Plus-size model Candice Huffine is even prettier in person, if you can believe it.
It's not just her incredible good looks, though that's a huge part of it. Huffine also exudes the kind of warmth and welcomeness that makes you feel like you've been friends with her for years, even if you've never met her before.
It's a quality possessed by some of the top models in the business, the Karlie Klosses and Liu Wens of the world, who have pioneered the era of the Social Media Supermodel by making fans feel like they're a part of their world.
Though Huffine doesn't quite carry the Instagram and Twitter follower numbers of those models -- not yet, anyway -- she's managed to capture the attention of one of the most important players in the industry: Vogue. She models Isabel Toledo's designs for Lane Bryant for the glossy's "Steal of the Month" column in the April 2014 issue.
A plus-size model appearing in Vogue would make headlines any day of the week, but this particular shoot -- just one image! -- ended up being a huge coup for Huffine. Not only was she in what is possibly the most talked-about Vogue issue in years (hello, KimYe Kontroversy), she also became the first plus-size model to appear on Vogue's contributors page and was given an accompanying piece on the website: "Candice Huffine's 5 Unexpected Rules for Dressing a Curvy Body."
Of course, it's hardly Huffine's first great accomplishment: She's been in the industry for nearly 15 years, appearing in everything from a 2011 Italian Vogue cover to a recent Tom Ford-lensed CR Fashion Book spread. But for any American-born model, it doesn't get much bigger than American Vogue.
"Listen, American Vogue is super, super important for me," Huffine tells me over coffee. "I've covered all these international magazines, which are surreal and exciting and I couldn't be more grateful, but the American Vogue thing was -- I feel like that's something that you say when you're a little girl, like, 'One day, I'm going to be in Vogue!'"
And it's more than an editorial where Huffine is a nameless-but-pretty face: She's quoted and called out by name in all three places. "It was such an amazing surprise for me," she says. "As far as I know, they go back through what the issue is about and pick out stories that they would like to see more of, and reach out to the person to see if they would like to be a contributor, so to me it was really important because my voice is being heard."
Now Huffine has the kind of springboard that Vogue once gave to another model that didn't quite fit the mold: Kate Upton (and she didn't even have to Dougie for it!). It's an opportunity that she's excited about.
"I have a lot to say about a lot of things and I'm really passionate about the industry," she says. "I've always been a curvier girl, living my life, super happy, and I want to show people that."
Huffine says she's already had great responses from her followers. They see images of her and her husband, or her confidently wearing a bikini on the beach, and are able to see a bit of themselves reflected back. It's an important message for the plus-size model to get out into the world, which lends itself perfectly to social media.
"I think the more that you share your story and share your life, people realize that it's not about changing yourself," she explains. "Live it, let's have fun, be happy -- it's a snowball effect in getting people more comfortable with themselves and moving on past the size thing, because the size conversation is plentiful and old."
According to Huffine, the plus-size industry has made enormous strides forward, even in the past few months. She admits that there's still some negativity happening from within that might be holding plus-sized women back -- she cites the backlash to Melissa McCarthy's Elle cover (which, for the record, she loved) -- but says overall the industry is on "the up and up and up."
So with the plus-size industry on the rise, I ask Huffine what's next for her. "Oh my gosh, who knows? The sky is the limit," she says with a big grin.
"I just hope that it continues and that I can make curvy women really proud, and we can continue to infiltrate the industry in a really positive way and you see more representation in the mainstream so everybody's happy and everybody's covered," she continues. "Because that makes me really happy."