"People who think I’m glorifying obesity are glorifying stupidity."


What: Plus-size model and activist Tess Holliday clapped back at critics accusing her of glorifying obesity... By eating a cake replica of her Cosmopolitan UK cover.


Cosmo UK's decision to feature Tess on the cover of its October issue was praised by some as a bold FU to a fashion industry often accused of fostering unrealistic and unhealthy body images.


But some critics have suggested that putting Holliday, a 33-year-old obese model, on the cover results in promoting an equally unhealthy body image. To them, Holliday responded with a simple Instagram post last Tuesday.


"People who think I’m glorifying obesity are glorifying stupidity. I am pretty glorious though," Holliday touted on the video, which shows her wearing a bra and digging straight into the pinkish cake as she dances to the tune of  "Cover Girl" by RuPaul. 


She concluded the tout with a hashtag: "#EffYourBeautyStandards." 

Why: The negative reactions to Holliday's cover came as soon as Cosmo unveiled it. 

 

British TV commentator Piers Morgan was leading the criticism. In an August 30 Instagram post ​he wrote:


"As Britain battles an ever-worsening obesity crisis, this is the new cover of Cosmo. Apparently we’re supposed to view it as a ‘huge step forward for body positivity. What a load of old baloney. This cover is just as dangerous & misguided as celebrating size zero models."


But Cosmo's ’s Editor-In-Chief Farrah Storr defended her decision during an appearance on Morgan's show "Good Morning Britain" last week, slamming the suggestion that Holliday's appearance on the magazine's cover would inspire other women to become obese.


"This is one cover, which has a larger lady on the cover, in a sea, in a world, in a culture which has venerated, since I can remember, thinness," Farrah said. 


"Are people going to look at that and go, 'Do you know what? I’m going to go and mainline doughnuts, this is what I want for my life.' Of course not. It’s patronizing to say. I’m celebrating her. I am not celebrating morbid obesity."


The editor-in-chief also asserted that Holliday, who at 300 pounds and 5 feet 3 inches tall is considered clinically obese, is healthy.


“For her, from what I have seen, yes. Could somebody else at 300 pounds be unhealthy? Absolutely," she said.


However, Holliday's personal health notwithstanding, obesity is associated with ​a wide array of health risks, and is itself defined by the American Medical Association ​as a disease.

Others who stood up for Holliday argued that the health risk that should really worry the fashion industry is anorexia, not obesity. But it should be noted that ​almost a third of American women suffer from obesity, whereas anorexia affects ​less than 1 percent of women in the US.


Similar backlash was​ stirred in June when Holliday was featured as the cover model for the first issue of Self, a health magazine.


Holliday answered her critics in detail in an interview on UK's "​This Morning" last week.


"I'm not doing this for people like Piers [Morgan], I'm doing it for people around the world that need to see someone that looks like me to feel less alone and to understand that the way they look is beautiful," she said.

"If one person can see me on the cover and feel less alone, then my job is done."


Holliday's supporters applauded the magazine for the impact it can have on young girls struggling with their bodies.

And some even pushed back against critics, saying that the backlash isn't an honest concern with health, but merely body-shaming in disguise.

But even if the real issue is body-shaming and not health, it's uncertain whether Holliday's cover is the right message. According to some critics, Cosmo may have presented an alternative to their stick-skinny model, but only by representing another kind of extremity. Average body sizes remain unrepresented.


Germania is a staff writer for Pluralist.