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Accepted Paper:

Sexy, desirable, marketable: How a little person becomes a human brand in fashion  


Valeria de Pinho
Roberta Campos (COPPEAD Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)
Alice Duarte (University of Oporto)

Paper short abstract:

Social media made it believable that anyone could suceed doing whatever wanted. However, being a fashion model requires skillful aspirational body. Our research draws on the strategies of a little person who uses Instagram for marketization as model.

Paper long abstract:

Social media made it possible for anyone to be celebritized without the need for large financial resources or the support of an institutional structure (Turner, 2010; McQuarrie, Miller and Phillips, 2012). However, not all industries are open to being freely represented. The institutionalized fashion activity is based on a traditional sense of skillful body: models have bodies and heights that are considered aspirational and parade down the catwalk displaying perfection, suggesting a hegemonic aesthetic to succeed as a human brand in the fashion world.

The stream of literature that conjugates human brand and body acceptance have been focusing on overweight people to understand their strategies for inclusion in the fashion world (Scaraboto and Fischer, 2013; Peters, 2014; Gurrieri and Cherrier, 2013). Interestingly, however, extant literature has approached overweight bodies as representatives of all types of excluded bodies and consider their ways of fighting for inclusion to be the same of all other outsiders (Becker, 2008) seeking to build their brands in the fashion world.

Our research brings a new perspective to the human brand literature through a case study of a body-positive model with dwarfism who uses Instagram as a platform for visibility and marketization. Empirical findings suggest the use of discursive engineering strategies associated with visual representations and the enacting of layers of influence that were not evidenced by the plus-size literature. Thus, our study seeks to offer insights on how diverse bodily representations also lead to distinct ways to market and publicize a human brand on social media.

Panel P150
Fashion: uses and practises of clothing in a moving world