It is no longer fashionable for only skinny models bordering on skeletal to taste runaway successes on the runway. With the recent body acceptance movement gaining momentum, more and more women, who look closer to how real women really are, are kicking the crushing supermodel ideal to the curb and encouraging women to embrace their curves in style. These famous plus size models are no longer struggling to fit themselves into the under-size-four stifling compartment and remain ever-iffy about exhorting other women to follow suit. From stirring up the discourse about the effed-up standards of the beauty industry and starring in refreshingly rebellious campaigns, fashion glossies and ads, these plus size stunners are carrying the torch places.
And call us crazy but we still think that the magazines who feature these famous plus size models (if only to count all the cash they rake in for’em) are still taking a step in the right direction- by showing the world that beauty does not come in one fixed size or shape. And don’t take us wrong- we have nothing against the supermodels who can pass through a subway grate like they were walking in open space (most of them onboard with the body positivity messages we are pushing this month). We just think it is time to shine the light on the famous plus size models who are so much more than just curvaceous beauties. These voluptuous divas are taking on an industry who defines beauty ‘by the outside’ by storm by turning everything that IS on the outside (rolls, curves and all) into an out-and-out recipe for love! To these beauties who teach the world to love themselves in all their be-YOU-ty, NLT sends oodles of love:
1. Ashley Graham
This Nebraska-bred beauty found overnight success with the Lane Bryant campaign and has since been spotted on the covers of Swimsuit, Maxim, Vogue, Glamour and countless other magazines. An outspoken advocate for body diversity in the industry and a champion of body positivity, Ashley has appeared on myriad shows and traveled to a number of schools to spark a discussion on body image and acceptance. In her inspiring viral TEDx Talk earlier this year, she said, “I felt free once I realized I was never going to fit the mold that society wanted me to fit in. I was never going to be perfect enough for an industry that defines perfection from the outside and that’s okay. Rolls, curves, cellulite, all of it—I love every part of me.” From someone who proved to the world how you can be ‘too racy for the airwaves’ by being just who you are, we love the message too!
2. Candice Huffine
This plus size stunner is a Maryland native whose ticket to fame was a gorgeous black-and-white cover shot by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia in 2011. Ever since, she has starred in a slew of other glossies (from W to i-D to Harper’s Bazaar– you name it) and has also appeared in the Pirelli Calendar. She explains how ‘natural’ it feels to be in her own skin, “Plus models are some of the healthiest girls I’ve ever seen. I can’t reiterate enough that this is just the way our bodies are supposed to be. I’m extremely active. You don’t see me dwindling down to a size six because my body’s not meant to be a size six.” And we couldn’t agree more, we’ve always been the one for being be-You-tiful!
3. Robyn Lawley
This 26 year old Australian beauty was the one who starred right alongside of Huffine on the Vogue Italia cover in 2011. Since then, she has been seen on the cover of Vogue Australia (2011), in a Ralph Lauren campaign (2012) and in an editorial spread in Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (2015). Just like Graham’s line of lingerie, she’s got her self-designed swimwear collection she models for and a cookbook called Robyn Lawley Eats. Yummy? You bet!
4. Tess Holliday
Tess became the first ever size-22 model to be signed on by Milk Model Management in January of 2015 and has since, gone on to star in campaigns for Torrid and Benefit Cosmetics, alongside getting featured in Vogue Italia and People’s Body Issue. A body positive activist, she has over a million followers on Instagram where her campaign #effyourbeautystandards has created quite the stir. She says, “I have this passion inside of me to help other women feel confident and comfortable in their bodies, regardless of their size or what society tells them is beautiful. It’s like a calling.” You go girl!
5. Marquita Pring
A New York native, Pring became the face of all-American brand Levi’s, reminding the world that denim was for people who worked hard, played harder and ate well! The size-14 beauty is represented by IMG and has starred in a number of major campaigns, all focusing on being happy, healthy, confident and a positive role model for young women. Pring has averred on several occasions how she hates the term plus-size as it gives rise to another segregation and we are with her on the topic! But that’s a discussion for another time!
