Victoria’s Dirty Secret

With the Victoria Secret Fashion Show right around the corner, the effect that the “angels” of Victoria’s Secret have on viewers’ body image needs to be discussed.  Every year, people all over the world watch this fashion show and compare themselves to the almost unattainable goals of the Victoria Secret Fashion Models.  Every year, the Victoria Secret Fashion show airs; and every year men drool at the “perfect” models and women become more and more self-conscious of their bodies.

I am guilty of watching the fashion show every year, and I am also guilty of feeling bad about my body once the show has finishe2013_victorias_secret_fashiond.  Reading all of the tweets, Facebook posts, and comments on these models has inspired me to finally take a stand against this show.  Emily Wilson, a fellow blogger, posted some tweets that she saw on her timeline about the VS Angels.  They include:

“Time to starve because VS Fashion Show is the 10th!”

“Nothing can make me feel so inferior as a woman than looking at pictures of VS Angels.”

“Like I don’t even feel upset that I don’t look like a VS Model, I feel suicidal.”

“RIP self esteem.”

These tweets portray the self-esteem issues that individuals have due to the fashion show.  As a curvy woman, I am able to back up the feelings of inadequacy and insufficiency after watching this show and looking at the “beautiful” models by society’s standards.  They have gorgeous faces, flat stomachs, long limbs, and perfect smiles.  In last year’s VS Fashion Show, Angel Adriana Lima stated that her routine before the show consisted of not eating any solid food for 9 days before the show, working out twice a day, and drinking a gallon of water a day.  For the majority of the population that have jobs, families, and other responsibilities, this is not a normal lifestyle.  However, individuals still feel the need to attain the body that the VS Angels have.   This unattainability creates self-criticism and a lowered self-esteem for curvier women, especially.

The media portraying these Angels as perfect, beautiful, and flawless enhances the typical body ideal, which according to Smeesters (2009) is not attainable for nearly 98% of the population (p.932).  The media’s pressure for all women to look like this, even when unattainable, is wreaking havoc on female self-esteem and pressuring women to go on dangerous diets to change their body shape.  In a study done by Smeester (2009) titled, The Effects of Thin and Heavy Image on Overweight and Underweight Consumers, it was found that the sociocultural norms that we have created as a society on thinness have a significant impact on women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies.  These Victoria Secret Angels reinforce this “thinness= beauty” ideal that society has created.  This study also came to the conclusion that exposure to images like the Victoria Secret Angels leads women in our society to measure their self-worth by their appearance.

While thinner girls are also impacted heavily by these models, curvier girls have a larger speedbump to overcome in order to obtain higher self-esteem.  For some curvy girls, they will never have the flat stomach or perfect curves that these Victoria Secret Angels have, which could lead them to have even lower self-confidence.

Once reading these blog posts and scholarly article, I have realized that I do not need to be striving to be an Angel.  Each person is beautiful the exact way that they are, and should not feel bad about themselves based on what our society tells us.

Men and women need to realize that these Victoria Secret Angels are not the norm; nor will they ever be.  Yes, the Angels should be idolized for their success, self-confidence, and happiness in their own skin.  However, the population needs to start focusing on this aspect of the Angels, rather than the beauty and “skinny” aspect.

Curvy women are beautiful. Skinny women are beautiful.  Larger men are beautiful. Muscular men are beautiful.  Victoria Secret Angels are beautiful. It should not matter what the size of our clothes are.  Beauty needs to start being determined from our character.


Don’t Strive to be G.I. Joe

G.I. Joe is an action-hero figure that many individuals grew up with, especially boys.  Just as the Barbie doll has been an iconic toy in our culture, G.I Joe has been just as important within our society.  Intern Counselor, Marc Silva, at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, posted a personal article onto their Student Resources page in order to help students’ receive counseling.  His article is titled, “Body Image Dissatisfaction: A Growing Concern Among Men.”  Silva reports on multiple statistics and issues that are facing men- especially body image.  He states, “Over the past 20 years, the G.I. Joe toys have grown more muscular and currently have sharper muscle definition.”  Thousands of curvier males grew up with this G.I. Joe action figure, which could give them an unrealistic and unhealthy image for themselves.

