Diversity in fashion comes in all sizes, and each size is gaining its deserved representation on the media (and beyond), for good and all. For this reason, knowing that representation matters and that the movement of plus-size models is finally in the spotlight, we decided to take stock and see how and with whom the fashion industry is celebrating plus-size beauty, taking a long and fascinating journey that will give us a clue on how to become a successful plus-size model, and at the same time inspire us with the best and most empowering plus-size models of the moment.
Who Is a Plus-Size Model? Industry Measurements and Requirements
When talking about plus-size models and the plus-size movement in general (which is a direct expression of the body positive movement), we need to begin by saying that the definition of plus size depends on a myriad of factors. And anyone could prove it by asking friends, relatives or even strangers down the streets how they define a plus-size woman. Someone will state that it depends on the height-weight ratio, while others will just declare that plus sizes unquestionably start at 12, 16 or 18.
The fashion industry helps us a little with the definition here, as according to the modeling agencies, plus-size models are between 5’9’’ and 6’0’’ and wear a size 10/12 to 14/16. If you define yourself as a plus-size woman and would love to start your career as a plus-size model, just remember that runway models are usually 5’9’’ (and up) and wear sizes 10 to 22, while fit models are usually 5’5’’ to 5’9’’ and wear a size 18.
Commercial plus-size models, on the other hand, can be any height (as any other type of commercial models), and usually wear sizes 12 to 18. To make another comparison, the notorious PLUS Model Magazine, for example, doesn’t work with models smaller than a size 12, ultimately reminding us that the modeling career comes is a variety of different forms, too.
Measurements are not, however, the only requirements when trying to break through the plus-size modeling career. Like any other kind of model, plus-size models need to work hard to keep their body, skin, hair, nails, and teeth healthy, as well as to always stay updated on the latest beauty trends and brands.
Since they are not just selling a brand but rather a philosophy, plus-size models should be extremely conscious about pivotal topics such as bullying and body positivity, also should make sure they know how to handle despicable situations, such as mean people hurting their feelings (and those of plus-size young girls looking for inspiration and empowerment) on the Internet.
All models are subject to hateful comments on the main social media channels, but since plus-size models (like genderless models) are relatively new to the mainstream public, they need to be extra-conscious and ready to show off their thick skins more often than others.
Differences Between Plus-Size and Curvy Models
Before exploring how to become a plus-size model, it is worth mentioning the differences between plus-size and curvy models, because, despite what many people usually think, there are actual differences between these two terms.
If you are one of those people who considered plus-size and curvy as synonyms and the fact that they are not is confusing you, just remember that plus-size models may also be curvy, and that curvy models are not necessarily plus-size.
As the etymology of the adjective “curvy” explains, curvy has to do with body measurements rather than sizes, as it refers to women with a waist-hip differential of (circa) .7.5. Curvy women have what we typically describe as a body “with curves”, meaning that it can come in all sizes as long as there’s, by definition, the aforementioned “mathematical” differential.
How to Become a Plus-Size Model?
Since working as a plus-size model requires passion, self-awareness and the right measurements, becoming one takes a lot of energy and professionalism. If you want to become a plus-size model, you need to work carefully on the following things simultaneously and equally, investing in your career and believing in yourself unquestionably.
• First and foremost, you need to find what makes you special besides your plus-size measurement. It could be a physical feature, such lovely freckles on your face, or a talent that you have, such as playing the violin; anything that makes you stand out from the crowd is important and meant to be celebrated and enhanced as part of your image, especially on the main social media platforms.
• Invest in creating a good portfolio. Although we must consider all those pictures posted on Instagram as a new version of the classic modeling portfolio, it is still important to invest in a good one, with a professional photographer who perfectly knows how to make anyone look flawlessly empowered.
If you are planning to work with a modeling agency and run the catwalks, remember that your portfolio must feature two main photos, i.e. a headshot and a body shot. Avoid posting your entire professional portfolio on Instagram, but rather opt for a social media-friendly one with the same photographer.
• Establish connections with other plus-size models. Collaboration is key in the fashion industry, particularly when it comes to subverting the standardized western beauty norms. Look for body-positive campaigns online, reach out to other fellow colleagues on social media, and try to stay as much updated as you can on the topics regarding diversity in the industry, so that you can become a role model that helps other people feel empowered rather than “just” a runway model who showcases a designer’s new outfit (not that there’s anything bad about flaunting a soigné dress!).
• Once you have all things figured out, it is time to start contacting the modeling agencies. Avoid agencies and talent promoters that charge joining fees, and try to collect as many feedbacks as you can on the agencies before crossing their thresholds.
Top Plus-Size Models of All Time
If there’s one thing that always helps when it comes to a modeling career (or any other career), that is knowing one’s past and present history. And if you would love to start learning about the top plus-size models of all time, here you have the best ones!
