In the world of modeling, there are lots of different types of models. If you don’t know anything about fashion, you might not assume that this would be the case. Because the nature of modeling is to sell products, there is actually a wide range of different roles a model can fit into: plus size or curvy models, petite models, child or senior models, and not to mention even the most basic differences like male and female models. Here’s our guide to one of these subgenres in particular: plus-size modeling.
Introduction to the Plus Size Model Industry
Plus-size models are in demand because the vast majority of people, particularly women, are actually above the standard sizes demanded by the modeling industry. It becomes unrealistic to see thin women wearing clothing on catalogs, in magazines, on online stores, and in advertising. Instead, sometimes we like to see a woman who has a fuller figure, in keeping with the reality of how women actually look for the most part.
The plus-size model industry is smaller than other areas of the fashion industry, which does still rely on the mainstream image of a slim and tall woman, no matter her race or background. For example, we haven’t yet seen a Victoria’s Secret plus-size model. But it is growing, and that means you may want to find out more about it to keep up with the trends.
What are the Plus-Size Models?
Plus-size models are a category of models who are above the standard sizing used by the fashion industry. There isn’t a real industry-wide definition that has been agreed upon, in terms of actual sizes and boundaries. It’s difficult, therefore, to come up with a precise guideline for the look a woman needs to have in order to fall into this category.
Generally speaking, however, she is larger than the average model – just not as large as you might think. In fact, the majority of women in the US or Europe would be considered to be plus-size. You don’t have to be huge to fit this category. It’s usual for plus size model agencies to look for girls who are just a little over normal weight – obese or very overweight models are still extremely rare.
Jobs for Plus-Size Models
There are a lot of possibilities when it comes to jobs for plus size models. Actually, the potential jobs are almost limitless, but we will list a few options here. These are the kind of roles that you might be available to take up:
- Catwalk or runway model
- Editorial, lookbook, commercial model (having your photograph taken for print and digital campaigns)
- Catalog or online store model
- Acting in video advertisements
- Music video, film, or TV extra
- Art model or life model
- Fit or showroom model
- Influencer or blogger
You may even be able to pursue other opportunities outside of strict job roles, like taking on brand endorsements.
There are not really strict physical requirements for curvy models since there’s no set size that you need to be. However, you have a better chance of getting work if you fit standard sizing – for example if your body is the exact dimensions of a size 16. This will allow you to work as a fit model, pose for catalogs, and so on. The usual fittings start from size 12 and up for this category.
The height requirements are not as strict for plus models as they are for normal models: you can actually be a bit shorter, usually 5”6’ to 5”9’. You might even get away with being smaller than that, as there are examples of successful models at 5”5’.
It may seem like a contradiction, but you will get more work if you are fit, even if you remain plus size. This means toning up and making sure that your body is well-proportioned and tight. As a general rule, having your waist 10 inches smaller than your hips is a good proportion. You will still have to work out a lot, even as a plus-size model! Imagine plus size lingerie models – they need to look great in the items, with the minimum of visible ‘issues’ such as cellulite which are seen as unattractive.
You also need to try to remain the size that you are, as you won’t be able to keep booking jobs if your weight yo-yos up and down. Clients won’t know what to expect when you turn up, which isn’t great for them.
You should have clear skin and healthy hair and nails, too – so if it is unhealthy habits that keep you a larger size, you’ll have to change the way you live. Essentially, you need to be as healthy as possible while still maintaining your size.
Specialty Agencies for Plus-Size Models
There are a few more open Plus-Size Model agencies out there, who are willing to take on differently-sized models. Here is a list of a few of the more notable plus-size model agency names out there:
- B&M Models
- Front Management
- Curve Models (Germany)
- Bridge Models (UK)
There might even be a plus-size model agency in your regional area. There may also be more agencies opening up their doors over time to allow more plus-sized girls in, so keep checking back if you can’t find any opportunities yet.
As for how to get signed by them, you first have to work on your body and appearance in order to meet their requirements. They might have more information about what they are specifically looking for on their website.
Some will take applications online, while others will only accept walk-ins. This means you have to go right to their door and ask to be seen! This can be really intimidating, but it will be the first test in your serious modeling career. You will likely be asked to show your body standing in underwear for Polaroids, which is the name of the small shots model agencies use to get their clients hired.
It’s important that you wear plain clothing – a vest, leggings, and plain neutral toned-underwear are usually the best bet. You should also avoid wearing makeup, or at least anything more than a subtle base, as well as not having your hair done in any particular style.
Notable Plus-Size Models Through Time
There have been some notable plus-size models who changed the way the industry worked overtime.
