American Apparel is throwing some weight around.
The hipster fashion house concluded a plus-size model search titled "The Next Big Thing" last week but is refusing to grant a contract to the top vote-getter, Dallas student Nancy Upton.
The sticking point? Upton, 24, had taken offense to the company’s tone. "I thought it was tacky," she told Adweek. So she entered the contest with a series of increasingly ridiculous and satirical-yet-sexy photos.
"I took that tone of theirs—'Hey fat people, you can play too'—and used it as an inspiration for my photos," she said. Shot by a friend, the size-12 Upton posed bathing in ranch dressing, pouring chocolate syrup into her mouth, and stuffing her face with chicken in a pool.
She posted the pictures to her cheeky Tumblr and the Internet took notice. By the time the contest closed last week, she was the undisputed most popular contestant.
American Apparel, which did not immediately return calls for comment, has fired back with a statement of its own. Upton posted it to her site.
"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 lighthearted language, and that 'bootylicous' was too much for you to handle,” AA’s creative director, Iris Alonzo, wrote to Upton.
"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?" she asked Upton.
Alonzo went on to write that because Upton did not enter the contest in good faith, she would not be declared the winner.
"Oh, and regarding winning the contest," she concluded, "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."
Upton's take? She says she spoke with Alonzo on the phone and, while declining to discuss what was said, added that things ended cordially.
"I'm happy that Iris took the time to send me an email; I know she's very busy. And I respect her decision to go with different modeling talent," Upton told Adweek. "Hopefully things will end on a very positive note. It certainly was not my intention to start a war or pick fights."
Upton had said from the outset that she was more interested in starting a dialog than actually snagging a modeling contract, anyway.
Either way, she comes out with a big win.