Curves and confidence: the shift towards plus-size

By: Brianne Smith

Plus-size line, Allistyle, held the first Canadian plus-size fashion show at Toronto Fashion Week in 2012. Photo from Real Style.
Plus-size line, Allistyle, held the first Canadian plus-size fashion show at Toronto Fashion Week in 2012. Photo from Real Style.

Plus-size modeling is on the rise among women throughout North America, challenging beauty ideals, embracing curves, and empowering women alike.

B&M Models is a boutique agency of all sizes, in Toronto. It has been in business for over 34 years, representing both male and female models. It has distinguished itself for its work with plus-size women, setting it apart from typical modeling agencies.

In the fall of 2014, B&M Models re-launched its plus-size division, changing the board of profiles from “above average” to “curvy.” The board is where clients, such as retailers, can look to choose women they want to model their merchandise. The board has since become the largest of its kind in the city.

“The reason we changed it from ‘above average’ to ‘curvy,’ was that ‘above average’ insinuated that larger-sized women weren’t the average and that’s not the case anymore. Body types have changed quite a bit and the average is no longer a smaller frame,” said Andrea Evans, an agent at B&M Models.

Currently the “curvy” board has 16 models, who range from dress sizes eight to 20, but Evans said B&M is always looking for more talent.

She explained that more people are interested in working with curvy models, but weren’t grasping the concept of “above average.”

“Curvy has a different connotation to it—a sexier, cooler, shorter, abbreviated, more relatable name,” she said.

More retailers are beginning to cater to plus-size women. Stores such as Pennington’s, Hudson’s Bay, Old Navy, Reitmans, Ricki’s, Addition Elle and Laura Plus are just a sample of companies offering clothes in plus-sizes.

“What’s set B&M apart from other traditional fashion agencies in the city is that they’ve always seen outside of the strict fashion sizing,” Evans said. “There’s never been a limitation here, so when the demand for plus-size girls came about, it made sense to have that board come alive.”

Meghan Bradley, 48, is featured on B&M’s “curvy” board. She said she started work as a plus-size model at age 26 when a friend suggested she give it a go after noticing an advertisement featuring plus-size women. Bradley had never modeled before, but attended a casting call where she was interviewed and instructed to walk.

“The next thing you know I was taken on and my first booking was the next day!” she said.

“Back when I started, it was very much about fitting a size and there were only a handful of stores I would work for because there was so little opportunity to even shop for plus-size,” Bradley recalled.

A highlight of her career came when she was 33, with Bradley becoming the first Canadian plus-size woman to walk the runway in the “Ready-to-Wear” collection for Toronto Fashion Week.

“When I first started out we were just a size, we were just representing a size in a store… Now it’s more of a movement,” Bradley explained. “It’s not just about whether you’re wearing a cute skirt or a blouse. It’s about how you’re wearing it. There’s a confidence movement happening.”

Young, high profile models such as Tess Munster (size 22) and Ashley Graham (size 16) have inspired girls and women across North America with their confidence and success in the fashion industry. Munster and Graham have garnered international attention for their work and greatly contributed to the changing attitudes towards curvy models in the media.

In 2012, Toronto held the first ever plus-size fashion runway show as part of the World MasterCard Fashion Week. The plus-size line, Allistyle, gained instant media attention. It was greatly endorsed by America’s Next Top Model winner, Whitney Thompson, who became the face of the line.

Big name retailers and magazines are beginning to take curvy models on. Calvin Klein’s recent “Perfectly Fit” campaign featured size 10 model Myla Dalbesio, and size 12 model Robyn Lawley appeared in Sports Illustrated’s 2015 swimsuit edition.

Lawley was the first model of her size to ever be featured in an edition, which attracted international attention. Despite the positive shift towards curvy models, both Calvin Klein and Sports Illustrated’s efforts were met with criticism for suggesting Dalbesio and Lawley were plus-size women. In today’s fashion industry, plus-size is generally seen as size eight and up.

“What makes me sad is the fact that we’re even talking about size eights and tens being plus – I think it’s just awful that the bar is being lowered,” Bradley said. “And what is that doing to our young impressionable women?”

Diana Di Poce is the founder and editor-in-chief of DARE, Canada’s first plus-size magazine. The idea for DARE was developed as a part of her fourth-year thesis project in university. She explains that she launched DARE because she felt it was important to feature women of all shapes and sizes in forms of advertising and media.

DARE magazine's cover of this year's spring issue. Photo provided by DARE magazine.
DARE magazine’s 2015 spring issue. Photo from DARE.

“Being plus-size all my life, I understand the challenges that young women face with their body image,” Di Poce said. “It’s important for them to know that they are beautiful no matter what size they wear. They cannot let the industry’s beauty standards dictate how they feel about themselves.”

