Why It’s Still Hard To Be A Plus-Size Model

With the rise of popular plus-size models, another unsurprising conflict has come up—diversity is a major issue in this field. Recently, Tess Holliday’s emerged as the face of her “body-positive campaign #effyourbeautystandards, with a cover of People magazine that names her “The World’s First Size 22 Supermodel”. However, the magazine’s accompanying feature, “The Plus-Size Revolution”, only one of the models is of mixed descent. From 2008 – 2014, 80% of the models featured at Fashion Week have been white; the straight-size modeling industry has just barely now started to make progress on this front, so who knows how long changes will take for plus-size models of color?

Women in the industry have been fighting to address this themselves. ALDA is an Icelandic group made up of the models Ashley Graham, Marquita Pring, Julie Henderson, Inga Eiriksdottir and Danielle Redman recently posed for an spread in Icelandic Glamour talking about their goal of promoting a different goal—rather than focusing on fashion campaigns, their goal is to help women of all different races build self-esteem. About their project, they said, “Even if it might sound strange since we [are models], which is a lot about the outside looks, we are more interested in building strong self-esteem in women rather then just focusing on the looks.”

Galore_mag_alda_2Members of ALDA in Icelandic Glamour

Barbie Ferreira, a Brazilian-American plus-size model says that her career has absolutely improved her body image: “I’ve really learned that there isn’t one type of beauty and that I’m so capable of doing whatever I want, regardless of how big my hips are, or how pudgy my stomach is. Before modeling, I’d always tell myself, ‘If I lost 30 pounds, I could do this, or that, but now, nothing is impossible to me.'”

Additionally, the standards for plus size modeling probably have to be determined by race—a study published by the British Journal of Nutrition found that Body Mass Index, or BMI, which measures body fat based on height and weight, may not be accurate for those who aren’t Caucasian. According to CNN, “This scale was created years ago and is based on Caucasian men and women and…doesn’t take into account differences in body composition between genders, race/ethnicity groups and across the life span.”

Plus size models of any color have another problem to consider—other groups are doubting that plus-size models will ever even be able to break into the industry in a real way at all. Styelite suggests that instead of focusing on mainstream fashion brands, plus size models, like Tess Holliday, should aim to work with big make up brands instead. Why? Many of the brands that feature plus-size models in their campaigns don’t even sell clothing sized beyond a large (Zara’s an example).

Says Styelite: “A makeup consumer of any size would arguably look at Holliday’s incredible face in a Maybelline Great Lash ad and think, ‘Damn, I want that mascara,’ just like they would if they saw that mascara on the beautiful face of someone 150 pounds lighter. Her hair is enviable to anyone who subscribes even the teensiest bit to the notion of conventional beauty, and it could sell a kabillion bottles of conditioner.”


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