6. Denise Bidot
This Miami-born maven created quite a stir when she posed in an unretouched swimwear campaign for SwimsuitsForAll. The ad’s tagline? “Beach Body. Not Sorry.” She also happens to be the first plus-size Latina model to walk in not one but two “straight-size” runway shows at New York Fashion Week, for Beyoncé-approved swim and lingerie brand Chromat and Serena Williams’ debut HSN collection, attended by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. One of those pretty lassies who believes happy girls are the prettiest, when she says “It’s about time we embrace who we are and stop apologizing for it. So many women are wasting their happiness, and wishing that they could just fit into those jeans. Happiness is internal and beauty is internal,” we love her all the more! Someone said it, finally!
7. Erica Jean Schenk
When fitness glossy Women’s Running chose this 18-year old size-18 beauty for its August issue last year, all body positive advocates rejoiced. “Our generation has taken leaps and bounds towards less judgment and more acceptance. It makes me proud to see people responding positively to a curvy and proud woman who wants to lead a healthy lifestyle,” Erica told People. “This cover proves anyone can run. Don’t be afraid to be curvy and do what you love. You are not alone.“
8. Philomena Kwao
This stunner landed in the industry after a friend secretly entered her in a nationwide modeling hunt in her native UK. And boy, do we have to thank her friend for it! The stunner broke into the industry when she walked on the runway for Isabel Toledo’s buzzy collection for Lane Bryant, after which she was roped in by Torrid as its new face. Founder of The Lily Project, a mentorship program that encourages women to speak about the issues that affect them, this stunner is beauty with brains and a heart of gold!
9. Jennie Runk
Discovered at age 13, she has appeared in magazines like Vogue, Marie Claire and Glamour (for which she has posed nude). But her true moment in the sunshine has been her swim campaign for H&M for which she has received global recognition and widespread acclaim. “Some [people] told me that my confidence has inspired them to try on a bikini for the first time in years,” Jennie wrote in an op-ed for BBC. “This is exactly the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to accomplish, showing women that it’s OK to be confident even if you’re not the popular notion of ‘perfect.'” And exactly the kind of thing we want to hear from trailblazers like yourself!
10. Nadia Aboulosn
The winner of American Apparel’s XL Model Search back in 2011, this half-Lebanese beauty has since featured in the pages of Teen Vogue, Vogue Italia, Seventeen and more. Having snagged deals with Boohoo and Addition Elle, she says she identifies as a role model for women. “American woman are size 10, 12, 14. I’m very relatable. People aren’t used to seeing the clothes on somebody with the curves I have. If you’re fashionable, you’re fashionable regardless of size.” Fashionable as f*ck, we say!
11. Crystal Renn
Having first been a straight-size model suffering from anorexia, Renn has spoken about the rigors and pressures of the fashion industry in her 2009 book Hungry. An ardent body positivity advocate who has “been there done that” by rebranding her career from the start by reemerging as a healthier, happier and fitter size 12 version, she has been one of the few plus size models to walk for enviable names like Chanel, Zac Posen, Vena Cava and Jean Paul Gaultier. Having shed a few sizes since then, she is trying to break free of labels and pushing the industry to embrace beauty, for what it is.
12. Whitney Thompson
It took her ten seasons to win America’s Next Top Model, because, you guessed it, she wasn’t stick thin. Ever since, she has modeled for Forever 21, CoverGirl, Saks Fifth Avenue, and become an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association.
13. Katya Zharkova
Zharkova created ripples right when her PLUS Model mag editorial featured her size 12 self in a nude embrace with a skinny straight-size model. The difference was startling and created quite a stir in the industry. The discourse picked steam and all shots ran ever since featured statistics that sparked discussions about the differences in the standards propounded by the fashion industry and those espoused by/reflected in real women. The sad part is, the gap isn’t closing in- “twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.”
14. Lizzie Miller
Another plus size model who walked the bold path of allowing for her unretouched images to be featured in Glamour’s September 2009 issue, she has been one of the few to ignite the discussion about inclusivity and making room for representing women of all sizes and shapes.
