Plus-size model

Plus-size model

Plus-size model is a term internationally applied to a woman who is engaged primarily in modeling garments that are designed and marketed specifically for larger body sizes and types (see plus-size clothing). These models are also increasingly engaging in work that is not strictly related to selling clothing, i.e. body acceptance imagery, lifestyle and advertising, beauty/cosmetic products, pharmaceuticals, shoes, etc. As such, plus-size models often do not wear garments designed and marketed as plus-size clothing. This is especially true of magazine editorials.

The requirements for plus-size models are no different from those of high-fashion models, excepting in larger overall bust-waist-hip measurements; they must have excellent skin, hair and teeth, and emote well to the camera. The type of work that plus-size models engage in is of comparable variety to that of their smaller-sized counterparts. Advertising campaigns, magazine editorials, catwalk work, live-TV work and commercials, etc. comprise the variety of work available. Increasingly, plus-size models are also being employed by the media to stimulate debate on healthy self-esteem and body image, especially regarding struggles with eating disorders.

Synonymous and interchangeable with plus-size model is 'full-figured model', 'extended-sizes model', 'outsize model' (predominant usage:UK).

The Business

As the development of the industry is closely tied to Western population change and clothing industry growth, the plus-size model industry has grown in fairly equal strides at various points on the globe. Many well known model agencies have created divisions to specifically locate and develop potential models to serve demand.

Well-known high fashion designers are starting to look more closely at the earning potential from serving consumers wearing plus-size clothing with prêt-à-porter, and have started booking plus-size models for their advertising campaigns and catwalks. Jean-Paul Gaultier and John Galliano both used plus-size models in their Spring 2006 showings in Paris. Italian plus-size fashion house Elena Mirò now regularly stages a prêt-à-porter show during Fashion Week in Milan.

Arguably the most important region of growth has been within North America, where a diverse population and a flourishing media industry has created a unique culture around plus-size modeling, and enabled the ongoing operation of approximately 25+ agencies either specifically representing plus-size models or with divisions to do so. The industry at an international level also includes several well-established agencies in England, Germany and Australia, collectively serving clients throughout Western and Central Europe, South Africa, and the South Pacific and Asian regions. Plus-size models have been serving the strong German client market for over 15 years.

Development of the industry in the United States

Although it is known that U.S.-based manufacturers used larger models to show their plus-size clothing as early as the 1940s, the bias against larger consumers and models pervasive in the fashion industry worked to keep this particular concept of modeling out of the general public's eye until the early 1990s.

Lane Bryant is widely acknowledged to have been the first large-scale producer of plus-size clothing in North America and therefore user of plus-size models. It began trading in the early 1920s as a producer of clothing for 'Expectant Mothers and Newborns'. By the mid-1920s, Lane Bryant started selling clothing under the category 'For the Stout Women', which ranged between a 38-56 inch bustline. The earliest catalogs used illustrations only to sell their products, but by the mid-1940s photographs were integrated into the catalogs as the evolution of photo technology made this option available. After a brief hiatus from using larger models through the 1960-1970 period, Lane Bryant again began using plus-size models and today remains one of the plus-size model industry's most prestigious and desired clients.

The main players, U.S.

Gary Dakin headed the Karin Models' "Curves" division, only to leave after a short time to develop the Ford agency's "Ford 12+" model division in their New York office. In Constantine Valhouli's 2001 plus-size model documentary Curve, Dakin states, "We're celebrating our 25th anniversary of the Ford 12+ division. It was the first and longest-existing plus division in the industry."(sic) Wilhelmina NYC agent Susan Georget started the "Wilhelmina 10/20" division in New York 1994. Together, these agents have recruited the highest calibre of models in the industry and are credited with expanding opportunities for plus-size models beyond working solely for plus-size clothing retailers. Both agents are also regarded as holding the most power in the plus-size model industry, although Georget and Dakin have now removed themselves from day-to-day booking tasks.

With strong cooperation from Wilhelmina 10/20, Curves and Ford 12+, the premiere issue of MO"D"E Magazine was launched in the spring of 1997 to immediate success. No other fashion magazine specifically targeted the plus-size consumer with a "Vogue"-like fashion philosophy, nor with sophisticated imagery and clothing everyone wanted to buy. As a result, a booking with the magazine was viewed as the ultimate level of plus-modeling success. The editorial practice of including the models' names and quotations on self-esteem to make them more approachable greatly aided the popularity of the women featured and gave them a form of celebrity. MO"D"E also ran model search competitions in association with the Wilhelmina modelling agency, drawing entries from thousands of hopefuls from the US and Canada. The circulation of MO"D"E Magazine was around 600,000 at the time of its demise [ [ Freedom Communications press release, December 28 2001] ] in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001.