Allegra Doherty was one of the first plus-size models, as well as one of the youngest, to start appearing in mainstream fashion magazines and advertising. She has worked in the Italian, Chinese, and US versions of Vogue, as well as Italian GQ and Mode. She’s also worked for Tommy Hilfiger, Lane Bryant, and other notable designers. Most of her success began around the early- to mid-2000s.
Angellika Morton started her career as a straight-size model, then became plus-size in 1997. She was the first model to be inducted into the International Model Hall of Fame in 1999 and has had plenty of magazine covers as well as notable runway shows.
Ashley Graham is probably the most famous plus-size model of all time, thanks to the fact that she is very outspoken as well as successful. She has even been on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in order to talk about her fashion work, which proved controversial when an image of her was edited.
Candice Huffine is notable for landing Vogue Italia’s cover in 2011 as well as being a great editorial model. She has worked with some top photographers and has appeared in a lot of top-end fashion magazines.
Known as just Emme, the first plus-size model to really get recognition was also in the People magazine ’50 Most Beautiful People’ list twice – 1994 and 1999. There’s even a collectible doll named after her and shaped in her form! She was the first plus-size model to get a contract with a cosmetics company, which was Revlon in 1998.
Natalie Laughlin cannot be ignored: she was the first plus-size model to be on an advertisement billboard in New York’s Times Square – and she did it four times. She was also the first plus-size model on the cover of Glamour magazine in the US.
If you are interested in entering pageants, Rosie Mercado has to be your role model. She has claimed many titles including Miss Nevada Plus America, Miss Plus America Cover Girl, and Miss Plus America Runway Model, as well as awards from People’s Choice and roles, in reality, TV shows.
Finally, Tess Holliday is hugely famous in the plus-size world. She started a movement called #effyourbeautystandards on Instagram and is considered one of the top plus models in the world – as well as being the heaviest model signed to a top modeling agency. This is even more remarkable as she is heavily tattooed!
Some Famous Plus Size Lingerie Models
Of all plus size lingerie models, Ashley Graham stands out the most. She has become a household name and it might be argued that she is a contender for being the supermodel of plus size. She has done a lot of work for Lane Bryant’s lingerie lines.
Crystal Renn is another plus-size model who does lingerie, and the story has a familiar trend for many of the other larger models. She started out as a teenager in standard sizing and ended up going through eating disorders over and over again as she struggled to stay the right size. Eventually, she became a plus-size model instead, putting her health first.
There has not yet been a Victoria’s Secret plus-size model, but the world will continue to hope!
Plus-Size Models that You Should be Following in 2019
There are some plus size models really killing it on Instagram. As well as the notable figures we have mentioned above, you might want to follow Iskra Lawrence, who is hugely influential on social media and runs her own brand. Jada Sezer is really inspirational – she ran the 2018 London Marathon in her underwear to prove that fitness comes in all shapes and sizes.
Stephanie Yeboah has a colorful feed and lots of positivity in her captions. Then there’s Sonny Turner, who posts images without edits and embraces being real. Saffi Karina is a gorgeous model who is bringing awareness of the fact that plus-size models should also be a range of different ethnicities.
Hayley Hasselhoff combines being a curve model with an inside look at a celebrity lifestyle, as her dad is David Hasselhoff! You should also follow Diana Veras, who is a committed feminist as well as body positivity advocate.
Plus-Size Fashion Brands and Designers Who Work with Plus-Size models
Here are some brands and designers who are known to regularly work with curvier models:
- John Galliano
- Lane Bryant
- Universal Standard
- ASOS Curve
- Boohoo Plus
- Savage x Fenty
- Dear Kate
- Tommy Hilfiger
- Liz Claiborne
- Simply Be
- Christian Siriano
- Michael Kors
- Addition Elle
- Ashley Graham Lingerie
Creating a Plus-Size Model Portfolio
If you get rejected at first, it might help to build up your portfolio to show them your potential. You can do this by working with photographers on a TFP (Time for Prints) basis. This means that you don’t get paid, but you do get to use the images to start your portfolio. Finding a good photographer to work with can really be worth it. You might even want to pay for their time in order to get a really high-quality selection of shots.
One of the most critical steps to become a model and to make a stable career is to have a well-rounded modeling portfolio that showcases your strong points through high-quality, stunning images. One of the first requirements from a model that agencies and clients will look at to make a great first impression is the modeling portfolio. It helps to have both an online version (your modeling portfolio website) that you can send to anyone via an email and a printed version that you can show when you meet someone face to face. You need all the exposure you can get to move up the ladder in the modeling industry.
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Being a plus-size model is hard, just as it is in other areas of modeling. You have to work hard and be dedicated to maintaining your body. But if you have a passion for fashion, you might just be able to make it work!
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