Times Square is one of the world’s most iconic advertising platforms, with big name brands touting their wares in giant bright lights.
But recently it has become the centre of a body-shaming scandal after it was made home to a billboard plugging a weight loss and mindfulness programme.
The sign, displayed on the southeast corner of New York’s West 48th Street and Seventh Avenue, shows what is supposed to be a plus-sized woman, sporting workout gear, with her head in her hands.
Above the image are large, capitalised letters asking: “Feeling FAT AND LAZY?”
Just below is the beaming photo of “wellness motivator” Deborah Capaccio, dressed in the same gear but clutching a yoga mat and showing off her svelte physique. At the bottom is her social media handle and website address: GetYourSparkleBackGirl.com.
But far from feeling encouraged to “get their sparkle back”, scores of viewers have hit out at the 50ft advert, branding it “blatantly fat phobic”, and “cruel.”
Jameela Jamil is among the poster’s fierce critics, dedicating a lengthy Instagram post to what she perceives as its contribution to the “egregious mainstream shaming and abuse of fat people.”
The British model and actress, 35, wrote: “This is a blatantly fat phobic and also quite ableist ad. It bothers me to no end that we are still yet to recognize cruelty and offense to fat people as hate speech. It is still open season on fat bodies.
“With most of America being fat, this amazes me, how many people’s mental health we are this reckless with, under the pretense of caring about their physical health.”
She continued: “Fat people are not automatically lazy and unhealthy. Thin people are not automatically active and healthy. I was anorexic for 20 years because of adverts like these, and messaging like this, and I didn’t eat a meal for the majority of those two decades. Do you think I had the energy to do anything?”
Bringing her impassioned tirade to a close, she went on: “You do not know someone’s health or personality from their size. To categorize, stereotype and discriminate against people because of their appearance, is a form of bigotry… and we cannot just always leave it to fat people to advocate for themselves.
“Fatphobia is steeped in racism, ableism and classism,” she continued. “Show up against it.”
Meanwhile, Capaccio has defended her campaign, insisting her unapologetic use of “fat” and “lazy” calls out “the silent epidemic that’s going on in women’s minds every day.”
On her website, she condemns yo-yo dieting as pushing people to “self-blame” and “secretly call ourselves “fat, loser, failure’,” and encourages her followers to address their “negative self-talk” rather than just lose weight.
Speaking to The New York Post, she insisted that her clients have benefited from her $1,196 (£868) ‘Brain First, Body Second’ programme, claiming it has helped free them from self-criticism and the allure of fad diets.
She told the news site that she doesn’t regret using “fat” and “lazy” on her Times Square billboard – which cost her $13,000 (£9,443) to place.
She said: “The words might be disruptive — but they’re designed to make you think.”
Responding to the widespread condemnation of the ad, she admitted: “I expected some backlash and was ready for it, especially the online abuse.
“But I’m more disturbed by today’s culture where anything that causes discomfort or dissonance is considered taboo.”