"That's not our demographic."

My name is Nancy Upton. I'm a size 12 and wanted to show American Apparel my fresh face (and full figure). My good friend Shannon Skloss came over to take some "booty-ful" photos of me...but I just couldn't stop eating.

I came in first place in the AA 'Next BIG Thing' contest, but won't be modeling for the company any time soon.

You can find me on Twitter: @Nancyupton
Or email: nancyupton@gmail.com

Monday, AMIRITE?

It’s technically Monday already. Jeez.

So, I’m officially done doing “Round-Up” posts for the time being. There’s just a little too much coverage going on to be able to handle it. Plus, everybody here is in the loop, right?


You guys are the coolest.

I will link to Feast of Fun, if not just for the incredible banner they made of my photos, then because these guys made me laugh until I almost peed. As far as saying American Apparel and I are “kissing and making up”…I think it’s a good estimation to say I’ll do no kissing while in LA, certainly not on company property. Because we all know how that turns out.

There might be a bit of radio silence over the next few days as I get my ducks in a row for the L.A. trip, but I plan on doing quite a bit of writing/blogging while there, and after Monday, I should have LOTS to talk about. If anybody has any fun, secret L.A. stuff going on, please send me an email, because I know nothing about the city. Also, if you see me, please run up and start talking to me and then I can pretend to wave you away like I’m famous and important. People watching will be like, “Wow, she’s a real bitch!” Then you and I will run around the corner and laugh about fooling people and drink sodas together. 

(When I write L.A. should I put the two periods in, or just write it without them? Which is the way the cool kids do it? I feel like if I type LA people will think I’m talking about Louisiana. Should I even worry about this? I just desperately need to feel hip.)

One of my friends has started teasing me by pretending to be my promoting my blog (which I hope I don’t do too much outside of the internet, because you don’t want to be THAT guy). He’s like, “OMG DID YOU READ MY BLOG? I’M NANCY UPTON DID YOU READ MY BLOG?” Actually I’m sort of writing this now to see if he does read my blog. 

I bet he doesn’t.

What a jerk. (Nah, I pretty much love him.)

I got a really great poem from Leyna, whose blog you can visit here. She agreed to let me post it, which I will do now!

An Open Letter to American Apparel, RE: the next BIG model search fiasco
By Leyna Rynearson

Dear American Apparel,

This must have been a hard week for your ego.

Being the subject of an international discussion about the “right” way to expand your empire

to include the expansive,

well,

let’s just say, I bet Alexander the Great

has some stories about elephants

that ruined his good name, too.

How were you to know that

we women of substance -

meaning, in your lexicon,

we women who wear anything over a size six -

are filled with brains in here,

are filled with feelings

and thoughts

and mirror-retinas that reflect through your search for

the next BIG thing.

Why does big matter in my beautiful?

Why do I have to be a thing to matter?

American Apparel -

I do not find offense in puns,
usually,
but the implication in your search for someone who’s
bootyful
is that my booty
detracts from my ability
to be just
beautiful.

I am comfortable with my bulges,
usually.

But I was there when April Flores asked
showroom representative Maggie
about the possibility of a plus-size line and was told,

"That’s not our demographic."

You’re right.

I am not your demographic.

Your demographic is strung out
and desperately trying to fill the caves in their torsos
with sex.

On the other hand,
I work 40 paid hours a week making sure the world stays intact,

I bake birthday cakes,

I teach kids to read,

I volunteer for anyone who asks,
I clean up trash in the park,
I hand out hugs like napkins
(generously, and to help people pick up their spills-)

I do dishes,
I feed kitties,
I carry groceries,

and the girth of my hips

is as big as my smile

and has learned how to

hold doors open for those

who look like they could use a break.

I teach girls to fight for what they want

and I teach the men in my life

that maybe they don’t have to fight.

And I do this under the scorn

of the people who wear your clothing.

I know the distinct cut and kelly green

of the guy who MOOed at me from a car

as I ran down my street towards the track,

and I’m sorry to say,

maybe your problem with models

started further back than two weeks.

Or maybe, you,

like so many of your peers,

just don’t realize

you’ve expanded your line to a ladies size 14,

and this doesn’t make you “plus-size” friendly-

you are only finally clothing

the AVERAGE AMERICAN WOMAN.


