The Struggle for the Perfect Bikini Body

As leverage to boost their sales, gyms, fad diet companies, and plastic surgeons utilize this time after winter and before the summer rush to play on the insecurities of their target audiences. “Summer is right around the corner!” “Get into the best shape of your life!” “Lose that stubborn winter weight!” All are marketing schemes in order to guilt people into buying their products with the illusion of obtaining the perfect bikini body because of them. But what is the perfect bikini body? Just as any other fashion trend, body shapes and sizes go in and out of style. Your body isn’t just a pair of jeans where you can buy new ones to keep up with the yearly trends.

Marilyn Monroe was an iconic sex symbol of the 1950s with her hourglass frame. In the 90s and early 2000s, the perfect bikini body was long, lean with a low body fat percentage. Tyra Banks famously challenged this notion as she gained weight and filled out her curves when her career was flourishing. Now, Aerie, a predominately underwear and swimsuit store, is launching a campaign of untouched models of all different shapes, sizes, and abilities. With the more recent phenomenon of celebrities such as the Kardashians, hourglass shaped bodies are now pushing into the spotlight. Iskra Lawrence, one of the most well-known Aerie models, is the face of body positivity as she shares her story of battling her natural curves due to modeling agencies. She has since embraced her curvy frame while rocking some abs. All the while, Peyton Knight is a fashion model with the more “typical” runway model body frame, tall and skinny. Due to the pressures of being a working up-and-coming model, Knight has opened up about the struggles of designers pushing models to be impossibly thinner. Tess Holliday faces criticism every day for being a plus-size model as well as a body-positive spokesperson. Many say she is glorifying obesity.

So, who wins here? Who has the perfect bikini body? Or, better yet, which body do we strive to have this upcoming swimsuit season? All of these talented and beautiful women all have such drastically different bodies, and yet have all formulated successful acting or modeling careers. The trick is, the all become successful once embracing how their body was naturally built without attempting to live up to another’s standards. If we’re constantly trying to obtain a certain beauty standard, our bodies can only be pushed so far before breaking down.

(Photo by Lane Bryant)

The reality is, there is no universal bikini body that is perfect for everyone everywhere. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable in however much or little skin they decide to show during the summer, and their body shape doesn’t determine how worthy they are of this right. We're all allowed to want to look our best in the summer, sure, but it's the concept of having this perfect, unattainable body standard that is more deserving of being shown off that becomes problematic. But also, just because someone has the body size that is ‘in’ at the moment also doesn’t always mean they’re comfortable with themselves. We all have flaws we magnify and believe everyone else also sees them. It takes courage for anyone of any size to be vulnerable in public. Whether people will believe you’re too large or too small, someone will always feel the need to criticize others due to their own insecurities.

Diet culture has plagued our minds to believe we need to be in the best-looking shape of our lives every time June comes around in order to be worthy enough of wearing a swimsuit. Pills and juice cleanses aren’t the way to become a healthier version of yourself. Eating right and staying active are the best ways to maintain health, not mold into the perfect body. Cellulite, stretch marks, and body rolls all make for just as valid bikini bodies as abs and a golden tan.