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Main » 2016 » June » 2 » Guys on a plus size upward curve
4:10 PM
Guys on a plus size upward curve

Guys on a plus size upward curveIMG Models, a global modelling agency based in America, recently signed its first "plus size” male model.

Zach Miko, an actor and former US Target model looks, to my eye, like most fit young men. Yet Miko is one of very few plus size male models with agency contracts.

The UK has no plus sized models signed to an agency, and Australia has less than half a dozen.

While South Africa is yet to introduce its first ever plus size male model, Australia is among few countries worldwide breaking the mould with the signing a few years ago of plus size model Jesse McNeilly to BGM Models, largely a female modelling company. One of his labelmates is James Aitken, another of the few Australian plus size male models.

So why is the rise of the larger male model such a rare event? There has been growing cultural appreciation of the plus sized female body.

"Plus size” female models are increasingly appearing in mainstream women’s magazines. Recently, the size 16 Australian actor Rebel Wilson featured on the cover of the UK edition of Cosmopolitan magazine wearing a T-shirt that exclaimed: "Here’s Rebel … and she’s got Hollywood by the balls”.

South Africa’s own curvy girl ambassador Thick Leeyonce (real name is Lesego Legobane), who is launching her own label for fuller figured women to be known as Lee x Bex, has been making local fashion magazine and designers alike sit up and take notice.

There are far fewer examples however of larger men in popular media and this is not a good thing. Generally, we are fed images of very similar kinds of male bodies, slender and well muscled or thin.

Miko and McNeilly are both clearly muscley and they have strength that appears natural, not the result of diets aimed at "shredding” fat. Yet, alarmingly, the kind of muscle we see on most male models is achieved through strict diets and exercise for aesthetic purposes only, rather than exercise to be strong for health or sport.

There are two reasons traditionally used to sell the plus sized female body that don’t work for men. Firstly, capable, "healthy” women’s bodies are required for reproduction. This can be seen as free state labour, growing future workers and consumers in expanding women’s bellies for very little cost. Capitalism is happy and as such, breasts and hips can be seen to have an economic purpose beyond their obvious aesthetic appeal.

Economies do well out of fleshy female bodies. There is also a popular contemporary aesthetic tradition of the voluptuous female body. Marilyn Monroe, Jessica Rabbit and Beyoncé are all famously curvy. Incredibly, Marilyn and Beyoncé would be considered plus-size by the modelling industry.

There isn’t a comparable late modern history for men in which larger male physiques are aesthetically valued. Rugby players, weightlifters and open weight rowers are valued for their highly functional physiques, but they are unlikely to appear on the cover of Men’s Health. Yet these sportsmen would measure up larger than Miko, who is 1.98m tall with a 40-inch (101cm) waist.

While the infamous Marlboro Man (stereotypical notions of American masculinity) of the 1950 and ’60s was muscular, he had kind of "normal” strong man muscles. Nowadays, male models are considered "plus” if they are 42-inch or above. Men’s bodies in ads are becoming
increasingly unrealistic. They are filled with "defined”, "lean” muscles – long, stringy or bumpy body casings that demonstrate effective micro dosing of nutrients and supplements.

To be popular, men have to be good at a certain kind of control. Whether they rule the family, their public domain of employment, or their body, successful masculinity has been synonymous with control for too long. – & additional reporting by Tankiso Komane

Anna Hickey-Moody is lecturer
in gender and cultural
studies at the University of

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