Actress Danielle Brooks, who plays the beloved character Taystee in the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, has been an advocate for full-figured women in the entertainment industry like herself. Recently, she took to Twitter to call out the longtime reality TV competition America’s Next Top Model for its lack of representation of women of all sizes.
The 27-year-old tweeted on Monday: “This 1% thing is real. The world really disregards plus size. Watched
#ANTM and not one contestant was plus, hell, not even a size 6 or 8.” Brooks went on: “For the 67% of women who are plus size. #seethe67 I can’t tell you how upsetting it was to watch #antm and how many seasons has it been now? Even if producers felt well it’ll be hard for a plus size girl, show that ish. Let the world see how much work still needs to be done….”
The majority of the contestants featured on the show, which debuted in 2003 and aired the first episode of its 23rd season (or “cycle”) on Monday, has primarily featured aspiring models with traditionally ultra-thin bodies. Though there have been exceptions over the years.
Cycle 3 featured Toccara, who has since gone on to be featured in Italian Vogue. Whitney Thompson, featured in Cycle 9, was not only a plus-size contestant but became the show’s first and only full-figured winner. The series has also featured an openly gay contestant and a model with the skin condition vitiligo. But that’s about as far as the diversity goes — and in a culture that’s embracing body positivity and uniqueness more than ever, now seems to be the ideal time to be calling out a bastion of popular culture for not evolving with the times.
Prominent plus-size model Tess Holiday got vocal about her grievances with the show’s narrow-minded approach to choosing contestants in a string of tweets on Monday too. “I grew up religiously watching
#Antm & praying one day to be a model. Girls like me were never given a fair shot. Having 0 plus girls on this season just really feels like 10 steps back. Plus girls need representation. Not just seeing a curvy judge — we need more,” she wrote about the newly debuted season, which features no full-figured women.
Holliday went on to tweet, “
#ANTM has a model who works with plus brands & many plus girls look up to, but y’all couldn’t get a plus size model on the show to compete?”
Ashley Graham, one of the most prominent plus-size models in the industry and a host on ANTM, addressed the lack of diversity in the show’s newest season in an interview with E! News. “Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for this round, but that’s alright. Hopefully for season two — I’m looking for the woman who wins to be plus size. I think it would be so epic.”
Of course, it’s unfair to blame Graham for the absence of a plus-size contestant, especially since she represents full-figured women in the industry arguably more than anyone else out there. But one site, Revelist, tried to paint Holliday as pointing the finger at Graham. Holliday shut down the publication promptly on Twitter.
Revelist tweeted, “
@Tess_Holliday called out @theashleygraham and America’s Next Top Model for huge contradiction.” Two hours later, Holliday replied, “I’m not mad at Ashley, I didn’t call her out. It’s not her fault ANTM didn’t use plus models.” No drama, just the truth — like a pro.
Brooks’s earlier tweet about 67 percent of women in America — more than half — being plus-size refers to Refinery29’s campaign the 67% Project, which cites the statistic and has vowed to represent that demographic ratio by making sure two out of every three women shown on its site will be full-figured. “We can’t afford to ignore the 67% anymore,” the site declared, including this call to action: “Join forces with us to demand media feature women of all sizes, from all races and backgrounds, with equal representation. Using #SeeThe67, share how YOU want the media to be inclusive.”
The tweets by Brooks and Holliday are in line with that mission: women with full figures joining forces — not calling each other out but coming together — to make sure real women are represented in modeling, and that includes women of diverse sizes.