If you’ve read any of my other blogs, it won’t come as much of a surprise that I have never watched an episode of America’s Next Top Model. I’m not completely averse to shite television- the summer months always seem to awaken my inner Love Island addict – but something about modelling competitions doesn’t pique my interest in the same way as the cringeworthy antics of a group of twenty-somethings does. I looked on blankly as my friend asked me if I’d seen Khrystyna Kazakova’s success on the show. Obviously, I hadn’t. I had no idea what was different about what I assumed was a stereotypical model: a narcissistic, quirky-looking woman who was thinner than a gold leaf. It’s probably time for me to admit that I’m not always right. After a problematic time tracking her down on Instagram due to unforeseen spelling issues, I was caught off guard.
Khrystyna is a 32-year-old plus-size model and body positivity activist. I was almost as surprised by her as I was to find out that there have been 24 seasons of ANTM. Almost. Tyra Banks launched the 24th season under a new ‘inclusive’ umbrella, and the contestants in this series are decidedly diverse compared to those featured previously. I did attempt to watch an episode of what I can only describe as absolute drivel as I wrote this, but I struggled to get past three minutes of hysterical Americans shrieking at each other about being ‘next level fierce.’ I returned to Google to find out more about Khrystyna and the message that this self-proclaimed body positive activist had. Only five years ago, she admits to starving herself and spending endless hours in the gym, only to be told she was too big to model. I’d say most women have been through phases where they’ve gone on insane diets or taken magical slimming pills to torch their body fat, so she’s relatable. A turning point for this plus-size model came when she just thought ‘bollocks to this’ (not a direct quote) and posted a few photos of herself showing her rolls off. It turned out to be an ingenious idea, as it was only then that her career took off. This is probably because its quite good to see a few normal human beings on Instagram, rather than the photoshopped beauties that usually clog our timelines.
Celebrities seem to be slowly following suit. I wasn’t Stacey Soloman’s biggest fan until recently; to be completely honest, I thought she was an Essex dimwit that had landed herself a cushy job on daytime TV through a stroke of luck. However, she’s proved herself to be quite the champion of normal bodies, after calling into question the way she was represented in the newspaper in a bikini. Pointing out that she was being body-shamed by the British press whilst trying to enjoy her holiday, she was pictured alongside svelte, eighteen -year-old Louisa Johnson, a young woman who has not given birth to and breastfed two children. First of all, why is this a comparison at all? Let the two women have a good time on their holiday because I’m sure there’s only about 0.03% of the population that actually care what they’re up to in their spare time. Secondly, if we absolutely must pit two women against each other in a battle of the summer bods, at least make it a fair fight. They should be the same age, or have had the same amount of children. Maybe even check if either of them actually wanted their bikini shots plastered across the 55p rags in the first place, that’d be nice. Not reacting in the same way that I would’ve if someone had secretly photographed me and rudely captioned it ‘top flop,’ Stacey took it on the chin and effectively gave the middle finger to whoever wrote the article by saying she was proud of her body and has since uploaded unedited holiday snaps of herself.
Do you know what struck me? In a social media bubble where I see an endless stream of perfectly toned abs and women who have miraculously managed to avoid developing even a hint of cellulite, I thought these two looked brilliant. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I’d quote Tyra Banks, but I would go as far to say that they looked next level fierce. They are the kind of women that make you think that no, you don’t necessarily need to eat a Mini Egg Rice Krispie cake after you’ve had lunch, but it’s ok if you do. The world is not going to end. And that is exactly what I did today after I reminded myself that I’m never going to be a size 6 anyway. I’m a good while off getting my kit off for an Instagram photo (you can all breathe a sigh of relief, it’s not going to get awkward just yet), but I’m going to make a conscious effort to give less of a toss about the impact pregnancy, alongside an occasional overindulgence in confectionary, has had on my body. Who knows, I might even stop judging the intellect of celebrities I know nothing about whilst I’m at it, because Stacey Solomon speaks a lot more sense than I originally gave her credit for.
Disclaimer: If anyone wants to brave ANTM, I would recommend only doing so after muting your TV. Anyone suffering from epilepsy should also avoid tuning in, as there is a lot of flash photography. Essentially, it is highly offensive to both of the senses required for watching television.