Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to the portrayal of beautiful women by media and brands, they’re typically a size zero. This ideal has dominated the runways, billboards and glossy pages of magazines for decades, yet does not reflect the reality of many American women. In fact, 67% of women in the US are “plus size,” or between sizes 14-34.
When digital media company for women Refinery29 learned this statistic, they were stunned. As a company that prides themselves on reflecting the diverse interests of their audience of over 225 million and championing the idea of individuality, they took a hard look at their content and recognized that they were not doing enough to truly represent their audience.
“We see our brand as an inclusive destination that makes women feel great and provides them with the information and inspiration to live life to the fullest. It’s time to change the idea that plus size women are a niche and bring them into the norm. These are the majority of women in our country, yet the content centered on them is such a small section of what we see on a daily basis across advertising and media,” Refinery29’s Executive Creative Director and co-founder Piera Gelardi said. “Even though we consider ourselves a leader in the body-positivity space, once we learned this statistic and took stock of what we were doing, we found that even we were falling short.”
Refinery29 is a values driven company, she added, and accountable to their audience.
“We speak to millions of millennial women every day and we are dedicated to supporting and representing them honestly. If we’re not walking the walk, we’re not doing that. Real change takes action and we’re devoted to making an impact here.”
Through their new initiative, The 67% Project, Refinery29 is making a concerted effort to increase representation across their channels by ensuring that 67% of the women depicted on their platform are plus size. In addition, they are partnering with Getty Images on a collection of images featuring women who are size 14+, as an effort to change the media landscape and encourage other brands to follow their lead.
“So much of our mental conditioning around our body image comes through media and advertising. For so long, the images put in front of women have showcased a very narrow vision of what beauty looks like—and essentially that’s been tall, thin, and white,” she said. “Photographic representation has so much power in shaping the way we see the world and ourselves within it. For this project, our goal is to create images where this invisible majority are the protagonists, and where their size isn’t the focus of the image.”
With the 67% Project, Refinery29 aims to highlight the importance of body diversity, encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to embrace who they are and to change society’s perception of what is considered beautiful.
“We hope by representing plus size women it will help them feel confident and proud. For those in our audience who don’t see plus size as equal and beautiful, we hope to guide them in questioning their own unconscious biases. Ideally, we hope to see our audience—as well as media and advertising brands — become our partners in challenging the industry to change.”