I came across something awesome happening in Girl World this week, and I wanted to share it here in case you hadn’t heard about it yet. Refinery29—an awesome women’s website that features everything from cultural commentary to nail-art ideas—started an initiative called “The 67% Project.” The idea behind it is this: 67% of women in the U.S. identify as “plus-size,” wearing a size 14 or up in clothing. However, those same women are only represented in 1-2% of images in the media. Here’s how Refinery29 is addressing this problem through the initiative, in their own words:
“During the launch week, 67% of the bodies you see on our site, in our newsletter, and on our Instagram and Snapchat channels will be plus-size. To do this, we’ve made significant changes within Refinery29 to fully represent the 67% this week, and beyond. For the last six months, we’ve been shooting stock photography and redesigning illustrations to more accurately reflect the women who make up the majority of our country. And we’re partnering with Getty Images to make this collection available to other outlets that wish to join us in closing the representation gap.”
A sample from Refinery29’s homepage today, 10/2/16.
Browsing the site this week, I realized that every time I saw a photo of a plus-size woman, I immediately assumed that the article was about either plus-size fashion or body positivity, because often, that’s the only time plus-size women appear in women’s publications or media. However, that wasn’t the case on Refinery29 this week; images of plus-size women appeared alongside a variety of articles, from “3 Health Benefits Of Being Nice” (pictured above)to “31 Days Of Halloween Beauty Inspiration.” Refinery29 is treating these women not as a niche but as the norm—because that’s what they are.
Though the launch week of The 67% Project ends today, I’m excited to see where Refinery29 goes from here. Beauty in the real world is incredibly diverse, and having media that reflects that diversity is good for all of us. I am thankful that Refinery29 has taken this big step in the right direction.
Today is a very big day in Pop Culture Land: the Vanity Fair issue with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover hit newsstands. The cover made the internet rounds last week, so I’m sure by now you’ve seen it, as well as commentary on it from many a source. Admittedly, I’m pretty selective as far as what comes up in my various feeds (the internet can bring you down, man!), but the vast majority of what I’ve read regarding Caitlyn’s cover story has been supportive. Many have been cheering her on for not only making the change she felt she needed, but also for being open about her story in the hopes of helping others. Watching all this unfold sparked me to reflect on some of my other favorite celebrities who attempt to use their fame-power for good. Today seemed like a great day to acknowledge them.
Taylor Swift, my favorite musician of all time, has taken the top spot of DoSomething.org’s “Celebs Gone Good” list for the past three years. Part of what makers her so “good” is her commitment to donating to charity. She’s even donated her music, so to speak; all the proceeds of “Welcome to New York” go to the NY public school system, and all the proceeds from “Ronan” are donated to cancer charities. One of the things I enjoy about Taylor most, however, is how far she goes to connect with her fans. There were the 1989 secret sessions. Then there was Swiftmas. Best of all, though, are the times she reaches out to fans on social media that are going through something, be it a bad breakup or even the death of a parent. Taylor certainly has a knack for returning the adoration to her most devoted fans.
Here’s the thing: it’s entirely reasonable to be skeptical of celebrities, even when they’re doing good. The celebrity world is a very fun one to observe, but it’s also meticulously crafted, and at times, fake. So it’s healthy to take it in with a proverbial grain of salt.
But beyond that initial side-glance, I have a few thoughts on the matter. My first is, I get it. No, I’m not a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination. But when I first started writing, I had two driving impulses. The first one, the initial spark, was that I wanted to write things that would help people the way things I’d read helped me. The second was, Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if my stuff reached lots and lots of people? If in the process of helping others, I made a name for myself as well? And that’s the reality. I don’t think impulse #2 takes away from the good of what I’m trying to do. If anything, it’s become a good checkpoint: am I writing this because it’s a message I believe in, or primarily because I think it’s very social-media-sharable? And I think, or would like to believe, that for celebrities like the ones I’ve mentioned, the sentiment is fundamentally similar. In fact, Caitlyn Jenner has already addressed potential skeptics head-on:
“I’m not doing it for the money. I’m doing it to help my soul and help other people. If I can make a dollar, I certainly am not stupid. [I have] house payments and all that kind of stuff. I will never make an excuse for something like that. Yeah, this is a business. You don’t go out and change your gender for a television show. O.K., it ain’t happening. I don’t care who you are.”
Perhaps I am overly optimistic. Even if that’s the case, my next thought is this: doing good is doing good is doing good. If someone reads Caitlyn’s story, or watches one of Demi’s interview, and feels more educated or prepared to fight their own battles, great! If a Disney Channel fan follows Zendaya on Instagram, and feels inspired to speak up for themselves the way she does, awesome! And I have no doubt that tears and happy dances have been the direct result of Taylor reaching out to her fans. If celebrities get a publicity boost from their do-good endeavors, that’s fine. We can always use more good in the world, so whatever motivates someone – celebrity or not – to go out there and provide it, well, I’m all for it.