Top: Denise Bidot, Amber Tolliver, Bree Warren, Georgina Burke, Marquita Pring, and Felicity Hayward.
Bottom: Georgia Pratt, Jennie Runk, Justine Legault, Julie Henderson, Gia Genevieve, and Emme.
Are we talking about plus-size fashion in a productive way or are we stuck in a rut?
Before you think, “But plus-size fashion and its models have been getting lots of press lately,” consider this: Many of the industry’s top models insist that we have a long way to go to change the perception of what plus-size fashion is really about. Over and over, these models get asked the same tired questions. (Ahem: What do you think of the term plus-size?)
If we want to see the conversation surrounding plus-size fashion evolve and grow beyond a single facet, we have to stop asking its models the narrow questions. Model Felicity Hayward points out, “The more people keep asking those questions, the less we’re going to be able to be equal.”
So, we asked 12 top models about what they’re tired of being asked in interviews and how we can break out of the stunted cycle we’re in with regard to plus-size modeling and fashion. Take a look:
What are the challenges of perception that you face?
Denise Bidot: [I get asked if] I care if people call me plus-size…I don’t have any problem with you calling me plus-size, curvy, voluptuous, big—I don’t really give a damn. We represent plus-size women, whether or not some of the models are smaller or larger.
Amber Tolliver: The question of should a plus-size or curvy woman be wearing certain things is infuriating. When it comes to straight-size fashion, any and all styles are fair game. Clothing options shouldn’t be different for curvy women. They should be given options and not told they can’t wear something before it’s even designed.
Bree Warren: People will ask if it’s my full-time job. What a lot of people don’t understand is that there are a lot of working models that have done, and will continue to do, very well. They don’t really understand that plus-size models work a lot.
Georgina Burke: [I get asked] how I stay in shape. It’s almost like they’re asking, “Do you actually work out?” There’s a big thing right now with all the plus-size girls showing that they’re working out and I feel like all of the interviews are saying, “Oh you don’t just sit around and eat burgers, you actually exercise?”
Marquita Pring: [I get asked if] I ever considered being “skinny” or if I have wanted to go to the straight-size world. As if the way I am is unattractive or it’s not as good as being a skinny girl, therefore, shouldn’t I want to be just like them? Never once in my career was that an option for me—not even at 15-years-old when I started—and I have never been interested in being smaller.
Felicity Hayward: [People] asking if we’ve had any negativity regarding being plus-size. People assume that because I’m bigger, I have experienced people asking me to lose weight or if I’ve worked with people that are horrible to me because I’m bigger…. The more people keep asking those questions, the less we’re going to be able to be equal.
Now, hear what they say on where the conversation surrounding plus-size fashion and modeling needs to go:
Georgia Pratt: It’s great when we can be included in conversations and questions that go beyond positive body image. The conversation needs to start opening up and approaching people such as designers, editors, photographers and other creative decision makers and influencers of the fashion industry.
Jennie Runk: It’s really important to get a message out to young girls and kids. They need to know that not only do we have Photoshop working in our favor, we have a professional hairstylist, makeup artist, and photographer…. The picture that these kids end up seeing looks—in no way—what we actually look like.
Justine Legault: At this point, I’m trying to have people get to know me as a person— that’s where I’m at in my career. [For instance], what would I recommend or say to women or young girls?
Julie Henderson: We should be focusing on how people feel when they look at us. Not “She’s too skinny or she’s too big or she’s plus-size or she’s black or she’s white.” People should say, “This is a beautiful woman. I recognize myself in her.”
Gia Genevieve: Plus-size models should also be shown in a glamorous way. I don’t see a lot of plus-size models being shown in a very sexy way, and we are very sexy. [What] I’m pushing for is that there needs to be more glamour in plus-size modeling—and less toned-down, commercial [shots].
Emme: For 20 years I’ve been wondering, How do we get the department stores to get [contemporary clothes] to size 18? They could really make much more money if they would buy more fashionable things in the size category of 12’s, 14’s, and 16’s. [I work with] the junior class at Syracuse University’s Fashion Design program to create clothing on size 2, 4, 6 forms and in the same class on 16, 18, 22 forms. We’re teaching student designers to design for all!