DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – When American Apparel launched a campaign looking for plus-sized models, it ran a contest called ‘The Next Big Thing.’
Dallas resident Nancy Upton saw that and she was put off by its pitch. But instead of complaining, she entered the contest, playing on the stereotypes as a joke.
“How do they really picture us?” she asked. “Do they picture us sitting around all day being lazy and eating fried chicken?”
The ad said it was “calling for curvy ladies everywhere!”
“You know, ‘bootyful’ or ‘curvalicious,’ as opposed to calling us sexy, or attractive, or beautiful,” Upton said. “No plus sized woman in her right mind would have written that.”
So Upton, who has never modeled before, enlisted the talent of her friend Shannon Skloss to shoot the photographs she had in mind.
“She was like, ‘hey, you want to do it?’ I was like, ‘yeah, sure, let’s go for it. I completely stand behind you,” Skloss said. “We made a list of what order to do them in, from cleanest to messiest so that way we could just go into each one right away.”
The end result? Outrageous pictures featuring Upton lying naked, face down upon a dinner table, or bathing in a bathtub filled with ranch dressing. Another, she’s sitting in the kitchen covered in chocolate syrup. Another has Upton swimming in a pool, chicken wing firmly in hand.
“I definitely wanted there to be an element of satire and kind of an underlying statement about, like, perceptions of beauty in America; perceptions of overweight people and body awareness,” Upton said.
After American Apparel posted the photos online, Upton ended up taking the top spot in the contest. She would end up winning – the popular vote. The company wasn’t too happy with the outcome.
Upton said they sent her a letter saying, “It’s a shame that your project attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge … and that booty-licious was too much for you to handle.”
The company chose 10 other women to represent its brand. And Upton said she’s OK with that decision.
“I stated pretty blatantly on my blog that if I was asked, I would say no, because I feel if you are going to be the face or the body or the voice of the company, you really should agree with as much as the company’s history as you can find out about, as much as their manufacturing and marketing philosophies and those kinds of things,” Upton said. “I don’t think we would click that way.
But not everyone was OK with American Apparel’s decision, and folks complained. As a way of making amends, the company flew Upton and Skloss out for a tour of its Los Angeles factory.
They’re now back in Dallas, exploring numerous opportunities that have come their way as a result of the pictures.
They’re already working on a book.
Full American Apparel response: