5 "Plus-Size" Models on Feeling Comfortable in Your Own Skin
"I think everyone looks for a mentor or 'hero' in one form or another," model Jessica Lewis previously told Mic. "If curvy models can be that person for curvy women everywhere and in turn empower them and boost their self-confidence, that's wonderful, no?"
"Plus-size" models are often lauded for representing the vast majority of women who do not meet the standards set by thin, "straight-size" models, and for challenging overarching cultural conceptions of beauty by doing so. But some curvy models go the extra mile and use their platforms to drive the point home: Women of all sizes should not only see their body types represented, but should be encouraged to be at peace with their figures as well.
Here are five plus-size models who have led the charge by sharing their philosophies on body acceptance.
Although she's now a role model to many, Graham wasn't always so confident.
"I would go home and look in front of the mirror and only hate what I saw," she said in a recent TEDx talk. It wasn't until she took ownership of her body — rather than succumb to the negative messages surrounding her — that she came to self-acceptance.
"I had to learn to reclaim my body as my own, and in reclaiming my body as my own I understood as a woman, I had a greater purpose," Graham said. "I felt free once I realized I was never going to fit the narrow mold society wanted me to fit in."
"I believe beauty is beyond size," she added. "With so much emphasis on the body and the external, it's no wonder we all suffer so much internally."
Kwao has also found self-acceptance, seemingly counter-intuitively, by looking beyond her body.
"I've inherited so much culture, beauty and love, and I'm the perfect mix of Philomena," she told Essence. "I also believe that if you can find beauty in everything, you can allow that to change your mindset and you radiate all the beauty you've absorbed; doing that makes you a happier person."
"Real women come in all shapes and sizes," model and author Renn told Amanda de Cadenet on The Conversation. "I think the most important thing for me is to love myself no matter what size I am."
But this self-love is not just about individuals feeling good about themselves, Renn has noted. It's crucial to the much bigger project of women's progress overall.
"There are so many people out there who could change the world, but they're consumed with self-hatred," Renn told the Independent. "Women have come so far," she added, "but not as far as we could yet go, because our vanity worries take up most of our time mentally and it's holding us back. If we throw away the idea of obsessing about calories, imagine how much your mind is freed up. I certainly found that to be the case."
Huffine has appeared on the cover of Vogue Italy and has been featured in many other high-profile magazines, but even she has faced criticism about her size.
"Everyone has an opinion. Those with the loudest opinions should understand that everyone has a different shape and a different style," Huffine told Refinery 29 about people's varying perceptions of her. But rather than view this difference as weakness, Huffine considers it a point of strength.
"We are all proportioned differently and are all different sizes," she said. "That is the beauty of that — that we aren't all just straight up and down. That's what's so exciting."
Holliday is widely known for not only breaking barriers in the plus-size modeling industry, but for her active efforts to promote a liberating, defiant theory of body acceptance. The phrase that launched her social media-based body-positivity campaign — #EffYourBeautyStandards — sums up her philosophy well.
"Everybody deserves to be happy, but for some reason the fact that I happen to be plus size and happy seems to bother people," she told Huffington Post UK. "It's odd really."
"I hope this makes you realize that it's okay to be yourself, even if you happen to exist in a fat body," she wrote in an Instagram post featuring an image from one of her photo shoots. "I'm sexy, confident & give no fucks. Also, fuck anyone for saying otherwise."