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Minding the Media: Body Image in Popular Culture

Which celeb do you consider curvy?

A) Jessica Biel
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B) Kim Raver
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C) Anna Faris
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D) Sophia Bush
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E) All of the Above

F) None of the Above

If you answered “all of the above,” then you’re correct! All of these women in one magazine or another were called “curvy.”

Bazaar thinks Biel has a “curvy figure”; Glamour raves that Raver has “serious curves;” and according to InStyle Makeover, Faris has a “curvy bod,” notes Wendy Felton of Glossed Over. Health magazine also refers to Sophia Bush and her “healthy curves,” even after she discussed Hollywood’s skewed standards:

“But it’s weird: In our business, I’m a size 2 and considered curvy.”

Underneath the title “Sophia Bush loves her curves,” Health also writes:

“The star of One Tree Hill is proud to have a butt — and an incredibly toned body, which she gets from boxing, yoga…and a refreshingly unscrewed-up attitude toward food.”

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If these uses of “curvy” are confusing you, you certainly aren’t the only one. It used to be that “curvy” meant a womanly, rounder body type. But its definition clearly has changed throughout the years.

For instance, gleaning the meaning from Health, it appears “curvy” has become synonymous with toned and thin. Those who are frail or rail-thin are simply considered svelte or skinny; anyone who looks healthy, yet still quite thin has curves. The same can be said for Biel, Raver and Faris, who are all very thin but look like they exercise.

Or, perhaps, healthy-looking (or workout buff) isn’t even a criterion. In the same post, Felton writes:

“It used to be the word was bestowed upon those lovely women who, nonetheless, were heavier than the Hollywood-lollipop standard. Now? The definition has loosened. It seems any celeb who hasn’t retained Rachel Zoe as her stylist could one day be worthy of the term.”

But it isn’t all skinny starlets who are considered “curvy.” In the same curvy category, you’ll find Gisele Bundchen and Jennifer Hudson, confusing us readers even further.

Magazines constantly toss out words like “fat” and “anorexic,” so perhaps it’s not that shocking that the original meanings are vanishing. As the image of “thin” shrinks (as a result of the ever-decreasing world of fashion and Hollywood), it seems only natural that other words and images would follow suit. The pattern goes like this: The women in magazines get thinner. Then our perception of “thin” gets even smaller. And, appropriately, the definition of “curvy” has no choice but to get smaller, too.

But should we even pay these migrating meanings any attention? Hollywood and the fashion industry always have had wacky notions of women’s ideal appearance, which often change capriciously.

Minding the Media: Body Image in Popular Culture


Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.


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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Minding the Media: Body Image in Popular Culture. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 20, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/minding-the-media-body-image-in-popular-culture/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 22 Nov 2008)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.