With G.I. Joe as their role mode, more and more male and female individuals are putting themselves at risk in order to look like this action figure.  For instance, G.I. Joe Extreme action figure, if extrapolated to a height of 5’10, would have larger biceps than any bodybuilder in history.  Many researchers are worried that an action figure like G.I. Joe pushes people to use the risky muscle-building drugs, such as steroids.  Men’s body image concerns have skyrocketed recently, which could easily be caused through the media and what the millennial generation has grown up to.

Phillipa C. Diedrichs completed a study titled, “GI Joe or Average Joe?” In this study, Diedrichs came to the conclusion that the ideal body for men has been transformed over the years through the media. The ideal male body is now characterized by large defined muscles, low body fat, and a v-shaped upper body.  Not all curvy males are able to achieve this insane body type, which could cause serious body image issues.  These issues could lead to lower self-esteem, which could lead to the illegal use of steroids or over-exercising in order to attain this figure and “bulk up”.

From a curvier women’s perspective, the Barbie Doll has had serious effects on my body image issues as I have grown up.  Due to the fact that I have had such issues with the pressure that Barbie has put on myself, I can only imagine how G.I. Joe affects males.  Just as Barbie and the media has changed women’s ideal body view, G.I. Joe is just as big of a role model for young men. Not all men need to have the muscle mass that this action figure has, nor do they need to look a specific way.  Curvier men are also considered beautiful- not just body builder types.  No curvy male needs to feel inadequate due to the pressure that G.I. Joe action figures create.


Diedrichs, P. 2010. GI Joe or average Joe? The impact of average-size and muscular male fashion models on men’s and women’s body image and advertisement effectiveness. Science Direct, 7(3). p. 218-226. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2010.03.004

Body Image Dissatisfaction: A Growing Concern Among Men

Actions Speak Louder than Jean Size

Television shows and movies are a huge part of growing up and social life.  Celebrities are idolized by the public, and everyone has their “celebrity crush” or favorite actor or actress. These actors and actresses are constantly criticized by the media for their body.  If an actress is not skinny enough, they will be harassed and tormented in tabloid magazines.  They will not be considered as “beautiful” and every flaw of their body is pointed out.  To avoid these nasty comments from paparazzi and the public, actors and actresses hire personal trainers, buy the most expensive diet foot, and go to extreme lengths in order to stay skinny and “beautiful”.

Carrie, a 23-year old blogger created an extremely popular blog titled, Wish Wish Wish, where she speaks about all things beauty.  Carrie is a curvier woman, and is proud to be a voice for the women that identify with her.  In one post Carrie states, “…size shouldn’t matter, but it’s only inevitable people obsess over how they look when so many ‘influences’- celebrities, actors- are so stick thin and leading a seemingly ‘perfarticle-1296161-0A808135000005DC-788_634x855ect’ life.  It’s almost as though it’s normal- worrying.”

As a curvy woman myself, I can personally admit that my celebrity crushes are extremely thin and beautiful- Selena Gomez, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston.  There are not many actors and actresses on television that are curvy or looked up to.  For instance, the average female media personality of actresses weighs 23% less than the average woman in American (Goodman, 2005).  Therefore, the actors and actresses that we have been looking up to and idolizing are somewhat unattainable goals for my fellow curvy women and men.

The leading women in shows and movies are almost always thin, and have certain positive attributes that seem to always be accompanying them.  For example: having well-glamor, success, competence, involvement in romantic relationships, and having more positive interactions with others (Goodman, 2005). Because of these certain characteristics that most female actresses have, women feel the need to look as aesthetically pleasing as the actresses and models do.  If a woman looks like the successful, beautiful, and well-liked actress on their favorite show, then they will then have a higher chance of gaining the same positive attributes.

