"She’s hot and challenges acceptable beauty standards,” says owner Beau Myers
Almost Famous - Manchester's original rock 'n' roll burger revivalists - have learnt a few hard lessons since bursting onto the scene in 2012 with their 'Slut Sauce' and 'Bitch Juice'. For one, many female punters did not appreciate phrases such as ‘my boobs are too small’ plastered over the ladies’ toilet walls - the kind of marketing which made national headlines and Guardian readers lose the plot.
Of course, people and businesses can change. The furore went off back in 2014 when dirty burger joints were still competing to be the most outrageous. The commotion over and thirst for such shock marketing ploys has since subsided. But now Almost Famous are hoping to stir up another conversation about our attitudes towards the female form and how we use it to sell.
Bosses have called in Akse - Manchester's famed Parisian-born street artist, celebrated for past works including the iconic David Bowie mural in Stevenson Square and various Breaking Bad characters dotted across the city - to paint a half-naked woman on the walls of their newly refurbished Northern Quarter branch.
But this time she hasn’t got her gob wrapped hungrily around a burger, nor is there sauce dripping suggestively down her chin. This subject certainly doesn't look like a person who thinks ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’. She is full figured, sultry and yes, she has rolls.
"She’s fit as and gives off a fuck yeah glow – she’s in a happy place"
Sure, she’s missing her knickers and her t-shirt looks to have shrunk during a spin cycle, but is Almost Famous attempting to make a pro-woman statement?
“She’s beautiful as f**k, the definition of sorry not sorry,” says Almost Famous co-owner Beau Myers, with what sounds like lyrics from a Justin Bieber track.
“She totally challenges acceptable beauty standards,” he adds, "and you can’t help but think 'damn she’s so hot'. She’s fit as and gives off a fuck yeah glow – she’s in a happy place.”
Sure, I suppose she does look ‘fuck yeah’ happy... well, as much as you can be after losing your underwear. And agreed, she is smoking ‘hot’, and could almost be American supermodel Ashley Graham, a prominent activist for curvier bodies in the media, whose voluptuous body has made the pages of Vogue.
Still, were the Almost Famous team worried about another potential public backlash?
“No issues here," says Myers, "just a beautiful piece of art on the wall in sweet ass converse and a 'made in America t-shirt.' So, who’s down for Nutella fries? Sorry not sorry...”
"Last time I painted a curvy woman it created a big stir"
I suppose it serves us right for attempting to go all feminist 101 with Almost Famous. Let's face it, female empowerment probably comes someway behind adding confectionary to carbohydrates on their agenda. This is a burger bar with a candy floss machine. And like most Almost Famous customers, I simply want to eat my burger in peace, with my stomach pushing against the strained button of my jeans, in my 'happy place' with a 'fuck yeah' glow without having to consider feminism or my body mass index. It’s not that serious, is it?
"The last time I painted a curvy woman it created a big stir," says artist Akse. "Some people complained about health implications so it was like marmite, people loved it or hated it."
It seems the bigger the woman, the bigger the statement. It's strange to think that an image of a woman of a fairy average size could be so divisive, I've seldom met a woman whose stomach doesn't wrinkle when sat down down. In which case, isn't Akse's new mural a bit of all of us.
Final piece completed at @almostfamous.uk NQ #akse #p19 #graffiti #art #streetart #manchester #mcr #northernquarter #nq #model #curvygirl #curvymodel #burger #restaurant #burgerplace
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It's interesting that the new artwork went up in the same week that Playboy’s founder, Hugh Hefner, passed away. Not that there’s any real correlation, but it was a week in which female sexuality – policing it, exploiting it and celebrating it – once again became the subject of scrutiny. The female body will always be a hot topic, whether size 4 or 14, wearing bunny ears or not.
Using sex to sell burgers is nothing new, Hooters have been at it for yonks. It's almost as American as the obesity epidemic it contributes to (and an article in itself). But for decades that sexy burger girl has looked nothing like the anonymous woman now painted on the Almost Famous wall. For a restaurant once criticised for being 'anti-female' and 'misogynistic', this new statement feels anything but.