In a world where we’ve become obsessed with labels the term “Plus-sized model” has become synonymous with men and women over a certain size. To be honest I really can’t stand it. Were living in a society comprised of millions of people who inevitably all look different in some way or another and at some point there became this new concept that instead of just calling yourself a model based on your craft people needed to identify you as a certain “Type”. This is where you start to hear terms like “Alt” model and “Plus-sized” model. To me terms like this are not only offensive and hurtful in some cases but are also totally irrelevant and shouldn’t even be an indicator of ones ability as a model period.
Ok so lets just look at the words for a minute. For example lets take the word “Model” for exactly what it means and go from there. One definition is “One that serves as the subject for an artist, especially a person employed to pose for a painter, sculptor, or photographer”. When I read this I say to myself “Ok this can include anyone without having to specify height or weight” Meaning a model can be any size based on this definition, long story short theres a model for everything and anything. However here’s where it gets interesting. If you look up “Plus-sized model” online you will get a totally different definition and a very particular set of images. Its always a short history lesson about the “Plus-sized” industry which is perplexing to me because at this point the fashion/modeling industry has now accepted and adapted the term “Plus-sized” to not only create a secondary niche market, but to create a term that makes people feel inferior and marginalized based on their physical appearance, and part of a separate demographic of models different from the rest of the mainstream modeling community.
As a fashion photographer I find myself having a lot of conversations with people about fashion and modeling etc. I’m the kind of artist where if I see a person I think is dynamic and shootable I have no problem approaching them and asking if they want to explore modeling. A lot of times I gravitate towards people that would never consider modeling in attempts to show them how dope they could be at it and in doing so I talk to a lot of people with different body types. What surprises me the most is how many people, especially women, say things to me like “I’m too fat” or “I’m too tall” followed by “I was offered to do Plus-sized modeling once” Which I guess is supposed to indicate to me that they’re too big to model, or simply don’t want to. On the other hand most men just think I’m either full of crap or hitting on them. To be honest this frame of thought drives me nuts because it’s pointless! A model is a model! The fact that there’s this term for one body type and not another pisses me off and the fact that it discourages people from exploring their potential frustrates me even more. If we have the term “Plus-sized” for models of a certain stature then why don’t we have the term “minus-sized”? Or “Dark-skinned” and “Light-skinned” for models of different complexions? The term “Plus-sized” can also be the reason a lot of models develop eating disorders. If I told a 7ft tall 185lb Woman she’s “Plus-sized” she might take that as “Overweight” which can turn into “Unappealing” Or “Fat” when in actuality she’s just tall or maybe curvy. However if you see that same 7ft model next year looking like she’s lost 50lbs it might be that “Plus-sized” comment that got her there. And don’t get me wrong it goes for men and women.
Another question you could ask is, at what point was the term “Plus” even added? Again are there any “Minus” sized models out there? Do they even use that title? And who made this decision that once you go over a certain size you’re now in a new category? (men) I’ve also noticed when I look at fashion the industry is not even catering to women and men over a certain size which to me is not only offensive, passive, elitism but its also hurtful and makes people who appreciate fashion feel totally left out. What really breaks my heart is the stigma that some people associate with plus sized modeling that they’re plus sized models because they’re overweight or just too big. I also feel like some fashion houses don’t even want to try and cater to new demographics and that’s really frustrating because you end up with these cheap filler companies that cater to “Plus sized” people and sell then cheap no name garments like they don’t know its crap. Or in other cases you find people repurposing high-end garments to fit them because the designer never made it in their size which is fine for the independent creative but on the other hand I think is a major fail for the industry in terms of creativity, understanding fashion demographics, and most importantly from the financial perspective. Imagine how much more merchandise Chanel would sell if they catered a larger sized demographic, just imagine.
So for the record Let me make it clear by saying HELL NO! I don’t hate “Plus-sized” models but I’m glad I got your attention. In fact I encourage anyone who’s been told they’re “Plus-sized” to do more with their modeling than they’ve ever done before under the new title “Model”. You should be safe but also take risks and be creative! Bare it all and don’t feel bad about it! Don’t let ANYONE make you feel bad about it either! I also encourage people to stop using the term “Plus-sized” all together! If you’re a model you’re a model. People are drawn to confidence, kindness, and good energy in the end. I strongly believe the only reason the term “Plus-sized” is being used is to passively discourage big men and women from modeling by pinning a label on them. A label like “Plus-sized” can make people feel inferior especially in a highly critical, and competitive industry like modeling. Bottom line if you see me out and about and we talk about fashion, art, modeling, whatever, do us both a favor and call yourself what you are, a MODEL!
The opinions and views expressed are those of Jesse Greene.
Maggie Judge @thejudgmaggie
Ashley Graham https://www.instagram.com/ashleygraham/ham/
Amy Schumer https://www.instagram.com/amyschumer/