That means it's also never been a better time to be a plus-size model. Women like Ashley Graham, Iskra Lawrence and Jordyn Woods are all proving that the curvy girls can be social media supermodels, too. IMG, home to modeling powerhouses like Kate Moss and Karlie Kloss, has taken note: Since integrating their "Curve" board with the rest of their models in 2014, the team has taken to signing new plus-size talent at a rapid pace.
We hopped on the phone with five of IMG's newest curve recruits to get the scoop on what excites them about their new agency, what being a plus-size model means to them and what they hope to achieve through modeling. Some are just getting started, while others have established careers they're ready to take to the next level. While the plus-size debate continues — is the term "curve" better than "plus size"? — one thing is for sure: This is a very exciting time for these gorgeous ladies.
"I got scouted at a friend's fashion show back in Brisbane, where I'm from, five years ago. I originally wanted to be a hairdresser, and then I went to law school. I studied for two years, then I took the opportunity to go overseas and start this journey. I always wanted to be a lawyer, and now I don't really think I want to go back to school, to be honest [laughs]. My career only really started when I moved to New York, because there wasn't much [of a curve] market in Australia. I can't wait to have a new set of eyes on my career [with IMG], which I'm excited about — why not be with the best if they want you?
I'm really into fashion — I know that every model says that! — but I'm into styling and my biggest dream would be to have a clothing line. I was always a bit of a quirky kid because I could never find anything that could fit me, so I was always wearing these extravagant outfits. And then it kind of stuck.
The [plus size] movement's been going on for a while, but it's having a huge spike at the moment. I grew up as a bigger child, and I didn't really have anyone to look to. If I can use my voice to change it and become a part of the cream of the crop of the really successful plus girls that are out there, I'd love to go on that journey, and I feel like IMG is going to make that happen. It goes beyond having my picture taken. I want to be able to stand up in front of a room full of women and help them understand their worth. I was bullied as a kid, I'm in this amazing job I never thought was possible, and if I can use that as a platform to speak out, then wow."
"I started modeling at the beginning of university, and then I left it alone for a little while and worked in the fashion industry. Then I decided that I wanted to travel and modeling was a good way to get me overseas. I studied fashion design in New Zealand, where I'm from. After that, I went on and was an assistant designer for a label in New Zealand for a couple of years, and then I left that behind and moved to New York.
[With IMG], there's a really nice sort of attention for the person and what they stand for in their brands. Modeling is only a part of my life, it's not my whole life, so it's nice to be able to openly discuss everything you're interested in and what avenues you might want to go down. Even just to be on a board mixed with girls that aren't the same size as me is quite cool. The fact that IMG has taken on another group of [curve] girls, it's a sign that it's not a fad or a phase, and all the girls there have been doing amazing work. It should be an example for everyone else in the industry.
[Going] back to New Zealand for the first time, you can see that New York is the place [the curve trend] stems from. The fashion industry's not that big there, and the economy is not that big there, but when I go back I can see that things have started to trickle through and people are starting to understand what the value of having diversity in fashion is. I think that's really exciting, because you can see the effect of everyone's efforts in creating this positive revolution. There are still other ways we can be involved in the high fashion business we see everywhere; beauty campaigns, or even just a handbag campaign is an amazing thing. For me, [the goal is] definitely something along those lines, where your size isn't even in the equation because it's not about your size, it's about what you bring to the table."
"My mom got me into [modeling] and did all the research when I was a teenager. She had researched Ford in Chicago, where I lived about six hours from, and we went into a meeting there and they signed me. I was 17 then. I didn't know anything about it; I always thought of models as being very skinny, and I was never that size, so I didn't even think it was possible. I had never even heard of plus size modeling. I just went because my parents were like, 'You can do it, it's a nice little job you can do to make money for school,' and it happened. It's actually been really good, I'm glad I went [laughs].
[IMG is] pretty legendary! It's awesome to see that they're at the forefront of everything — with diversity included in that. It's nice to see that the first [curve] girls they signed, they just kept on the board with the rest and they didn't separate the two. It's great just to make it more common and for people to see there's more sizes out there, and maybe some girls can see that there are girls more relatable to them. You don't have to be one size to be healthy. I didn't really have that when I was younger, and I think it's cool to get that out there. I'm really into sports, I love snowboarding and surfing and all these outdoor things ... you don't really see a size 12 up on those ads, so it would be amazing to do something like that. As far as goals, I'm down to do whatever comes my way."
