The fashion industry isn’t historically known for championing curvy models, but with a greater focus on size, racial, and gender diversity in recent years, there has, at the very least, been a palpable shift. Still, for many of the successful curvy models we see gracing ad campaigns, runways, and Instagram feeds today (especially those who have been in the industry for some time), the road to getting booked and staying booked came with greater challenges than their “straight-sized” counterparts.
Undoubtedly, the industry has finally reached the territory of noticeable change regarding highlighting images and individuals who represent the various body types around the world, versus a fraction of what consumers actually look like. While reports show that only 34 curve models hit the runways during this September’s fashion month (1.48 percent of all models booked), the Versace spring/summer 2021 runway show made an example in featuring three plus-sized models, Precious Lee, Jill Kortleve, and Alva Claire, each looking stunning in their vividly colored, under-the-sea-inspired ensembles. Additionally, in October, widely loved UK-based fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing released their first “plus-specific” collection in collaboration with French model and influencer Leslie Sidora, while other brands from ASOS to Mango have also expanded their selections to cater to curvy women. But in a world where three curvy models on a high-fashion runway is big news and many retailers only offer “plus-size” options for select styles, if any, it’s clear that the work is far from done.
Even in a progressing industry, it’s clear to many that a subset of curvy models are preferred over others.
To get a better understanding of how far the fashion industry has come in its treatment of curvy models, how far it has to go, and what it’s like to be in an industry that has historically prioritized straight-sized models, we spoke with seven curvy models about their career experiences. “I had to reassure myself every day that I was just as worthy and deserved to be in the industry,” model Iskra Lawrence told POPSUGAR. “I was doing it for the younger me who needed to see a model like her.” Even in a progressing industry, it’s clear to many that a subset of curvy models are preferred over others. “There is more diversity than ever in the plus-sized industry, however you are still mostly seeing the same body types which are tall, hourglass, and toned,” model Tess Holliday told POPSUGAR, elaborating on an idea she touched on in a recent video post to her Instagram. “There’s obviously nothing wrong with those types of bodies, but it perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards, and the idea that anything that doesn’t look like that is less than.” Additionally, Black and other minority models face other unique challenges in addition to being curvy: “I’ve had brands tell me I was too big and too dark for them,” model Brielle Anyea told us. “A lot of brands tend to only use plus-size biracial models to represent women of color and Black women as a whole.”
In an industry that is constantly under fire for its slow transition to widespread diversity on all fronts, these seven models are among the group breaking barriers. Read ahead to learn more about everything from their early career experiences as curvy women, to how they protect their mental health at work, to their calls to action to brands and agencies to ensure the industry’s progress doesn’t end here.