Inside the Exciting New World of Plus-Size Beauty and Makeup

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but you’d never be able to tell that from flipping through the pages of your typical fashion magazine. Up until recently, beauty campaigns fronted by plus-size models were a rarity. And although plus-size models in fashion have been thriving as of late, it’s been a slower climb for their makeup industry counterparts. 

Indeed, most beauty diversity movements have been centered around race, gender, and age. We’ve got transgender models walking runways, and models of color like Nyakim Gatwetch making headlines. However, the same can’t be said for size inclusivity in the world of makeup. It’s alarming to think that this is all despite the fact that 68% of women in America are in the plus-size range. But what exactly has kept the industry from evolving for so long? 

A long time coming

In fashion and beauty, brands have profited from telling people what they should do, feel, or look like. Unfortunately, not everyone can force themselves into a mold, and what happens is they end up underserved and under-represented. Body positive fashion company Woman Within emphasizes the importance of helping women love what they wear — a gap that is being addressed by more and more clothing brands today. In the past, plus-size consumers have struggled finding stylish clothes outside the realm of billowy shirts and baggy pants. But although it’s been a welcome change, size inclusivity feels even more revolutionary for beauty. While fashion companies get standing ovations for extending their range or featuring curvy models, beauty brands don’t. And when bodies aren’t involved in advertising imagery, why bother? 

Plus-size model Philomena Kwao states that a lot of it has to do with make-up brands refusing to challenge norms. “I’ve never been [casted] for commercial work,” she told The New York Times. “People are scared to try something new. It’s like, ‘I have a formula, why change it?’” But every person has a body, and every person has a face. Each one should be represented when it comes to any product.

Breaking barriers, one brand at a time

Fortunately, there are some make-up brands that are redefining beauty. Last year, Sephora released its most progressive campaign yet, featuring a diverse roster of their own employees of different sizes, races, and ages. 

Sephora Diversity Campaign.  Credit: Racked

Sephora Diversity Campaign.
Credit: Racked

Wet n Wild's Breaking Beauty campaign is another one worth an honorable mention. Their line-up of personalities includes a model with albinism, a transgender model, and weightlifter/plus-size model Brianna Marquez. 

#BreakingBeauty by Wet n Wild.  Credit: Art-Dept.com

#BreakingBeauty by Wet n Wild.
Credit: Art-Dept.com

Prior to that, cult beauty brand Glossier broke the internet with their Body Hero campaign, fronted by plus-size model Paloma Elsesser. According to Elsesser, it was a milestone both for the industry and herself, having grown up without a role model to identify with. “I didn’t even know plus-sized modeling was a thing,” she told People. “Growing up, people would say, ‘You have such a pretty face.’ It’s backhanded, but we have to stomach it.”

Caption: Paloma Elsesser for Glossier Credit: Glossier

Caption: Paloma Elsesser for Glossier
Credit: Glossier

Small steps towards progress

At the moment, size inclusivity and diversity are having their moment. But in truth, these movements mean more to people than just being the next hottest trend or marketing ploy. While there are risks like tokenism, Elsesser feels that the end more than justifies the means. “We have to tokenize in order to normalize,” she argues. “The more that we see one Asian model, one black model, one plus-size model, it’s like people are dipping their toes, and the other foot goes in and then we’re neck deep and we just have to continue until it’s just not a ‘thing.’”


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