Tess Holliday On Victoria’s Secret: “They Perpetuate The Image Of What’s Wrong With Society”


If there’s one woman in media and fashion who can keep it real and has no problem calling out the BS that exists in society, it’s model and blogger Tess Holliday, the women who made history by becoming the first size 22 woman to be signed by a major modeling agency (Milk Model Management in the UK), and also graced the cover of People Magazine’s 2015 body issue, signalling to the world that the barriers to body image standards are finally starting to becoming a little more inclusive and diverse.

For so long we have lived in a world where A) women are taught to believe that their worth comes from their appearance (which, let’s be honest, hasn’t exactly disappeared yet), and B) they standards to be considered “beautiful” and “acceptable” are indeed very narrow (again, this still exists). But with the rise of social media, and the popularity of ordinary women’s voices challenging the mainstream and throwing it down for all the women out there who are sick and tired of being told their bodies need to change in order to be “good”, the tides are slowly shifting.

Tess is unequivocally one of the loudest and best voices leading the way, most notably because just by showing up in the world with a size 22 body and snagging major modeling gigs with major brands and magazines, she is able to challenge the voices of dissent that come at her on a daily basis.

Recently, she has taken issue with Victoria’s Secret, the brand that has for a long time been the ire of many women (not just Tess) simply for their very narrow selection of body types chosen in their Angels line up. Every year the world goes crazy with anticipation and self-loathing watching the the annual show where models like Adriana Lima and Behati Prinsloo parade the dazzling barely-there bra and panties in a display of sheer happiness, knowing their body types are considered the ultimate pinnacle of beauty. But Tess thinks VS is actually doing far more harm, than good.


Talking with Nick Axelrod from Yahoo Style, she talks about how the brand doesn’t exist to make women feel sexy, rather, feed into the status quo in order to make women feel bad about their bodies so they spend more money. It’s an age-old consumer trick.

“They are perpetuating the image of what’s wrong with America, and with society in general that you have to look a certain way, like a Victoria’s Secret angel, to feel beautiful and be sexy,” she said.

Although there is more presence of plus size women in the mainstream fashion and beauty world, for instance luxury brand Christian Louboutin just signed French model Clementine Desseaux as their first ever plus size face, there is still a lot of reluctance to accept that different body types are OK. Tess says the reaction to her immense success proves that.

“[The media] would mention my success but then it would always be followed with ‘well, she’s unhealthy’, which I’m not. It’s like saying, because someone is a darker skin tone or because someone is gay, they’re “glorifying” that lifestyle. That’s who you are,” she said.

She is certainly not immune to the pressure and criticism which comes her way, but she is always prepared to give an answer.


“Obviously someone doesn’t wake up fat, I know that I am fat. But I feel like people completely miss the point of me trying to educate women and show them that it’s ok to be who you are and love yourself and still live your life and not be miserable,” she explained.

In an op-ed for MTV News a few months ago, Tess talks in depth about the issue she has with a brand like Victoria’s Secret.

“Every time I walk into a Victoria’s Secret, they look at me like, “You are clearly in the wrong store.” I’ve been to Victoria’s Secret stores all across the country—and even one internationally—but they’ve never offered to help me. Ever. Not even at one,” she revealed.

However, she makes a great point by saying the brand is losing out on billions of dollars in revenue by not including more plus size ranges in their iconic collections, and being the biggest lingerie retailer in the world, if they were to ever carry larger sizes, it would send a great message throughout the rest of the industry.

“We need more people and big companies saying it’s OK to have a different body type than what we’re used to seeing. To do that, we need to get more widespread support for the plus size community with people speaking out and saying, ‘Look, not everybody is born with this body type. Some people were born this way and that way, and that’s OK,’ and to celebrate diversity in not just genders and races but also body types,” she said.


Her problem with Victoria’s Secret has more to do with the lack of options for larger women in the high fashion lingerie department, because of the unspoken warped idea that curvier women for some reason are not allowed to be happy with their bodies, but must loathe themselves and never wear anything to make them feel otherwise.

“there’s this pervasive feeling that fat girls aren’t supposed to feel sexy, and that needs to change. It’s something plus size women are constantly messaged—either overtly or subconsciously… it all ladders back up to giving women a choice of doing what we want with our bodies, regardless of our size, and making it normal to see plus size women in lingerie on TV, on billboards, and on Instagram is a great place to start,” she concluded.

We couldn’t agree more. Yes, we need conversations about health and wellness, but we should also be able to do this without discarding the body diversity that exists in the world. The more inclusive we see fashion and advertising becoming, perhaps the public discussions around women would change drastically. Rather than waiting for eons for big brands to do this, thank goodness for women like Tess Holliday who are unapologetically claiming their place in the spotlight to represent all the women who don’t yet have a voice.






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