As a society we have a short memory, but recently, in re-watching Project Runway from start to finish, I realized that it wasn't really too long ago that body acceptance wasn't a thing.
I believe it was in the 2008 season (maybe?) that Michael Kors proclaimed that "no woman wants big hips and a big butt" (I really have to look up the quote in its entirely). This gave me flashbacks, both to highschool and university - neither too long ago - when the look really was skinny. Paris Hilton-esque, if you will. And white. Skinny and white.
A lot of people I know revile the Kardashians, and they certainly have made their mistakes - but, while not single-handedly, they did bring something of cultural value that I appreciate. With the rise of their popularity, they, perhaps inadvertently, introduced further acceptance to classically ethnic features; dark hair, dark skin and curvy bodies. You would think that these would have been in vogue for much longer; after all, we had icons like Beyonce and Li'l Kim who literally embodied these traits. And we can't forget J-Lo and her world-reknowned butt - though we can't also forget the non-trivial amount of disdain some of the media and public had for body. I myself have a memory of my grade 10 English teacher, whose husband - a cop - had the privilege of escorting her around Toronto, mentioning with disgust the size of her behind and how 'fat' she looked as a result. The sad reality is that these features had to be channelled through (perceived) white stars to white audiences for this acceptance to be seeded.
I recognize that it might sound problematic that I cite the Kardashians as early contributors to the body acceptance movement. They obviously do not embody that in any meaningful way currently, especially with the very public and intense beauty/dieting/exercise regimens they post on their social media. But if that lens is to be applied, then they were a necessary evil - and I feel I must provide credit.
Project Runway has, unsurprisingly, changed its tune; at the start of season 16, Heidi Klum walked out onto the runway and proclaimed that, this year, the show would be championing body-acceptance by including models of all sizes. Those statements are representative of what I feel around me. In 2006, my healthy body was considered undesirable. In 2017, I am considered conventionally attractive, because the definition of what is seen as attractive has gotten wider, and Kardashian-esque curves are now not only considered acceptable but desirable. And while I balk at the notion of being viewed that way, well, there is something to be said about feeing generically pretty.
© Bhavya Kashyap. All rights reserved. Design: HTML5 UP.