To Be Skinny or Voluptous? That Is the Question

May 11, 2012  |  

When “Glee” actress Amber Riley fainted at a red carpet event recently, rumors swirled that her new diet was the cause. Amber took to Twitter after the incident to dispel rumors, saying she would “never starve [herself] to fit clothes.”

The 25-year-old actress, who has recently dropped at least two dress sizes, says that she lost the weight by cutting out fast food and sticking to a new diet and exercise plan.  She said she has always been comfortable with her size but just wanted to be healthier.

Of course being healthy is paramount, but beyond that, does size really matter? It does if you ask the people told to lose weight because they’re obese by BMI standards or the ones that are told they are too skinny and need to put some meat on their bones.

Celebrities are under intense pressure to maintain a certain size because every pound gained or lost is a potential magazine cover story (think about how Jessica Simpson was treated), but this pressure seems to apply to more than just those who are paid for how they look. And without a standard, contentment must be found when looking in your own mirror because feedback from the outside world is often conflicting.

For one, many of us have no idea what size we really wear because sizes vary from store to store. In one shopping trip, one might purchase a pair of jeans in a size 4, 6 and 10 — yet those jeans might all fit the same.

This common experience makes the obsession with size strange because there isn’t a universal way to measure it (no pun intended). Sure there are ballparks, but if you’re looking into buying a weight loss product that promises you’ll drop a size in a week, you’re probably better off just buying a different brand of jeans.

The second issue – especially in the black community – is that some men claim weight is an important factor in choosing women to date, so many women tailor themselves to fit a shallow standard. But one man’s “thick chick” is another’s “overweight neighbor” and one man’s “slim sweetheart” is another’s “too skinny friend.” We’re better off just finding someone who is content with our size rather than trying to fit into one man’s narrow preferences, but some people would rather play shapeshifter.

You can barely watch television these days without seeing Jennifer Hudson, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey endorsing popular weight loss products. At the same time, gossip sites demanded answers after paparazzi pictures surfaced of Avatar’s Zoe Saldana walking down the street looking too skinny for her skinny jeans.  When the famously thin actress starred in the film Colombiana, she prompted one writer to say, “female action stars have gotten too skinny to throw a believable punch.” (Ouch!)

However, sometimes, the size pressures placed on black women are even tougher than those placed on other cultures. Anyone can shrink their whole body, but on the flipside, the pursuit of video vixen style prominent bosoms, flat abs, and enormous derrieres is a tall order for someone who is not genetically shaped that way.

I’ll never forget the time one of my friend’s showed me her booty booster. I’m not sure what the proper name was for that painful looking contraption, but when she put it on underneath her jeans, it significantly boosted her backside.

“Guys like girls with big butts” she told me with a shrug.

Of course “guys like girls with big boobs” too and that is undoubtedly where the inspiration behind padded push up bras — such as Victoria Secret’s “Miraculous” bra — come from. But who really wants to carry around all that extra material just to give off an illusion and to feel good about themselves? There are an excessive amount of devices created to enhance, diminish, distort, and constrict a woman into looking a particular way, but all that stuff has to come off at some point and you’re left feeling inadequate with what you’ve been given naturally. That’s sad.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to take pride in our appearance, but there is a fine line between a healthy desire to look our best and unhealthy desperation to be a certain size and have certain curves. And with all the images directed at us acting as though only black women are big yet other images saying being skinny and less than curvy is out of style aren’t helping us get any more healthy. Maybe crazy, but not healthy.

Besides, when taking your full potential into consideration and what it is you bring to this world, does the fact that you’re a slim sista or “thicker than a Snicker” really matter anyway?

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