The Fashion Industry Through The Lens Of Plus-Size Models

April 27, 2018

 

Look down any fashion runway, flip through the pages of your favorite magazine or turn on any commercial on your television screens and we'll notice one common thread when it comes to the women portrayed.

 

These women are often slim, skinny and rarely represent the image of the everyday woman in our society. Every now and then, you'll see the occasional curvy model, conveniently included for "diversity purposes" but on average, the full-figured models rarely get the same mainstream publicity as their slimmer counterparts.

 

Now, it's no secret that society has boldly shown bias when it comes to the models they choose to promote, and it's also no secret that this ridiculous unbalanced representation has gone on for far too long. For decades, the mainstream media has placed slim models at the forefront of numerous brands and plus size models were shunned and isolated in that same process.

 

The lack of representation of curvy women in an industry centered around beauty promotes a message that they aren't viewed as beautiful, and this idea has lasting effects on their self-esteem. Real women come in all shades and all sizes and the media's lack of inclusion sends the wrong message to the public.

 

We spoke to four plus size models who are making names for themselves in the industry and diversifying our representations of beauty in media in the process. Here are their stories:

 

Kamie Crawford
 Who's That Girl:

@TheRealKamie

 

Multi-Media Journalist & TV Host, Model, Entrepreneur & Former Miss Teen USA

 

Where You've Seen Her:

Target, Land's End, NYDJ

 

Her Thoughts On The Industry:

What I've experienced as a curvy, yet "in-between" girl in the industry, is that I get 1 of 3 responses when I share the fact that I am a curve model. Sometimes it's super supportive and appreciative of being a part of the change that this industry desperately needs. Other times, it's a "wtf?" kind of response. "YOU are considered PLUS-SIZED? If you're plus-sized, then what does that make me?" That response makes me sad more than anything, and it's the reason why I denounce the term, "plus-sized" and prefer to use the term, "curve" model instead. I don't want any woman to compare her size or worth to me or this industry. I also get the reaction that's like, "But you're not fat..." (Laughs) Well, thanks? Being bigger than a size 2/4 (industry sample size) does not equate to being fat or unwanted. If anything, I have just as many clients as those girls. I'm here for my check. Not for the size number in my jeans.

 

"Being bigger than a size 2/4 does not equate to being fat or unwanted. I'm here for my check. Not for the size number in my jeans."

 

I've been everything from a size 0 to a size 10, and have been healthy and happy at every size. I've learned to only judge my body against itself. We have enough pressures to look like everyone else, why not just focus on looking like the best versions of ourselves? It's more transformative for me as an adult woman to see women of all sizes in the media - and not just models either. I am inspired by real people, real everyday women just as much as the models. Of course there are some days when I'd love to have Zendaya's body so I can wear all the stunning, slinky dresses in the world - but that's just not my lifestyle! (Laughs) I rather see her kill it in those looks and I'll kill it in my own!

 

"I've learned to only judge my body against itself."

 

It's a sad and longstanding reality for women and men to not see themselves properly represented in fashion. I think it's only a matter of time before the curve industry turns fashion on its head. We are demanding representation and we won't take "no" for an answer. I think the media is more concerned with dollars than anything else. It's a business, and it is clear that they don't think that "bigger" can sell. The same way they don't think that people of color can sell. I think that often, the media and brands use people of other sizes and races as a marketing scheme to make dollars without actually giving a sh*t about representation in the first place. As both a consumer and someone on the industry side, it is easy for me to tell when certain moves are made out of genuine care and concern for our underrepresented communities.

 

"I think that often, the media and brands use people of other sizes and races as a marketing scheme to make dollars without actually giving a sh*t about representation in the first place."
 

There's a certain pride and power that comes with being a woman, just in general. To me, size is really just a number. I'm proud to have the body I have - every curve, every dimple, every stretch mark - but it doesn't define who I am. I'm happy to speak up for women regardless of their bra size or their waist-to-hip ratio. I'm just glad I get to represent a group of women that are often overlooked in fashion and beauty.

 

It's an honor to show all women that their happiness and self worth come from within so they can kick those scales to the curb and start focusing on their health and personal views of their bodies - rather than outside ones.

 

Diana Sirokai
Who's That Girl:

@DianaSirokai

 

Plus Size Model/Body Positive Activist

 

Where You've Seen Her:

Curvy Kate, Nunude, PrettyLittleThing, Fashion Nova, SimplyBe

 

Her Thoughts On The Industry:

[It's not just now], I was also criticised when I was a lot thinner than I am right now. At school, they used to call me the fat b**ch, which I used to find very offensive as they had no reason to bully me. It was at the beginning of my modeling career and I guess they didn't like the fact that I was modelling. They used to show me pictures of myself and tell me I should just give up, I'm too fat, and I'll never be a model. The bullying has never stopped, but my insecurities are gone, and now whenever I see or hear hateful comments about me, I just don't pay attention. I don't allow myself to get bullied again. I struggled enough and there's no way I am going back to that miserable state of mind again. People always ask me how I overcame the bullying and I honestly just gave up. I gave up trying to fit in and be perfect. I gave up on listening to what people had to say and now I just do me, and enjoy every bit of it.

 

"I gave up on listening to what people had to say and now I just do me, and enjoy every bit of it."

