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We like big bums - an article on
Kristi Kuudisiim, size 14 model, and changing Irish attitudes
to Plus Size Models
irishindependent.ie. April 7th 2009
Suddenly, theres something
terribly vulgar about being too thin, says Sarah Caden, our staff
writer, as she meets Kristi, the face, and bum, of the new reality,
where we no longer worship, or weigh ourselves against, the super-skinny
false idols of the boom years.
When Kristi Kuudisiim pats her
bottom and explains her plans to improve upon it, you realise
how unusual it is for a woman to draw attention to that part of
her body. If one draws attention to her derriere, it is generally
with a view to bemoaning its size or shape, not to showing it
off. Mine hasnt dropped or anything, Kristi
assures, as if that wasnt entirely obvious, but I
want to make it round and full and smooth. Which is to say
that the 25-year-old Estonian, Irelands only plus-size model,
has plans to make her bottom bigger. Personally, she wants it,
and professionally, she believes it will do her no harm. Skinny,
Kristi feels certain, has had its day. And shes not the
Suddenly, theres something
terribly vulgar about being too thin. Its a combination
of things: a heightened awareness that there are bigger things
to worry about than your thighs, or Angelina Jolies thighs;
a growing resentment of celebrities and their sense of entitlement
in a world that is patently unfair; a grasp of the fact that life
is fundamentally about survival and that to thwart the bodys
natural need of food as fuel is somehow unnatural and in need
of correction. Its about addressing our attitude to consumption,
Gone are the days of thoughtless
material overconsumption which, conversely and bizarrely, bred
an underconsumption of food. Which is to say that as designer
handbags got bigger, the shoulders forced to carry them got scrawnier,
a fact that seems oddly disgusting now. In this time of new uncertainty,
the last thing we need is our bodies to let us down along with
everything else. Further, we now need new heroes and, chances
are, they are not going to be weedy ones.
Kuudisiim is a size 14 who admits that, in the past, she slimmed
to a size 12 in order to get work.
In Estonia, I did some work as
a model,she says today, seven years after her move to Ireland.
People in Estonia are taller than in Ireland, but not bigger,
and the models were all much smaller than me. Here, at first,
I tried to be a smaller model, but I was fighting my true size
and it wasnt good and it didnt work for me. Now, I
have made peace with my true size, I think. I can see that I can
still wear all the nice clothes and do the nice jobs and I dont
have to be that thin.
I like the idea of slim and I
can admire people who are slim, she adds, but if they
are healthy, too. But I think all people areg etting over the
idea that the only way to look good is to be skinny. And all those
skinny stars, they cant be eating, they just cant.
That last pronouncement, made
with some passion, is a conclusion at which many people are finally
arriving. Once, we were prepared to suspend disbelief at claims
of fast metabolisms and enjoyment of cream cakes from size-zero
celebs, but we dont have the time or patience for that any
After a year in which all bets
are off with banks, with property, with job security and pensions,
we arent buying what is patently untrue. In 2006, when Angelina
had her first baby, Shiloh, we might have accepted that it was
the superhuman in her that meant not an ounce of weight deposited
itself on her in pregnancy and hung around for months after, but
by the time she had twins Knox and Vivienne last summer, we were
over that illusion.
We had stopped worshipping false
gods by then, revering an ability for weight loss as if it were
a talent. We understood that such slimness was more to be pitied
than admired, and wondered at the mindset of someonew ho set themselves
about achieving it. Because anyone who has ever dieted most
women, that is understands the degree of single-minded
dedication and self-absorption slimming requires. And perhaps
that is why we have now withdrawn from worshipping those who practise
it. We have, perhaps, given up on idolising the apparently exceptional
individual and turned our attention instead on people to whom
we can actually relate. People who are not just skin and bone,
but made of fat, too.
And lets be clear on one
thing, Kristi Kuudisiim is not fat. At 5ft 11in, shes tall
and shes slim. When she moved to Ireland at the age of 19,
she settled first in Ennis, Co Clare, where she was spotted by
the mid-wests premiere manager of models, Celia Holman-Lee.
Celia recognised Kristis beauty, but also the need for runway
models to whom women could actually relate.
