Is Fat Beautiful?

I wasn’t looking for Tess Holliday. But there I was, checking her out anyway.

At a size 22, Tess Holliday (real name Tess Munster) is the biggest plus-sized model to ever sign a major modeling contract.

I only know this because that’s what the click bait headline said. The one that brought Ms. Holliday and her accompanying shit storm to my attention.

I should qualify: things like “size 22” don’t mean anything to me. 

I’m a bro. I think in terms of “L and XL.” Medium is an insult, and XXL a badge of honor one must earn. Triple XL? To quote Debbie Gibson, only in my dreams.

My jacket is 44. Or is it 42? It’s been a while. Neck, 17 1/2. Waist 32. Fitted hat, 7 & 3/8. Jock size L. (Holler!)


Female sizing, as one might expect, is more complicated. Along with “extra small, small, medium, and large” they have numerical dress sizes, and then alphabetical bra sizes.

They use all these units interchangeably too, which makes sense to women but to the male ear sounds like something Allied soldiers might hear while trying to decode a German Enigma message.

Getting back to Ms. Holliday, the pics were what I expected — a pretty, confident woman who’s “big” by anyone’s standards.

I think she’d be gorgeous if she was lighter. That’s just my opinion — I’m drawn to leaner bodies. And while the photo spread didn’t include her health markers — it would be weird if it did — those measures would likely improve if she lost some fat as well.

The gym douche in me (he’s always around) thinks if she got to a lower bodyweight that she would enjoy activity more, especially as she gets older. Massive bodies — whether muscular or fat — don’t age well. Ask any beefy bro over 40 with high blood pressure and achy knees.

There’s a reason most slim down. Weight takes a toll. 

So there’s legit, non-subjective reasons that she “should” drop a few. Whatever. She never asked me so to each their own. And with that I was about to click away, when I did the last thing anyone should do: I read the comments.


On the one hand, she has a hell of fan base, and mostly female. Many praised her for “promoting self-love,” applauding her for being so “comfortable in her body,” which she clearly is, if the pictures are any indication.

One fan saw her as “bringing balance to the fashion industry,” the opposite of the heroin chic look designers tried to pass along back when “thin as a rail of coke” was the coveted image.

She’s my inspiration,” she said, “and she works out with a trainer 4 days a week, so she’s healthy.” 

I caught myself grinning. Yep, that’s all it takes.

But she has critics.

Vocal ones. They say she’s “celebrating obesity” or promoting a body image just as unhealthy as that of a waif-thin supermodel.

One said, “How can we commend this woman but then condemn skinny models who starve themselves? Those skinny women probably work out with a personal trainer 4 times per week too…

So there are a lot of assumptions about her health. Like the ones I made. Not to mention assumptions about her lifestyle or motivations. I’m sure if I read all 775 comments there would be assumptions about her favorite color. I don’t know, that would require a lot of whiskey.

A woman struggling with her weight and self-confidence could see Ms. Holliday and what she represents as a huge positive. I get that.

It might make them feel pretty and empowered. Or at least finally included in the discussion. After all, a lot of big girls appreciate fashion and spend money. Shouldn’t advertisers be allowed to market to their customer base?

On the other hand, maybe that’s “fat acceptance?” Maybe it sends a message that it’s “cool” to be overweight, in spite of the medical evidence to the contrary?

As a believer in the power of a healthy, fit body, I can appreciate that too.

But it also has a nanny-state, “what about the children?” vibe that raises an eyebrow.

People care about themselves first and foremost, so there’s more to it. Otherwise they’d just look at the ad and click away instead of commenting and arguing and pissing and moaning.

Maybe the real reason is the ugly green-eyed monster that’s often lurking in the subtext of these type of discussions — jealousy.

Perhaps all this blow back is envy; not just that a woman could have the audacity to say “fuck it” and do her own thing and embrace an image so outside “the ideal,” but that others might consider it to be acceptable, even sexy?

Or maybe some women, like some men, just hate fat people?

Like I say. I’m just a fitness dude. I’m just happy to read all these models are into working out.

Some even 4 days a week, with a personal trainer.