Barbie Ferreira is one of the most famous — and outspoken — curve models in the world today. Occupying that in-between range of straight- and plus-size modeling, she's been the face of brands like ASOS, Aerie, and Missguided.
And now she's telling the truth about so-called "body positive" fashion labels — that they, too, are promoting unrealistic standards of beauty — and she's not holding anything back.
Earlier this week, Barbie posted a glorious, celebratory photo of her belly — stretch marks and all — and the post went SUPER viral.
"Mi lil stripes are out here," she wrote on Instagram. "Noticing how cute my body can be despite lil changes !!!"
This photo was astonishing for a few reasons: First, we live in a world where women of all sizes are constantly told to cover up their SUPER GROSS stretch marks. Barbie's frank celebration of hers felt truly revolutionary.
And second, Barbie is a model. You NEVER see models of any size with stretch marks — these "imperfections" are always photoshopped away. By showing hers in all their glory, Ferreira is making a huge point about these unattainable standards of beauty; standards that even models can't live up to.
And she's not done yet. In a powerful Instagram post, Barbie SAVAGES the fashion industry's obsession with unrealistic plus-size body standards.
"After I posted the picture of my stretch marks, not even a few hours later I was stood naked at work in front of strangers (super vulnerable position) and got asked what was wrong with my hips. Pointing at my stretch marks. By a woman."
Just a refresher: THE MAJORITY OF HUMAN WOMEN HAVE STRETCH MARKS. They are not something that is "wrong" with your body — even if you're a model.
Barbie says that this is the kind of hostile, body-negative bullshit she's subjected to daily as a curvy model. "Like I always do, I choke back the tears and keep going like nothing happened."
"This industry is not cute, never has been," she says. "Grown ass adults commenting on my teenage body needing Spanx, bra cutlets to make me look 'better' or Photoshopping my body to be 'smoother' right in front of me."
Because god forbid a human woman actually LOOK like a human woman, amirite?
The worst part? Most of the time, the people saying these awful things are representing plus-size, or "body positive" fashion brands.
The world already knows that plus-size models are very seldom "plus-size" in real life — they're generally between a size 8 and 12, relying on padding and Photoshopping to make them look "bigger" in specific areas. And this, as Ferreira points out, is actively hurting women who these brands claim to represent.
"I don't want to sell you this idea that all these brands are so body positive, when it's so few that actually represent what women look like — not just an idealized version of a thick girl," she writes. "Not only is the consumer being told they're not good enough, even the girls in the pictures are given the same shit."
Brands only want curvy models when it helps their bottom line — but they don't actually want them to LOOK curvy.
And even though Barbie has dedicated her life to being an agent of body-positive change, she still wonders if that's enough.
"I am so privileged to be here, but the flaws in this world make me feel like absolute garbage for the sake of getting paid and trying to spread my message... I truly don't know how much we can do as curvy models when we're still thought of as mannequins — cursed to only wear peplums and tunics all day to cover our 'flawed' bodies, and show just our usually thin faces."
But that doesn't mean she's giving up. "Shit isn't as pretty as it looks," Ferreria says. "But I'm here to infiltrate from the inside."
"I need to make a living, and enjoy tf out of representing curvy girls all over," she says. And curvy girls deserve that representation — this idea that you're only worthwhile if you're a stick-thin Victoria's Secret model is SO damaging.
It's incredibly powerful that a model of Ferreira's caliber is speaking out about these insane body standards.
Unrealistic body standards are impossible to meet, no matter what dress size you wear. Being body positive has to be more than just a marketing term for fashion brands eager to boost sales. It needs to be a genuine change, dedicated to helping ALL women, because if it isn't, there's a human cost.
At 19, when I was being told by modeling agents and casting directors that I was too fat for life, I believed them. I thought that the problem was ME. That's why I love that young women like Barbie are *correctly* identifying that the problem is the SYSTEM, not their bodies — and use their massive social platforms to speak out about it.
Dear so-called "body positive" fashion brands: STEP UP YOUR GAME.
You need to lead the way in casting diverse models that accurately represent the full spectrum of our beauty, not padding thin women to look bigger and calling it a day.
You need to realize that unrealistic body standards are harmful across the board — Photoshopping a plus-size model to give her a super-teeny waist and no stretch marks is STILL bad, even if she is not a size 2.
You need to TREAT YOUR MODELS LIKE HUMAN BEINGS. If your brand is truly committed to body positivity, bring that in every aspect of your business. Starting by not abusing the young women who model for you.
What do you think about this statement? Do you have world's biggest girlcrush on Barbie?
Seriously, she's the best. I love her work, and I love her brain. Anyway, tell me your feelings in the comments, or on Facebook!