 

It really inspired me to show them something different. I am now very proud of the Curvy, Plus community that we have built. When I started modeling, 5 years ago, it was not trending at all. The whole industry has changed a lot in a positive way. I am very proud of that. In my opinion, there isn't such thing as an average woman. I think we all look super different. Even all the plus models out there look so different. Women are all sizes and shapes and have different bodies. The fact that the fashion industry thinks that there's only one body type they can use to model is ridiculous. Luckily, it's changing now at least. Hopefully in a few years, we won't even have these issues we have today.

 

"In my opinion, there isn't such thing as an average woman. I think we all look super different."

 

Being a beautiful curvy women means I am a beautiful woman. I am curvy and I am proud of it. If I was thin, I would be proud to be a beautiful thin woman. Self-love is all about finding inner peace within yourself. Then that way, nothing else will matter.

 

Vivian Eyo-Ephraim
 Who's That Girl:

@Vivss_x

 

Model/Student

 

Where You've Seen Her:

ASOS

 

Her Story:

I think we can sometimes be our biggest critic. When we don't see ourselves represented in the media, we think we are not what society thinks is beautiful and that's just not the case. I am on the same journey as everyone else trying to find my inner confidence and learning to love my body and all the amazing things it can do. It is hard when you receive criticism. I have seen negative comments and responses to some of my ASOS pictures online and it is hard to take because it is so easy to focus on the negative, but the support I have also received has completely outweighed that and it's been amazing! I want to make others feel as amazing as I do.

 

"I am on the same journey as everyone else trying to find my inner confidence and learning to love my body and all the amazing things it can do."

 

[Not seeing models that look like you] affects your confidence and makes you wonder where you fit in this industry. That's why working with my agency to help BRIDGE the gap is so important to me. We need to see more diversity and women and men of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities represented because we are a diverse world. Let's celebrate that.

The media is quick to jump to one extreme or another; if someone is slim, they are too skinny and you're promoting eating disorders, if someone is what the industry calls 'plus size,' you are apparently promoting obesity. We need to get away from the vision that health is a size, its not, healthy people come in all shapes and sizes and the media needs to recognize that.

 

"We need to get away from the vision that health is a size. It's not."

 

The average woman in the UK is curvy size 16+, so being confident and happy in my curves means I can inspire others to feel the same way.

 

Iman McDonnaugh
 Who's That Girl:

@IamImanMB

 

Model

 

Where You've Seen Her:

Lane Bryant, Forever 21, Rebel Wilson x Angels

 

Her Story:

I've actually been fortunate enough to have mostly good experiences [in the industry]. And being in the side of fashion that is not ashamed of women over a size 4, I've never been criticized for being too big.

 

I've actually seen the other side of things where they are more worried about you losing too much weight. I came into the industry right when "plus size" was beginning to garner an audience and [had] become a "thing." So while it was a positive experience, it was also a time with a lot of trial and error...and it still is. I'm happy to be seeing more women over a size 4 in films and on red carpets, etc. Before that was happening, I always thought it was so boring to see all these women getting attention that look exactly the same. Especially as a black woman, it's exhausting and unrelatable always seeing rail thin, dyed blonde, white women on the forefront of the industry being praised for their "beauty" when you believe there's so much other beauty out there.

 

I think that a lot of that is changing. I feel like more and more brands are trying to incorporate larger size women into their brand, which is a good thing. But there are still plenty with the old school mind set and are too afraid to touch us. I think that it's insulting and damaging to women, young and old alike, to not be met with the beautiful reality of who they are and instead be sold a distorted image of something unattainable to be like. So I do hope the changes continue and that we as models can ever increase the discussion of it's importance so that maybe one day our daughters won't have to endure the same brainwashing.

 

"It's damaging to women to not be met with the beautiful reality of who they are and instead be sold a distorted image of something unattainable to be like."

 

I think the media doesn't help when, for example, a brand finally uses a larger woman in their ad campaign and all they can talk about is "look at them finally using a big girl! Look how diverse we are! Look how big this girl is!" If you want to be inclusive then just do it without trying to point out how different the larger girl is in comparison to the smaller girl. That's the real way I feel like it will ever become normalized. Otherwise, it's not helping normalize seeing women beyond a size 4 in ad campaigns. To me, it feels more like they're just screaming, "Look how different she is!" thereby still separating us from them, instead of all of us women being shown together as a united front. When we're all regularly being used in ad campaigns without it being a surprising newsflash is when I think the impact and inclusivity will really be its biggest. Also, when it's more than just one size 16 girl in an ad among a sea of size 2's. Let's see a size 8, 10, and 12 with a size 2 and 4 and a size 18 and over. It's the same with black women, use more than just one black woman in a sea of blonde white women and maybe I'll believe your diversity pitch.

 

"When we're all regularly being used in ad campaigns without it being a surprising newsflash is when I think the impact and inclusivity will be its biggest."

 

To me, being "a beautiful curvy woman" is just about the joy of being myself. Being in the plus side of the industry has allowed me to live out my dream job without having to force myself to be something I never was and never really believed in, and for that, I'm thankful.

 

I also realized early on the impact this has on other women who watch me and I think it's a beautiful privilege to be able to reach and impact other women so positively.

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