Body positivity advocate and über-famous model Ashley Graham usually has us saying “yaaaas” to the projects she works on, but, after her appearance on Khloe Kardashian’s toxic weight-loss show Revenge Body, you can colour me disappointed.
For those of you lucky enough to have never watched an episode, Revenge Body sees two Kardashian-obsessed people turn to Khloe (and her trainers, and her doctors, and her stylists, and her makeup artists, and her hair stylists) for help losing weight. Each contestant is put through an intense makeover—complete with new clothes, new hair and new makeup—and the transformation often includes minor surgical procedures, most commonly teeth whitening and laser hair removal. The show is less about learning how to lead a healthy life, and more about looking hot (read: like a Kardashian).
Even the show’s title is a major red flag. According to Khloe, be it your former best friend or your ex-boyfriend, the best way to get revenge is to get hot. Not only does this ideology support the unhealthy desire to get revenge, it also reinforces the shallow notion that appearance matters more than anything else. With these ideas as the guiding force for Revenge Body, Khloe effectively manipulates the contestant to believe they’re empowered, when, truthfully, they barely have any agency at all.
As you can probably tell, the cut runs DEEP when it comes to Graham’s guest appearance. Graham has dedicated her career as a model to sharing the importance of body positivity with young girls around the world, with a focus on eradicating the term “plus sized.” In 2015, Graham opened her now-viral TED Talk by giving herself a pep talk in the mirror: “Back fat, I see you popping over my bra today. But that’s alright—I’m going to choose to love you. Thick thighs, you’re just so sexy you can’t stop rubbing each other. That’s alright, I’m going to keep you. And cellulite, I have not forgotten about you—I’m going to choose to love you, even though you want to take over my whole bottom half.”
While this seems like the perfect siren call for self-love, how can we believe any of it after Graham appeared Revenge Body, a show founded on the idea that there’s no feeling good about yourself unless you’re thin?
During Graham’s time on the show, she helps Kelsey—a plus-sized model who hasn’t been on the runway since a devastating car accident left her immobile for three months—rediscover her runway walk. After they show each other their struts, Graham “gifts” Kelsey her stylist and the rest of her glam squad to help her get ready for her big Revenge Body-reveal (a glamorous party with the contestant’s friends and fam, which happens at the end of each episode). While Graham doesn’t promote any unhealthy ideals during her segment, she doesn’t take any time to talk about the importance of self-love, either.
We’re just gonna say it: by not using her platform on the show to talk about body positivity, Graham is totally complicit in promoting the exact body ideals she claims to fight against.
Don’t worry—the hypocritical guest appearance by Graham on the show was not lost on Twitter users.
Why would Ashley Graham participate in this? The whole idea behind a “revenge body” is toxic and really enforces the idea that people’s perception of you is what is most important https://t.co/61979R93i4
— Kate (@traderjoesplum) January 16, 2018
I thought Ashley Graham was BoPo and proud of her body? Isn’t the whole point of revenge body to “lose weight” *cough* get surgery *cough*??
— Natale Sugrue (@NataleSugrue) January 16, 2018
Graham has been a crucial part of the BoPo movement, and, while it sucks that she made this maj error in judgement, we hope the negative reaction to Graham’s participation in Khloe’s opportunistic side hustle will remind her that her work can make a difference, but only if she stands by it wholeheartedly. It’s critical that we hold even our most favourite celebs accountable when they misrepresent something as important as body positivity.