By now you've heard about designer Karl Lagerfeld's comments about Adele; in a interview with Metro - Paris, he's quoted as calling the singer 'a little too fat, ' adding, however, that she 'has a beautiful face and a divine voice.' For this, the legendary designer was called out for being insensitive and abrasive. He later clarified his remarks, rhapsodizing about Adele's talents and using the ole PR trick of saying that his comments were 'taken out context'. Brace yourselves people, but was his use of the 21st century's newest f-word so wrong? In his defense, Mr. Lagerfeld works in an industry notorious for being 'size-ist'. He's described the fashion world as being one based in 'dreams and illusions,' so is it any wonder that his word choice was as blunt as it was? This is a man accustomed to working around women with low BMIs and even less body fat, what's so shocking about his use of the word 'fat'? Better yet, what's mean-spirited about the word 'fat' to begin with?
We use a lot of euphemisms to get around calling people fat: big-boned, thick, full-figured, zaftig, curvaceous, plump, such a varied lexicon for such a simple state. I often find flowery descriptions are a popular method of avoidance; like a Chicken McNugget dipped in a savory sauce, the tasty excessive breading and sugary sweet glaze helps us forget the basic lack of nutritive value…and chicken. If we say 'fat,' the conversation might have to include a discussion of health or wellness or fitness and with sixty percent of Americans being overweight and/or obese, is that something a majority of the nation wants to deal with? If we say fat, we make size a part of someone's physical appearance, a natural thing to do, but we live in a country that has yet to figure out how to discuss women's weight - this is usually never a problem for men - without making it a huge (forgive the pun) issue. We think the solution to women's insecurities about their bodies is to pretend that size is a non-factor. I approach that ideology the same way I do a person who says 'they don't see color,' with a raised eyebrow and slow retreat to the nearest exit.
Being fat is a reality and not necessarily a bad thing. Fat is not synonymous with unhealthy. Just as skinny, while culturally more acceptable, doesn't always mean fit. And if anyone knows the line between size and health, surprisingly, it might be Lagerfeld himself who over a decade ago lost over 90 pounds and kept it off. In an interview back in 2002 on the Larry King Live show, he easily volleys between using the words 'fat,' 'big' and 'overweight' to describe himself. His vocabulary, rather than revealing self-loathing or insecurity, showed that he had a healthy view of what he looked like and was in complete control of how he saw himself.
While I don't think his comments were intended to be mean-spirited, they were tangential to the subject at hand (initially, singer Lana Del Rey, and his favorite female singers, which along with Adele included Florence Welsh of Florence and the Machine). After all, what does size have to do with singing talent?
So the real crime for me wasn't so much his accurate description of Adele or the fact that it had nothing to do with the question, it was his blatant stereotyping of all Russian men as 'very ugly.' In a paragraph just below his much maligned Adele comment, Lagerfeld says, 'if I was a woman in Russia I would be a lesbian, as the men are very ugly. There are a few handsome ones, like Naomi Campbell's boyfriend, but there you see the most beautiful women and the most horrible men.' On the verbal abuse Richter scale, this has to rank as a nine or higher, but in the States, the comment barely registered at all. Tsk, tsk, tsk!
For shame, America, for shame.
Read Karl Lagerfeld's interview here: