Bidot, Georgia Pratt, and Precious Lee, this ad features plus-size models, rolls, curves and all. They boldly proclaim what their bodies allow them to do while they nurse babies, kick box, do yoga, and sport denim in stiletto heels. From wearing flowing dresses to nothing at all, these women are celebrating Lane Bryant’s #ThisBody campaign.

It should be a celebration of all bodies, but instead, ABC has flat-out refused to run the ad. NBC won’t air the spot either, citing that the ad doesn’t meet the FCC’s “broadcast indecency guidelines.”

What’s the big deal? Why should you care?

This just goes to show that size discrimination continues to be real. OK, I get this ad isn’t appropriate for daytime TV. But let’s face it—network TV has thrown us far worse. From Paris Hilton or Charlotte McKinney selling Carl’s Jr. burgers to famous vegans stripping down for PETA, advertisers always use women who wear less than these five models to hawk their wares. But a size 16 woman?! Apparently the double standard is very real. And very not cool.

The commercial depicts very normal-sized women just like us. Lane Bryant does still have a long way to go in diversity (all the models are 14/16 and hourglass shaped), but since the average American woman is a size 14, what is it specifically that ABC and NBC object? Why shouldn’t all bodies be celebrated? Are they trying to alienate a key demographic?

What does your body allow you to do? I love this ad’s message because it celebrates our bodies’ victories no matter what the size. My size 18/20 body was made to run 5Ks, do yoga, and love this one life I have.

You have the power to make your voice heard. There are a few things you can do to make your voice heard on this subject:

  • Contact your local ABC and NBC affiliates via social media to voice your opinion.
  • Thank CBS for keeping a more open mind and allowing the commercial to air.
  • Get in touch with Lane Bryant to let them know you support their message of love at any size and their #ThisBody campaign.
  • Support Lane Bryant with your business.
  • Don’t let this be a one-and-done headline. Keep this topic of discrimination in advertising alive by discussions with your friends and family.

While this may seem like a trivial topic, it is sad two of the major three networks have intentionally decided not to air this commercial. It shows women whose size is very much the norm and it carries a message of empowerment. However, ABC and NBC have decided to cite vague obscenity laws to mask blatant size description. In the end, we, the plus-size community, lose out because our voices and images continue to be underrepresented and ignored altogether.

What do you think about the video? Are NBC and ABC being discriminatory? Comment below!