When you aren’t the “typical” woman represented on the fashion runways, editorials, or advertisements, even contemplating a modeling career can seem like pie in the sky. But hang on a moment and don’t shelve the dream just yet. The industry is beginning to show signs of inclusivity, of seeking out models with individual looks, sizes, and personality, in all shades of color, orientation, age, and style. While the fashion and beauty world is being self-congratulatory for any steps they take in this new direction, reality is that the process is slow and no one wants to be the first to boldly break out and change the uniformity of the industry and risk their business or career by taking a stance that goes against the flow.
When it comes to model size, the conversation takes on a whole different tone, one that is defensive and repetitive, if you are to listen to the top industry pros. Models who are a size US 6, not to mention anything more voluptuous, find themselves shuttled off to secondary markets when show season rolls around, and will often try to maintain their careers by either starving themselves down a size or two, exercising to the extreme, or branding themselves as a bikini model without any hope of having cross-market appeal with the fashion. Criticizing models features and bodies while the models are clearly within earshot and oftentimes right to their face as though they were a commodity and void of any personal feelings, is par for the course in the modeling world and all models no matter their size or look must develop a tough skin and learn to detach themselves from personal criticism in order to mentally survive the business. It takes even more strength of character to be criticized and rejected outright by the entire industry for one’s size despite how beautiful and photogenic a model may be.
As slow as it may seem, progress is being made to change the industry to be more reflective of the consumer and the women with the buying power of the largest segment of the population, who are over a US size 8. Gradually we are beginning to see a mix of models of all sizes on runways and in advertising without dividing them into categories such as straight and plus size. Designer Christian Siriano routinely uses models of all sizes in his runway shows and has vocalized how he wants his show casting to reflect the real women who are his customers, including celebrities.
The US edition of Vogue magazine took a bold stance placing seven models on their March 2017 cover and in it’s feature editorial spread, casting one model, Ashley Graham, who has been at the forefront of the real size model trend for the past several years. Graham also appears solo on the cover of British Vogue, and in 2016 won the cover of the famed Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. The 2017 cover star is Kate Upton, clearly more voluptuous and curvy than a size two or four, and every inch a beautiful woman with crossover appeal between the fashion world and the commercial world of swimwear modeling.
Curvy models are becoming more mainstream and less a talking point for their size. Some agencies are no longer dividing their models into categories based on size, rather having them in their regular division with their sizes stated just as clearly as any other model, making it the client’s prerogative to choose the model that suits their brand, or project. Brands are beginning to acknowledge the buying power and influence on trend and sales that real size models bring to the table, and modeling agencies are signing more such models without requiring them to lose weight. Let’s face it – a beautiful woman is a beautiful woman. A woman who is healthy and fit and strong, and one who embraces her womanhood is beautiful. A woman who is powerful and happy and celebrates her femininity is beautiful.
Women should be deciding what is beautiful, what is sexy, and how they want to be portrayed rather than being dictated to by the fashion and advertising industries. Women know that one size does not fit all and all sizes and shapes matter, and no one size or type has a monopoly on beauty. Women should be more actively using their buying power to force the change in perceptions of beauty if not for ourselves at this precise moment in time, but for our daughters. Isn’t it refreshing to get excited about fashion and beauty when we relate to it?? Advertisers, editors and designers are you listening? Ignore us at your peril - the tide is shifting and you stand to become irrelevant if you don’t represent your customers.
For those real size women considering pursuing a modeling career, be informed and be prepared. Make sure you are healthy and fit, and take care of yourself, just as any size model must do to have the stamina for such a career. For the US market, fashion models need to consider basing themselves in NYC, while commercial models can get a good start in Miami, LA, Dallas and Chicago. Look for agencies that have real size models either in their main divisions or in their commercial divisions. There are specialized agencies as well that only represent real-size women, sometimes referred to as plus size women, although that name seems to be rightfully falling out of favor. Agencies can be researched on their websites and social media pages. Follow real-size models on Instagram and model scouts who are verified as being affiliated with the top NYC agencies. See what they are posting, and see what the industry is searching for and model your own social media accordingly. Scouts do reach out to potential models on social media but just make sure you are having a dialog with a real scout from a reputable agency.
If you truly have a great look and you have potential, do your homework and be prepared, meaning physically and mentally, and just like any other model-hopeful, treat it as the career option that it is. It is business and it is the business of beautiful women, no matter their size. Remember that. Be a pioneer and help change the industry one curve at a time.
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