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Don’t praise Nike for using plus-size models, because it shouldn’t be a big deal

Nike built its brand around the “just do it” brand of ultra-athleticism, complete with ads featuring muscular (and very lean) models. The brand isn’t known for being inclusive to all sizes, but it looks like that might be about to change.

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Last week, Nike posted a photo featuring curvy model Paloma Elsesser in a sports bra and leggings.

Then, over the weekend, the NikeWomen Instagram page added another photo of a curvy model — body positive “wellness educator” Claire Fountain.

The captions on the photos didn’t reference the models being curvier than their typical brand rep, only giving sizing tips for sports bras. This is nice, especially since some companies are so good at patting themselves on the back for throwing a bone to plus-size models. That said, it’s happening more and more — and featuring a larger-than-average model is less novel than it was even a year ago when Tess Holliday became the first plus-size model to be represented by a major modeling firm. It’s the new normal, so why should we continue to refer to them as plus-size models?

We shouldn’t.

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The average American woman is a size 12-14, which means that most of the so-called plus-size models are just representing the average woman — nothing unusual about it. We don’t call models who are smaller than average “small-size models,” so there’s no reason to make a qualifier for women at or above average.

And I’m not the only person who feels this way. Australian models Ajay Rochester and Stefania Ferrario helped launch the #droptheplus campaign on social media late last year.

“I am a model FULL STOP,” Ferrario wrote on Instagram. “Unfortunately in the modeling industry if you’re above a US size 4 you are considered a plus size, and so I’m often labelled a ‘plus size’ model. I do NOT find this empowering… it is ‘harmful’ to call a model ‘plus’ and damaging the minds of young girls.

“Let’s have models of ALL shapes, sizes and ethnicities, and drop the misleading labels,” she added. “I’m NOT proud to be called ‘plus’, but I AM proud to be called a ‘model’, that is my profession!”

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Nike is doing the right thing by not calling out their models as anything different, even if it is obvious based on the brand’s history. Now, if the company would only add extended sizes so they’re really walking their (implied) talk.

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