02 March 2010

Talking Point: What is beauty?

For so long we’ve been obsessed with the BMI of our models, we’ve overlooked the other traits which make every woman’s figure different.    

Now Debenhams (in a scheme led by the plus sized women’s GBF Gok Wan) has employed an unconventional crew of clothes horses – including Britain’s first disabled model, Shannon Murray – to front their new range.   

Shannon, who has been confined to a wheelchair since breaking her neck in her teens, will front the advertising campaign for the store’s Ben De Lisi range –a long with three other models, who don’t fit the orthodox ‘20inch waist, legs like a gazelle’ model mould - Kate Fullman, a size 16, Tokumbo Daniel, a size 10 and Tess Montgomery who stands at a petite 5”4.

Writing about the photo shoot on her blog Shannon confessed to having pre-shoot nerves.

‘I’ve been modelling for over 14 years,’ she said, ‘But this time it was different. As I was getting ready in hair and make up, the potential of this shoot really struck me; another small step towards inclusion and representation of disability. I hope the images challenge a few misconceptions about disability; it's been a long time coming.’

Last month Debenhams tested out size 16 window mannequins saying, ‘Women often feel it is their fault that clothes don’t look as good on them as they do in the shop window,’ – a move which made headline news.

Even though the campaign focuses on her disability Shannon admits, as a model, she feels more discriminated against for her weight then anything. 

‘As a disabled model I often feel under scrutiny. But not because I'm paraplegic with no stomach muscles - because in recent years I've put on weight. That has caused me more stress before stripping for a shoot than being paralysed in front of the camera ever did.’

So, even though Debenhams are trying to make a stand it still all comes back to the size zero debate in the end…

By Amy Molloy


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