It comes as no surprise that I’m not won over by American Apparel or Dov Charney’s antics. I can’t respect a man who is quite clearly, well, a bit of a prick. Focusing on the company, however, one of American Apparel’s more distasteful policies is their long-held refusal to make plus-size products or to market to over size 10s at all. At present, a ‘large’ fits a small size 12. Their reasoning? Plus-sized women “aren’t their demographic.”
In a backhanded attempt at an olive branch (or perhaps their repositioning amid new fears they’ll be bankrupt very soon), American Apparel launched an online competition to find a plus size model to be the face and body of their new XL line. The XL line that would be for sizes 14 to 16, the average size of a woman in the UK.
Its invitation to would-be models is laced with size-related puns and allusions to body shape. They said, “We’re looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out…If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the new XLent model, send us a picture of you and your junk to back it up.”
That’s where Dallas native Nancy Upton comes in. Appalled by the wording of the competition, which she said, “was co-opting the mantra of plus-size empowerment and glazing it with its unmistakable brand of female objectification,” she decided to enter using photographs that parodied the objectifying imagery used by American Apparel.
In the past, American Apparel’s advertising campaigns have come under fire for being too revealing, for being overtly sexualised and for being plain distasteful.
In a competition where the public were invited to vote for their favourite “full-sized fannies”, Upton uploaded two images; one, posing naked but for a bra and a strategically placed cherry pie and the second bathing seductively in a bath of ranch dressing. This led to her Tumblr page, Extra Wiggle Room, which featured more images including trying to swallow a cooked chicken whole and laying on a bed of lettuce, with an apple in her mouth, hog roast style.
The tagline underneath her entry into the competition simply states “I’m a size 12. I just can’t stop eating.”
In an interview with website Jezabel, she said,
“I read Margaret’s article about the contest on your website and followed the link over. I immediately thought, based on the way it was written, “Wow, they really have zero respect for plus-sized women. They’re going to line them up like cattle and make puns about them until they’re blue in the face.” And then, as corny as it sounds, it just occurred to me that based on their “Hey, come on, fatties, we want you to play, too” tone, wouldn’t it be kind of brilliant to respond in a, “Thanks for letting me play, just let me try put down the pizza, first” similar mocking tone. From there, I realized I knew a great photographer, I had a free couple of hours on Sunday and a little extra money in my pocket to drop on some ranch dressing and a chicken.”
In Roland Bunce style, Nancy Dallas won the competition, beating off a thousand other contestants. The internet rallied against the blatant, sloppy attempt American Apparel made to lazily win over the plus size demographic.
In response, Nancy Upton has already stated that she wants nothing to do with the brand, she wrote, “I’m shocked at how quickly this has all escalated. The voting portion of the contest ended yesterday, and I swept the number-one spot. Will I wake up to an email from the company in the next month offering me my first (and, quite potentially, only) professional modelling opportunity? Or will I get a phone call from someone who will explain they decided to go in a “different direction”?
I don’t really think either of those things will happen. I doubt that I will ever hear a response from American Apparel. And that’s just fine. I’m too “XLent” for them anyway.”