Many individuals in society need to realize that being thicker and curvier than the average celebrity does not make them less of a person.  Being as skinny as the actresses and actors in the media does not define an individual; their character does.  The media needs to begin focusing on the healthiness of actors, and not necessarily the weight of them.  So many people idolizing these skinny and “beautiful” actors and actresses backs up the media’s claim of skinny being “beautiful”.  A change in the population’s thoughts and perceptions on these celebrities needs to be brought about.

Together, let’s change the reasons we look up to certain actors and actresses in the media. Beauty should be determined by how individuals act, not by what size jeans they wear. 


Goodman, J. (2005). Mapping the sea of eating disorders: A structural equation model of how peers, family, and media influence body image and eating disorders. Visual Communication Quarterly, 12(3/4),  194-213. doi:10. 1080/155551393.2005.9687457


Curvy in Hollywood

For generations, curvy people are seldom seen on the spotlight of the entertainment world. From the music industry to the movies that we see on weekends, there is often a bias that these celebrities must be thin in order to be taken seriously. Often times, young people look not only at the talents that these artists and performers have, but their bodies as well. It’s not difficult to look through a magazine or go to a music store and see Nick Jonas flashing his six-pack abs or Katy Perry’s toned, slim body laid out on a cloud. One thing you won’t find however, is a more curvy individual doing the exact same thing. In the eyes of many millennials, this is an example of how one should look to be not only famous, but to be liked. Unless the curviest parts of your body are your chest, muscles or rear end, you simply aren’t attractive. In a study conducted at the University of South Florida concerning the relationship between American media and the body satisfaction of Trinindadian adolescent females, the researchers note that previous research has shown that young women do in fact, usually have thin, tall female celebrities as role models, and even going as far as taking up strict dieting habits to achieve the same figure as the women on television, (Ferguson, 2011). This and previous research simply supports the notion that television and entertainment in general have a strong influence on body image.


In recent years, many artists have spoken out against the misperceptions of body image such as Adele, Jennifer Lawrence and Kristen Bell. Jennifer Lawrence states, “I mean, if we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect it has on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?,(Dodge, 2013). What is important to note is that when celebrities talk about things that are seldom talked about despite their obvious presence, it causes reactions from young people. People are excited to hear that the actor who played their favorite movie character or their favorite band/artist is supporting not only a topic that the fan can support, but the individual can certainly relate to. But one thing about these celebrities still stands out – they aren’t what the media would describe as “curvy.” With all due respect to these people, few people struggle to think of these people as having that figure people would love to see in revealing clothing as though being thin is what is needed to be attractive. What is it like in the eyes of a curvy person, to be in the spotlight of entertainment?

The song All About that Bass is a critically acclaimed track released by artist, Meghan Trainor. The song makes the analogy of curvy people being “bass” and overall, is a message to people everywhere, curvy or not to accept their bodies and even goes as far as addressing the issue of doctored images in magazines. In an interview with the 20 year-old Trainor by Entertainment Tonight, she revealed stories about her younger years concerning eating disorders and being bullied for her body. Like many young men and women, being curvy is a subject of mockery amongst their peers. She states, “”I did have this one boy come up to me, who, like I loved him, I was so in love, And he told me, ‘You’d be like real hot if you were 10 pounds lighter,'” she said. “I was like, ‘Ugh, that’s it! I am going to cry all day and not eat for the rest of the day,” (Schillaci, 2014) While criticisms have in fact come towards her song, particularly the phrase, “skinny b******,(which she later states was never targeted to single anyone out) Trainor has become an icon of body acceptance in recent news.


Ferguson, C. (2011). The Relationship Between American Media Exposure and Trinidadian Female Adolescents Body     Image Satisfaction (Doctoral dissertation, Scholar Commons; University of South Florida). Retrieved November 20, 2014.

Schillaci, S. (2014, September 2). Meghan Trainor Bares All: Her Unexpected Big Break, Being Bullied and Embracing Her Body. In Entertainment Tonight. Retrieved November 20, 2014.