In case you don’t know her,
let me introduce you to the modern lady liberty:

The average American woman
makes less than 30 grand a year,
masturbates at least twice a week - at least! -
has a crush on George Cloony, Johnny Depp, or that guy from Mad Men,
believes in gay marriage and my right to choose what happens in my nuclear reactors,
and doesn’t believe in prayer to save us now.
And while we can say
that we love the size of our breasts
and that we are comfortable naked,
even with the lights on-
on any given day in the United States,
approximately half of the women are on a diet.

Do you want to know why I’m mad, 
American Apparel?
Because my friend’s 9 year old daughter told me last week
that she’s happier with herself when she’s on a diet.
And I can’t help but feel like maybe
your request to find the next XLent model
might not be helping the situation.

But the worst
is how you accused the winner
of not showing her inner beauty, too -
Which is strange,
because the last I checked,
standing up to corporations
who tell women like me-
strong, smart, beautiful women who have spent their whole lives letting their self-loathing fill them further-
that we are meaningless and unwanted except as novelty
is the most beautiful and noble thing I can think of.
I can only imagine
you afraid of a world
in which you must be strong for yourself,
instead of weak for others.

Dear Iris Alonzo,
Dear American Apparel,
Dear fashion designing community,
I’m sorry you are afraid of my size…
I hope,
in the end,
it does not end up crushing you,

just bending you to your knees.

———————————————————————————————————

Incredible, incredible stuff. Big thanks to her for letting me share it. And many thanks as well to all of you who have sent me emails of love and support. I’ve tried to respond to each one, but I’m about 100-150 behind at this point. Please know that I DO read them. And love them. And many, many thanks to people who have reached out to interview me, talk about AmApp on podcasts, write about this situation, etc. I’m very happy that we’re all in this together (people still like High School Musical, right? That’s a thing? I slept through the second one) and, at the very least, that waves have been made. 

Later, gators.

L.A. Trip

So.

I spoke with Iris Alonzo on the phone yesterday. She has graciously offered to fly Shannon and me out to LA to visit American Apparel and get a look at what it’s really like being inside the company.

I agreed, as long as I could write about what I saw. She said that would be fine.

In between phone/radio interviews, class and rehearsals, I’m trying to reflect on what this experience has taught me, and where I go from here. I’m definitely open to suggestions on that last part. :)

More than anything- thanks. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for listening.

Women's Views on News and The Situation Room

Hello all! Here’s an article from today that I really enjoy, but also really enjoyed collaborating on. 

I will be (via the magic of Skype) in the two-minute blurb at the end of The Situation Room on CNN tonight, 6:55 PM Eastern time. I wore my Axecop t-shirt to phone in, but I’m not sure if you’ll be able to catch it. Should be a very interesting piece- I got asked some very tough questions. And my dog barked through the whole thing!

Much much much love from Dallas, Texas. 

American Apparel Responds

This evening (September 13) at around 7:30 PM, I received an email from Iris Alonzo. I had not intended to share any quotes or specific content from this email with anyone, other than to explain that American Apparel had declined to offer me a prize for receiving the most votes in their competition. As the email was addressed to ME specifically, I assumed it was not meant to be shared.

Actually, it turns out Iris sent the letter to many media outlets who had sought me out over the last week. CultureMap was the first blog (as far as I know) to print the letter and discuss her response.

I am only posting it here because I now assume it is fair game. 

Dear Nancy Upton,

My name is Iris Alonzo and I am a Creative Director at American Apparel. Along with four other women, I conceived of the Next BIG Thing campaign for American Apparel. Firstly, we are very sorry that we offended you. Our only motive was to discover and celebrate the many beautiful XL women around the globe who enjoy our brand, and to promote the recent size additions to our collection. Nothing more, nothing less. We would also like to assure you that no one is getting fired over your stunt, as you expressed concern about in a recent interview. We are fortunate to have a great boss who trusts and believes in our instincts and ideas, and we are still very excited about all of our Next BIG Things and looking forward to meeting our new XL brand ambassadors.

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? Maybe you’ll find it interesting that in addition to simply responding to customer demand and feedback, when you’re a vertically-integrated company, actual jobs are created from new size additions. In this case, for the XL women who will model them, industrial workers that make them, retail employees that sell them and beyond. That’s the amazing reality of American Apparel’s business.

