why 'straight/curve' is the body positive documentary we need

We caught up with director Jenny McQuaile to find out how the fashion industry has become a front line for a momentous change.

by Emily Manning
25 August 2015, 4:35pm

When women are confronted with shameful depictions of one dimensional beauty (from Protein World to Project Harpoon), we've proven we're no longer afraid to hit back. Models like Ashley Graham, Stefania Ferrario and Tess Holliday are leading the charge, using social media platforms to spread their body positive messages to millions of followers fed up with cookie cutter conventional beauty. But as filmmaker Jenny McQuaile's documentary Straight/Curve sets out to prove, this push for representative diversity is echoing throughout all corners of the fashion industry, and in turn, changing culture at large. As the film enters its final week of Kickstarter fundraising with a steep uphill climb, we caught up with Jenny to find out why now is the time to make Straight/Curve a reality.

What motivated you to make the film?
Straight/Curve has been a long time in the making for me. Like a lot of women, I grew up with some serious body image issues. I remember looking at magazines and girls on TV and everyone was very thin. I believed that's what I had to look like in order to be beautiful and happy, but that's so far from the truth. I think people are scared to talk about bodies and beauty and I want to open the dialogue on this -- really try and eradicate this taboo. I started reading about the plus size community and it sparked my interest.

This film isn't just from the perspective of models. What viewpoints were you hoping to share?
I began reaching out to plus size models and meeting with them in New York. After a while, I realized I was asking the wrong questions of the industry and trying to tell the wrong story. Straight/Curve is really a collaborative effort of the plus size community's key players coming together to tell their stories and shed a light on this historic moment in time in the fashion industry. I have met with dozens of people from models to photographers, agents, writers, stylists and designers and they each have their own story to tell. But on the whole, everyone has the same aim: to create an all inclusive industry where women of all shapes and sizes are represented. That has become the mission of these inspirational people, and in turn the mission of Straight/Curve.

How has social media impacted conversations about body image?
It has given women -- and men -- all over the globe a platform to voice their opinions and demands. People can now tell brands and designers what they want to see in stores and on catwalks, and these demands are starting to be heard. It is becoming obvious through social media that people everywhere care about body image and representation. They care about who becomes the face of a brand, or who they see in magazines.

What are some of the biggest changes you've seen in the conversation about body image in fashion and culture at large?
I've noticed a huge change in the fashion industry even in the last two years, and especially in the last six months. Real change is happening right now, and it is snowballing. A lot of people are worried that this emergence of the curvy woman is a passing trend, but this time, I honestly feel it is here to stay. These curvy women aren't an anomaly -- they are representative of two thirds of society -- so why is it so weird that they would be successful models? People who have been in this industry for 15 years, who started the plus size movement, are all saying that this time, it's different. Straight/Curve is capturing real and lasting change at its most crucial, pivotal point.

What's the most important lesson you've learned working on this film?
Female empowerment. I always had best friends who were male growing up, and I was never a feminist. But through making this film, I've met some of the most amazing, powerful, inspirational women out there. They have taught me a lot about myself and have made me realize I want this documentary to be a film by, for, and about women. The dearth of women in the film production world is upsetting and constantly drives me crazy. Where possible, we are trying to keep Straight/Curve to an all female crew, and that is honestly something I never thought I would say.

What do you hope people take from this film?
I hope to empower the next generation of women to love themselves through this film. I want people to watch it and get a glimpse into a world that has been secret - until now. There will be a lot for everyone, but mostly the message will be an empowering one. We are also in talks with governmental and non governmental organizations to use Straight/Curve as an educational tool in curriculum in schools and as outreach for various body image organizations. We feel we have an important message to share and we want to share it with as many people as possible. 

Contribute to Straight/Curve's Kickstarter campaign here


Text Emily Manning
Images via Straight/Curve Kickstarter

Body Positivity
Plus Size
Body Positive
jenny mcquaile