Ashley Graham makes me cheer Tess Holliday is leading girls to an early grave

SARAH VINE: One of these two models makes me cheer. The other is leading girls to an early grave

This week the catwalks of Milan witnessed a real treat: supermodel Ashley Graham on the Dolce e Gabbana runway — a voluptuous vision of womanhood in leopard- print chiffon.

In fashion terms, Graham, 30, is a plus-sized model. In reality she’s representative of ordinary women in a way that most models simply aren’t. 

Not thin, but nor is she exactly fat. She’s a normal size, perhaps with a little more wobble than average, but beautiful with it.

For women like me — and countless others who will never fit the skinny stereotype — she is an inspiration.

Ashley Graham walks the runway at the Dolce & Gabbana show during Milan Fashion Week

Tess Holliday, by contrast — the 33-year-old, 5ft 5in, 20 st American model who graces this month’s cover of Cosmopolitan — is an altogether different prospect. 

She is a woman whose weight, whichever way you choose to qualify it, is dangerously abnormal.

Yet she is lionised by the voices of political correctness and held up as a paragon of ‘plus-sized beauty’. She is seen as ‘celebrating’ body diversity —when in reality what she represents is just as extreme and just as unhealthy as all those size-zero waifs. 

The sad truth is the only thing Holliday celebrates is the risk of Type 2 diabetes, a hip replacement at 40 and a higher risk of life-threatening diseases such as cancer.

This week Cancer Research UK released figures showing obesity will overtake smoking as the leading preventable cause of cancer in women within 25 years.

Holliday promotes and justifies a body type just as extreme as the thinnest of rail-thin waifs — and just as unhealthy. Yet anyone who dares question her extreme size is condemned as a bigot and a fat-shamer.

Holliday’s body is hers, she and her supporters argue, and she can do what she likes with it. If that means stuffing her face to morbid obesity, it’s nobody’s business but her own. Except that’s not true.

It is everyone’s business.

When you are an influencer, when you’re on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in a bathing suit, when you post pictures of yourself in your underwear to 1.7 million Instagram followers, it matters.

When you encourage young women to celebrate a body shape that will most likely lead them to an early grave, it matters a lot. Holliday claims the message she sends is one of positivity. But it’s really not.

Tess Holliday caused outrage when she was chosen as the front cover model of the October edition of Cosmopolitan

Tess Holliday caused outrage when she was chosen as the front cover model of the October edition of Cosmopolitan

If the notion that being severely overweight is perfectly fine, the obesity crisis threatening the health of the nation will become almost impossible to tackle.

Holliday isn’t removing the stigma around obesity, she’s part of a new cult of glamorising it — the fat boasters — and it’s not healthy.

Not for her, or the impressionable young minds who look at her and see an excuse to justify their unhealthy relationship with food. Yes, we come in all different sizes.

Yes, it’s encouraging to see more realistic body shapes in fashion. But taking it to this extreme is not about empowerment. It’s about denial.

As someone whose weight crept up gradually over the years and who, at 50, found themselves suffering a raft of fat-induced medical conditions, I understand that denial. I also know how defiance can feel like the best response to anyone trying to point out the reality.

But the truth is, being seriously overweight is just as harmful as anorexia — and no one in their right mind would condone that.

Tess Holliday posted this picture on Instagram to promote 'body confidence' amongst young women

Tess Holliday posted this picture on Instagram to promote ‘body confidence’ amongst young women