Though I could spend hours responding to your accusations and assumptions, this isn’t the appropriate forum for that, so I will only briefly address a few issues here. In regards to April Flores’ “that’s not our demographic” experience, I don’t recall the name of the confused employee credited with saying that, but he or she was sadly uninformed, and our company certainly does not endorse their statement. For as long as I can remember, we have offered sizes up to 3XL in our basic styles, and as far as adding larger sizes to the rest of our line is concerned, if there is the demand and manufacturing power to support it, we’re always game. There are thousands of brands in the market who have no intention of supporting natural - and completely normal - full-figured women, and American Apparel is making a conscious effort to change that, both with our models and our line. If every brand that tried to do this was met with such negative press, we may have to wait another decade for the mainstream to embrace something so simple.

In the past, American Apparel has been targeted for various reasons, many times by journalists who weren’t willing to go the extra mile to even visit the factory or meet the people in charge. Dov is a great executive director and American Industrialist, but there are hundreds of other decision-makers in our company, over half of whom are women. I suppose you have read a few too many negative pieces about us that have helped to form your opinion of who we are and what we stand for, and perhaps this has clouded your ability to give us a chance. I get it. I read some of it too. As a creative who isn’t always the most tactful and tends to stay away from the limelight, maybe I haven’t spoken up as much as I should have over the past 8 years that I’ve worked at American Apparel. Perhaps I could have shed some light on some issues that have been left cloudy over the years. However, sensational media will always need something to latch on to and success, spandex and individuality (and mutton chops circa 2004) are certainly easy targets. And who knows - maybe the PR ups and downs are all part of our DNA as a company. What I do know is that after all the years I have been working for this company I can wholeheartedly say that American Apparel is an amazing and inspiring place to work. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can represent of a ton of people I know when I say that we really like Dov and we passionately believe in his vision for a beautiful factory with sustainable practices. We are the largest sewing factory in North America, after all…10,000 jobs is nothing to sniff at. A lot of people would be very sad if this company wasn’t around.

That said, we realize that we are in no way perfect and that we’re still learning. We want to do better or differently in many areas, and we are actively working on them every day. You’re literally witnessing a transparent, sincere, innovative, creative company go through puberty in the spotlight of modern media. It’s not easy!

Oh - and regarding winning the contest, while you were clearly the popular choice, we have decided to award the prizes to other contestants that we feel truly exemplify the idea of beauty inside and out, and whom we will be proud to have representing our company.

Please feel free to contact me directly anytime. If you want to know the real scoop about our company before writing a story, I’ve got it (or if I don’t, I can put you in touch with the person that does!).

Best of luck,

Iris Alonzo
Creative Director
American Apparel

"Posing A THREAT"

1. I love Yolanda’s project.

2. Yes, it’s a Flight of the Conchords quote.

Perspective

Tonight, I planned on coming home and doing a write-up round-up, as per usual. There were a lot of interesting posts today (and overnight, in the international crowd) that brought some really interesting viewpoints to the discussion we’ve been having.

And I will post those links tomorrow.

But tonight (or today, whenever you read this) I want to share a quick anecdote.

I was at a local bar/restaurant that I frequent, and I ended up talking to a waitress about how her week went. It didn’t go so well. She then asked about my week, so I talked to her a bit about what went on with this blog. After describing my blog, she told me some stories from her life.

She told me the story of breaking her chin as a child, and about the years of painful corrective surgery she went through because her mother couldn’t stand the idea of “an ugly daughter.” She told me about how she wore painful braces for almost eight years, just to make sure her teeth were perfectly straight. She talked about the on and off diets she’s been put through since childhood because she’s always been “a little too top heavy.” She talked about how her mother insists on pressuring her into a year long tanning subscription to a salon, and how when she comes home and she doesn’t look considerably darker, her family notices, and points it out. She talked about how, after high school, when she went from a size 5 to a size 7, she was told it was now much harder to buy her Christmas presents, because “well, you’ve gained that weight and things just don’t look right on you any more.” She talked about how, whenever she gained weight as a child, her mother would buy candy for her brothers and sisters, and force her to sit and watch them eat it, while receiving nothing. 

For the record, this woman was AT MOST a size 8. I asked her if I could share her story anonymously on my blog, and if she would be willing to write an essay about it, and she agreed. I truly hope she decides to write something for us to read.

Coming into tonight, I had a very specific idea about the links I would share, and the message I would post about what was going on with the American Apparel contest.

I guess sometimes we get wrapped up, or at least I do, in the sensationalism of what it is like to deal with being different. Or being unusual. Or being outside of what is considered “normal.” 

I hope that we can all take a minute and consider the fact that, yes, it is extremely hard to be confident in our distinction. But sometimes, it isn’t easy to be “normal” either, whether or not that’s what we choose to be.