I’m qualified for my job as beauty director of xoVain--no question. I’ve been a writer and editor with a focus on beauty, especially in this wacky online racket, for the last decade; my new boss, Jane Pratt, had a humongous influence on my writing style and career goals; I graduated from a university with a high-ranking creative writing program; and my tweets are so witty, they’ve been retweeted by the likes of Danica McKellar, Lacey Chabert and Joey Fatone, some of the greatest adolescent entertainers of our time.
However, there’s something about me that isn’t like most of the beauty editors here in New York. I’m not thin. I am, in most clinical and casual opinions, overweight.
Although there’s no official rule that a beauty editor must be thin (that probably wouldn’t go over well with the EEOC), there is an unwritten expectation. After all--and this new, never-before-heard notion may shock you--our society has long linked beauty with thinness. (I’ll give you a moment to rub your eyes since they’re undoubtedly blurry from reading a sentence the likes of which you’ve never seen before.)
Therefore, someone in the position of running a website or magazine that disseminates beauty tips may be expected to have a more aspirational height-to-weight ratio.
I’m not paranoid. A few years ago, when I was senior online editor at NewBeauty magazine, I did a video about some new Glytone skincare products. The first comment left after it was posted: “Why would anyone take advice from a beauty editor who’s overweight and doesn’t wear makeup?”
The video had nothing to do with weight or makeup, and for the record, I was, in fact, wearing makeup. I was also 15 pounds lighter than I am right now.
Not being skinny has rarely been an issue with my employers and colleagues. (At least not that I know of.) The only people who have openly questioned if I’m qualified to do what I do based on my not-skinniness are observers. The unwritten expectation isn’t held by the industry so much as those on the outside looking in.
I’ve been thinner. Most of my post-pubescent life has been spent as a size six or eight, with a brief stint as a four when I had quinsies (a cute name for tonsillar abscesses).
Today, most of the jeans I put on are a 10; most of the dresses, a 12. (I’ve always had to size up with dresses because my boobs were never not pretty big. Yay?) I’m not plus-sized, according almost all of the retailers in the category, but within my industry, I essentially am by default.
I was curious to find out if I’m the heaviest beauty director in New York (any excuse to get a trophy made) [and because I thought it could get us some launch publicity! --Jane], so I recently reached out to a number of the biggest beauty directors and beauty editors at major magazines and websites (OK, maybe “biggest” is the wrong word): Jean Godfrey-June of Lucky, Taylor Barringer of Elle.com, Courtney Dunlop of YouBeauty.com, Eva Chen formerly of Teen Vogue (and technically, formerly of New York, since she moved to California), and more.
Even though they’re all are gorgeous, confident, kind women who were assured that they wouldn’t be shamed in any way, none shared the number they saw the last time they stepped on a scale--not even the ones I consider friends.
Although they each gave different reasons for not revealing their weight, I can’t help but think that, admittedly or not, they aren’t entirely comfortable announcing their weight in an article. And it’s understandable--not because their weights are embarrassing (which, even without knowing the numbers, I’m sure are not), but because it inevitably comes with scrutiny. Some readers will say it’s too low, some will say it’s too high, and others will doubt that they’re telling the truth.
I, however, am comfortable announcing my current weight. As of writing this, I weigh 187 pounds.
I’d like to lose some weight. Not because it will make me more suited for my job (it won’t) or because my lovely but misguided parents think it’s the reason I’ve been single for seven years (it isn’t). I just happen to like how I look as a size eight, and it’s probably a smart move in a family full of heart attacks and diabetes.
My main hurdle for losing the weight, however, played a big part in reaching my heaviest. I have fibromyalgia (which I like to call "far off Malaysia") and Sjogren’s Syndrome (which I like to call "Showgirls Syndrome"), and they lock me into a constant state of achy fatigue, so exercising falls on my to-do list somewhere between cleaning under the couch and learning to play the flugelhorn.
Although I was an athletic kid, the mere thought of exercising now--of ensuring I’ll feel far more pain than the typical workout soreness everyone else feels--makes me want to go to bed. I usually do. (That’s probably the reason I’ve been single so long.)
Sjogren’s Syndrome is the reason Venus Williams dropped out of the U.S. Open in 2011. But it also didn’t stop her from winning the gold in Olympic doubles with her sister the very next year. I don’t have access to the training Venus does, but I do have access to healthier foods. I don’t cook, but that’s not an excuse for eating crap, which I do far too often.
In other words, I could probably lose the weight if I really focus on it. But I haven’t so far. I guess it hasn’t been a priority.
Here’s what has been a priority: being really good at what I do. I know a hell of a lot about lipstick, shampoo, alpha-hydroxy acids, mascara, cellulite (which has nothing to do with weight, FYI), curling irons, body scrubs, etc.; and I know how to write about it in such a way that you won’t fall asleep face-down on your filthy keyboard. (And if you do, I can tell you how to clear up the zits that’ll cause.)
What, pray tell, does my current waist measurement have to do with any of that?
If you aren’t getting a clear sense that I’m either proud or ashamed of my current size, it’s because I’m neither. I don’t think weight qualifies as something that merits pride or shame; and even though we’ve all heard someone say, “She’d be so pretty if she just lost some weight,” it certainly isn’t relevant in regard to someone’s beauty. (We don’t even have a “Body” section on xoVain, so we had to put this in the “Skin” section.)
I can’t even be sure I’d feel more confident if I lost weight, since I clearly remember feeling insecure about my body 30 pounds ago.
It’s like getting something you really wanted on sale, or finding an awesome boyfriend, or successfully hailing a cab when your shoes are killing you. Losing weight would be nice, but I don’t really need that Anthropologie lampshade, I’m comfortably independent, and my MetroCard and ugly roll-up flats will get me home just fine.
If I do, I do; if I don’t, I don’t. But my weight definitely doesn’t qualify me for or disqualify me from my job. If Jane Pratt thinks I’m right for it, who am I (or anyone else) to disagree?