When Dallas-based performance artist Nancy Upton saw that American Apparel was holding a plus-size model contest, she decided to enter, but not for the reasons you'd think. She writes on the Daily Beast:
American Apparel was going to try to use one fat girl as a symbol of apology and acceptance to a demographic it had long insisted on ignoring, while simultaneously having that girl (and a thousand other girls) shill their products.
So naturally, Nancy's first step was getting a friend to photograph her eating an entire chicken and a pie, which she then submitted to the contest as a spoof. But things went haywire after she swept the first-place spot for the contest, which was determined by online votes. This was a total surprise to her, but even more of a surprise to American Apparel, who ultimately decided to skip over her when selecting their new "XL brand ambassadors."
Upton's Daily Beast essay, and subsequent exclusion from American Apparel's contest, caused such a ruckus around the blogosphere that American Apparel creative director Iris Alonzo issued an open letter in response. She states, among other points, that Upton's entry was far more insulting to plus-size women than anything American Apparel has ever been accused of doing:
It’s a shame that your project attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge based on your personal distaste for our use of light-hearted language ... I wonder if you had taken just a moment to imagine that this campaign could actually be well intentioned, and that my team and I are not out to offend and insult women, would you have still behaved in the same way, mocking the confident and excited participants who put themselves out there?
Regarding the contestants who were chosen instead, Alonzo writes:
Oh — and regarding winning the contest, while you were clearly the popular choice, we have decided to award the prizes to other contestants that we feel truly exemplify the idea of beauty inside and out, and whom we will be proud to have representing our company.
This is basically a win for everybody, since Upton obviously never wanted to "represent" the company in the first place.
American Apparel’s Lame Open Letter To Nancy Upton, Plus-Size Model Contest Winner [The Frisky]
My Big, Fat Photo Spoof [The Daily Beast]