The wait is over! Well, sort of. We still don't know who the winner is in The Next Big Thing, but we know it's not Nancy Upton. She received the most votes and rightfully is the winner, yet here is the letter, in its entirety, she received from American Apparel:
Dear Nancy Upton,
My name is Iris Alonzo and I am a Creative Director at American Apparel. Along with four other women, I conceived of the Next BIG Thing campaign for American Apparel. Firstly, we are very sorry that we offended you. Our only motive was to discover and celebrate the many beautiful XL women around the globe who enjoy our brand, and to promote the recent size additions to our collection. Nothing more, nothing less. We would also like to assure you that no one is getting fired over your stunt, as you expressed concern about in a recent interview. We are fortunate to have a great boss who trusts and believes in our instincts and ideas, and we are still very excited about all of our Next BIG Things and looking forward to meeting our new XL brand ambassadors.
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 light-hearted language, and that "bootylicous" was too much for you to handle. While we may be a bit TOO inspired by Beyoncé, and do have a tendency to occasionally go pun-crazy, we try not to take ourselves too seriously around here. 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? Maybe you'll find it interesting that in addition to simply responding to customer demand and feedback, when you're a vertically-integrated company, actual jobs are created from new size additions. In this case, for the XL women who will model them, industrial workers that make them, retail employees that sell them and beyond. That's the amazing reality of American Apparel's business.
Though I could spend hours responding to your accusations and assumptions, this isn't the appropriate forum for that, so I will only briefly address a few issues here. In regards to April Flores' "that's not our demographic" experience, I don't recall the name of the confused employee credited with saying that, but he or she was sadly uninformed, and our company certainly does not endorse their statement. For as long as I can remember, we have offered sizes up to 3XL in our basic styles, and as far as adding larger sizes to the rest of our line is concerned, if there is the demand and manufacturing power to support it, we're always game. There are thousands of brands in the market who have no intention of supporting natural - and completely normal - full-figured women, and American Apparel is making a conscious effort to change that, both with our models and our line. If every brand that tried to do this was met with such negative press, we may have to wait another decade for the mainstream to embrace something so simple.
In the past, American Apparel has been targeted for various reasons, many times by journalists who weren't willing to go the extra mile to even visit the factory or meet the people in charge. Dov is a great executive director and American Industrialist, but there are hundreds of other decision-makers in our company, over half of whom are women. I suppose you have read a few too many negative pieces about us that have helped to form your opinion of who we are and what we stand for, and perhaps this has clouded your ability to give us a chance. I get it. I read some of it too. As a creative who isn't always the most tactful and tends to stay away from the limelight, maybe I haven't spoken up as much as I should have over the past 8 years that I've worked at American Apparel. Perhaps I could have shed some light on some issues that have been left cloudy over the years. However, sensational media will always need something to latch on to and success, spandex and individuality (and mutton chops circa 2004) are certainly easy targets. And who knows - maybe the PR ups and downs are all part of our DNA as a company. What I do know is that after all the years I have been working for this company I can wholeheartedly say that American Apparel is an amazing and inspiring place to work. I can't speak for everyone, but I can represent of a ton of people I know when I say that we really like Dov and we passionately believe in his vision for a beautiful factory with sustainable practices. We are the largest sewing factory in North America, after all...10,000 jobs is nothing to sniff at. A lot of people would be very sad if this company wasn't around.
That said, we realize that we are in no way perfect and that we're still learning. We want to do better or differently in many areas, and we are actively working on them every day. You're literally witnessing a transparent, sincere, innovative, creative company go through puberty in the spotlight of modern media. It's not easy!
Oh - and regarding winning the contest, 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.
Please feel free to contact me directly anytime. If you want to know the real scoop about our company before writing a story, I've got it (or if I don't, I can put you in touch with the person that does!).
Best of luck,
I don't know what's more disheartening about this letter, the fact that Iris defends the offensive and overused puns used in The Next Big Thing XL mode search, or that she implies that adding about twenty new pieces into the XL category somehow creates a plethora of jobs, one that should be noted: "actual jobs are created from new size additions. In this case, for the XL women who will model them, industrial workers that make them, retail employees that sell them and beyond. That's the amazing reality of American Apparel's business." As creative director, I expect more. She couldn't even acknowledge the important commentary that was being made through Upton's photographs entered, nor could she see that in no way would the diction and tone, apparently inspired by Beyonce, would ever be used if it wasn't an XL model search. Can you imagine an ad reading: do you lack hips, breasts, and have an appetite for nothing more than cigarettes and coffee? Do you like to be photographed looking vacant? Well, you're in luck! Get your tiny little twig body into our contest and prove that bony beanpoles are sexy too! Ladies, we have puny pant sizes just for you! And shirts that won't hide, but show off your emaciated and gaunt figure! No, you can't because it's extremely offensive and alludes to unhealthy lifestyle merely based on weight. Now, I believe there is such a thing as too thin or too heavy for health reasons, but that's not what is being discussed right now. This discussion is the amount of crap curvy, fat, plus-size women get for being an average sized woman, a little smaller, or a little larger then a size 12/14.
After Alonzo goes on and on, certainly doing a great job kissing her boss' ass though--It's safe to say, her job at American Apparel may last another "amazing and inspiring" 8 years--she finally ends the letter with what seems like an afterthought which should be the bulk of why she responded to Upton in the first place with, "Oh - and regarding winning the contest, 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."
In the (almost) end, I'm not surprised American Apparel didn't award Upton with the modeling contract. She had already made her stance clear when she wrote "I most certainly would not model for American Apparel, because (pretty obviously) I don't agree with their business practices. I also would not expect to be asked to do so, even if I receive a majority of the votes (something I never planned on)."
What do you think about American Apparel's letter to Upton? Do you agree or disagree with the importance of Nancy Upton's photographic commentary on women and weight? Comment below or email me firstname.lastname@example.org