Plus Size Beauty: The Past, Present and Media Now

After the announcement of Ashley Graham as Revlon's first plus sized beauty ambassador, it got us thinking how far behind the beauty industry is in incorporating a healthy mix of women of all shapes, sizes and ethnicity's. There has being a lot of talk in recent years regarding the fashion industry catching up to the 21st Century and showcasing women in plus size fashion, but how has the beauty industry really fared? 

Let's start at the beginning.


Considered one of the earliest 'beauties', Cleopatra is as famous for her looks as she is for her time on the throne. However, Cleopatra was a 'bigger' woman, and would definitely get the tag "plus size" were she living today. There is also much debate about her race, as she was an Egyptian ruler (though from Greek heritage), and there is evidence to assume she was of darker skin too. The ideal of beauty in Egypt was very similar to Greece, with the main difference colour in skin. Many statues, scriptures and stories from the times of Cleopatra talk of her beauty, so what has changed in the 2000 years since her ruling?

Renaissance Women

If we jump to the Renaissance period, mostly in Europe, women again of bigger size are not only found attractive, but celebrated. This could also be a sign of a woman with power and money, as at this time if you were considered 'bigger', it was probably a sign you were well off enough to eat well. However, there were a lot more 'ideal's in this period more so than others. It was considered more attractive to be blonde, have a larger forehead, and light skin. There is also evidence of women plucking their eyebrows and dying their eyebrows at this time.

Victoria England times seem to follow in the Renaissance steps a few hundred years later, with women reflecting their husbands wealth and title in how well fed and looked after the women were. However, women started cinching their waists through this time, a beauty trend that still continues to this day. 

Now headed into the 20th century, women of a bigger stature again shown to be more attractive, as a sign of wealth after the world war's. Women like Marilyn Monroe create a culture in Hollywood of bigger women playing sexy and seductive characters, and are seen as sex symbols worldwide. Again, the 'hourglass' figure of a cinched in waist but fuller breasts and bigger hips are considered attractive.

This is when beauty seems to turn to thinner women (not that thinner women don't need their time in the spotlight!). From the 60's to now, women that are prominently skinny or athletic build are considered attractive. The past 60 years has seen a shift in beauty with makeup, hair, and clothing, but the size of women has mostly stayed the same. This is disappointing, as we try and push for all women to be represented in the media. We can't deny the effects the media has on women's self image, when in 2008, 65% of American women reported having a disordered relationship with eating. 

Ads like this contribute to body image issues

So what now?

So what can we do to change the media perception of beauty? We, the consumer, have so much more power than we recognise. To the companies that don't paint positive body images and businesses that use manipulative beauty tactics to sell their products, we have the power by not purchasing from them. The only way we can demand change is through our actions. 

Changing our behaviours on how we see beauty is important too. Being ok with your own body is important in not falling for the tricks some businesses use to prey on low self esteem. And remember, one woman's beauty does not diminish your own!