What makes the ‘perfect figure’?

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
March 09, 2011, 8:34 PM GMT+0

Kelly Brook has the perfect figure, says almost a quarter of the British public, but our YouGov/Slimming World survey also shows that perception of the so-called ‘perfect’ figure varies significantly depending on one’s own weight.

  • 24% of people thought Kelly Brook had the ideal body shape
  • 17% felt Marilyn Monroe’s figure was a better match
  • Third place went jointly to a number of famous faces, with Beyoncé, Sophia Loren, Angelina Jolie, Raquel Welch and Kylie Minogue all receiving 14%
  • 10% thought that none of the celebrities listed had the perfect physique while a significant 21% of those asked said they didn’t know

Changing perceptions

But support for Kelly’s as the ‘perfect’ figure decreased considerably among members of the public classed as ‘underweight’, and was at its strongest with those of a ‘healthy weight’. We asked the 2,340 British adults polled to give their height and weight anonymously and then calculated their Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a measure of a person’s weight in relation to their height.

  • 27% of people with a healthy weight agreed that Kelly Brook had the best figure, as did 23% of the heaviest panellists, in contrast to only 5% of those classed ‘underweight’ who were of the same opinion
  • 23% of those with an underweight BMI index thought Scarlett Johansson had the most desirable body shape compared to 8% of all the people classed as obese

‘Still unobtainable’

What is the ideal female body shape? This question has come to the forefront recently due to the underweight appearance of the some of the models used in both London and Paris Fashion Week, and continuing backlash against the idea that being beautiful means being thin. Last year Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone criticised the emphasis on skinny models and held up curvy Mad Men TV star, Christina Hendricks (pictured), who is rumoured to be a size 14 and have 38-32-38 breast-waist-hip proportions, as a role model instead.

This more curvy ideal was reflected in our poll, with many of the women seen as having a perfect figure being known for their classic ‘hourglass’ shape, such as Marilyn Monroe. However, the Equalities Minister’s comments did not receive a wholly positive response, with some critics saying that Christina Hendricks body shape is still unobtainable for many women. Deanne Jade, a psychologist at the National Centre for Eating Disorders, explained to the BBC, ‘Usually in the real world, the bigger breast goes along with a bigger tummy or wider waist… Therefore to get a figure like that, you would have to work hard or be naturally well-endowed’.

And with Kelly Brook herself saying that she fits a size ten, compared to the UK average of size 14-16, it seems that even Kelly’s 'curvy' hourglass ideal is far from the reality in Britain today.

See these survey details and full results here