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The Racist, Sexist, Fat-Shaming Show Lighting Up German TV

The new Reality Show 'Curvy Supermodel' is supposed to be about body positivity. But the reality is that it's just positively offensive.

Curvy Supermodel 2017 contestants posing for a photoshoot
Curvy Supermodel 2017 contestants posing for a photoshoot
Julia Friese

BERLIN — Of course, it begins on a racecourse. Curvy women run around until they obtain a golden ticket, just like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Giving up isn't an option. One of them will become the new "Curvy Supermodel", a leader of the Body Positive movement, a fresh face of the Body Revolution. At least, that's what's promised by the voiceover on the television show Curvy Supermodel, which is broadcast on Germany's RTL 2.

Body positivity is about accepting your body as it is, whether you're skinny, fat, or something in between, the voiceover says. It's apparently something these women have struggled with their entire lives.

And "curvy" as used in the English language means more than curvy here. It also means sexy. And that's very important. A curvy woman must be sexy. No surprise there, of course, since women always have to look sexy on TV anyway. What's more, they must do what women always do on TV — fight other women. In the name of sexiness.

Who is the most alluring object of sexual desire? Now it includes those bigger than size 38. This is the "Body Revolution" according to RTL 2. Jury member Angelina Kirsch, a "curvy model", stresses that, on this show, there's more of everything: "More curves, more emotion, more passion."

Curvy isn't just something you are. It is something you're daring to be.

A young woman apologetically tells the camera that she doesn't want to "shock" the jury with her big breasts. She actually wants to hide them a little, but they simply keep attracting attention. "They're always the first thing you see of me," she says. Following Kirsch's advice, the "Curvy Supermodel" contender puts on a minimizer bra, thereby reducing her breasts by two sizes.

She then moves her body before the jury. "Aahhh," they say.

A model agent speaks to a contestant: "I'm guessing you're from Africa. Which country are you from?" This is the first question posed to the woman, who is black. She responds that she's from Senegal, to which the jury says that she should be confident. Because she's curvy.

Curvy, the viewer now learns, isn't just something you are. It is, first and foremost, something you're daring to be.

Curvy Supermodel's fashion show —Photo: Facebook page

The next young woman explains that she was bullied at school. She is 17 years old and white. But no one asks her which country she comes from. South Africa? Iceland? Denmark? It could be anywhere but it doesn't interest anyone. She is wearing a fishnet dress over a black bodysuit. As she turns around, the model expert and jury member Jana Ina is shocked by her bottom. "I find that atrocious," she says emphatically to the young woman. "That's not sexy."

At that moment, you can see in the eyes of the 17-year-old that something breaks inside her. She won't cry. She knows what bullying is. The pain sits deep inside her, but she takes it.

The rest of the jury is more forgiving now. She should just wear a dress, they advise. The student could be forgiven for feeling confused after such advice. Wasn't she, after all, wearing a dress?

It has to look different, they say. Not a fishnet dress, at least not for her. The 17-year-old nods: "Okay, okay, I'll change, I'll fight, one day I can wear that dress! And then she turns around, and there is her bottom on the screen again. "Put some clothes on!" Ina shouts.

The viewer is still struggling to come to grips with what just happened when another young woman comes in and, hastily anticipating potential criticism, calls herself "Miss Pudding."

She was on the show last year. But because of her body, which was called "Wackelpeter" — a gelatinous German dessert — she didn't make the cut that time. But it should all be firmer this year. She's been training hard. She looks confident on the catwalk in her shiny silver leggings. "I've got curves in the right places," she says, beaming.

The curves are not at all where they should be.

"Well, you do have confidence," the jury says. But the model agent immediately adds that, unfortunately, the curves are not at all "where they should be".

"What we're looking for is an hourglass figure," he says, to hammer the point home.

"Miss Pudding" could retort that the show is called "Curvy Supermodel" and not "Best Hourglass'. She could say that the rules are stupid. But she won't get that opportunity. She's out.

"I think we really had better curves at the beginning," the model agent says. Ina, the model expert, nods.

The next candidate is sporty and muscular. She's barely a size 40. "Now that's exactly what we want to see, confidence," the jury rejoices. "Great outfit," they tell her. The young woman is wearing nothing but underwear. "Any extra piece of fabric would be a waste." Ina stands up and slaps the 17-year-old's backside. The young woman laughs. Because, you know, she is a fighter. She has to endure it.

The rest of the show features, among other things, Curvy Supermodel contenders posing as chocolates in a box as well as being sprayed in white and arranged like Baroque sculptures in the park of a castle. When the camera hovers on a black participant, the title under her name simply states: "Has Kenyan roots."

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My Wife, My Boyfriend — And Grandkids: A Careful Coming Out For China's Gay Seniors

A series of interviews in Wuhan with aging gay men — all currently or formerly married to women — reveals a hidden story of how Chinese LGBTQ culture is gradually emerging from the shadows.

Image of two senior men playing chinese Checkers.

A friendly game of Checkers in Dongcheng, Beijing, China.

Wang Er

WUHAN — " What do you think of that guy sitting there, across from us? He's good looking."

" Then you should go and talk to him."

“ Too bad that I am old..."

Grandpa Shen was born in 1933. He says that for the past 40 years, he's been "repackaged," a Chinese expression for having come out as gay. Before his wife died when he was 50, Grandpa Shen says he was was a "standard" straight Chinese man. After serving in the army, he began working in a factory, and dated many women and evenutually got married.

"Becoming gay is nothing special, I found it very natural." Grandpa Shen says he discovered his homosexuality at the Martyrs' Square in Wuhan, a well-known gay men's gathering place.

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

Wuhan used to have different such ways for LGBTQ+ to meet: newspaper columns, riversides, public toilets, bridges and baths to name but a few. With urbanization, many of these locations have disappeared. The transformation of Martyrs' Square into a park has gradually become a place frequented by middle-aged and older gay people in Wuhan, where they play cards and chat and make friends. There are also "comrades" (Chinese slang for gay) from outside the city who come to visit.

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