DARE is geared entirely towards curvy women and has worked with leading plus-size fashion bloggers, designers and body-positive artists.

“I didn’t feel that plus-size women, especially in Canada, were being catered to as I thought they should be,” Di Poce said. “As a plus-size woman who loves fashion, I’ve always wanted to see women who look like me on the pages of magazines and in advertising.”

Bradley noted that the fashion industry has come a long way, but there’s still work to be done when it comes to catering to all body types.

“I hope we don’t ever have to refer to it as plus-size modeling,” she said. “I hope that in the future when someone is doing a campaign, that they pick old, young, tall, short, diverse ethnicity, every size. I just hope it becomes more about who that person is than it is about whether the garment looks good on them.”

Carleton TEDx shares view of hope for “Future World”


By: Patrick Butler

About 200 people attended Carleton University’s first ever TEDx conference, held April 5 in River Building.

Twelve speakers shared 15-minute talks on this year’s theme, “Future World.” Speakers shared ideas on issues ranging from smart technologies to harnessing students’ curiosity, including human rights-related topics such as the importance of libraries in Canada’s prisons and how future charities will succeed.

TED, which stands for Technology, Education and Development, is a global network of conferences aimed at sharing innovative ideas.

More than a thousand people and over 70 speakers applied to attend TEDxCarletonU, according to the Carleton Student Academic Government, which hosted the conference.

TEDx lead curator Humna Sheikh said she was excited to see so many people interested in attending the event.

“It’s a great way to facilitate ideas and get so many people thinking,” she said. “I think TED caters to different people’s interests and it makes them think.”

Isaac Würmann, a first-year journalism student and one of the speakers at the conference, presented a talk on using libraries to rehabilitate inmates in Canadian prisons.

“I think (TED talks) can be really effective. We’ve all seen those TED videos that go viral and get people having really interesting discussions about issues,” he said.

Isaac Würmann did his talk on the importance of libraries in Canada's prisons.
Isaac Würmann presented his talk on the importance of libraries in Canada’s prisons.

But Würmann said sometimes TED conferences can oversimplify issues due to the time constraints speakers have to grapple with.

“Sometimes I think TED speakers can fall into the trap of dumbing things down so it doesn’t provide a really good, whole representation of an issue,” he said.

Pramodh Yapa, a fourth-year theoretical physics student, said he struggled boiling the “nitty-gritty” of advanced quantum physics down to a digestible 18-minute talk.

“When you’re talking in an academic context you’re always using words and concepts that people have he context for,” he said.

“Everything I’m talking about is based on mathematical and scientific intuition… So it’s an extremely fine line to walk.”

However, Yapa said the beauty of TED talks is that when speakers do them well, they can take complicated, intellectual ideas and make them more accessible to the public.

Shaikh said CASG is planning to host another TEDx conference at Carleton next year. She said she hopes more people can will be able to attend future TEDx events at the university.

“It was really sad disappointing so many people because we were all sold out,” she said.

“We’d really like to expand it.”

Consent Is Mandatory: Carleton’s New Task Force

By: Brianne Smith

On March 11, The Rideau River Residence Association launched a new task force targeting sexual violence and harassment on campus. It aims to improve safety conditions on campus, ultimately reduce the amount of sexual assaults and monitor how the university responds to incidents of this nature.

It is critically important to be able to walk around campus and feel secure no matter what time of day it is, whether you’re accompanied by a friend or alone. Of course it’s imperative that both men and women feel secure, but looking at the bigger picture, it is women who generally bear the brutality of attacks of this kind. Sexual assault is a gendered crime.

That is a fact.

According to Carleton University’s Equality Services website, 81% of victims of sexual assaults are women, while 99% of the perpetrators are men. It also notes that women between the ages of 15-24 and those who attend university or college are most at risk of being targeted.

These statistics may be terrifying, but they don’t need to stay that way.

On March 6, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a new three-year plan, focusing on the protection on the province’s females, and making it law for post-secondary schools across Ontario to take more incentive to make their campuses a safer place. The action plan, titled “It’s Never Okay”, outlines the $41 million initiative in a 35-page report.

The plan also forces colleges and universities to publicly report rates of sexual violence on their campuses.

I think this is a good idea, as it will bring awareness to any future issues and put further pressure on developing better safety measures at the schools.

As a 20-year-old female university student, I entirely fit the persona of someone most likely to be sexually assaulted. Knowing this, I am beyond pleased to see the changes Ontario is partaking in, to ensure the safety of their young women, and I commend the RRRA on their new task force.

