I am not pretty
Before you all start yelling at me or sending in compliments then let me explain. In my head I’m not because I am just me. I’m not fishing for compliments (in fact I actively avoid them) because since I was a young teenager I wasn’t pretty in my head. If I’m honest I wasn’t pretty on the outside when I was a teen either because I was very over weight, lived in baggy clothes and didn’t wear make up like the pretty skinny girls at school. I was funny, nice and had talent for the creative things but I just wasn’t a stand out beauty like the other girls. It’s a fact.
Then when I reached my early 20s I had had enough and dieted (sensible with exercise and joining one of big weight loss programme clubs in the UK) and lost nearly 3 stone. I could go into Topshop and find jeans that fit, I could shop in the whole of New Look. Though in my head I was still the chubby geeky girl that didn’t get asked to dance at the parties. As a side note I also developed a condition called hyperthyroidism where my thyroid over worked and made me lose even more weight without trying. It went scary skinny and yet I STILL could only see the “muffin tops” or the imperfections! I’m all better now and a healthier weight.
Now this does relate to books before you think I’ve jumped out of the crazy tree.
I saw the lovely Zoe Marriott tweet about news for the trailer for her forth coming book FrostFire and I asked for details (because Zoe’s book are AMAZING) and she told me there was casting news but they were having trouble finding a girl to cast as the Main Character because she needed to be both not white and not emaciated. I couldn’t believe that it would be that hard to find but Zoe told me differently. It wasn’t that there aren’t actress out there that would possibly fit this mould but they were proving very hard to find.
I don’t know why I was shocked because I’m grown up in a media driven world where female role models in the celebrity world have gotten skinnier and skinnier since I was 13. I remember thinking as a chubby 14 year old ‘Oh I wish I could be a size 12 and pretty like the cool girls’ and now I am a size 12 and all I want is to be that bit smaller still.
Looking at all the YA book covers in my bookcases I see beautiful and amazing covers that could be pieces of art in their own right but all the girls are generally what I’d call super skinny. They wear flowing evening gowns or tight fitted tops and skinny jeans and this is the image that is put across to the reader when they pick up the book. It says ‘This is the hero in your story and to be like her and have her moral strengths and rewards you need to look like her’. Why?? Why do you need to be this likely photoshopped model type to be the hero. I can’t even remember the last female main character in a YA book that I read that was quite clearly an “average” weight or on the bigger size. I have read them and loved them but there just aren’t many compared to all the floaty ball grown and fierce warrior girls. The lovely Raimy from Readaraptor even agreed with Zoe and myself about the skinny girls on the covers and even though we all agreed that skinny is ok but we couldn’t understand why that was all there was.
Covers sell books. We are told not to judge a book by it’s cover but who’s to say the book cover isn’t judging us.
I want to be happy in how I look and feel like I could be one of the girls on the cover too but even though I may physically look like some of them I don’t feel like I do. That’s what happens after years of feeling like I wasn’t good enough or thin enough by the images we see in teen and women’s mags, the celebrities and pop stars on theTV and the ever narrowing waist lines on the high street window displays.
I can’t say I have an answer to the problems. I would be bold of me to say I did or that any one person is to blame. I love the covers of the slim girls ready for battle in their leathers or the haunting ladies in lace gothic dresses but why do they all look the same. Is it too much to ask to see more variety? I guess there need to be more stories with average looking girls but I’m sure most girls in the stories I read describe themselves as average looking or not overly pretty at some point and yet the model representing them on the front are GORGEOUS!! I want more of a mix in the girls I see. I want to have girls of all sizes in the pretty dresses and for teen girls of a range of dress sizes to see the cover and feel ok about being different or the same as the model on the cover. That goes for male characters on book covers too. What blokes do you know that all look like the muscle bound or athletic types in their generic skinny jeans with *those* hips
My name is Laura. I am about 5 foot 6 inches tall and I weigh about 10 stone 3 pounds. I AM AVERAGELY AMAZING. To some I may be lovely and pretty and i’m ok with you thinking that. That’s lovely in fact but I wish I could have thought that when I was growing up no matter how I looked.
I hope that maybe some readers will see this post and think again when looking at the girls on the cover of the book they are reading and enjoying. Maybe they’ll remember it’s only a cover and they too can be the hero. That there is room for variety in the YA book covers that I love. So we can see all types of models on the covers and love them all the same. They don’t have to be emaciated or obese. They can be healthy, big and small, kick some ass and get the guy if they want.
Or they can just kick some more ass.