In 1995, Lane Bryant began a transformation of the brand, targeting younger customers with more fashion-forward clothing. Through a series of runway shows and celebrity spokespersons including Queen Latifah, Mia Tyler, Camryn Manheim, Anna Nicole Smith, and Sex And The City's Chris Noth, Lane Bryant became the industry leader via its approach to marketing and advertising.

In February 2000, Lane Bryant launched Cacique intimate apparel, and held the first lingerie fashion show for plus-size women. The event was widely acclaimed and created millions of impressions in the press. In 2002, more than 200 million people worldwide watched website playback of the Lane Bryant fashion show featuring 70s rock band KISS. In 2003, the fashion show [ [ Coverage of show by FashionTelevisionChannel ] ] featured MC Roseanne Barr in a cabaret setting complete with Moulin Rouge-style singers and dancers, which Barr later described as being largely ignored by TV media.

etbacks to growth, U.S.

Occurring shortly before the time of MO"D"E's closure was the failure of several designers' ventures into the plus-size market. Versace ("Versatile"), Valentino ("Carisma"), "Anne Klein Plus" and others ceased producing the clothing which MO"D"E Magazine relied upon, leaving a gaping hole in both the fashion department wardrobes and advertising revenue coffers of MO"D"E Magazine and its successor/s.

* After the demise of MO"D"E Magazine its then Executive Editor, Ceslie Armstrong, and many of the ex-MO"D"E staff collaborated to create "Grace Magazine", which launched on May 14, 2002 as an independent quarterly publication and website under a similar concept. Even though the initial 400,000 print run sold out quickly, and the magazine's issues were brimming with advertising, the independent status and limited funding prohibited the ability to grow to fill the newsstand and subscription orders. Critics, however, believed that Grace featured far less stylish fashion content than its predecessor and unwisely pursued an editorial emphasis on weight-related health issues. Grace Magazine ceased operation due to lack of funding in November 2003, after publishing just 10 issues.

* Lane Bryant was acquired by Charming Shoppes for $335 million in August 2001, and in 2003 a [ cost-reduction plan] was announced to improve the company's pre-tax position by $45 million. Shortly afterwards, the annual big-budget Lane Bryant fashion show ceased production, however the redress was to come later in the form of Charming Shoppes' custom advertorial magazine, "Figure Magazine". Although it features only Charming Shoppes' own product and related lifestyle articles, it is currently the only U.S.-based fashion and lifestyle magazine specifically-targeted for plus-size consumers.

tate of the U.S. industry today

While the Internet has provided a breeding ground for a growing number of grassroot e-zines, model agencies, online retailers, online portfolio sites, calendar projects and other associated ventures, the lack of a true fashion print publication serving the plus-size consumer in North America has compounded the stagnation in the growth of the North American plus-model industry. With supply of models currently much higher than demand from clients now struggling with reduced advertising budgets, and agencies raising model standards and tightening their belts financially and reducing the number of models they represent, a substantial nudge is required for the industry to experience a growth comparable to that which it enjoyed in the late 1990s.

The April and May 2007 U.S. editions of "Vogue" and "Glamour" have featured plus-size models in fashion editorials and interview regarding healthy body image. While some believe the discussion of self-esteem and body image is not the primary business of the plus-size model, this type of coverage in mainstream media does serve the purpose of furthering the potential for growth as the media embraces models over a U.S. size 12 and shows them in a positive light. It should be noted that a bare handful of models are being used repeatedly in this regard, creating the impression that only a few models are 'acceptable' to the media in portraying the concept of plus-size modeling and the associated industry.

U.S. television program America's Next Top Model has featured contestants [Robin Manning/Cycle 1, Anna Bradfield/Cycle 2, Toccara Jones/Cycle 3, Diane Hernandez/Cycle 5, Diana Zalewski/Cycle 8, Whitney Cunningham/Cycle 8, Sarah Hartshorne/Cycle 9, Whitney Thompson/Cycle 10] acknowledging the plus-size industry's relevance to fashion since the show's launch in 2003. After elimination from the competition some of the contestants have signed contracts with the Wilhelmina agency, although to date none have successfully translated their TV celebrity into an ongoing modeling career. Whitney Thompson, the winner of America's Next Top Model, Cycle 10, will appear in a national campaign for CoverGirl cosmetics, as well as on the cover of "Seventeen" as part of her prize package. She also received a model contract with Elite Model Management.

