Sitting in the Diller Room in a navy shirt dress, hardly any makeup, and flats that made it easy to run from this interview to that one, Tara Lynn candidly tells me that she’s on the big side of healthy. She nods after she says it and prettily purses her lips in that way that girls like Ashley Olsen do. Yes, the big side. She’d probably be healthier if she lost ten pounds. The Centers for Disease Control say 67% of Americans are in the same boat, but then, none of them are on the cover of French Elle.
The Seattle-based model has creamy, light brown skin; gorgeously full lips; sunny, bright eyes; round, sensuous curves; and that ineffable quality that allows all those features to look even more striking and rich when she’s in front of the camera. Last February, the New York-based edgy fashion mag V published Curves Ahead in which a handful of beautiful, bigger-than-size-2 models posed for Solve Sundsbo; Tara Lynn was “the naked one.”
A month or so later, Ford, her agency in New York (she’s signed with Heffner Management here) told her she’d landed 22 pages including the cover for French Elle. She didn’t believe them, but soon enough she was flying to Paris to make it so. The April issue features Tara Lynn looking something like Angelina Jolie’s curvier little sister.
Maybe French women do “get” fat after all.
Fashion magazines have been doing just about everything they can to prove they’re real lately. Italian Vogue did an all-black issue and a controversial black face spread. Glamour mag shot a nude size 12/14 blonde, French Marie Claire put out an issue full of editorial images that hadn’t been retouched, and the American version of the mag features Jessica Simpson sans makeup.
But the V mag spread got attention because it gave, well, weight to average-sized women. The industry may call them plus-size, but they are everyday-sized, and V gave them page after page of glory.
Stephen Gan, the magazine’s creative director told the New York Times, “Big, little, pint size, plus size — everybody is beautiful, and this issue is out to prove it.”
Of course, V was also out to sell some magazines. If more Americans are overweight than thin, V wasn’t exactly taking any huge risks, but the idea of celebrating sizes, all sizes, is what resonates with Tara Lynn as well.
The Seattle model, who has a degree in linguistics and co-owns Meza on Capitol Hill with her boyfriend, is very humble and low-key about what the French cover might mean for her.
Will it supercharge her two-year-old modeling career? Eh, she’s not sure, and she doesn’t seem especially worried about it. Will it launch her into role model status? Hm, she struggles with that, because she doesn’t like the idea of anyone losing or gaining weight to be more like her. She says that growing up in Tacoma, she really could have used a gorgeous, strong, powerful example of beauty that wasn’t stick-thin, and she’s happy to be that face and that body for young women (maybe Michelle Obama will call), but she doesn’t necessarily see the spread as completely revolutionary. Revolutionary would be the male version of all this. Revolutionary would be showing real women, a real range of sizes, true diversity. Revolutionary would be the message that you can be beautiful at any size.
Revolutionary would be celebrating health and contentment, not just beauty.
Still, the Elle spread is a big deal, especially in that it’s French. When Tara Lynn lived there six years ago while pursuing her degree, her self-image suffered. She says the French weren’t shy about suggesting she not have seconds or enjoy an indulgent dessert, and she says that the little girl she took care of while there came home in tears one day after her classmates teased her because her nanny was fat. The next day she went on a diet and eventually lost 60 pounds, but later realized that 8 just wasn’t her natural size. She later settled at 14/16, which feels right to her.
Tara Lynn told that story to French Elle and they printed it in the interview that accompanies the images. The rest of the text generally relates how she got her start, and praises her curvy rear-end and confident, upbeat attitude.
In recent years, fashion has been under constant attack for its glorification of thin. When the public wants to know why women who often look like they could really use a protein shake are apparently the only ones who can show off each season’s newest looks, the industry replies that clothes look best on small
-- very small -- frames. Or, they say that fashion is aspirational, a fantasy, and accept as universal truth that everyone wants to be very thin.
Karl Lagerfeld, the 70-something iconic designer of Chanel and his own line, told Focus magazine that fashion is about “dreams and illusions,” not real life.
Maybe. Maybe fashion is about a dream of what might be, but style is about real life, so if Tara Lynn’s French cover proves anything, it’s that real women can have all kinds of it.