BOSTON — The growing presence of plus-size models in popular culture and on social media is fueling demand for plastic surgeries such as butt lifts and breast implants, according to new research.
Stars like Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday are just as popular on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as “traditional” beauties such as Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine say there is no significant difference between likes, comments, and total posts among both groups.
“With an increase presence of plus size models in both marketing and on social media, plastic surgeons may see an increased interest in procedures, including breast and buttock augmentation, that embrace a curvaceous plus size body type,” says corresponding author Professor Neelam Vashi in a university release.
Butt lifts are the fastest growing cosmetic treatment in the world. In the United States alone, plastic surgeons carried out 61,387 last year. This includes both implants and fat grafting, which can cost up to $10,000.
Do Americans still ‘idolize extreme thinness’?
Study authors note the fashion industry is also acknowledging the increasing popularity of plus-size models by presenting more curvaceous figures in their marketing campaigns. An analysis of social media data found the average following among the top 10 plus-size models is 3.8 million, compared to 38 million for mainstream counterparts.
However, there was no significant difference between the average number of likes per post. In fact, plus-sized models have gained in popularity with the changing societal body image in the U.S. — focusing on inclusivity. As such, the team believes plastic surgeons will likely see an increased demand for procedures that enhance the plus-size body type.
“While the American standard of beauty appears to idolize extreme thinness as seen in Victoria Secret models and their diminishing body sizes, we sought to explore the impact of plus size models by reviewing their body size metrics and social media presence to better understand their emerging role in the current standards of beauty,” Prof. Vashi says.
Waist-to-hip ratio remained low amongst plus-size and mainstream models – 0.74 and 0.69 respectively – illustrating a constant and objective standard of beauty. The study included 159 plus-sized models. Average height was 5-foot-9, with these models having a bust of 40 inches, waist 43 inches, hips 46 inches, and a dress size of 14.
Will a wider definition of beauty lead to less tension?
For comparison, the team determined the top 10 highest paid mainstream models using data from Forbes.
“Societal pressures on retailers to incorporate an increased body diversity that fully represents their consumer base of society with an average dress size of 14 to 16 and BMI of 26.5 is likely contributory to the increasing presence of plus-size models,” the researchers write in the medical journal Cureus.
“This shift can be seen within the results of this study, as many of the top plus-size models had a significant social media presence.”
Overall, the top paid model is Kendall Jenner, with an Instagram following of over 154 million people — nearly half the population of the United States.
“Importantly, the top 10 highest paid Forbes models do not include any plus-size models and can all be considered “runway” sized between dress sizes 0-4,” study authors continue. “Of note, models in both categories may gain additional celebrity from tv shows, movies, etc., which further contribute to their followings. However, the mainstream model still prevails as the social media powerhouse of influence.”
Currently, tension exists between groups desiring greater body inclusivity and the actual popularity of plus-size models.
“As plus-size models grow in popularity, this tension is likely to decrease. Yet, even as the desire for plus-size models grows, the WHR of models remains the same. Further research needs to be done regarding the public acceptance of body types without an ideal WHR in the body inclusive model,” the researchers conclude.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.