Cindy, Naomi, Claudia...You?

Die Mode hat sich geändert.
Die Frauen haben sich verändert.
Unsere Welt ist eine andere.

No, you’re not reading about a new platform bed sale at IKEA – these are the words announcing a breakthrough modeling initiative at Brigitte, Germany's most popular women's magazine. Translated, they say:

The fashion has changed.
The women have changed.
Our world is another.

Here’s what has happened: On the heels of real women love stories like model Lizzie Miller, who posed with her naked belly in last month’s Glamour, or their feature this month of 12 plus-sized models in the buff,

Brigitte has announced they will no longer use professional models, instead choosing "real women" because, says after editor-in-chief Andreas Lebert said he was sick and tired of having to fatten stick figures up via Photoshop.  Instead, photo spreads from 2010-on will feature a mix of prominent and unknown women (students, businesswomen, athletes) who "have an identity" instead of those with "protruding bones."

Anyone here read Oprah’s magazine, O? They have a similar approach for certain stories – they feature real women instead of models (or, in one fabulous recent spread, they actually had reality stars like Nene Leakes from Bravo's The Real Housewives of Atlanta or Helen Phillips from The Biggest Loser showcase the clothes.)

Brigitte’s move is genius and inches us a few steps forward in the fight to help women feel happy with their bodies. Much like the 2004 Dove Campaign for Real Beauty that featured ladies of all shapes and sizes smiling wholeheartedly in their undies, or the more recent decision by Madrid fashion officials to set a minimum BMI for runway walking, the magazine’s decision is a huge step…but it’s not the only step that needs to happen. Picture a tool kit – you need ALL the tools for it to work: A hammer, a wrench, a screwdriver, a measuring tape. If you lose the hammer, you might last for a few last-minute sink fixes but when the time comes to hang a painting, you’re screwed (tool pun intended.) Without all the requisite tools, the kit doesn’t work and you risk coming up empty-handed, unable to complete a project. The project so many of us are working on is our body image, and in order to have a shot at success, we need a complete tool kit. That might include a No Scale Zone, a Howard Stern-free television, a billboard near our home that features Dove women, not Maxim babes, magazines that depict strong, fit women. No single tool will get the ultimate job done, but the more tools we have access to, the greater our chance at thriving.

A few questions floating around my mind:

1. Re. Lebert’s statement that Brigitte will be offering the same fee to real women as they would for professional models…really? So a 22-year-old graduate student who sends in her photo, per the web site’s request, and gets chosen is looking at a four- or five-figure paycheck? If so, buh bye writing career. My new catchphrase shall be, “I don’t get out of bed for less than $12,000 a day.”

2. Will regular ads still run? Advertising is the financial backbone of any publication and if Brigitte truly is “banning” models, they’re going to lose any product sponsor that’s not a dish towel or a chocolate bar. And if they DO keep the ads, then – and I hate to be Debbie Downer – but those super skinny models posing in leggings and lingerie, even just for the ads – are going to negate the feel-good vibe provided by the real-looking models.

I’m also glad the EIC mentioned Brigitte is "not going to become a magazine for plus-sizes,” because not all readers are plus-sized. The point of the model shift is to portray women whose bodies better represent its reader’ bods. That means including thin and thick, short and tall, spindly and plump.

Now I just need to figure out how to nab a subscription. It doesn’t matter that I’m not fluent in German – I suspect these will be the kind of pictures that speak a thousand words.

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