Thursday, 30 September 2010

Big is beautiful

Everyone knows that the magazine industry has a love/hate relationship with fat people. Editors are notorious for their dislike of images of anyone carrying more fat than a Muller Fruit Corner. But at the same time, they fill half their pages with ridiculous workout regimes and desperately unappealing diet plans.

Want to look like Jennifer Love Hewitt? Simply drink hot water with lemon five times a day, and for a treat, indulge yourself with a small handful of seeds. As if anyone other than a malnourished grey squirrel would think that was any kind of a reward.

But things are all set to change as the magazine industry sees the launch of its first title aimed at women sized 14-20. The rules are simple - no skinny models, no dieting tips and no airbrushing. Instead, I guess they'll fill their pages with pictures of women trying to fish a dropped Minstrel out of their bra.

It may be intended as a positive, life-affirming magazine for 'normal-sized' women, but even its title sounds somewhat defensive - 'Just As Beautiful'. Maybe their original name - 'It's Water Retention You Heartless Bastard' got shot down by a narrow-minded focus group.

The magazine's editorial stance takes a similar tone. Editor Ronnie Ajoku explains "We have normal interviews with women who happen to be size 14-16. We might have interviews from plus size celebrities like Ruth Jones but they are straightforward interviews and don't concentrate on their size. The point of the magazine is not to make such a big deal about women's figures like other magazines do."

So they're not making a big deal about size, but interview subjects will be selected according to the size of their bingo wings. Forget about talent, back-story or human interest, if you've got back-fat we'll run a feature. Surely this is precisely the kind of obsession with weight that their readers don't want?

Still, imagine the conversations that'll ensue when a poor agent has to explain to her 'slightly-less-svelte-than-she-used-to-be' client, that 'Just As Beautiful' have been sniffing around for an interview and photoshoot in Greggs Bakery

Reality is all well and good, but let's be honest, when have magazines ever tried to reflect reality? Back in the 1980s, a fortnightly publication attempted to convince a generation of housewives that they could cater the most elaborate dinner parties using only their microwave and a cupboard full of plastic appliances.

Nobody who reads Homes And Gardens actually lives in the kind of abode that would ever grace its beautifully designed pages. Unless they did a special issue about mildew covered sheds and how to hide a patchy lawn with broken go-karts.

Magazines are there to give us a tantalising glimpse into how the other half (less 48%) lives. We don't want reality, we have enough of that at home. Would Vogue run a photoshoot of Elle MacPherson trying to dry her tights over a radiator?

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