Wynne’s report and the RRRA’s task force come at a time where the issue of sexual assault on Canadian university campuses is at the forefront. The spotlight incidents at the University of British Columbia, University of Ottawa, and Dalhousie University have lead to an increase in sexual assault awareness and in the open conversation surrounding rape culture.

Knowing that Carleton has put new safety measures in place does put me at ease. However, I still think we have a long way to go until women stop having to check over their shoulders at night, and feel the need to have their cell phones within close proximity to themselves.

A Call for More Gender-Neutral Washrooms

By: Anna Sophia Vollmerhausen

For many of us, the issues we have with public washrooms consist of problems regarding cleanliness and availability. For others, its whether or not the bathrooms available to them are ones that they will feel comfortable using.

Gender-neutral washrooms are rapidly becoming the source of much debate, and the issue has not escaped Carleton’s campus.

Recently, a master’s student at Carleton created a petition asking to have more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.

The petition calls for all single-stall gendered washrooms on campus to be changed to gender-neutral ones. Additionally, it asks that all plans for new buildings have inclusive washrooms built into the design.

There are currently 25 gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, according to a list published online by Carleton’s Equity Services. These are located in a variety of buildings, from Athletics to the University Centre, to Dunton Tower and the Mackenzie building.

However, there are no gender-neutral washrooms located in, or near, any of the residence buildings on campus.

With approximately 3,600 students living in residence all year round, it stands to reason that there are students who do not feel comfortable using the traditional gendered washrooms available to them.

These students would either have to travel around campus to seek out a gender-neutral washroom to frequent, or use the gendered ones available to them.

Residence and, by extension, the rest of the campus, is supposed to represent a second home for students where they feel comfortable hanging out and studying.

Washrooms are something that all of us need, and shouldn’t be spaces that people feel uncomfortable or un-safe using.

While it is notable that Carleton already has gender-neutral washrooms available on campus, the fact remains that there are simply not enough.

With 45 buildings on campus, and a student body of about 27,800 students, it is obvious that there is a need for more gender-neutral washrooms on campus.

Changing a single-stall, gendered washroom into a gender neutral one does not involve a lengthy remodeling process. All it involves in changing the sign on the door to something that indicates this is a washroom meant for anyone.

Chapel Hill Shootings: A Hate Crime

By: Sarah Alsadi

Image from GettyImages
Image from GettyImages

I’ve seen injustice, ignorance that’s demoralizing and an evil so deep that the devil would swoon, and the angels would weep, our mothers and fathers would too.

I turn on the news, the appalling dehumanizing Western media is at it again, nothing but the romanticizing of a killer, and it sends me over the edge.

He’s an animal, a terrorist, a hate filled individual, the one with the gun. He killed three young people, shot them dead over a “parking spot”, the things the media wants us to believe. I’m spinning, I must be lost.

My mind is sent in a world wind of directions, my heart is at my feet, these recollections, I’m so distracted, this is not a first, nor will it be the last is all I can presume. There’s nowhere to run, and we’re not safe, not even in our own homes, I shake, “get me out of this place”.

Deah, Yusor and Razan, all under the age of 25, had their lives ahead of them and now they’ve died. I fear to close my eyes, because all I see is red. The blood of our brothers and sisters who keep being taken too soon seem to continuously flood my head. I must re-say the following: You don’t need to be Muslim to feel the tragic events that have been mentioned, and feel the loss of these compassionate souls that had their entire futures ahead of them.

I want to know why the media will not label this as a terrorist act, a hate crime is what this was; we have all the facts. But we’ve all been painted with the same brush, on the same canvas, the hateful ones are not a representation of all of us.

Deah and Yusor had only been married a couple of months murdered in cold blood, what a tragic love story, the inhumanity turns my blood hot. And, to think that these people were off to do great things, involved in charities, getting educations, and were such a soulful part of their community.

I must be in a daze, this world never ceases to amaze, tragedies never seem to hit me in any other way than to give me that ‘wind being knocked out of me’ type of feeling. All I can say is that the pain I feel can only be multiplied a thousand times for the people who knew these individuals, and for that keep them in your prayers, because the thought of loss is maddening, but the loss itself is incomparable.

May they rest in paradise, heaven is waiting.

Throwback: Read What You Wrote

By: Emma Tranter 

Photo of Mamta Manhas.
Photo of Mamta Manhas.

When Isaac Würmann was eight, he wrote letters to the people living inside his walls.

His mom responded to the letters.

Würmann, a first-year journalism student at Carleton University, shared some of these letters at Rooster’s Coffeehouse on March 6 as part of an event put on by the Carleton chapter of Journalists for Human Rights called, Throwback: Read What You Wrote.