2007 was the launch year for several homegrown calendar projects featuring models over a U.S. size 12, including the well-publicized "Luscious" and "Fenomenal Calendar" products. These calendars have tested the market for plus-size models to be seen outside of clothing-advertisment-only contexts, and have captured the interest of people outside of the plus-size clothing consumer demographic.

Notable plus-size models, North America

* Emme (Melissa) Aronson is acknowledged as the first plus-size model to achieve widespread recognition in the United States. She hosted "Fashion Emergency" on E! and has appeared on most major US TV networks. She was named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" twice (1994 and 1999) and "Glamour" magazine's "Woman of the Year" (1997). She has a collectible doll named for her, and bearing her likeness.

* Barbara Brickner has become one of the most internationally familiar faces in plus-size modeling over her 10+ year career. Featuring constantly in MO"D"E Magazine and producing many of its most enduring images, she went on to become the preferred model of many plus-size designers; most notably for Italian company [ Elena Miro] for several years, appearing by herself in their iconic calendar created in 2000. Also in 2000, Brickner launched a line of plus-size maternity clothing named "BB Maternity", sold through U.S. department stores.

* Kate Dillon began her career as a size 6 with Elite NYC, but after overcoming health issues (anorexia) eventually relaunched her career as a U.S. size 14 plus-size model. Dillon enjoyed a fast rise to fame via the covers and editorials of MO"D"E Magazine, and has since notched up scores of advertising campaigns for top plus-size clothing retailers in the world. Dillon has appeared in several language editions of Vogue magazine, and has been photographed for high fashion magazines and campaigns by such photographers as Patrick Demarchelier, Helmut Newton, Francesco Scavullo, Albert Watson and Mario Testino, and has appeared in advertising for clients well outside of the usual plus-size œuvre such as Gucci, Isabella Rossellini's 'Manifesto' perfume, and Nine West. Dillon was a featured guest during season 3 of the popular US network show "America's Next Top Model", talking to contestants about body image and self-esteem.

* Natalie Laughlin was the first plus-size model to have an advertisement feature on a billboard in New York's Times Square, an honor repeated four times by client Liz Claiborne. Laughlin was also the first plus-size model to appear in the U.S. edition of "Glamour" magazine.
* Crystal Renn is the most recent plus-size model to garner international appeal and has set a new standard for accomplishment. Like Dillon, Renn suffered from anorexia and became a plus-size model after regaining her health, and has notched up some remarkable successes in the few years she has been working at a larger size; multiple editorials in each of "Vogue"'s U.S., Italian, French and German editions, and an appearance on the catwalk of Jean-Paul Gaultier for his Spring 2006 prêt-à-porter collection. Renn was also chosen by Dolce & Gabbana to model their apparel in an international print campaign. Renn has appeared on Oprah Winfrey's talk show to discuss her experiences, and related model health issues.

* Jordan Tesfay began her career after winning a MO"D"E Magazine model search competition in 1999. Tesfay was the first plus-model since Emme, and the first black plus-size model to appear in a nation-wide advertising campaign, for CoverGirl cosmetics. She also appeared in a minor role in the direct-to-video release of "", released in 2005.

* Whitney Thompson is the first plus-size model to win the reality-based TV show America's Next Top Model. Thompson began her modeling career at age 15 [ [ magazine article, 28 Feb 2008] ] in her home state of Florida, appearing several times on the cover of her local "Jacksonville" community magazine. Thompson is 5'10" and a US size 10 [ [] ] . She was 20 years of age at the time of her appearances on ANTM. Thompson is the first plus-size model to appear on the cover of Seventeen magazine, on the July 2008 issue.

Notable plus-size models, other regions

* Charlotte Coyle was born in Northern Ireland, but became known as a plus-size model in the US while working for the clothing company Torrid. Coyle hosted a well-received UK reality TV show in 2006 named "Fat Beauty Contest", in which contestants learned the basics of catwalk modeling from Coyle in order to compete in a finale fashion show.

* Johanna Dray of France notably appeared in John Galliano's 'Everybody is Beautiful' Spring 2006 prêt-à-porter show and subsequent French "Vogue" editorial of the collection, wearing what turned out to be Galliano's best-selling dress of the show. Utilizing her education in fashion design, Dray is the first plus-size model in Europe to launch a plus-size clothing line, named "Tend@nces en clair par Johanna Dray", produced by catalog company [ 3Suisses Group] . She has also appeared in interview with "Elle" France, and two high-fashion editorials for "Gala" magazine in their post-Cannes Film Festival issues of 2007 and 2008.

