Then, Tyra Banks, Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford graced the runways and men worshiped them, as women aped them.
And in Kampala, who can forget The Obsessions and the model Priscilla Ray, whose petite figures dropped many a man’s jaws?
Well, fashion, they say, knows no loyalty. While we dreamt about model-size girls, a new trend appears to have sneaked into vogue, displacing the once yearned-for-by-men and envied-by-women skinny model.
Today Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian’s voluptuous bodies are globally hip.
And in Kampala, curves like Desire Luzinda, Zuena and Shamim Namawa’s (aka Uganda’s Nicki Minaj) are causing high waves. And according to the men we have spoken to, things only seem to be returning to where they must have been in the first place.
Engineer Henry Kayima says that a curvy woman is not only respectable; she is the ideal choice for marriage. He notes that skinny women/models are only good for young guys who show them off in public.
Kayima’s view is echoed by Sam Mukisa, a surveyor. When Mukisa meets a slim woman, he does not see a beauty to die for; all he sees is fashion-sensitive usually characterised by moral deficiency and low self-confidence.
Harsh, maybe, but these men are real.
Kayima and Mukisa concur that every woman needs to keep her body in perfect shape. But many frown at the obsessive pursuit of the ‘perfect’ body.
“Not that they aren’t pretty, but slimming girls look like fragile pretty little things that are good to look at but too delicate to touch,” says Peter Mugagga, a Makerere University student who reiterates Mukisa’s point.
In Mugagga’s world, curvy women exude womanhood and are so soft and, therefore, pleasant to touch “without any protruding bones or ribs to jab you when you embrace them.”
End of portables?
Curvaceous Patricia, who works at Uganda Revenue Authority, says women with bodies like hers are respected and cherished.
“Besides the respect he earns from friends, he loves touching every part of me [legs, bums and boobs]. He tells me that I’m his perfect match since he is medium-sized.”
She says though some friends had advised her to take magic slimming pills, she is comfortable with her body.
“I endeavour to keep fit, since I’m always on the move – but most importantly, my man loves my body,” she says.
“Most girls believe they are sexier and can easily attract men when they are portable,” says Phoebe Nantale, a Makerere University student of Information Technology.
Even if curvy women are the new hot cake, some are not ready to write off the model-thin women.
“We are in a world of reduced sizes; phones, computers, cars, houses, clothes, and television are all in smaller sizes and I see no reason why women should remain full-figured,” says Nelson Bwire, a fresh graduate.
Professional model Daphne Ndahagire notes: “Men look at models as portable and presentable ladies because of their body size, shape, looks and the way they carry themselves in public.”
Even Alexander Musoke, a councillor at Masaka referral hospital, feels that some women are too big and need to slim. Yet others, like real estate developer Steven Akiiki, maintain that they do not mind about a woman’s size but her self-esteem.
“Slimming women show that they are overly concerned with what others think of them. They change from being a person into a consumer product seeking purchase,” he says.
Dr Tabley Bakyaita, a health educator at the Health ministry, scoffs at slimming, calling it a crazy practice.
“Men have never prescribed the kind of size a woman should be. Why, then, do young girls copy those exaggerated model sizes that can be risky to their lives?”
Dr Bakyaita blames some foreign magazines and internet for having models’ photos with exaggerated thin bodies, “which our girls copy”.
However, Vincent Kaliisa, a professional model, makes no apology for slimming. “Fashion and trends work together with our bodies. A woman is, therefore, expected to do anything possible [like slimming] to look nice.”
Makerere University’s Professor of Nutrition and Bio-engineering John Muyonga maintains that there just needs to be a balance.
“It is healthy for someone to reduce or add weight as long as they remain within the ranges of the body mass index,” he says.
The body mass index is measured by dividing one’s weight in kilogrammes by the square of their height in metres.
“The normal indices are always between 18.5 and 25, anything below or above that is considered abnormal,” Muyonga explains.
Why the change
A 2011 research by LiveScience.com showed that a curvy body was like a drug to men’s brains. Scientists concluded that “watching a curvaceous woman could feel like a reward in the brain of men, much as drinking alcohol or taking drugs might.”
Similarly, a 2012 poll of 4,000 adults conducted by British weekly magazine Grazia, found out that men are most attracted to women who have curves, rather than skinny women. And Nancy Hayssen, author of 101 Sexy Secrets: How to be Sexy & Beautiful at ANY Size, says 80 per cent of men aged 18 to 50 say they want a voluptuous woman.
“We’re being lied to everyday. The fashion industry and Hollywood have spread the myth that men want skinny, anorexic-looking women,” asserts Hayssen. “The truth is it’s plus-size or curvy women who are considered beautiful.”
Some blame the fashion industry, driven by gay men who make women so thin that they look like boyish, with nearly flat chests. But with more female designers joining and criticism of the industry, clothes for normal sized-women are also seen on the runways with full-figured models.
According to Dr Eria Olowo Onyango, a Makerere University social anthropologist, the changing trend is natural.
“Culture grows through people picking and dropping certain practices,” he says, adding that despite the importation of Western cultures, the original beliefs would always remain.
“This idea of slimming is like a full circle. Some women took up the Western slimming phenomenon but after some time, we now see them go back to the original African full woman,” he explains.He notes that in the African tradition, the size of a woman was not a problem because women, those days, used to work hard in gardens and keep their bodies fit – unlike the modern women that spend all their time in office. Onyango agrees with Muyonga that, instead of trying to put on more weight or lose weight, women just need to feed well and keep their bodies healthy because, small or fat, there will always be an interested man.