Model mocks American Apparel plus size model competition - and tops the poll

Nancy Upton has a message for America Apparel and their plus size fashion competition: I won, but I’ll never model for you.

The ‘aspiring model’ is making headlines today by topping the controversial brand’s plus size model search poll after posting some very tongue-in-cheek shots on the competition page. Photo: Shannon Skloss

The company’s 'Next Big Thing' competition aims to find a U.S. size 12-14 (UK size 16-18) model for their new line, encouraging women to present photos of their bodies for a public vote.

But Upton finds the cutesy language and cattle call approach to the competition patronising. 


Her response was to enter photos of herself in several seductive poses, using a variety of high calorie foods as props.

From holding a suggestively placed apple pie to being doused in chocolate sauce and eating fried chicken in a pool, Upton’s photos are her attempt to make a strong statement against the way fashion approaches the issue of larger women.

The American Apparel competition site says: 'We're looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out. If you think you've got what it takes to be the next XLent model, send us photos of you and your junk to back it up.’

Nancy Upton's American Apparel competition page

Entry into the competition required applicants to supply two face shots and one body shot. Users were then asked to rate models on a scale from one to five, one being ‘not quite’ and five being ‘XLent’.

But Upton thinks the company has taken the wrong approach.

'I don’t believe that beauty should be qualified as BECAUSE of someone’s size or IN SPITE of someone’s size. Beauty is beauty, it’s fluid, it’s objective and it doesn’t need to be justified to or by anyone,' Upton wrote on her blog.

Upton, who had her friend and photographer Shannon Skloss take the pictures, says she didn’t think she would win the competition and doesn’t plan on modeling for the controversial brand any time soon.

‘I most certainly would not model for American Apparel, because (pretty obviously) I don’t agree with their business practices. I also would not expect to be asked to do so, even if I receive a majority of the votes (something I never planned on).'

Photo: Shannon SklossIn an email to Jezebel, the outspoken Upton said:

‘I immediately thought, based on the way it was written, "Wow, they really have zero respect for plus-sized women. They're going to line them up like cattle and make puns about them until they're blue in the face." And then, as corny as it sounds, it just occurred to me that based on their "Hey, come on, fatties, we want you to play, too" tone, wouldn't it be kind of brilliant to respond in a, "Thanks for letting me play, just let me try put down the pizza, first" similar mocking tone. From there, I realized I knew a great photographer, I had a free couple of hours on Sunday and a little extra money in my pocket to drop on some ranch dressing and a chicken.’

In the UK alone, it’s estimated nearly £5B will be spent on plus size clothing this year, nearly a quarter of all women’s clothes sold in the UK.

Last year, a print version of plus size magazine ‘Just as Beautiful’ launched in the UK to celebrate a more diverse range of female body shapes and cater to ‘curvy’ women. 

High fashion brands like Jean-Paul Gaultier and John Galliano have also followed suit, featuring plus size models in their runway shows, and magazines like Vogue and Glamour have featured larger women on their pages.

And while there seems to be no stopping companies capitalising on the success of plus size fashion, many, like Upton, feel some brands like American Apparel are using the wrong methods to cater to their audience.

Upton told Jezebel:

‘I just hope they see a missed opportunity. If they'd gone about the contest differently or, what I think would have been really great, if they had just suddenly start running ads with sexy plus-sized women and simply said, "Now available in sizes through 2XL," the impact would have been huge (no pun intended, believe me) and VERY positive, I think. People would have said, "Wow, good for them! How progressive!" But instead, they used cutesy, tired euphemisms and this faux-chummy supportive tone that a lot of people found cheap and insulting. It smacked of that feeling when someone does something well or does a good deed and then nudges you and goes, "See what I did?".’

The American Apparel competition closed today and Upton has secured the #1 spot. 


Do you agree with Upton? Are brands using the wrong tactics to attract plus size shoppers? Or was the competition all in good fun?

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