1. Melissa Aronson (5’11’’/ 1.80 m; 86 kg/ 190 lbs)
Known as just “Emme,” Aronson is more than one of the best plus-size models. She is a social reformer and body image advocate who gained fame as the first full-figured model chosen for People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1994. She was also one of the highest paid plus-size models of the Nineties, as well as one of the plus-size modeling pioneers in the industry.
2. Inga Eiriksdottir (5’10’’ ½ / 1.79 m; N/A)
Discovered in a pizzeria in Iceland, Eriksdottir loves yoga and sports, and is one of the industry’s current brightest starts. She is a body positive advocate, too, and spends most of her time inspiring young girls with her empowering attitude and compassionate soul.
3. Ashley Graham (5’9’’ / 1.75 m; 91 kg/ 201 lbs)
Ever since she appeared on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover, Ashley Graham has been busy challenging and questioning the standardized beauty norms, signing with Ford Models soon after and becoming one of the most renowned plus-size models of all time and a brand ambassador for famous international labels.
4. Tara Lynn (5’9’’ / 1.75 m; 98 kg/ 216 lbs)
Seattle-born Tara Lynn ultimately gained fame when she became the third plus-size model to appear on a Vogue Italia cover, proving for good and all that successful and beautiful lingerie models come in all sizes, indeed.
5. Candice Huffine (5’11’’ / 1.80 m; 92 kg/ 203 lbs)
Probably one of the most famous plus-size models and it-girls, Candice Huffine divides her time between glamorous magazine covers and Instagram, where she inspires and encourages a jaw-dropping number of followers to believe in themselves and in their dreams.
6. Bishamber Das (5’8’’ / 1.73 m; 110 kg/ 242 lbs)
UK-raised Das is of both Indian and Malaysian descent, and she is fiercely proud of both her origins and her body. She has modelled for countless ad campaign, among which those for Yours Clothing and Nubian Skin are the most acclaimed.
7. Naomi Shimada (5’9’’ ½ / 1.77 m; N/A)
One of the top plus-size models of the moment, Shimada has been working in the industry for 15 years now, and is probably one of the most critical voices in the fashion industry. Her “Why is plus a dirty word in fashion?” article written for the Guardian is still one of the most discussed on the Internet.
8. Hayley Herms (5’6’’ / 1.68 m; N/A)
Besides being one of the rising plus-size models in the industry, Hayley Herms is considered as the ultimate queen of the Nineties, grunge-inspired style, with her Instagram account being one of the most followed on this list.
9. Liris Crosse (5’11’’ / 1.80 m; 95 kg/ 210 lbs)
Dubbed “The Naomi Campbell of Plus,” Liris Crosse is making waves in fashion, and is one of the top plus-size models to know. She broke the industry after landing a campaign for Sir Philip Green’s plus-size fashion retailer, Evans. We expect the Baltimore-born beauty to take the industry by storm very, very soon.
10. Katana Fatale (5’9’’ / 1.75 m; 100 kg/ 220 lbs)
Model and performance artist, plus-size beauty Katana Fatale started her career within her underground community in Portland, where she was born and raised. After being discovered by Buzzfeed, she broke the industry with her vintage, alternative style and contagious charisma.
11. Jade Allwaze (5’9’’ / 1.75 m; 88 kg/ 195 lbs)
Allwaze’s green eyes charm anyone, as much as her smile does. Despite being an emerging star in the industry, she has already walked a few New York Fashion Week shows, and is one of the cutest plus-size models that will inspire you.
12. Katie Knowles (5’7’’ / 1.70 m; N/A)
UK-based plus-size model Katie Knowles is a breath of fresh air in the industry, as she fights stereotypes both as a plus-size woman, and as a person with a spinal stenosis and a degenerative disc disease.
13. Barbie Ferreira (5’8’’ / 1.73 m; 109 kg/ 240 lbs)
One of the new generation’s rising stars, plus-size model Barbie Ferreira empowers young girls also by posting unretouched photos on her social media channels, using any available platform to spread messages of self-love and body positivity.
14. Gabi Gregg (5’5’’ / 1.65 m; 102 kg/ 225 lbs)
Plus-size model, body positive advocate, designer, and entrepreneur – Gabi Gregg has it all! After having posed for countless campaigns, Gabi Gregg designed 5 capsule collections with Swimsuits For All as well as created her own plus-size fashion line, Premme, with her best friend Nicolette Mason.
15. Denise Bidot (5’11’’ / 1.80 m; 93 kg/ 205 lbs)
Denise Bidot has worked with basically any body positive brand in the industry, including fast-fashion retailer Forever 21. She began her career as an actress but soon moved to plus-size modeling after participating on an episode of the Tyra Banks Show.
16. Katya Zharkova (5’10’’ / 1.78 m; 85 kg/ 187 lbs)
Curvy and plus-size model, Belarus-born Zharkova gained international fame after posing for an artistically nude photoshoot for Plus Model Magazine, which was accompanied by statistics meant to raise awareness about the industry’s unnatural beauty standards. She is now represented by Wilhelmina Models.
