Nike photo that sparked fierce backlash

Fiona Falkiner is no stranger to the concept of transformation. In 2006, Falkiner applied successfully to be a contestant on The Biggest Loser, and she was hoping losing the weight would make her happy. But following major success on the show, she found herself spiralling into a deep depression. Here, in a column for news.com.au she talks about life before, during and after living the reality TV juggernaut.

*****

This week something happened that filled me with joy.

One of the biggest players in sporting apparel, Nike, rolled out plus size mannequins in their London flagship store.

I take my hat off to Nike and applaud them loudly. For such a large and influential brand to be so inclusive is refreshing. It made me smile ear to ear to see a mannequin with big strong thighs and curves standing tall and proud, and not in the usual frumpy baggy T-shirts, but instead in a fierce crop and leggings. I finally felt seen.

Nike's new plus-sized mannequins in their London NikeTown store. Picture: Nike
Nike's new plus-sized mannequins in their London NikeTown store. Picture: Nike

Having been a larger human for most of my life I know all about the struggle to find clothes that actually fit, feel comfortable and look good. Even brands that do cater to larger sizes rarely actually show what the clothes look like on anything other that a size 6/8, and let's be honest, what looks flawless on my slimmer model mates is more often than not going to be unflattering on a woman like me who has boobs, bum and big thighs.

Unfortunately, while I was cheering Nike's positive and inclusive decision to use the curvaceous mannequins, it sadly sparked a huge backlash from people claiming the move was normalising being overweight and promoting obesity.

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The Telegraph (UK) columnist Tanya Gold, wrote a column suggesting that Nike was normalising an unhealthy weight range by using a mannequin of that size.

The article states:

"I fear that the war on obesity is lost, or has even, as is fashionable, ceased to exist, for fear of upsetting people into an early grave.

The new Nike mannequin is not size 12, which is healthy, or even 16 - a heft weight, yes, but not one to kill a woman. She is immense, gargantuan, vast. She heaves with fat. She is, in every measure, obese, and she is not readying herself for a run in her shiny Nike gear. She cannot …"

That is where the article stops, unless I wanted to pay money to read on … but sorry, I'm too busy saving up for a new Nike crop to wear on my 10k run that YES as a size 16 I can do.

I would love to see this "journalist" Tanya Gold, who hides behind her keyboard tearing down Nike's inclusiveness go head to head with a woman like Serena Williams. I would love to see her tell the world's Queen of Tennis who sports a fabulously strong, fit and powerful physique not unlike that of the mannequin, that she is pre-diabetic, overweight and all the rest of it. Good luck!

What baffles me even more is that when I decided to investigate who Tanya Gold is, I was surprised to find that she is not unlike me, a woman with curves. I then have to question whether her decision to write the article and assume that size = unhealthy, pre-diabetic conditions is because she herself is unhappy and unhealthy.

I ran 10kms at size 16, I have completed triathlons and don't get me started on how heavy I can lift. The sad truth is that so many brands out there do only cater to smaller sizes, so a huge part of the population are being ignored and overlooked because of their size. It frustrates me so much.

 

The pressure for anyone with a bit of junk in the trunk to hit the gym hard and start shedding those kilos is immense … I have felt that pressure most of my life, but have stopped trying to fit in with what society deems a 'normal size.' I just hit the gym hard because it makes me feel awesome.

Hello … people who train have all sorts of body types and we all want and deserve hot training gear to rock while we get our sweat on. It just baffles me how anyone could think that showing curvy mannequins in gym gear could be anything but positive.

It is daunting enough as a plus size woman to go to a gym or class and jump around, but to do it knowing you are wearing some hot new training gear that is supportive and on trend makes it that little bit easier to front up and get your sweat on.

Do these fat-phobic people having a go at Nike want curvy women to show up in the gym in moo moo's until they get to an acceptable size where they are finally deemed worthy of fashionable training gear?

I feel like it's a bit of a chicken and the egg situation.

Active wear is there to be worn while being active (funny that!).

So, how does it make sense for active wear to only cater to the smaller sizes? We don't all magically start at that size, and some of us who are active every day never will be.

The point is, we all come in different shapes and sizes and Nike has recognised this.

All Nike has done is encourage the many millions of people who are out there wanting to get active, be active, feel included, and I hope it paves the way for other brands to follow, because its time to accept that we come in all shapes and sizes and all deserve to be seen and catered for.

Fiona Falkiner is a model, presenter and former Biggest Loser contestant. Follow her journey on Instagram @fionafalkiner. You can read last week's column here.