The Twiggy-Sidibe Paradox

Americans are hypocritical about a lot of things. People in general are hypocritical about a lot of things, but one thing Americans are hypocritical about that is not an issue in Europe is weight/anoexia. A few week ago, I read this amazing article whose one line thesis is “models are powerful, professional women just like athletes and that obesity, not anorexia, is the real health disaster.” I totally agree.

Vanity Fair is currently being criticized for not having a black person on the cover of its Future of Hollywood issue. (If you google Vanity Fair + Cover, 11 out of first 20 is about this controversy, while 4 are about shirtless Tiger Woods!) Tonnes of people cites the movie Precious’s Gabourey Sidibe (just google her) as a potential cover for Vanity Fair, which always caters to WASP audience anyway*. This got me thinking: if the magazine had covered her (literally), there won’t be any coverage about her weight at all. On the other hand, if it had covered a skinny model (say Filippa Hamilton), there would be an outcry about glorifying waifishness, anorexia or bulimia.

Make no mistake about it: at the age of 26, Ms. Sidibe is morbidly obese. [Thanks to the media’s lack of coverage about her height or weight, we have to make some assumptions here: let’s be generous and say she is 5’7″. For someone at that height, any weight over 200 lbs will be obsese and 260 lbs morbidly so. Ms. Sidibe, I would guess, is over 320 lbs.] She may be a great actress (I haven’t seen the movie) but if it had been about a skinny model, the critics would still no doubt point out that talent has nothing to do with the body weight issues. May be it doesn’t, but I just hope for a little more fair and balanced look. When it comes to bodyweight issues, helping a state of denial really hurts.

Sidibe said on Oprah that she loved herself no matter what her body looked like and what other people thought about her body. Some reports note that we should not draw attention to her weight because she is “confident in herself and her abilities”. Actually these are all winning words but a skinny model will be practically crucified for saying same words, and a reporter for saying the same thing about a waifish model. The collective response will be they are ‘glorifying wrong lifestyles’ or ‘setting bad example’ for kids. Yes, this in a country where 30-40% of the kids are obese.

[The other nominee from ever-angry, ever-ignorant internet machine is Avatar’s Zoe Saldana, who was actually on last year’s Vanity Fair Hollywood cover].


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