"I always wanted to model, but the only models I saw were skinny girls. I spent most of my life trying to lose the weight to be a model and just really struggled with my body. I got to a point after college where I just realized that that wasn't my natural body, it wasn't a 0 or 2, and I accepted that wasn't in the cards for me. Really shortly after I made the decision to love myself in the body that I was in, I got approached randomly at the bank in L.A. by a couple of model agents, for an agency that had just started. I got to work and live this dream of mine at my size, and I had never really known about plus size modeling, I never even knew that was an option.
I had IMG models on my wall, because it really had been a dream of mine to model for so long. They understand the idea of building a cohesive brand; they understand that their models are not just a size and a measurement, they're not just a coat hanger, they're a soul and they have passions. I pinch myself every day to be with them and to know the capacity with which they grow careers. At IMG, it's the first time I've stepped into the industry and felt I was being valued for all the pieces of me — on the inside and the outside.
I'm thrilled to see this kind of curve movement going on. I just know how much I struggled with food. It was such a pain point for me. I had a severe eating disorder growing up and I never felt beautiful. If I had seen more women who looked like me in the media, I think I would have had a better perspective on my own worth. I think it's something that's way overdue, and I feel really grateful that I get to be a part of it and to be a role model, to use this as a way to empower others. It's so cool to see these girls building careers based around this body positivity. They all have businesses and voices; they're doing Ted Talks. Just to be a part of that and head in that direction and choosing beauty as a platform to better this world, those are all things I would like to do.
I have a business called Model Meals; it's all about clean eating, we do meal delivery. I'm a big wellness person, so it's really cool to have a platform to show that being healthy and taking care of yourself doesn't look just one way. I really like the idea of helping people realize that what you eat isn't about size and weight, it's about how your body functions and your mood. My dream job, just because I had Victoria's Secret models on my wall for so long, would be to be the first curvier, full-figured woman on that runway. I think that Victoria's Secret has a really interesting power in the fashion modeling industry, and I think that it would be special for them to show a variety of body types."
"Modeling initially wasn't something I set out to do. I was studying photography, art and English at A level, and then I was scouted around that time, still figuring out what I wanted to do. It was going really well and I was enjoying it, and then around my early 20s I started getting curvier. When I started out I was a straight size model, a UK 8-10. As my body developed, my then agency told me I had to get my measurements down. That's when I took a step back. I thought, okay, I'm in my early 20s now, this is my natural body shape, I never wanted to succumb to any fad diet; I was eating well, I was healthy, I was exercising, so I knew that this was womanhood, and this is my body.
Then I heard about plus size modeling in 2011 — I think there was a big plus size boom in New York and that trickled into Europe. It was a Eureka moment. At the time, there were very few agencies in London that did that, and I found a very small agency in London and sent my Polaroids and it kind of went from there. Since then, I've become even curvier, and the more curvy I become, the more it's embraced and the more it's been celebrated. I'm still eating well, going to the gym, doing what's right for me and just working with my natural body shape. For me, that is the dream.
IMG represents so many veterans — model names that you remember from when you were young, growing up, and I feel privileged to be represented by such an amazing agency. I feel empowered. I find it so empowering that brands understand the importance of relating to the consumer, and the consumer is women of varying shapes and sizes. In our day and age, social media has had such a profound global impact when it comes to influencing our generation, and our social media platforms have women understanding they have a voice. Curves are celebrated, voices are celebrated. It's just a really exciting time and I feel it's still just beginning.
When I started out there weren't that many curvy models, let alone curvy models of mixed heritage and of color. For me to represent however many curvy and mixed girls out there ... we live in such a diverse multicultural world that's not always heavily represented in media, so just having a voice [is exciting]. I set up a body confidence workshop, which I'm currently in the midst of re-branding, and that in itself is a tangible platform for women to come and be a part of to boost their self-esteem and their confidence. For me, the long-term goal is launching that workshop globally, knowing that women from every city can come together and learn to be confident in who they are."
These interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.