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Kate Ellis sends mixed messages with simmering Grazia photo shoot

By Lydia Turner - posted Thursday, 15 April 2010

Yet again we’ve seen another body image blunder pushed into the spotlight with Minister for Youth Kate Ellis donning tight-fitting leather clothes and dominatrix-style eight-inch heels in a bid to improve the esteem of Australian women.

According to the Courier Mail in the shoot, done on an athletics track in her electorate of Adelaide, the 32-year-old minister,“…sports a pair of killer $1,790 Gucci heels and a curve-hugging $695 leather Karen Millen dress and looks more like a runway model than a Member of Parliament.”

“I really enjoyed it!” she said of the experience. “I didn’t think it would be so much fun – I didn’t want it to stop.”


Celebrity magazine, Grazia, had approached Ellis to model for its annual "Body Image Special". They thought she would say no. She gave an “enthusiastic yes.”

Grazia tells us Ellis was voted the sexiest MP by her male colleagues and recently “chuckled” when invited to pose for lads mag Zoo.

Ellis said her reason for modelling for Grazia was to “spark a debate on body image” (she said similar when posing in a bikini for The Daily Telegraph not too long ago). She wanted to draw attention to the results of the body image survey in Grazia. But something just doesn’t sit right.

When Ellis was asked whether or not her images were airbrushed, she dodged the question, replying that she had made her views about airbrushing “clear” to the magazine editors. Ellis avoided disclosing whether or not the images were airbrushed, yet disclosure of airbrushed images was one of the key recommendations put forward by the National Advisory Board on Body Image – a board Ellis initiated.

Flipping through the magazine, it’s hard to understand how Grazia’s editors could possibly think they were doing women any body image favours – and harder to understand why Ellis would want to
support a magazine like this.

The cover itself shouts “Jen: You voted her BEST BODY. Posh: You voted her TOO THIN. Beyonce: You voted her KEEPING CURVY COOL.” On page 16, four female celebrities are lined up side-by-side, each with numbers scrawled across their image – indicating the percentage of readers who approve of their bodies. Beyonce scores a lousy 13%.


Yet when discussing the results of the body image survey, the headline of the article screams “Why are we our own worst enemies? 71% of [women] judge other women based on their bodies” as though it was oblivious to fact that it actively promotes women monitoring and surveying other women’s bodies.

In her opening editorial, Editor-in-Chief Alison Veness-McGourty announces that “curves are back” and that women should rush out to buy pencil skirts so they won’t have to be “endlessly watching [their] weight.” Yet the top four out of five most popular articles listed on Grazia’s website focus on dieting. fad dieting. Dieting to make you “thin by Friday.”

Throughout the ‘Body Image Special’, article after article features celebrities talking about why they loathe their bodies. Sienna Miller confesses that she is “all in favour of airbrushing” and that in ten years time she will “probably be stuffed full of botox and fillers … with fake lips!” How is this supposed to be empowering?

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This article first appeared on Melinda Tankard's Reist, April 12, 2010.

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About the Author

Lydia Jade Turner is the Managing Director of BodyMatters Australasia ( and co-founder of Endangered Bodies Australia, a non-profit grassroots activist movement dedicated to challenging visual culture and the harmful multi-billion dollar diet industry. As a public health advocate and psychotherapist specialising in eating disorders prevention, she has featured in a range of media including The Sun Herald, The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, National Nine News, The Morning Show, 2UE and ABC Radio.

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