Recently I came across a link to this important story in the Guardian that talks about what happened when a fat man won the Mr. Gay UK contest. The contest was open to all comers. There were 4 judges and several rounds of elimination. And at the end of the day, the contest came down to two finalists. One was an chiseled, underwear model type with washboard abs. One was a 419-pound man named Stavros Louca.
The final round was the “underwear” round, where the two guys were given underpants and a vest (undershirt) and told they had to dance around in them. One problem, the underwear given to both contestants we were small. Really small. There was no way on earth that Stavros would fit in them. It was a crappy move–one that could have easily caused Stavros to feel humiliated and back out. But instead, Stavros put those underpants ON HIS HEAD and danced his heart out. In the end, the judges decided the final round would go to an audience vote. And vote they did–overwhelmingly for Stavros. You really should check out the video above. The winner is quite obvious. And that night Stavros was crowned Mr. Gay UK–a crown he was to wear for less than 3 days. It seems just two days after the contest, he received a call notifying him that he had been disqualified on a technicality. He was disqualified for wearing the underpants on his head instead of trying to put the entirely too small garment on to his nether regions. So even though there was absolutely nothing in the rules stating that the underpants had to be worn on one’s bottom, and even though Stavros was clearly the crowd favorite, he was disqualified and all but erased from the experience.
This is because Stavros broke the biggest rule of all. He was fat in a fat hating world.
This reminds me so much of the controversy a while back surrounding Nancy Upton and the American Apparel plus-sized campaign. American Apparel created an online contest where plus-sized people could submit photos. The photo with the most votes would win a trip to Los Angeles to star in an American Apparel photo shoot. The ad announcing this was an massive pile of stinking and offensive fat puns and fat stereotypes. I present it here:
Think you are the Next BIG Thing?
Calling curvy ladies everywhere! Our best-selling Disco Pant (and around 10 other sexy styles) are now available in size XL, for those of us who need a little extra wiggle room where it counts. We’re looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next XLent model, send us photos of you and your junk to back it up.
Just send us two recent photographs of yourself, one that clearly shows your face and one of your body. We’ll select a winner to be flown out to our Los Angeles headquarters to star in your own bootylicious photoshoot. Runners up will win an enviable assortment of our favorite new styles in XL!
Show us what you’re workin’ with!
To say that blogger Nancy Upton was offended by this tripe masquerading as an ad is an epic understatement. But rather than just getting mad, Upton decided to post some photos that showed American Apparel just how she felt about this model call.
The puns, the insulting, giggly tones, and the over-used euphemisms for fat that were scattered throughout the campaign’s solicitation began to crystalize an opinion in my mind. How offensive the campaign was. How it spoke to plus-sized women like they were starry-eyed 16 year olds from Kansas whose dream, obviously, was to hop a bus to L.A. to make it big in fashion. How apparently there were no words in existence to accurately describe the way American Apparel felt about a sexy, large woman, and so phrases like “booty-ful” and “XLent” would need to be invented for us—not only to fill this void in American vocabulary, but also make the company seem like a relatable, sassy friend to fat chicks.
Nancy got together with her photographer friend Shannon Skloss and staged a photo shoot that hammered home the stereotypical view that so many people have about fat folks. There were pictures involving Nancy eating a whole pie, a whole chicken, multiple cartons of ice cream and vats of salad dressing. She submitted two of the photos to the contest–never dreaming that she would actually make it through the process of being vetted by the company. Surprisingly company employees let the photos through. And then, Nancy won the contest–clearly garnering the largest percentage of the popular vote. And then she un-won the contest. She got disqualified for not being the right kind of fatty.
Not only was Nancy disqualified for not upholding the spirit of the contest, but in what is perhaps the worst non-apology PR disaster letter EVAR, she was told she should be ashamed of herself for the way she treated the contest and the way she called out the folks at American Apparel for being sizeist douchebags.
So apparently, another more acceptably malleable and less fierce fatty won the fabulous trip to Los Angeles. Because while it is against the rules to be a fatty, being an uppity fatty is clearly cause to tear up the rule book and just walk away.
Which isn’t to say that fat people in our society can’t win. They can. But given our fat-phobic world, they simply aren’t allowed to win for very long. Brands and groups that put things to a popular vote–a vote which might show that the idea of a one-size-fits-all underwear contest is a little ridiculous or that asking plus-sized women to submit bootyliscious photos of themselves is perhaps a tad sexist, objectifying and just plain icky–find that the winners aren’t the brand representatives they were hoping for. But luckily there is one positive change. The fatties in question are no longer guaranteed to slink quietly away in shame. The fatties in question have blogs, and movies, and social networks and gobs and gobs of friends. The fatties in question have voices and some of them have decided to use those voices to shout about what an epic pile of disingenuous poo is being shoveled here. And in that small way, the fatties in question, have in the long run, won.
Jeanette DePatie (The Fat Chick)
P.S. Want me to speak to your group about how people of ALL sizes can win? Click HERE!
P.S.S. Want to win some free stuff? Join my mailing list HERE!