'Mad Men' Star Christina Hendricks a Role Model for Women?

British official hails curvy "Mad Men" actress as ideal role model for women.

July 27, 2010— -- If Christina Hendricks was hoping all the attention over her ample curves would die down already, she was wrong.

A British official just reignited the flames by singling out Hendricks, the "Mad Men" star as, a role model for young girls and women.

Lynne Featherstone, the U.K.'s Equalities Minister, who has campaigned against the fashion industry's use of size-zero models and airbrushing in magazines and advertisements, told the Guardian newspaper: "Christina Hendricks is absolutely fabulous. We need more of those role models."

Featherstone said young girls and women are constantly subjected to false images of extremely thin models and celebrities.

"All women have felt that pressure of having to conform to an unrealistic stereotype, which plagues them their whole life," she said. "It is not just the immediate harm; it is something that lasts a lifetime. Young girls are under intense pressure the whole time."

Ironically, Hendricks has been under a different kind of pressure. The actress, who plays outgoing office manager Joan Holloway on the AMC hit series, has become a poster girl for a new kind of beauty despite her desire to be known more for her work than her figure.

"It kind of hurt my feelings at first," she told New York Magazine earlier this year. "Anytime someone talks about your figure constantly, you get nervous, you get really self-conscious. I was working my butt off on the show, and then all anyone was talking about was my body!"

Like it or not, Hendricks has touched on a collective desire for a healthy conception of beauty.

"I think Christina is a breath of fresh air on "Mad Men," Mary Ann Stinson-Ottaviano, a resident of Raleigh, N.C., and a fan of the show, told ABCNews.com. "I do believe that she is a great role model for women."

Emme, the pioneering plus-size supermodel and television personality, said it's not so much who Hendricks is as what she represents that makes her a role model.

"I don't know Christina personally and do not suggest she is a role model by way of her lifestyle. However, it is good to see her shape and body reflected out in mass culture," Emme told ABCNews.com. "Diversity is where it's at and by having Christina's shape in a hit series gives many a sigh of acceptance, if not relief, of the unrelenting pressure to be unbelievably, if not unrealistically, thin."

Christina Hendricks: Role Model or Affront?

Like Featherstone, Emme has been working to incorporate more diverse images of women in the entertainment industry through her Body Image Council, which she co-founded with NEDA, the National Eating Disorders Association.

"Lynne Featherstone is a true partner with the Body Image Council and a vocal advocate in monitoring these types of issues, including out-of-touch portrayals of women plaguing the U.K., and we so appreciate her shedding light on Christina Hendricks as a positive female body image in American TV," Emme said. "Frankly, I applaud the U.K. Parliament for having an Equalities Minister. We in the U.S. could take a plume from their hat!"

For now, Hendricks will be a role model to some and an affront to others.

In January, The New York Times infamously quoted a stylist who said, "you don't put a big girl in a big dress" in reference to Hendricks' ensemble at the 2010 Golden Globes. The critique initially ran alongside a disorted image of the actress that made her look larger.

Hendricks' husband, actor Geoffrey Arend, stood up for her, as did a number of bloggers.

"I was just upset about the whole Golden Globes dress thing. I thought she looked so gorgeous," he told People magazine. "And that New York Times blogger saying that … It's so ridiculous. ... What was nice was seeing the entire Internet come after that blogger. That was really cool. It was the first time I saw just a solid block of 'You're crazy! What's wrong with you? You should be ashamed of yourself!'"

Alexandra Noailles, who works in finance in New York City, agreed with Arend. "She's so amazingly sexy," Noailles told ABCNews.com. "Full-figured is sexy again. And she knows how to carry her curves. She has a certain style, a certain flair."

That's one thing Noailles believes Hendricks can impart to other women.

"If a lot of women understood their sense of style, then they could be sexy just like her," she said. "It's all about knowing what looks good on you."