Convocation speaker says
‘healthy is new skinny’
By Max Higbee
Nov. 16, 2017
EPHRAIM—“Healthy is the new skinny,” a simple phrase, but it contains a surprisingly renegade philosophy. This philosophy rejects the standards that companies try to sell us–it dethrones appearance as the supreme marker of worth and replaces so-called beauty with authentic health and wellness.
Katie Willcox, the Los Angeles-based founder and CEO of “Natural Model Management” and “Healthy is the New Skinny” brought this message to Snow’s convocation series last Thursday.
Willcox spoke to students, using her life story and experiences in the modeling industry as a framework. She discussed her personal beliefs about wellness and the ways that advertising plays to our insecurities and tries to make us feel insignificant and worthless.
Wilcox told the audience that society seems to say that the perfect woman’s body would have: “big eyes,” “no body hair,” “curvy butt,” and “small waist.” She pointed out that oftentimes, those things are contradictory—it’s nearly impossible for a woman to have the sorts of curves portrayed in the media while also having the infamous “thigh gap” or tiny waist suggested by models in advertising.
Wilcox said, “We’re trying to break these ideas down and say that ‘you’ve been manipulated in order for certain small groups to profit and benefit.’ Until you start to challenge that thinking, we will all suffer as a whole.”
Willcox shared a photo of her from O Magazine that became iconic and well-circulated on the internet after its publication in November of 2011. Taken by Matthew Rolston, it shows Willcox holding a Barbie doll, her own body covered in dotted lines and arrows indicating the changes that would need to be made to make her body like the doll’s.
In one example, she showed the audience a Victoria’s Secret advertisement. She pointed out that while the ultimate goal was to sell underwear to women, the commercial didn’t discuss any of the practical reasons to buy their underwear; it works on the consumer by narrowly defining beauty and creating the impression that their underwear will make the wearer more beautiful, more confident, or more sexy.
Through this, Willcox says, the companies imply that you can’t be these things without their products. They offer unrealistic results, often jokingly or artistically, but never thoughtlessly, in their advertising.
In the light of such manipulation in advertising, Willcox asked students, “can’t we agree that it’s better to feel healthy and do what’s right for your own body than to work toward some unrealistic beauty standard?”
Originally from Casper, Wyoming, Willcox has worked in the modeling industry since high school, when, as a tall, muscular, overweight volleyball player, she was scouted as a plus-size model.
She remembers “I had always been taller and bigger, I was overweight as a kid. I had a single mom who raised my brother and me while she was working to get her doctorate—in brain injury and rehab—so we ate fast food and mac and cheese, the American lifestyle. So my brother and I were always really overweight, and then we got super tall and athletic, that was an ongoing thing.”
Living with dyslexia, she struggled in regular school environments. “My greatness was totally stunted there, and I really hated school,” shares Willcox. “I really got that programming there that I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t pretty enough, I was fat, I was stupid.”
“By creating beauty ideals and societal ideals that teach people that their contributions don’t matter, we’re all going to suffer. Everybody’s contributions matter, but you have to actually want to contribute.”
Wilcox moved to Los Angeles to pursue work in the modeling industry, where she lived for ten years, and she now lives with her husband and their baby in Palm Springs, Calif.
Healthy is the New Skinny (HNS) started in 2011 as Katie’s blog and features posts on a wide variety of lifestyle subjects from healthy recipes to Willcox’s musings on the modeling industry and body image. She started an HNS Instagram and one simple black tank top with her slogan printed on it, but over the years it quickly grew; @healthyisthenewskinny has more than 119 thousand followers on Instagram as of this publication date.
The clothing line grew from that one tank top to a whole line of workout and comfort wear for women featuring inspirational slogans in aesthetic designs.
However, in the past few months, Willcox has felt impressed to take HNS in “a different direction.” She has decided to close down the clothing line, choosing instead to focus on making HNS a “hub for everything that embodies female empowerment, health, wellness, and connecting to your true essence as a woman.” HNS will provide workshops and retreats for girls and women to give them methods and information that they can use “to change their paradigm to one of unconditional self-love.”
“We are excited for future generations to be raised by empowered and healthy mothers with a calling to make this world a more loving place,” declares the Healthy is the New Skinny website.
In 2011, the same year that she launched HNS, Willcox founded her own model management agency for models “who wanted to have a healthy experience in the modeling industry,” according to the HNS website. When the agency started, Katie was their only model. Now, they have a healthy roster of models booking jobs around the United States and abroad.
In 2017, Willcox released her first book, Healthy is the New Skinny: Your Guide to Self-Love in a ‘Picture Perfect’ World—written with her mother, Dr. Janice White.
This week’s convocation will be today at 12:30 with Chad Hymas, an LDS motivational speaker who was left quadriplegic at the age of 27 when a 2000 pound bale of hay fell on him, shattering his neck. The last convocation of the semester will be on the 30th of the month, featuring Snow College’s departments of Theater and Dance.