Back when Pamela Anderson’s “Barb Wire” hit theaters in 1996, expectations soared. As Anderson swapped out the sexy red swimsuit that made her a television star on “Baywatch” for even sexier black leather, it seemed like the adaptation of the popular Dark Horse comic book was destined for box office gold. But, as William Goldman said, “Nobody knows anything,” and the film was widely viewed as a flop as it failed to break even at the box office.
That being said, teenagers couldn’t possibly care less about how much money a studio makes on a movie. A young Tess Holliday didn’t see a box office bomb when she watched the film, she saw a stunning bombshell in Anderson. She saw a bold woman kicking ass, riding a chopper and looking damn fine while doing so. It was an inspiration.
So when Inked gave Holliday creative control over a photoshoot, recreating the image of Anderson on a motorcycle naturally came to mind. “She was so iconic in that time, and I felt really ready to tackle something like this,” Holliday says. “I practiced Pamela Anderson’s face for a week leading up to the shoot. I just went around doing her faces. I was like, ‘I look like Pamela Anderson on her way to the buffet right now. I look hot as hell on the way to grub.’”
The look of Barb Wire—the leather, the bike, the iconic tattoo wrapping around Anderson’s arm—was firmly rooted in the alternative/punk culture of the time, a world that Holliday had always gravitated towards. She also vividly remembers how in those days the male gaze was firmly fixed upon women with big hair, big boobs, a tan and not too many curves.
“I loved her in that era for obvious reasons,” Holliday explains. “This shoot was my way of reclaiming it a bit. How dope would it have been if we saw someone my size wearing similar shit and being sexy [back then]? We were only seeing one body type [portrayed as sexy]. Now, that’s expanding and changing. I was inspired by her and I wanted to do her justice, but I also wanted to show that I can be just as hot at my size.”
Over a little more than a decade of modeling, Holliday has consistently broken barriers and set new standards within the image-conscious industry. The issue of representation—both for plus-size models and heavily tattooed women—is a very real concern that is always on her mind. It’s why she founded the “Eff Your Beauty Standards” Instagram account as a way to showcase how beautiful people can come in all shapes, sizes and colors no matter what the mainstream standards may be.
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