Dodge, S. (2013, December 17). ‘It should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV!’: Body confidence advocate Jennifer Lawrence speaks out against ‘fat shaming’ in Hollywood. In Mail Online. Retrieved November 22, 2014

Educating the Media with Media

The media is a very powerful and influential part of Western society. It is so influential, it has been referred to in political  as “Fourth Branch of Government.” But in the view of the world of body image, it has taught our generation, the Millennials, that being curvy is abnormal. But what if we used the medium that is harming the self-concept of our generation to heal the wounds and empower today’s youth? Educating the populace through the media to shatter the misconceptions of body image has in fact, proven very effective. If people’s perception of what a male or female body should look like can be distorted through the media, perhaps we can fix that?

A study conducted in 2010 has shown support for the notion that media education can counter misrepresentations of body image, (Rens, 2010). In this study, the video Evolution, (a video created by the company Dove, to show how images of women are doctored and enhanced), was used to show that young girls who looked at pictures of “ultra-thin” models had a significantly lower negative effect on their body satisfaction and confidence, (Rens, 2010). With this in mind, perhaps greater numbers of people could be educated about the concept of body image.


In order to be effective however, media education should make the target audience think critically and ask questions. Above all, it should encourage active involvement in both education campaigns and daily life. With regards to other campaigns, even on unrelated issues, part of what has made them unsuccessful is that they do not encourage people to become actively involved, especially social media activism that simply encourages passing along a simple article that will most likely be forgotten later on.

One particular group of college students, a demographic that can be susceptible to negative body image perceptions, at Standford University has created a program known as The Body Positive, (Steakley, 2014). Established in 1996 by students, Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott the group hopes to establish healthy eating and positive body image as the norm, (Steakley, 2014). One advantage of this groups approach is that it addresses the criticism raised by some, that body image programs do not encourage healthy exercise and eating habits and only focus on acceptance of one’s physical traits. Much of the programs events and activities revolve around the establishment of strategies and habits that combat self-destructive eating and unhealthy patterns of exercise. Starting with Stanford University, the group hopes to create a culture of positive body image and healthy lifestyle. One example of their events, held June 1st, 2014, featured a festival involving art, music and literary arts that promoted positive body image, shared stories of struggles that people faced and celebrated their personal beauty, (Steakley, 2014). Other projects include educational campaigns that reach out to parents, family members and friends of people with a negative perception of their bodies or something as extreme as an eating disorder, (Steakley, 2014). From leadership workshops to the development of core competencies, The Body Positive has become a successful organization on the Stanford University campus. Another important factor in this organization is that they conduct research on the effectiveness of their efforts, (Steakley, 2014).

The co-founder, Elizabeth Scott talks deeply about her reasons for starting her organization. She writes that her dear friend and co-founder of The Body Positive had survived and eating disorder and had lost a sister to malnutrition. All of this, in part, stemming from a negative perception of body image. Scott notes, “She was motivated to change the world so her daughter, and all children, could grow up loving themselves and seeing beauty in their unique bodies. I was overwhelmed by the suffering of the people I was seeing as a new therapist in my practice in Marin County.” All in all, the pair sought to change the culture of body image in their area, and hopefully influence others to do the same.


Rens, D. V. (2010). Media Education and Body Image. In Media Smarts. Retrieved November 20, 2014.

Steakley, L. (2014, May 29). Promoting healthy eating and a positive body image on college campuses. Stanford Journal of Medicine: Scope. Retrieved November 13, 2014.

Ladies, it’s not enough for you to do great in a sport, you have to look “great” too.

Sports – one of the oldest forms of competition in human history. Through intense, physical training the human body becomes robust and hardened. Consequently, when we think of athlete, our society thinks of these slim bodies with well-toned muscles. It’s probably expected that we would picture an athlete to look such away because of the amount of conditioning needed for sport. More specifically, the female athlete is often thought of to be slender. With such expectations, is there a possibility of a curvy female athlete?

