For the nine previous seasons that America’s Next Top Model has aired, there have only been a total of four plus-sized or “full-figured” models, none of which had even made it far enough in the competition to travel to the international destinations, let alone become one of the top three finalists.
And while they all may have been lauded for their attempts to break into the world of high fashion through the vehicle of America’s Next Top Model, a widely watched show on the CW, all were met with the harsh reality that a plus-sized model could not compete against their thinner counterparts. It seemed as if there could never be a plus-sized winner on America’s Next Top Model, and really, who was surprised?
The fashion industry has made it crystal clear that the thinner a girl is, the more desired she is to don the best clothes and strut down the runways of the high fashion designers.
The most recently publicized size-discrimination case came during Paris Fashion week this year, not against an actual plus-sized model, but against Ali Michael, who put on five pounds on the order of her doctors after she discovered clumps of her hair were falling out due to her lack of eating (click here to read article).
Ali’s thighs were deemed “too large” and she was instructed to lose the weight or go home. In a move almost never made by a model, she decided her health was more important than her modeling career and she went back to Texas. Since her return, there has been countless numbers of interviews given where she has spoken out against the injustices she has faced having gained those five pounds. But this all raises a question: if a skinny model can be sent away for having gained five pounds, how does a full-figured model stand a shred of a chance?
Having defied multiple odds, Whitney Thompson, from Atlantic Beach, FL, has become the first full-figured model to win America’s Next Top Model. This is the first time a full-figured model has won on any of the versions of Top Model, which are shot in many various countries around the world, ranging from such surprising places as Afghanistan and Kazakhstan to Germany and Thailand.
This final decision was reached after Whitney and her fellow finalist Anya strutted down the runway in what would be a history-making Versace runway show. After much debating between the judges, where they discussed the Versace runway show and all the previous photo shoots that both contestants had performed so well in, Whitney was declared the winner.
Besides winning a contract with Elite Model Management, (who has never represented a full-figured model until now), a $100,000 contract with cosmetics company CoverGirl and a cover story and six-page fashion spread in Seventeen magazine’s July issue; Whitney has won the knowledge that she has helped countless numbers of women and girls view their bodies in a different light.
"I’ve already received emails from boys and girls all over the world saying, ‘I’ve [sought] help for an eating disorder because of you.’ I think that’s really the best reward that I’ve received," she said.
Is this a sign that the fashion world is changing? Is it ready for full-figured models to be regulars on the runways? Or is Whitney a fashion fluke; merely an example being set forth by Tyra in order to show that a woman with some flesh on her bones can look just as high fashion as a model who weighs the same as a clothes hanger?
Regardless, I applaud Whitney for being a shining example for all women out there; she shows that no matter what size you are, you can be beautiful.