Catherine Li’s Path to Plus Size Modeling Started With a Craigslist Couch
Like so many of us, Catherine Li was working a cool job with a sh*tty paycheck and needed a side hustle.
But high-paying side hustles aren’t easy to come by, and Catherine never saw modeling as an option–until she randomly found another plus size model via her CraigsList search for a couch.
Now Catherine, a Bay Area native who has worked for dope brands like BET and Rogers + Cowan, models full-time and also has her own clothing brand. We talked to Catherine about how she broke into the industry after a million “no’s,” and her tips for others looking to follow in her footsteps.
Why did you become a plus size model?
I had just recently left my job and took a pay cut in order to work at a notable PR agency. Even though I was blessed to have to amazing jobs right out of college, the pay was horrible and there was no way I would survive without my parents’ help. My student loans kicked in and I had rent and other bills to pay, I needed a side hustle, but I never thought being a model was an option. I never saw girls my size model.
One day my roommate and I were picking up a couch that we bought from CraigsList and the girl selling it was a plus size model, Danika Brysha. As I was about to leave with my new couch, something in my gut told me to ask Danika if she thought I could do plus size modeling. From there, it was history. She gave me information on how to be a model and where to apply. I did everything she suggested and got signed within a week.
In your opinion, what is a huge problem within the plus size modeling industry?
I think the issue is in the fashion industry. Even though designers and companies are slowly expanding and showcasing plus size models, it is still not enough. There is still a lack of diversity as well as showcasing women of all sizes.
How can girls who want to plus size model start if they don’t live in a big city like NY or LA?
To pursue a full time modeling career, you will eventually need to relocate to New York or Los Angeles. This can be a big move for a lot of people, so before uprooting your life, do your research, look up companies and try to get signed with an agency before making the decision to relocate. Send them natural photos of yourself, no makeup. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear back right away and don’t rush into signing a contract. Take your time to weigh out all your options. Some agencies may be looking for something specific at a certain time, but it doesn’t mean that you may not be something they are looking for in a couple of months.
Tell us about your work as a public relations specialist.
I started at BET Networks as an intern, which developed into a job after I graduated. I had two amazing bosses who were really hands-on with me and taught me everything I know. I worked on all of the music specials, including The BET Awards, Hip Hop Awards, BET Honors, etc. I left BET after being offered an opportunity to work at Rogers + Cowan. While there, I worked on Oxygen Network and Food Network shows, Akon’s Lighting Up Africa Project, and more. I interned a lot while I was in college and was able to work on some of the most esteemed award shows in entertainment (Grammys, Golden Globes etc.) It was a great experience.
What was something that you learned from working at award shows?
I learned that it takes a team of people to make these award shows and events come together. There are so many challenges when you’re planning a show from the ground up, but it’s extremely rewarding in the end when you have a successful event. I learned a lot, but one major lesson working in entertainment taught me was how to deal with challenges and problem solve, figuring out how to create alternative solutions.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a successful plus size model?
I think many models will tell you that it’s a rough road to becoming successful. I was first told that it would take me three years before I would start getting consistent work. I was also told by an agency that I was “too Asian,” I was told I was too small or too big, my look wasn’t trendy, the list goes on, but I never gave up. You have to be confident and positive in this industry as people will try and tear you down. Don’t ever let a “no” stop you from pursuing a dream. If I took every “no” to heart I wouldn’t be where I am today.
How did your clothing line “Shop Love Yourz” come about and what does your brand represent?
As a curvy girl myself, I noticed that there’s a lack of young, trendy fashion choices for plus size women. I had always had a hard time finding clothes that fit my body that were “in style.” The name Shop Love Yourz promotes loving your body, loving yourself and being confident in your curves. “There ain’t no life or body better than yourz!”
Between New York and LA, which do you feel is best for your career and why?
New York handles more editorial work and LA is more commercial. I never limit myself to either city as I want my work to be diverse.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’re working on that you’d like to share?
Currently, I am working on a new line called “Female Revolution” where I will be selling a collection of pieces from size S-3X. The collection is set to come out in a few months and is targeted for bad ass females — a.k.a every girl!
What’s something about you that many people don’t know?
Many people never guess that I am half Chinese, so they are always shocked when I tell them that I grew up living a traditional Chinese lifestyle. I grew up eating Chinese food every day and my first language as a child was Cantonese. Sadly, I can only speak a little Cantonese now, but can pretty much understand it when someone is speaking to me.
Why do you think you became so popular on social media?
I never thought of myself as popular on social media, but I would hope the reason why people follow me is because I am real and unapologetic about the standards of body image. I really want to show people that a curvy mixed gal like myself can make it in this world and to help promote that girls can be bosses too!
What do you want your supporters to take from this interview?
Happiness is not size specific or race specific. Women can be just as successful as men. Also never let the word “no” get in your way.