American Apparel has never shied away from controversy, In fact some would say that’s where they excel. But this time the controversy they’ve created hasn’t actually been created by them. Although to be fair they did start it.
Known for their overtly sexual advertising (which you can read more about here and here) and also for famously stating that plus size is “not their demographic” American Apparel has just launched their XL range of clothing. So now they are happy to take everyone’s money but they are sticking to their guns when it comes to their advertising campaign. They have always claimed that their models are amateur so true to form, they launched what can best be described as the most demeaning model-hunt ever to find a US sized 12-14 model in a competition called ‘The Next Big Thing’.
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!
Nancy Upton, from Dallas, Texas, thought so. She created a tumblr and entered the contest to show her contempt. She submitted suggestive photos showing herself gorging on roast chicken, ice cream and potato chips, bathing in creamy salad dressing, and posing suggestively with a cherry pie. And she won but she wants nothing to do with American Apparel. She writes in part for the Daily Beast
I had been super ooged out by American Apparel in the past—its sexy-nymphs-in-tube-socks ad campaigns, the skeevy stare of its hipster-hero CEO (the Jane article still haunts me). I just couldn’t get this new stunt out of my head. The company was co-opting the mantra of plus-size empowerment and glazing it with its unmistakable brand of female objectification.
So after I first heard about the “contest,” I couldn’t help but get it out of my mind. (I write “contest” in quotes because the legal mumbo jumbo in the waiver states that American Apparel reserves the right to choose any or none of the applicants for any or none of the prizes.)
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.
A relatable, sassy friend who was looking to broaden its customer base after warning it might need to declare bankruptcy earlier this year. And a relatable, sassy friend who wanted as much free press as possible. That’s when I finally put my finger on why I couldn’t get this “contest” out of my head: American Apparel was going to try to use one fat girl as a symbol of apology and acceptance to a demographic it had long insisted on ignoring, while simultaneously having that girl (and a thousand other girls) shill their products.
American Apparel was going to try to use one fat girl as a symbol of apology and acceptance to a demographic it had long insisted on ignoring.
And as to why American Apparel and not any other company that has used plus sized models in their campaigns?
…The blatant, sloppy attempt to lazily win over the hearts of women who, because of their size, already face daily struggles to defend their looks and physical behavior.
The insinuation that the only way a fat girl could win a “beauty contest” was if a company with American Apparel’s street cred deemed it hip or fashionable.
The idea that someone must be a “fan of full-sized fannies” to even recognize a redeeming quality in women size 12 or above.
The unstated yet apparent belief that fat women can’t be noticed on their own merits.
And the message that a subservient, nearly naked woman has always earned a place in American Apparel’s advertising with no trouble, but that larger women need to vote each other down and compete against one another to even deserve a chance.
You go Nancy Upton. Personally I think your entry was genius. What do you think?
Check out Nancy’s tumblr here