Model and former Big Brother Canada star Brittnee Blair tells 24 Hours she rejects the term plus-sized.
"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
SARAH HANLON/ 24 HOURS
Too fat for Facebook? Recently a photo of Tess Holliday, the voluminous, fiery and tattooed model and body positive advocate best known for creating the motto — “Eff Your Beauty Standards” — was squeezed off Facebook.
The social media giant said that the image didn’t fit within their “health-and-fitness policy.”
Immediate outrage from all corners of the Internet erupted — prompting Facebook to right their wrong and offer a public apology. All this hoopla got me thinking about the changing face of the beauty industry.
Has the melding of feminism, pop culture and social media created any practical differences for women professionally who say, “Eff Your Beauty Standards?” It’s a good thing I had the perfect person to discuss the matter with: Calgary native Brittnee Blair, who is sashaying down runways and gracing magazine pages in New York City.
I caught up with my favourite curvaceous and empowering model, and my former Big Brother Canada 3 houseguest and alliance ride-or-die mate(she finished in fourth place; I won) for the skinny on this weighty issue.
Why did the ‘too-fat-for-Facebook’ debate rage on?
We live in a society where everyone feels entitled to tell you what your body should and shouldn’t look like — especially on social media. I, too, have experienced this kind of body-shaming and as I always like to say, “if I had a dollar for every time someone told me how I should look ... I would be a billionaire.” It’s a little warped to me that a social media site has such a heavy hand in moulding the beauty standards of society. This decision and actions manipulate people into fitting into a cookie-cutter image. No matter what it takes. Unfortunately, the result of this may potentially be some unhealthy eating habits or excessive workouts, which is an absolute shame. When dealing with something as large as a site that connects over 100 billion active members worldwide, from different religions, nationalities, body types, health conditions, etc., you need to be very thoughtful and cautious when setting your universal “health and beauty standards.”
Oh, people just LOVE to give their opinions about EVERYTHING online. Big Brother Canada host and our mentor Arisa Cox always says “Twitter is where self-esteem goes to die” but is there anything healthy about social media?
Although I have my days where I’d like to detach myself from the social media world — don’t we all? — I choose to see the potential and positivity it brings for body equality. Social media is an amazing tool! It allows us to spread a message in an instant. I don’t know if things are necessarily “better,” but I would say that people are able to be a lot more vocal about embracing individuality and not conforming to the societal “beauty standards.” I truly believe social media has brought to light the need for colour and body diversity within the modelling industry. It has set a new standard for beauty, and that is: beauty comes in all shapes, heights, shades, and sizes.
What about the future of modelling in general?
Modelling has a long future ahead of it in terms of growth, vision, and the inclusion of diversity in general. I would love to see more relatable models and less cookie-cutter ideals within the fashion industry. Although it is slowly changing, and we are seeing more models of colour, models with curves, models with tattoos etc., it would be great to see the industry push the envelope more. I long for a day when there is no need to be defined by what “type” of a model you are. I hope to be a part of that movement.
Is this why modelling is important for you?
Yes. It means the world to me to know that someone can look to me and seek inspiration to accept themselves and to love themselves. In owning all of who I am — every scar, dimple, every curve — I can encourage others to do the same. Growing up, I didn’t really have anyone to show me that having larger thighs, or rounder cheeks, were just fine. I saw magazines tell me “how to drop 5 pounds in 1 week” and “exercises to make your tummy flat,” but never did I see a fierce example of someone owning their curves and being completely happy. I hope that now, through my modelling career, I can be that example for someone.
We lived in the BBCAN house where people are constantly lying to get ahead. Did you thrive in the reality-TV world because that’s what the modelling world is like?
A good friend once said to me “Big Brother is a microcosm of life” and she was spot on. That’s not me saying that the modelling world is in any way about lying or manipulating, but it is definitely about being sociable, likeable, and connecting with your clients, agents and fellow models. The fashion industry has taught me a lot about people and their perception of others. It has also taught me a lot about myself and what I am willing to overlook and what I’m passionate about sticking up for. I would like to think that having this experience dealing with my fellow colleagues allowed me to apply that knowledge and excel as far as I did in the BBCAN house.
I believe modelling can be a feminist exercise as it’s one of the few places you see women in powerful positions; but it is also viewed as maybe giving into the male gaze — or fulfilling a certain stereotype/cliché. Do you feel empowered by your modelling or held back by it? Both?
At no point and time have I ever felt held back as a woman by modelling. While I can understand the take on how it may be seen as “filling a certain female role” it is beyond empowering. Modelling allows me to say “I am woman and this is me in all my glory.” It is about perspective like anything in life. I choose to use this role to empower myself and women alike by living fiercely, freely travelling the world, and making a living for myself to create a solid foundation and life.
Follow Sarah Hanlon @flatshanlon and Brittnee Blair @miss_curvy_B