* Pollyanna McIntosh most notably appeared in the Pirelli calendar for December 2004, photographed by Nick Knight. She also appeared as a UK size 14 in a UK Vogue 16-page fashion editorial, and has also worked with renown photographer David Bailey for Evans stores, and appeared in his book entitled, "Bailey's Democracy".

* Natalie Wakeling is one of Australia's most recognizable plus-size models due to well-publicized appearances in Australian Cosmopolitan magazine as the first and continued example of their editorial policy of using models over an Australian size 12, as well as in advertising images for a wide variety of Australian retailers. Wakeling was also the first plus-size model to feature on a cover of Australian "Cosmopolitan Pregnancy" magazine in 2006. Wakeling created a plus-size premium denim brand called "Embody Denim", and as part of her commitment to educating young girls on healthy body image, Wakeling serves as an ambassador for the Eating Disorders Foundation of NSW.

Plus-size Celebrities/Entertainers working as Plus-Size Models

Celebrities who wear clothing larger than a standard U.S. size 8 have increasingly been attracting endorsement contracts as advertisers seek to extend size-acceptance into the film, TV and music industries, and/or make use of their family or other connections. Please note that women who have lost weight, dropping below a U.S. size 10, since gaining popularity do not form part of this entry, nor do women unrepresented by agents.

*Velvet D'Amour~ most notably appeared as the only larger sized model in Jean-Paul Gaultier's 2007 Spring/Summer prèt-â-porter show, and recently appeared as a judge on the US Oxygen Channel's Mo'Nique's F.A.T. Chance television program. D'Amour also featured in the title role of "Avida," a 2006 French film selected for the 2006 Cannes and 2007 Tribeca festivals.

*Mia Amber Davis ~ appeared in a feature role in the 2000 comedy movie "Road Trip" as 'Rhonda'. Since her film appearance, Davis has been working as a model in New York and appearing on TV to speak on the issues of being plus-sized, and on self-esteem. Amber recently appeared on the Tyra Banks talk show dealing with the media's response to photographs of Banks in a swimsuit.

*Joanne Borgella~ was a semi-finalist on American Idol (season 7), and is currently represented by the Wilhelmina Models agency as a plus-size model. Borgella was the first winner of Mo'Nique's Fat Chance plus-size model search on the Oxygen TV network.

*Toccara Jones ~ is a model and television personality. She was a contestant on the third cycle of the reality TV series America's Next Top Model (ANTM), and after attempting a career in mainstream plus-size modeling has since found success from interviews and related photography in lifestyle magazine speaking about self-esteem. Jones recently featured solo in a Vogue Italia editorial photographed by Steven Meisel.

*Dana Owens, aka Queen Latifah ~ OscarTM-nominated actress and music artist, Owens currently appears in US advertising for CoverGirl cosmetics. Owens is also the figurehead of the Curvation [ [ Project Confidence | Queen Latifah ] ] company's range of plus-size apparel and intimates, and the associated "Project Curvation" [ [ Curvation | Project Confidence ] ] , an awards program championing confidence in women.

*Christina Schmidt ~ appeared in seasons 1-3 of the popular Canadian cable TV series, "" as a plus-size model and is a unique example of the model/celebrity concept. Schmidt gained such popularity among the show's youthful audience that she was hired to model for plus-size clothing company Torrid and is now represented by the Wilhelmina 10/20 division in New York.

*Mia Tyler, daughter of Aerosmith singer Steve Tyler and Cyrinda Foxe-Tyler and half-sister of actress Liv Tyler, began modeling at age 20 via an appearance in "Seventeen". She was represented by Wilhelmina and booked by companies seeking to associate themselves with her rock'n roll lifestyle and aesthetic. Tyler appeared in "Vogue U.S." in its annual "Shape Issue" in 2003 and on the cover of Figure Magazine in May 2006.

The relationship of plus-size modeling to classical ideals of beauty

Various magazines and advertising campaigns have depicted plus-size models as embodying a return to the voluptuous Classical ideal of feminine beauty, as defined by sculptures such as the Venus de' Medici and the Winged Victory of Samothrace--i.e., the aesthetic ideal that generally prevailed throughout Western history, until well into the twentieth century. Notable among these is Elena Miro's 2003-2005 campaign featuring model Barbara Brickner reprising well-known works of art, and Lara Johnson's May 2002 appearance in US Glamour Magazine alongside a replica of the Venus de Milo [] .


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