Most of us dont have Kristis
looks, height or perfect proportions, but her presence in a fashion
show assures us the clothes come in normal sizes and that we could
wear them, too. After several years in Ennis, Kristi moved to
Dublin, where she is on the books of Assets, getting catwalk and
photo work, and working one night a week as hostess in the VIP
suite of Krystle.
I do all the fashion shows,
all the jobs the other models do, Kristi says, and
just as much as them, I must look after myself. My skin must be
good, my health must be good,I must eat well and be healthy. I
cant be fat;Im a model.
And the reaction I get from
women is very positive, she continues. They give me
very positive comment. Women can relate to me more, I think.
Their reaction is less out
of relief thatbigger women are being represented by
size-14 Kristi in a world where, lets face it, size
14 is the average than from a sense that we currently crave
a bit of reality. In recent times, the realities we held dear
have been shattered. This time last year, after all, we were all
notional millionaires thanks to the value of our homes, while
this year we couldnt move house if we wanted to. Last year,
pensions based on bank shares were rock solid; now, theyre
puffs of smoke. Last year, you probably didnt know a recent
emigrant and you thought that bankers knew what they were doing.
Last year, we believed other people when they told usw hat was
This year, were demanding
proof and making the decisions for ourselves based on real evidence.
So, while Victoria Beckham continues to insist she has a great
appetite,we look for evidence in the form of body fat and dont
just take her word for it.
And when Nicole Kidman claims
to snapback into her pre-baby body within three weeks of childbirth,
we suddenly like her less than we like Halle Berry, who also had
a baby last year and only seemed to fit into her clothes comfortably
again around Christmas.
Thats not an example of
lack of willpower on Berrys part, however, or some sort
of failure. You need every bit of strength you can muster with
a newborn baby: you need to eat, to sleep, to function efficiently,
particularly when, in the real world, you probably have to return
to work and dont have a live-in nanny. Thats reality,
thats what women know happens after pregnancy and with a
small child, and reality is what we are comfortable with today.
Of course, in the past decade
there was an extraordinary idolising of success and an equation
of success with slimness. Never before had Wallis Simpsons
motto that you can never be too rich or too thin been
so taken to heart by so many, it seemed.
There is a theory that womens
weight began to drop when they began joining the workforce in
greater numbers in the Sixties and Seventies, when being overweight
began to be associated with laziness and a weak will, while slimness
conveyed competitiveness and an edge. And the mean mood of hunger
In celebrity circles, then, this
was exaggerated. It was the case across the board that the more
successful an actress or performer became, the skinnier she grew.
Take Nicole Richie, for example, who started out as Paris Hiltons
fuller-figured sidekick in their TV series The Simple Life, and
slimmed down to a bony, different person as her celebrity grew.
This is true also of the female Friends, who got thinner and thinner
as they got more and more successful. And as celebrity women such
as these got thinner as they grew more famous see Katie
Holmes they also became more and more encumbered by stuff
such as the best clothes, the best shoes, the best bags. You know,
all that stuff we became convinced for a while that we needed,
And when we could afford the stuff,
we also thought we needed the zero-fat bodies to make it look
good and felt bad abouto urselves for not being able to achieve
what the stars did, with their personal trainers and home deliveries
of no-fat, no-carb meals. Funnily enough, however, now were
trimming back on buying all that stuff we dont need, were
also realising something else that theres no intrinsic
value in being skinny. It doesnt make you a better person,
doesnt make you more successful and doesnt mean you
will weather the storm any better. In fact, in terms of the latter,you
may do better with a bit of meat on your bones. Survival is, after
all, the reward of the fittest.
Kristi Kuudisiim reckons her bum
lift the first stage of which she underwent late last month
might give her a head start, so to speak, in the shift
in mood away from skinny. Ribbons of thread, she explains, will
be inserted into her bottom four of them, two on
each side, she says, gesturing at her bum and then
after a month of allowing the flesh attach to the ribbons, they
will be pulled upwards, bringing the flesh with them. Woop!
Kristi exclaims, acting out the upward movement of her bottom.
It will be a more pert bottom, she says bigger, some might
say, and theyd possibly be right. But it says a lot for
the success this woman enjoys as a plus-size model that she has
no fear of filling out a little further.
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