Elle Magazine Melissa McCarthy Women in Hollywood Issue

Is Elle Magazine’s Cover Treatment of Melissa McCarthy a Plus-Size Fail?

Elle Magazine Women in Hollywood Covers Melissa McCarthy Reese Witherspoon Naomie Harris Penelope Cruz Marion Cotillard Shailene Woodley

Elle’s Women in Hollywood cover girls, clockwise from left: Naomie Harris, Melissa McCarthy, Marion Cotillard, Reese Witherspoon, Penelope Cruz, and Shailene Woodley.

Elle magazine’s “Women in Hollywood” issue is being criticized for covering up plus-size cover girl Melissa McCarthy. Even if you like her look, do you think the magazine is sending mixed messages about beauty and size?

Elle magazine’s annual “Women in Hollywood” issue is back, and that sound you hear is what has become the all-too-familiar outrage over an all-too-familiar debate. Is the fashion industry too size-obsessed?

Even as fashion magazines proclaim on their covers and in their pages every month that confidence is what makes a woman beautiful, their actions tell a different story. Or so the latest critics of Elle have said.

Melissa McCarthy, the so-called “token plus-size cover girl” of Elle’s “Women in Hollywood” cover collection, stands out from the rest—not because of her size, mind you, but because of how she was portrayed.

Sure, the funny girl looked the glamorous part with flawless makeup and a fancy ‘do. The problem is that the fashion magazine hid McCarthy under what is, yes, an admittedly great winter coat, while fellow honorees Reese Witherspoon, Marion Cotillard, Naomie Harris, and Shailene Woodley were featured on their respective covers in curve-hugging, body-baring looks. Penelope Cruz went au naturel for a close-up.

If the subtle message was that thin is still in and still the standard of beauty, then the outcry was that this was a plus-size fail. Why feature a plus-size star if you’re not going to feature her?

The criticism was such that Elle defended its cover choices and composition in a statement: “On all of our shoots, our stylists work with the stars to choose pieces they feel good in, and this is no different: Melissa loved this look, and is gorgeous on our cover. We are thrilled to honor her as one of our Women in Hollywood this year.”

McCarthy isn’t the first plus-size star to get the cover-up on the cover of Elle. Last year, Octavia Spencer—and 2012 “Women in Hollywood” honoree—got the crop that omitted most of her body on an otherwise beautiful cover. Then there was the Gabby Sidibe cover of 2010 that got similar treatment.

The controversy here is not whether McCarthy looks beautiful—she does—but whether Elle is sending an equally beautiful message on all of its covers.