Twitter flipped out a couple of weeks ago when Miss Indiana Mekayla Diehl strode down the Miss USA pageant runway, sashaying her "normal" body. I put normal in quotes partially because that's how the tweeters described her body, as if they themselves were unsure what a "normal" body even is. When we're bombarded by Victoria's Secret-style runway models, that image is skewed to the rare bodies with visible ribs matched with inflated breasts.
I also put normal in quotes because technically speaking Diehl is not "normal," as in she is not "average." The beauty contestant is a size 4 (the average American woman is a size 12), and her BMI comes in at 18 -- just under the healthy zone. Not to say Diehl isn't healthy; the 25-year old has a rocking body that I'm assuming she puts hours of daily sweaty-iron-pumping time into. I bet she can even do the real push-ups -- you know, the ones on your toes, not your knees.
Diehl's body is beautiful for sure, and it is the pinnacle of health, but it is not normal. Her physique is the result of daily workouts and probably a lot of kale, things normal women, like normal men, don't usually commit to when not competing in beauty pageants. But the American public is so starved for something other than size 0s in bikinis that we can't help but get pumped about an awesome young lady rocking some muscles.
There have been some exceptions. Recently, the site swimsuitsforall.com started selling some pretty killer plus-size bikinis. Australian model Robyn Lawley, who at 6-foot-2 and a size 12 technically fits into the plus-size category, posed for Vogue last year and has launched her own swim line.
But usually in our culture of extremes we don't hear from or see these women; swimsuit models jump from size zero to plus-size 16. Where's the segment of size 8-ish women who go to the gym three times a week, do one of those intense spinning class once a month and like to eat pizza with their boyfriends? These women look normal, and they look good in bikinis too.
Last month, Mindy Kaling was on the Jimmy Kimmel show talking about what it means, at a size 8, to not represent the "traditional" standard of American beauty. "I, like, run and work out. It takes a lot of effort to look like a normal/chubby woman," she said, to huge cheers from the audience.
I'm a pretty average, size-8 woman myself, and Mindy's words drove home this idea that normal without reaching "perfection" can be healthy, sexy and pretty fantastic. I realized we don't usually see normal women in the media; we don't hear about their exercise routines or what they had for dinner. We don't see them in their jobs and relationships, or just being successful in life.
I'm hoping for more examples of awesome, average women like Mindy Kaling and Robyn Lawley in the media. But while you're waiting, go for a run -- not to burn off the pizza from last night, but because it feels good. Throw out those ridiculous beauty magazines, because you already know that the Kardashian family is a hot mess. And for the love of God, wear whatever bikini you want. Every body is a bikini body.
Niki Fritz is a RedEye special contributor.