Curve model V gives an insight into the modelling industry on what is is truly like to be an 'inbetweener', discussing the issue with the term plus, the hero that is Dalbesio and the ever changing opinions on body image within the fashion industry - 'We are youth culture, we are political and we are all sizes'.
Walks into casting* — “Oh my god, I can’t believe they have you doing plus size.” Just a day in the life of a model above a size 4, and below a size 12. Models above a size 4, in general, are niched pretty hard.
Before I hit puberty I was scouted all the time. But my mother, being a single mom and constantly working double shifts, never had the time or money to help me get started. Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I never went through puberty. Life would be so much easier— I would probably be traveling the world and shooting artsy avant-garde editorials. But I am above a size 4. And the path for many models like me would probably look more like this: firstly, if we are able to sign with an agency— we would then most likely get some commercial head shots done, go on a couple of fit castings, and if we’re lucky get into Cosmo’s plus size style watch section. And the photographers who are looking to move up in high fashion only want to do tests with the more “esteemed” agencies— and those who are esteemed are not above a size 4. These photographers want to shoot chic black and white portraits of slender women in Calvin Klein underwear. They don’t want to shoot portraits of equally as chic less slender women in Calvin Klein underwear, because our brand is less Calvin Klein and more Macy’s. So we don’t usually work with the high fashion photographers… who don’t request us. We are niched into plus size clothing brands and padded into Macy’s junior plus section. Yes, in one of my initial meetings with a top curve agency, they right away made it clear to me that I would probably be “padded” most of the time. In light of the rising junior plus category, I would like to address certain junior brands which are extremely uplifting and body positive— one being Aerie. The only label Aerie uses in their campaigns is “real”. Aerie’s famous “real and unretouched” campaigns are significant because they feature women of diverse body types— together.
However, in terms of plus specific clothing brands, we, meaning models of “in between” sizes, are still labeled as “plus” even when we are not typically big enough to model for the “plus” brands. I am “plus” and am a size 8 who eats clean and does yoga daily. Yet, since I have more curves than the “regular sized” model, the only runway I would probably ever do is a “plus” lingerie line, not a couture collection. I personally enjoy modelling for curvy brands in which I can fit, however that is not the only work I would like to be recognized for.
I’ve done my research, so I do understand the argument behind why couture designers choose to create smaller sized samples— it saves time and money. However, my question is… if we disguised each piece of art as a sample, wouldn’t the appreciation of that art be limited greatly due to the restricted audience of these masterpieces?
Therein lies my point— although directed by “trend”, fashion is still an art form. Anyone who is truly passionate about fashion understands this, however many also overlook some of the most passionate (and ironically most looked at) workers in fashion— the models. And I’m happy to say that the current trend is for us to be more than “model”, we can also become “artist”.
With the help of social media and social leverage, a model’s fanbase greatly increases the value of a model’s work— and the same holds true for any artist. We are more than just brands now. We are youth culture, we are political, and we are of all sizes. As a youth culture in a more socially connected world, we are constantly forming new communities and bridging gaps between our differences based on our one greatest similarity— our humanity. Many of our society’s past rigid social constructs are becoming more fluid, for example: our perceptions of the gender spectrum, sexuality, and family, etc. The same holds true for the actual definition of an artist. Models don’t have to have played major roles in top grossing blockbusters to be chosen for Chanel campaigns anymore. We can be chosen for the support we receive from our artistic community.
One great example of this is model/artist/photographer Myla Dalbesio. Dalbesio has been described as an internet sensation and controversial performance artist. However, she is most often just described as a “plus” model. ’You get used to calling yourself a plus-size model when you’re not,’ Myla said in one interview, ‘it has been hard. I can never figure out where I fit in, and I’m always making someone mad. I’m not skinny-skinny, but I’m not fat and fabulous either. I’m a size 10.’ The now size 8 Dalbesio was controversially named the first “plus size” model to be featured in a Calvin Klein campaign in 2014. The amount of dialogue revolving around model body image and the world “plus” initiated by this campaign has been a groundbreaking wake up call for the fashion industry. The campaign was so “groundbreaking” because it featured Dalbesio alongside “regular” sized models almost as if Dalbesio was a “regular” sized model herself. And as you can tell when you read more interviews with Dalbesio, the label plus still bothers her. And this is in addition to the fact that labels similar to these have contributed to her past unhealthy lifestyle. So knock off the demeaning labels… call us the size that we are, but don’t call us “irregular” or hold us to a standard. This is what the many popular hashtag campaigns such as Plus Is Equal, I’m No Angel, and Drop The Plus have been trying to raise awareness about. Except for the fact that all of them use negating language. Let’s start thinking about what we are, instead of what we are not. We are size 6,8,10… etc. We are businesses and artists. And we are angels too.
Myla stayed true to herself, and eventually reached her healthy weight even through her struggles of being labeled, rejected, and abused by the very industry that employs her. She has, as a result of her perseverance, been chosen for a campaign which started a conversation. A conversation which has deeply touched my life. I myself have recently made a very intimate Facebook post about my body, and have too contributed to this conversation of healthy body image. The picture accompanying the post was a black and white portrait of me, in Calvin Klein underwear. I wanted to take that kind of test picture because I want to be seen as a high fashion model too— and make it clear I will not be held down or niched based on my body type. I never knew how important my small contribution was until I began receiving messages from other models, a surprisingly equal ratio of women to men, letting me know how my post had touched them.
However, the purpose of this piece is to begin another conversation. I don’t want to only call attention to the difficulties of body image in the fashion industry— but also call attention to attention itself, and the difficulties of discovering what is worth looking at. Image itself, and what it means to be a model. Models aren’t images, and we aren’t just the canvas of the fashion industry. We are artists too. And we can keep being groundbreaking, as artists should be, by defying labels and pursuing our art form. And by continuing… and starting conversations which can change lives for the better.