My phone exploded with messages this week. Okay, it didn't explode as much as buzz a few times. I got a handful of messages via text, email, Facebook and at least one carrier pigeon about some news from WWD. IMG, one of the largest talent agencies in the world, started representing their first plus-size male model and launched an entire plus-size line under the moniker Brawn. Zach Miko, the triple-threat model/actor/writer they brought on, is no stranger to the media buzz of body-positivity as he was also in the news six months ago for being Target's first plus-size male model.
On a side note, Zach sounds like a pretty great dude who is very aware of the bullshit most people go through finding clothes in addition to not seeing themselves represented on shopping sites.
All the excited messages from friends about this was hilarious for me. Across the past year I've casually mentioned my aspiration of plus-size male modeling to anyone who would listen, including a large group of students at a D.C. Hack-a-thon who cheered my dream along after I named it as my "fun fact." So far, however, I've only been writing this blog, bugging my photog friends and googling "modeling classes for an old white fat dude." While I may never rock the cover of GQ, seeing a big agency like IMG get behind Mr Miko really makes me smile.
Many have jumped to support for IMG's Brawn and Zach's career success, yet there are still the critics, haters and detractors who have weighed in. I think some critics do play an important role and I have read some compelling points and comments about Mr Miko's size not really representing plus-size, fat, or round bodies. These perspectives have merit as Zach absolutely falls into a more conventional idea about bodies and size, especially for men. He is tall and powerful looking, someone you could imagine destroying a tiny challenger in Game of Thrones or as a quirky side-kick to Aziz Ansari in Netflix's Master of None.
That said, I think Zach brings the right mind to what he is doing, and even as a small scoot towards larger bodies being included in the fashion and modeling industries, this is incredibly important. A large young man seeing Zach sporting a long sleeve t-shirt on Target.com is more powerful than we may think. And think about the many aspiring actors, models and artists who have been told to think that they had to tame their bodies or looks to achieve their deserved success.
I do have a small issue with the name Brawn, which I'm hoping was an oversight from IMG. Perhaps an intern forgot to look up a definition before naming the division.
This new inclusion from IMG means that they believe there is money to make in representing large bodies. This is vital. Our culture is defined by how we spend money, like it or not, and companies have become very good at finding ways to gain our economic favor. We buy lifestyles and images above all. The very way we see ourselves and what we want to be has changed, this is shown in how brands and agencies move to include representations of larger bodies. I would love to think that IMG or Target is hiring folks like Mr Miko for the love of bodies...but they aren't. Its about money, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. We see our bodies differently than we did 20 years ago and are proving that with our wallets.
Cheers to you Zach Miko!
From one big dude to another, work your ass off and don't take any shit.