This torchbearer has been at the forefront of body positivity for more than a decade now. She was the first plus size model to be on the cover of the Australian magazine New Woman back in 1997. The same year, she was Glamour’s Woman Of The Year. She’s written three encouraging self-help books- True Beauty—Positive Attitudes & Practical Tips from the World’s Leading Plus Size Model, Life’s Little Emergencies: Everyday Rescue for Beauty, Fashion, Relationships, and Life, and Morning Has Broken: A Couple’s Journey Through Depression. More recently, she has collaborated with her alma mater Syracuse University to launch Fashion Without Limits, a design initiative for creating clothing for sizes 12 and above.
16. Sophie Dahl
While Candice Huffine is confused to be the first ever plus size model to feature in the Pirelli Calendar, it is Dahl who has created history there. A top model in the 90s, Dahl was photographed for the infamous calendar in 1999 by none other than Herb Ritts. Dahl has since stopped modeling and is devoting her time to her writing career.
17. Natalie Laughlin
Another 90s name in the plus size modeling world, Laughlin was the first ever plus size model to appear on a Times Square billboard. She repeated the honor for Liz Claiborne, four times in a row. Currently, Natalie works as an inspirational speaker and promotes body acceptance.
18. Olivia Campbell
A London based curvaceous beauty, this plus sized model has braved a lifetime of bullying and body shaming to reclaim a life of loving her curves, as they are. As a part of What’s Underneath series, she is one of the many women who have stripped down to their underwear to reveal how hard it has been to suffer under the weight of the ‘fat’ label and how it feels to break free out of its shackles and wear one’s hard-won self-worth. Sending out a message on fat acceptance and self-love, she tells young women to wear their curves like their armor, because covering up didn’t keep people from pushing “me into bin huts and stuff and try and take my clothes off when I was ten,” she says. We are with Campbell on this one and believe that good words and actions can both make a difference. A big one.
19. Bishamber Das
This stunning Indo-Malaysian beauty based in UK who has modeled for Yours Clothing, Nubian Skin among others is the first British Asian plus size model to enter the game, and wish to change it. Having struggled with an abusive, alcoholic father and taken to food for comfort, she has grappled with body image issues and finally landed in a confident place of self-love. Having defied the size zero culture, this curvaceous diva has won the Miss India Europe international in 2014 and is on the continuous grind to normalize all body shapes and sizes ever since.
20. Hayley Herms
One of the most gorgeous plus size models on the list, Herms is the lady who can pull off any look from a 90s grunge to a sultry, ultra-glam look. She has modeled for brands like Tunnel Vision and Society Plus and is soon to make a foray into television and films.
21. Naomi Shimada
Shimada started modeling at the age of twelve and has been in the industry for about fifteen years now. Over the course of her uneven modeling trajectory, she has starred in spreads for magazines including InStyle and Oh Comely, and has never, for once, shied away from speaking the truth about plus-size modeling. Having been in an industry that tells you ‘who to be’ (even when you don’t know what it means to be ‘it’), she has been quite forthcoming about the prejudice, fear, paralysis, bias, shame and confusion surrounding ‘fat’ or anything ‘plus’ in the industry. She hopes for a change and we are with her!
22. Andrea Michelle
Michelle is what her Insta account says she is- a classic curve. With a growing legion of fans for her work on and off the runway, this freckled beauty teaches all women to love the skin they are in- #LikeABoss! Oh, and did I mention, she can rock a yellow lipstick!! #$@^%*
23. Jennifer Buckingham
A sun kissed beauty with windswept hair, you’d feel smitten by the way this woman smizes like nobody else can… she’s scorched the cover of Skorch– if that says anything.
24. Katana Fatale
Another Skorch alum, Fatale is fatal with her gaze and can take you down with her effortless confidence and personal style. Having worked with brands like Chubby Cartwheels and SWAK, she is always looking to promote the message for self love and body acceptance.
25. Fluvia Lacerda
Touted as the plus-size Gisele Bundchen, Fluvia is another Brazilian beauty who has taken the fashion world by storm. Already splashed on covers of Vogue Italia and Bust, we cannot wait to see what more this Brazilian beauty (booty) has to boot! Of course, while the Gisele comparisons are a great talking point, we wonder if Brady would be ‘up’ for that body! 😉
Love yourself, women! There’s nothing as powerful!
Featured image source: Lifestyle