Standing 5 feet 5 inches at size 22, Tess Munster is a supermodel. After getting signed with Milk Management, a major London-based straight and plus-size agency, in late January, people have not stopped talking about this woman. With over 490,000 followers on Instagram and 744,000 on Facebook, she has her fair share of fans, but her opponents are creating quite a fuss as well. She is the largest signed model to date, and with America constantly being criticized for its high obesity rates — especially in children — one can see why having a role model of this size might be just as harmful as one with a size double zero.
With tweets like, “She’s unhealthy and simply gross,” from Twitter user James Filipe, it is obvious that the hate toward Munster is mainly directed towards her health. But health is not a new problem in the modeling community. Ten years ago the average model was 8 percent smaller than the average woman, and today the average model is 23 percent smaller.
“Nobody ate on these shoots, which could go on all day, and we would survive on adrenaline and caffeine drinks,” Oxford Street model Georgina Wilken said. “On the occasions I couldn’t fit into a dress, I felt so humiliated. The stylists would give me a look, and that would make me eat less and walk even more.”
For years, modeling has been about looking good in the clothes and selling the brand. Munster’s nearly symmetrical features, lush heart-shaped lips and high, sharp cheekbones all speak highly to her model ability, not to mention being named one of the top plus-size models in the industry by Refinery 29 and Vogue Italia. Just as well as straight-size models can sell a size two dress, Munster can sell a size 22.
In terms of health itself, Munster claims to not be unhealthy. She works out four times a week and has a personal trainer. She walks, swims and hikes, all while raising a son.
When asked about her diet, she said, “Do I eat cheeseburgers, cupcakes and all things awfully delicious? Yes. Do I do it all the time? No. I try my very best to keep everything in moderation. I drink a ton of water, exercise, and stay away from soda as much as possible.”
According to Munster, opponents of her modeling career on the basis of her health are wrongly accusing her, as she claims her size is natural. For others who are against promoting obesity in the beauty and fashion industries, Tess has created a hashtag to express just how she feels about them— #effyourbeautystandards, which has been used over 531,000 times on Instagram.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 18 print edition. Email Madison Reis at [email protected]