How many times have you heard something like the following statement?
Women are being fed a cookie-cutter image of what a woman should look like. From magazines to television, there are no realistic, desirable body types outside of a size six model with Bambi legs for us to aspire to. Every single day, women are fed a constant diet of, “You do not look like Miranda Kerr. You must look like Miranda Kerr. Stop eating and jog every day to look like Miranda Kerr.” It is no wonder women have low self-estee;, the body-type we are told to aim for is unrealistic for most of us.
Sound familiar? I wrote that paragraph myself, but it doesn’t differ much from what the magazines, websites and social media tell us. We get told it so much, I actually started to believe it. For a long period of time, I truly thought that there were no role models for us to look up to except waif-like celebrities. That no one in the public eye looked like me.
I used to read Vogue. For seven years I delighted in the unaffordable fashion, the thoughtful articles, the beautiful models. I wanted to look like those stick-thin women the glossy pages featured, and didn’t really believe there was a more desirable alternative. Who was going to be my body inspiration if it wasn’t Lily Donaldson or Kiera Knightley? Turned out, I just needed to put down the magazine and take a closer look at the sport I love most for a hit of confidence and a reality check. Tennis is filled with beautiful women of different shapes, sizes and nationalities. I quickly realised that Vogue’s occasional “plus-size” or token African model has nothing on the diversity I see every single day in this sport. I just wish other women would put down the fashion magazines and discover this for themselves.
Case in point? Let’s say you have an hourglass figure. Large breasts and an ample rear might conjure up images of Kim Kardashian or Vegas strippers, but if you’re not too fond of that look, you might feel shit out of luck when it comes to seeing your figure on the TV. You’d be wrong. Serena Williams, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, is an inspiration for body confidence. She proudly flaunts her curves and is considered one of the best-dressed, most glamourous women on tour. She’s tennis’s own Christina Hendricks.
Since we are grouping women’s body shapes into categories (and here it is convenient, so please forgive me) let’s continue down that list. Women who are top-heavy, as in large breasts with straight hips and waist, might think they won’t find any inspiration in tennis. Besides from Serena Williams, it’s a widely believed myth that all tennis players are thin, blonde Russian women. This just isn’t true.
This is Julia Goerges, a German player who really should be targeted by sports bra manufacturers worldwide. And yes, someone already has thought of the nickname Julia Gorgeous. It didn’t go down too well.
What about pear-shaped? That shape my mother gave me: small chest, small waist, wider hips? That’s something I share in common with many players, including my personal body (and all-round) inspiration, Maria Sharapova. Maria may be super slim, but she has a toned bottom and legs. And for those of you thinking of a bikini-posing 17 year old stick insect, those days are long gone. Maria is now a fashionable, candy-line owning woman. Any time I’m feeling down about my bra size, I think of Maria and her healthy, semi-achievable body shape.
My point is the WTA consists of incredibly fit, beautiful women. But rather than fit into a fashion designer’s mould, these women could be any of us (if we worked as hard as they do). Even those of you born with sky-high legs and no body fat to speak of can find inspiration in Venus Williams and Daniela Hantuchova instead of scary-thin catwalk models. Tennis, and sport in general, is full of role models that are actually relatable and come in all shapes and sizes.
Next time you’re feeling down, turn on the tennis. Or better yet, attend one of the events running across Australia this January. I promise you, there will be no airbrushing.
Apia International: Sydney, until 12th January
Moorilla Hobart International: Hobart, until 12th January
Australian Open: Melbourne, 14th – 27th January