Leisel Jones is an Australian eight-time Olympic medalist in women’s swimming.  In 2012, a newspaper known as the Herald Sun pointed out that her figure was wider in contrast to her figure in 008. The organization then proceeded to create a poll asking if she was fit to swim in the 2012 London Olympics. Immediately however, many Olympians and health advocates had sided with Jones and demanded that the poll be taken down. What is interesting about this particular athlete is that despite what some had perceived as a body that was “unfit” she had won three gold medals, four silver medals and one bronze medal – clearly she was a superb athlete. It should also be noted that she was 16 when she first swam in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Such reactions pose the question of whether or not young women are not only expected to perform up to standard, but to look like a standard.

Another topic interest concerning curvy female athletes can be found in the sport of cheerleading. Cheerleading has been an American cultural icon since the latter half of the Twentieth Century; especially amongst high school-aged children and college students. But one stereotype has persisted throughout its history – cheerleaders are slim-figured. A 2010 study conducted at the University of South Carolina had found that female college cheerleaders are often self-conscious about their figure, partly because of how revealing their uniforms are. The participants were also asked about how they thought their parents and coaches viewed their bodies in relation to body image, and the study concluded that most felt they did not match their coaches’ ideal picture of body image. As a result, the study also notes that many of these young women were at risk for eating disorders, all in the pursuit of what they felt was an ideal body image.

With this in mind, one particular case worthy of examination is the Oklahoma City Thunderers cheerleader, Kelsey Williams. In April 2013, a blogger wrote a post about her titled, “Is this girl too Chunky to be an OKC Cheerleader?” The article was followed by a poll asking readers if Willimas “Had the perfect look,” “Could use some tightening up in her mid-section,” or even if “she has no business wearing that outfit in front of people.” The article received immediate backlash and the author of the blog was labeled a “bully” and a “mean girl.” What is interesting about this case is that despite not having the body image that some perceive fit to be a cheerleader, the young woman has made a successful career in the sport.

In the end, is it not enough for a woman to perform a sport, does she need to look a certain way too?


Boys have feelings too!

Men experience the same issues that women do. However, men do not talk about their feelings as much as women, so many of their issues go unknown and hidden. Young boys who are considered bigger than their classmates and peers go through a lot of issues dealing with their weight.  Many are also teased and/or uncomfortable in their own skin.

If all your friends looked like this, and you were the only one with some fat on your stomach, would you still feel comfortable playing with them?

What if young children took steroids to compete with their friends and to fit in?

Julie Z, had an interview with Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. During the interview about Kimmel’s book, Julie asks Kimmel to discuss how men and women define their masculinity/ femininity through their own body images. When people read the headline,  “Women Dissatisfied With Their Bodies,” Kimmel says the underlying headline actually is, “Men Tend To See Themselves As Just About Perfect.” Kimmel then continues to say, “We no longer see our bodies as just about perfect. We are at work on our bodies, also. We go to the gym, we work out, we take steroids.” Younger boys now have so much pressure to be good at sports in order to prove how  masculine they are. If they are bigger and not as muscular as others, their insecurities could sometimes kidnap them from being able to play with their friends.

Almost all kids play sports when they’re young. Did you know that a lot of boys who are bigger feel self conscious playing sports with skinnier/more fit guys? A senior from University Michigan states, “Gym class was tough, I was always out of shape. It never really interfered in team events or sporting but there was a sense of insecurity that spawned from the company around me.” Although his insecurities did not affect his playing, he still stated that,“it has always been an extremely pressing concern in my mind.” When asked how he felt about playing shirts vs. skins, this student stated he would have rather sat out then being a part of the game.

When Prateek Gupta, a junior from Washington University in St. Louis was asked the question, “Were you self conscious because of what your friends thought about you?”, he quickly answered with, “Definitely.” Although he was not uncomfortable playing sports in general, he also attempted to avoid shirts vs. skins sports games at all times possible.

Both of these college students say that they are no longer affected by what others think about their body.  However, while growing up, their body image was something they continuously thought about and felt embarrassed of.  This shame affected the way they associated with their friends. Adolescence is a time that all teenagers and pre-teens are concerned about their body- not just girls. Boys have just as many anxieties and worries about their body image, however they are not spoken for.

Young boys are affected just as much as young girls about their body, unfortunately, they are not getting the same attention as girls on this issue.