When Netflix first premiered their hit show Orange is the New Black in 2013, the world went crazy, in large part due to the character casting. Not only does the show feature a number of characters of color, but the characters also represent an array of sexual preferences and gender identities. But, the boundary-breaking does not end on screen for most of these actresses—recently Danielle Brooks, who plays Taystee, has been deemed the “Voice of Curves”, thanks to her empowering words and pictures.
In an essay she wrote for Refinery29, Brooks described being so excited to see Michelle Obama on the cover of a fashion magazine, representing women of color. But, as she looked through the hundreds of pages of the magazine, she became more and more disheartened. By the time she reached the end, she had found only two women whose bodies looked like her own. And that number translates across the board; overall, plus-size women make up a meager 2 percent of media images in America, even though 67 percent of American women are above size 14.
With such a minuscule plus-size representation, the fashion industry is not just ignoring, but pushing away a large majority of everyday women. For Brooks, this lack of representation also seems to say that plus-size women are not worth being seeing. She cannot understand how all these female fashion industry leaders can fight for equal pay for women but do nothing to create a more body positive fashion industry and society overall.
Brooks herself is trying to help the body positive movement, by sharing Instagram photos that celebrate her body, rather than hide it. She makes it clear that she is proud of her body and that other women should be too, regardless of what the fashion industry may lead them to think. From pictures of her just waking up to wearing a fitting (and true) “curves on fleek” shirt to a bright and colorful Carnival costume.
But, she has also called out to the world of fashion, challenging them to change their standards and to stop ignoring plus-size women. By ignoring these women, brands are missing out on a billion dollar industry. However, she does point out that some designers—Christian Siriano, Michael Costello, and Carmen Marc Valvo—have all done their part by becoming all-inclusive, body positive brands. She also mentioned body positive brand Layne Bryant, who has received backlash for past ad campaigns, but that made her—and other plus size women, no doubt—feel proud of her body, rather than embarrassed.
Danielle Brooks has made a powerful statement, both with her Instagram pictures and her essay, proving she is truly the Voice of Curves. If 67 percent of women are over the size 14, then why does the fashion industry continue to ignore them? Follow Brooks’ example and let society and the fashion industry that things need to change, and dare them to become more body positive. Because all women deserve to see advertisements that make them feel seen and valued by society, rather than ignored.