And The Winner Is… Not Nancy Upton

by shannon carlin


American Apparel was looking for a model for the launch of its plus size line. They decided to have a contest where people could submit their own photos and other people could vote on it. The company used the tagline, “The Next BIG Thing,” which made a bunch of people mad. But one plus size woman decided to get even.

Nancy Upton, a size 12 actress and student from Dallas, submitted her own photos. All of them combined elements of food and sex. Some photos featured Upton covering herself in ranch dressing. In other shots she’s using a cherry pie to hide her lady parts. Some people weren’t sure about the intent of the photos, but Upton admits they were intended to be tongue and cheek. Of course if you take out the pie and the rotisserie chicken, all the photos look a lot like the real American Apparel spreads. So you can understand the confusion.

When the vote came in Upton got the most votes, but that doesn’t mean she really won.

Today, Iris Alonzo, the Creative Director over at American Apparel, sent Upton a letter. In the letter, which you can read in its entirety on Upton’s own site, Alonzo lets her know that she wasn’t chosen.

 Alonzo, who was once quoted as saying, “that’s not our demographic” when it came to full figured ladies, explains that though Upton was the popular choice, they are awarding the prize “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.”

Not that it matters much anyway; Upton had no intention in ever modeling for the company.  In an interview with the Village Voice, Upton says, “If American Apparel was the Gap and they had run that contest, I wouldn’t have had that same gut reaction. It comes from American Apparel’s history of treating women like a piece of meat. If I was an American Apparel customer in a store and I had never heard of the company or Dov Charney, I’d probably be happy.”

Charney, the CEO of American Apparel, has been accused of sexual harassment on more than one occassion, but has never been tried in court..

Upton plans to respond to Alonzo’s letter publicly by the end of the week after doing a little research. What do you think Upton’s response should be? How would you respond to the letter?

Read Upton’s own take on the American Apparel contest at The Daily Beast

Read her full interview with The Village Voice here.


Update: On September 16, Upton was invited by Alonzo to fly out to L.A. to meet with the American Apparel staff and get a look at what it’s really like inside the company. On her blog Upton wrote,  “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 L.A.” Upton does however plan to write about the experience on her blog.


Photos by Shannon Skloss


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