They said/We said: American Apparel’s plus-size model search winner has been stripped of her title for making fun of the brand

Never far from controversy, clothing company American Apparel is in the news again after a plus-size-model search gone awry. Recently, they launched a contest to find “booty-ful,” “XLent” girls 18+ “with a little extra wiggle room where it counts” to model their new, larger sizes in basic styles. Nancy Upton, being “super ooged out by American Apparel in the past,” decided to poke a little fun at the company, and sent in pictures that she thought were equally as condescending and mocking as the search itself.

These pictures include Upton in the following scenarios: posing naked, in the position of a pig on a spit, with an apple in her mouth; bathing in ranch dressing; splayed on the kitchen floor, guzzling chocolate syrup; and fully clothed, old Hollywood—glamour style, in a pool, shoving a roasted chicken into her mouth.

Upton won the contest by an overwhelmingly popular vote but received a letter yesterday from creative director of American Apparel Iris Alonso, scolding her for her pictures and her attitude. Alonso, for some reason, also sent her snippy letter to various media sources, essentially giving the press another reason to prey on the company’s practices.

It’s a shame that your project attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge based on your personal distaste for our use of light-hearted language, and that “bootylicous” was too much for you to handle. While we may be a bit TOO inspired by Beyoncé, and do have a tendency to occasionally go pun-crazy, we try not to take ourselves too seriously around here. I wonder if you had taken just a moment to imagine that this campaign could actually be well intentioned, and that my team and I are not out to offend and insult women, would you have still behaved in the same way, mocking the confident and excited participants who put themselves out there?

Turns out that although she won the contest, Upton will not be used to model the clothes, which doesn’t seem like something she wanted to do anyway. After reading extensively on this story we are hungry and exhausted, and even more weary of AA’s business practices.


@nancyupton: “Looks like my modeling career is finished. It was brief, but sticky.” [Twitter]

Nancy Upton: “American Apparel was going to try to use one fat girl as a symbol of apology and acceptance to a demographic it had long insisted on ignoring.” [The Daily Beast]

Jezebel: “So in the end, if the absurdity of the contest was exposed and plus-size women who truly would love to model for American Apparel are getting the chance to do so, then everybody wins, right? Well, everyone except for noted American Industrialist Dov Charney. … He doesn’t seem like a winner.” [Jezebel]

The Frisky: “In short, it was amazing. No one could have been more thrilled than us when Nancy Upton won. But it seems like not everyone was so happy about Nancy’s victory—namely, American Apparel corporate headquarters.  We get a lot of douchey emails here at The Frisky, but this one takes the cake.” [The Frisky]


Randi Bergman, online editor: “If AA is anything, they are controversial and I’m actually pretty surprised that they couldn’t take Upton’s pointing the finger as ‘lightheartedly’ as they intended on the whole contest being.”

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