17. Precious Lee (5’10’’ ½ / 1.79 m; N/A)
Stunning Precious Lee was the first black plus-size model in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (an event that boosted her career), as well as the first black plus-size model to appear in a Vogue magazine, which is no surprise given her talent and contagious smile. She shares body-positive images on Instagram, too.
18. Robyn Lawley (6’2’’ / 1.88 m; 84 kg/ 185 lbs)
Taller than 6 feet, plus-size and curvy model Robyn Lawley was the first plus-size model to appear on the cover of Vogue Australia, and is now one of the most influential and successful plus-size models of the industry.
19. Philomena Kwao (5’10’’ / 1.78 m; N/A)
Plus-size model, humanitarian, and writer, Philomena Kwao spends most of her time trying to fight all those stereotypes that revolve around body image and race. She also started the Lily Project back in 2014, which is a safe space for women to discuss issues pertaining to image, politics, and intersectional feminism.
20. Nadia Aboulhosn (5’3’’ / 1.60 m; 72 kg/ 159 lbs)
One of the emerging plus-size models in the industry, Nadia began her career as a fashion blogger from Miami, soon designing pieces for major retailers and brands. Often dubbed as “the new Kim Kardashian,” she is famous for her strong work ethic and unique beauty, too.
21. Melissa Henrius (N/A; N/A)
Fit model for Calvin Klein, Gwynnie Bee and many other brands, plus-size model Melissa Henrius defines herself as the woman who is “bringing the words ‘confidence’ and ‘ambition’ to all the women who are a size 14 and up.”
22. Rayna Salcido Alvarez (5’7’’ / 1.70 m; N/A)
Plus-size model Rayna Salcido Alvarez has been a working model in the industry since 2006, and is known as one of the sexiest plus-size models around. Besides modeling, she spends her time pushing for a message of inclusivity in the industry and beyond.
23. Clémentine Desseaux (5’8’’ ½ / 1.74 m; 100 kg/ 220 lbs)
Blogger and a creative agency founder of Les Mijotés, a brand-strategy firm in Paris, Clémentine is the beauty industry’s plus-size model brand ambassador, with her freckles being some of the most “demanded” by many designers and beauty brands.
24. Georgina Burke (6’0’’ / 1.83 m; 98 kg/ 215 lbs)
Named the face of Torrid in 2014, Georgina Burke found her ultimate success in New York, and has since then appeared in prestigious magazines such as Elle, JustFab Plus, Teen Vogue, and Vogue Italia.
25. Myla Dalbesio (5’10’’ ½ / 1.79 m; 69 kg/ 152 lbs)
Plus-size model Myla Dalbesio won Miss Teen America in 2004, and the event inevitably skyrocketed her career. She has been featured in a myriad of ad campaigns and editorials, among which the 2014 “Perfectly Fit” Calvin Klein campaign is probably the most acclaimed.
26. Erica Jean Schenk (5’11’’ / 1.80 m; N/A)
Erica Schenk began modeling professionally at the age of 16, but it was with a Women’s Running Magazine cover in 2015 that she gained international fame. Now, when she isn’t modeling, she attends Pepperdine University.
27. Iskra Lawrence (5’9’’ / 1.75 m; 88 kg/ 194 lbs)
Does anyone remember the #AerieREAL campaign of the clothing line Aerie, which was entirely centred on being entirely un-photoshopped? Well, plus-size model Iskra Lawrence was selected as the face of the campaign, with her photos going instantly viral. The event jumpstarted her career, after which she created a website devoted to the fight against unnatural beauty standards.
28. Marquita Pring (5’11’’ / 1.80 m; 89 kg/ 197 lbs)
Plus-size icon Pring became famous after walking a Jean Paul Gaultier show in 2011, when she was only 19, and has never stopped gaining success ever since then. She has also appeared in the famous 10-page editorial edition of Italian Vogue that showcased four plus-size models.
29. Bree Warren (5’11’’ / 1.80 m; N/A)
Those who love shopping at ASOS, know that the ASOS Curve Shopper page is ruled by Australian icon Bree Warren, whose shots make us dream of those long, shiny days at the beach in Oceania.
30. Jordyn Woods (5’9’’ / 1.75 m; 68 kg/ 150 lbs)
On the other hand, those who are obsessed with Kylie Jenner’s Instagram page will immediately recognize Jordyn Woods as the Keeping up with the Kardashians star’s BFF. Besides being the Internet’s most famous BFF, Jordyn Woods is putting all her efforts into her modeling career, and we expect her to be soon featured everywhere from magazine covers to ad campaigns.
31. Fluvia Lacerda (5’8’’ / 1.73 m; 82 kg/ 180 lbs)
Fluvia is not just another plus-size model, but a famous lingerie model from Brazil often known as the “plus-size Gisele Bündchen”. She started her career in 2003 and has never stopped appearing in ad campaigns for leading brands ever since then. She’s represented by Ford Models.
Photos via Instagram