Big Women Beautiful Enough To Fit In 'V'

High-fashion magazine V is celebrating bodies of all shapes and sizes in its latest issue. Host Liane Hansen speaks with the features editor of V, Christopher Bartley, and curvy-model Emme to find out if this is going to become the norm for the fashion industry.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

The shapes in high-fashion magazines may be changing. The latest issue of V, for example, is dedicated to models of all sizes. So, curvy figures as well as slim ones are featured in its glossy pages. Joining us from our New York bureau is Christopher Bartley, the features editor of V magazine. Hi, Christopher.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER BARTLEY (Features Editor, V Magazine): Hello. How are you?

HANSEN: And he is joined by plus-size supermodel Emme. Welcome to the program.

EMME (Supermodel): Hi, Liane. I'm so happy to be here.

HANSEN: Oh, it's nice to have you both. And Christopher, I'd like to start with you because this issue of V, it's called the size issue. And it features actresses Dakota Fanning and Gabourey Sidibe, from the movie "Precious." Now, these two women could physically not be more different.

Mr. BARTLEY: Exactly.

HANSEN: But the one thing they do have in common is the fact that they're both great actresses. But as a features editor, was there something behind - in your mind when you juxtaposed these two?

Mr. BARTLEY: Well, Gabby actually inspired the issue in a way, along with Crystal Wren, who we'll touch on later. But we saw the trailer for "Precious" in the office over the summer, and we just fell in love with her.

HANSEN: Emme, I want to bring you in because on your blog, you highlight some points in the debate over this V magazine issue and wrote that some people consider it a bold move on the magazine's part. But others say that full-sized women should be featured in every issue. Where do you stand on that?

EMME: Every issue.

HANSEN: Every issue.

(Soundbite of laughter)

EMME: Yeah. It shouldn't be an issue of size; it should be women. And I think that the media, especially women's magazines, would do themselves a favor if they truly, truly did this because it would reduce so much of the horrible push for the prepubescent image, the drive for thinness, the unrealistic expectations, I feel, that are just delivered to us day in and day out.

HANSEN: Christopher, you're nodding assent. I can hear you when Emme's talking about having other sized women featured in every issue. But is this a promotional effort, this one, or will V magazine continue to use models of all sizes?

Mr. BARTLEY: We absolutely will continue but - I mean, I do believe that anything has to start with a revolution of sorts. So, you have to be radical, and then conversations start from there.

EMME: Amen. Go, Christopher, go.

Mr. BARTLEY: You know, like...

(Soundbite of laughter)

EMME: And also, Liane, I have to jump in. I know Cindy Levy over at Glamour magazine, she has made a commitment - last year to have size 12s and 14s and 10s, and then also booking models that are size 6 and size 4, together in editorial spreads. Now, that is where we're going.

HANSEN: Emme, in the modeling world, what's considered a plus size?

EMME: In the modeling world, some might say 10, but I kind of laugh hysterically at that. Twelve, 14 and then 16 is kind of a fall-off for print. So the women that work are 12/14s and a solid 14.

HANSEN: Do you find the term plus size to be derogatory?

EMME: Degrading? Yes. Because it's quite obvious that we are fuller and shapely and, you know, have a little bit of sexiness...

HANSEN: Sure.

EMME: A lot of sexiness to us. So...

HANSEN: But plus size doesn't necessarily mean obese or unfit.

EMME: Absolutely. There's this controversy, that some people think that we sit back and kick back the milkshakes and the bonbons and all that. But in order to be a model, you have to train, you have to eat well, you have to think well of yourself. You have to be like, a natural, German-Polish, big-boned gal who likes to take care. And it's natural. It's a natural shape.

HANSEN: I'm speaking with supermodel Emme and Christopher Bartley, who's the features editor of V magazine, about the new size issue, which is on the newsstands now. Christopher, in the size issue, you have some pretty skillful Photoshopping to show, you know, a skinny and heavier version of the same model wearing the same clothes.

Mr. BARTLEY: That's actually two different models.

HANSEN: Is it really?

Mr. BARTLEY: Yes.

EMME: Yes. Very much.

Mr. BARTLEY: Two different.

HANSEN: All right. Well, what was the motivation for doing this?

Mr. BARTLEY: Well, that story specifically was to show that the same runway samples, which are a size 2, could be worn on a runway model and Crystal Wren. In each spread, there's a model wearing her size 2 sample. She looks great. Down the right, there's Crystal Wren wearing the same, exact outfit, and that she looks amazing as well. So...

HANSEN: And we're talking Versace; you know, we're talking Armani.

Mr. BARTLEY: Versace, Proenza Schouler.

HANSEN: Yeah.

EMME: I've had cut clothes up the back to demand the look that is on the runway can look great on a body that's a 14.

HANSEN: It's an interesting conversation to have when there's such a push now against obesity.

EMME: Correct. We definitely have a bipolar problem with our health in this country. One end, horrendous obesity and on the other side that's not talked about - and I'm glad to be able to bring this up - is another epidemic of anorexia, bulimia, associated disorders that are not really talked about. It's messy and it doesn't look great.

That's where the drive to be thin, thin, thin at all costs. And even women who are below a size 12 are the ones that are using more of the diet products than the ones that are above a size 12. You just kind of scratch your head and go, what is going on here? When are we going to shake ourselves?

HANSEN: Christopher Bartley is the features editor of V magazine, and Emme is a supermodel and TV personality. They joined us from our New York bureau. And you can find more about V magazine's size issue on our blog. Go to NPR.org/Soapbox. Thanks, both of you.

EMME: Thank you so much.

Mr. BARTLEY: Thank you so much.

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