The fashion industry has been making steady strides when it comes to body diversity, with shops like ModCloth ditching limited "plus size sections" and runways sending down more than just one token plus size model. Some stores are even pledging to never again airbrush out a stretch mark, tummy roll, or patch of cellulite again. But the beauty industry has been gravely falling behind. But that's about to change until now.
Model Ashley Graham is the new ambassador for Revlon's Live Boldly campaign, making her one of the first plus size models to secure a mainstream beauty contract. Before her, the plus-size model Emme Aronson was a spokesmodel for Revlon in the '90s, and Queen Latifah has been the face of CoverGirl’s Queen Collection for over a decade, which is a niche line specifically for dark skin tones. But big beauty has long had a big representation problem.
While curvy models have been recently popping up in makeup campaigns, none have been signed to contracts. Graham is one of the first, pushing the needle of inclusivity in the right direction. In the Revlon campaign, Graham will be joined by fellow models Adwoa Aboah, Imaan Hammam, Achok Majak, Rina Fukushi, and Raquel Zimmerman to show off the brand's newest range of cosmetics.
Revlon told WWD that they intentionally chose to spotlight a group of six women together for the campaign — rather than just focusing on one ambassador as brands are wont to do — to send a message of women supporting women. They also wanted to update that distanced, artificial image of an ambassador in front of a studio backdrop, instead putting her out into the real world.
Graham is now not only shaking up the fabric of the fashion industry, but the beauty industry, too.
"There was a moment in my life…[when] I wanted to go home, I wanted to go back to Nebraska from New York and I wanted to give up and I was just done with modeling because it was such a hard, cruel world,” Graham told WWD. “[My mom] said, ‘Ashley, your body is supposed to change someone’s life,’ and when she said that to me I didn’t get it at first."
Now, Graham is definitely doing just that.
While exciting, one has to wonder why it took so long. After all, makeup has no size — you don't need to "fit" into a lipstick shade or eyeshadow palette. So why has the industry been hesitant to sign a non-straight sized model into a campaign?
Part of the reason, according to The New York Times, is that there hasn't been monetary incentive. Fashion brands see a boost in sales if they feature plus size models thanks to support and a positive onslaught of publicity, but beauty brands don't see that kind of bump to their bottom line. Mainly because there are no sizes in their collections. While there's an exclusion in representation, there's no actual exclusion in product like in the fashion world. And so people will still buy the cosmetics, even if they don't see their size reflected in the ad.
Another view is that brands were terrified to mess with the formula. Beauty ads are meant to make you imagine looking a certain way, and for the longest time the ideal, inspirational woman was one particular image — tall, white, and thin. The industry had progressed (albeit slightly) past the "white" part, but has barely made progress on "thin" archetype. Until now.
Revlon’s Live Boldly campaign will be rolling out over the next 18 months, so expect to see a whole lot more of Graham — and size inclusivity — in the beauty aisle this year.