A Perfect 14
I was so fortunate to be able to attend the Twin Cites premier of “A Perfect 14” as part of the Twin Cities Film Fest. A Perfect 14 is a documentary by filmmaker Giovanna Morales Vargas about the Plus Size modeling industry. The film tells the story of three models; Elly Mayday, Laura Wells, and Kerosene Delux with a myriad of interviews with magazine editors, modeling agencies, and other models were scattered throughout.
I knew I would love this film. The mere fact that it exists is incredible, because believe it or not this is the first documentary about the plus size modeling industry. Even with that being said, if far surpassed my expectations. I laughed, I cried (I really did, if you don’t cry at the end I don’t know what’s wrong with you), and I left feeling motivated and excited about the Body Positivity movement. We have a long way to go, but man oh man, we’ve made strides. Even in the time this film was made (it took them several years to complete it), you can see the shift in the midst starting to take place.
A Pefect 14 told beautiful stories in a masterful way, and I’m not doing anyone any favors by trying to summarize it here, there’s simply no way to do it justice. What I will do is list some takeaways that are still buzzing through my mind over 48 hours later, and some ideas that I’d really like to delve into further as I continue with my own work.
There is a divide in the industry about the label “Plus.” Some consider it a term to be proud of, a label that has helped them discover their own place in the modeling world. As one model put it, “Plus pays the bills.” On the other hand, there has been a push to drop the term “plus,” because it is argued that it creates unnecessary delineations. We don’t call other models “straight models” or “thin models,” we just call them models. Categorizing “plus” only creates further separation, further “other-ing” of an already marginalized group of people.
Some plus models use padding, which was a complete surprise to me. There are woman who are a size 12 or 14 who bring in padding, otherwise known as a fat suit, to fill out the clothing if that’s what the brand is looking for. There is a lot of controversy around this. If a size 14 is padding to fit a size 20, shouldn’t the brand just hire a size 20? On the other hand, if the size 14 can fill that range herself, is it all that wrong to hire her?
There is such thing as not being plus enough. There are models out there who are a size 14, but who’s proportions are bodies are more culturally accepted. They have a narrow waist and a toned tummy, and they also happen to be a size 14. Laura Wells talked about being judged by those in the industry and strangers online alike, making terrible comments like “she should eat a salad,” or “she has no business in a swimsuit,” but also for not being plus enough. She’s called the “fat chick” in a room of straight models. At the same time, “There’s no way she’s plus” is something she hears a lot from the public, so she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. Elly Mayday was not only starting off her modeling career, but also fighting cancer and going through chemo. She ended up losing about 70 pounds, and while her body was still a “plus” body, she was judged for that weight loss by her fans. They said they couldn’t follow her because she got too thin and she didn’t represent them anymore. They even shamed her for losing too much weight. Can you imaging anything worse than being judged by strangers on the internet for losing too much weight during chemotherapy??
I could go on and on about this film, and happily will if you want to go out for coffee. I’m barely scratching the surface on what Giovanna Morales Vargas managed to cover with her work, and I’ll certainly be thinking about this film for a long time to come. The main take home that I’ll leave you with is that you need to put your money where your mouth is. There is a lot of money to be made in making and selling clothing that fit the majority of women around the world. Most women are considered plus by industry standards, so why are we missing out on this market? More than half of women aren’t being designed for or sold to, what sense does that make? There was a particularly candid interview with a magazine editor from Australia. She said that she would never put a plus model on one of her covers, because no one would buy it, and she would lose her job. Unfortunately that’s true, thin sells. Magazines with plus models on the cover don’t do nearly as well as those with thin models, that’s a fact. It doesn’t have to though. We decide what we spend our money on. We drive the market, and if this is something that we’re passionate about, we need to make a real effort to support size inclusive brands. We have the power to change the market, we just have to make a concerted effort to do so.
Hopefully there will be a way to see this film soon, in the mean time please follow them on all of the social channels and check out their websites for when this will be available for streaming. It is a must see.