Sports Illustrated Cover Girl Kate Upton Reinforces Positive Body Image For Women

How do you ensure a 6-year-old little girl will grow up battling low self-esteem and a warped sense of body image?

It’s not too difficult to fathom, really. Insert the media’s obsession with faux perfection, the androgynous sticks that dominate the fashion industry, and our generation’s societal acceptance of unrealistically thin as beautiful, and there you have it. Faced with this message, it’s no wonder that most women today identify as that little girl. Thus, when ordinary teenage swimwear model Kate Upton graced the cover of Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, it came as a pleasant surprise – a bold and commendable reassurance by the media company, showing all women that “normal” is beautiful.

While Upton is in no way your average plus sized model, she has a healthy, attainable body weight. “There's no special diet to prepare for a bikini shoot,” she told Fox News, as she admitted to splurging on the occasional ice cream or plate of fries. It’s easy for women to look at Upton and believe this. The girl has hips and a well-endowed chest, something severely lacking in high fashion models.

In fact, there may be some of that 6-year-old girl in Upton herself. According to the New York Post, the supermodel had friends stage an intervention last year “after she packed on enough pounds to jeopardize her career.” Upton is attractive, yet relatable. Any woman who has had weight problems, eating disorders, or negative body image can see herself in Kate Upton.

Predictably, critics in the fashion industry are already criticizing the model about her weight and overall look. “We would never use Upton for a Victoria’s Secret show,” Sophia Neophitou, the coveted runway show’s casting director, told the New York Times. That, in itself, is where our problem lies. During the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in November last year, college girls felt new levels of insecurity as the scantily clad Angels worked the runway.

Extreme thinness has somehow become intertwined with the ideal. A few decades ago, top designers had healthy-bodied women on their runways. This extreme downsizing is dangerous not only to models who strive to achieve unrealistic standards, but also to little girls who will not understand that the beautiful woman on the cover of Sports Illustrated has a photo-shopped body.

It is high time that we stop letting corporate beauty dictate what we view as sexy. Our perfection-obsessed society promotes the wrong message of unnatural, and unhealthy “beauty” that ought to be shunned by women of all ages and sizes. As 2012 New York Fashion Week comes to a close, young women should be sensible enough to ignoring the hipless, breastless creatures parading designer outfits, and turn to Kate Upton for an authentic positive role model instead.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Rita Solomon

Rita Solomon is a Journalism and Politics double major at NYU. She is interested in the way digital media is evolving to accommodate non-professionals and giving a voice to all, especially pertaining to politics.

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