“Do you actually live in my house? If you do, you are amazing. You hide so well. Not that I look for you. It’s just… Well it’s just amazing,” Würmann read.

Würmann and eight other students shared pieces of their childhood writings ranging from diary entries and travel journals to class assignments and secret letters. The event also featured four musical performances.

“I hope you like the house I made you. I do believe in magic because I can do some magic. Did you watch the Junos with me last night?” Würmann read.

Brittney Cooke, first-year english student at Carleton, read excerpts from her Grade 8 diary. She said it was nice to be able to laugh at herself.

“I thought I was the centre of the universe at that age. I’d like to think that that’s different about me now. I was pretty self-absorbed.”

Cooke said it was comforting to hear people laugh with her as she read her diary out loud.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said.

Chris Breen, a second-year public affairs and policy management student at Carleton, read from the travel diary he kept on a family trip to Greece when he was 13.

“We were scouting the area. We found a smaller, rockier beach, the path to the good beach, and some area with water and cement around it. The place looks like it used to be a big party place, then the buildings got run down and now it sucks,” he read.

Breen said it was fun to remember how he felt when he wrote his journal entries.

“Now I choose when to be dumb, whereas when I was 13 I didn’t filter. Now it’s a choice and I don’t have an excuse. Then it was just how I was,” he said.

Erica Howes, third-year journalism student and president of Carleton Journalists for Human Rights said the event was a huge success and drew a larger crowd than she expected.

“Everyone was smiling and laughing. Everyone was loving it and having a great time,” she said.

Howes said all money raised from the event is going toward Journalists for Human Rights projects in Jordan. She said the funds will be used to purchase recorders and other equipment for journalists in Jordan, as well as to train local journalists.

“It’s providing equipment for them to tell their own stories in their home country, which is a lot more effective than having people come in from other countries,” Howes said.

Howes said the event raised more than three hundred dollars for JHR projects in Jordan.



JHR in South Sudan: Why it matters

 By Erica Howes Kayla Hounsell, a JHR trainer, takes us into a South Sudanese TV newsroom

Kayla giving notes to one of the anchors after the newscast.
Kayla giving notes to one of the anchors after the newscast. (Photo by Grant McDonald)

In this year’s fall semester, our Carleton chapter of JHR raised just more than $830 for projects in South Sudan. After a month of working in South Sudan as a JHR trainer, Kayla Hounsell, CTV reporter and Carleton graduate, shared stories of government-controlled newsrooms and the extreme restrictions on press freedom. She shed light on where that $830 is going and why it really matters.

Kayla spoke about her experience and struggles inside the newsroom of Juba’s TV station, coincidentally called CTV (Citizen Television). The station only had one transportation vehicle, which made the choice of stories limited. Reporters received press releases from the government, which ended with “your attendance is expected,” meaning there was no choice but to write a story on it. Although Kayla said they’re led to believe the South Sudanese government supports press freedom, when the government is in control of which stories are broadcasted, is it really freedom at all?

[Tweet: Kayla Hounsell speaking to JHR members]

South Sudan is the world’s newest country, with only four years under its belt. After gaining its independence in 2011, a civil war shortly followed and hasn’t let up. Kayla said this dominates much of the newscast and each broadcast ends with a comment about striving for peace. But Kayla said with the work of JHR, media development is happening. On Fridays in the Juba-based CTV newsroom, Kayla said there were rarely government events so she took the opportunity to use it as a day to teach the journalists (who had limited journalism experience) on how to cover authentic news. By the end of her month, the crew had reported on a human rights story about the unsafe conditions of “stone breakers,” and gained a greater understanding of what human rights coverage looks like. This is among many of JHR’s success stories. In her free time in Juba and since returned home, Kayla has written extensively about her experience and even found many Canadian connections stories which are published on her home CTV Atlantic site here.

While we were proud of the $830 we fundraised last semester, it’s hard to understand the significance of funds sent an ocean away to a country that’s only existed for a couple years. The money we raised will go towards reporting workshops and professional mentorship sessions, providing journalists with the skills and equipment they need to produce the stories that need to be covered.

Kayla emphasized that through the support of JHR, newsrooms in South Sudan are able to break away from their puppet-like role controlled by the government, and were able to cover human rights stories. Essentially, they are able to report on the news. Journalists for Human Rights is about mobilizing media and changing lives, and from Kayla’s talk it was evident that the work JHR is doing in South Sudan is having a positive impact. JHR’s work is allowing journalists in South Sudan to do their job and report on the news, which in turn is empowering to us because it reminds us that we, a group of Carleton students interested in journalism and human rights, are part of that change.

Mobilizing Media. Changing Lives.


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