I started modeling as a size 4. I struggled to get work and begged a powerhouse agency to sign me. In return, I promised I'd lose weight.
I signed with the agency and spent six hours a day in the gym: three in the morning and three at night. Before every photo shoot, agency Polaroid, and casting, I starved myself to a point where I'd faint or black out.
In the fortunate case that you've never fainted, it's extremely embarrassing and incredibly dangerous. I’ve walked into walls and fallen head-first on the ground. I’ve slipped in the shower with no one to help. I’ve lost my sight for over 30 seconds, trying to breathe while blacking out. I’ve walked into the gym so dehydrated, so sad, and so depressed that I thought, I’d rather be dead.
It was that moment walking into the gym that a fire exploded within me. I knew that it was time to take a stand for who I was, not for who someone else wanted me to be.
At the time, I was not familiar with what a "plus size model" was, and what the career actually entailed, let alone if I could even make it a career. In fact, a modeling scout had once suggested that I pursue plus-size modeling, and I'd thought it was an insulting job suggestion.
After that day at the gym, I called her and said I was ready to break loose and model in my own body.
I was tired of trying to squeeze my body into a size that wasn't natural and struggling with 10 years of countless types of disordered eating habits. A friend had suggested I read T. Colin Campbell's The China Study, about the health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. My mother and I read it at the same time.
As soon as I started the book, I knew that the meat and dairy days were over for me.
I discovered that I'm a devout animal lover. By clearing my plate of animal meats and dairy products, I was able to create a positive, nourishing connection with food, for the first time, ever. After two years of going vegan, I realized that I had stopped getting up in the middle of the night to gorge myself (like I used to, every night for 10 years).
Gone were the days of starving myself and then binge eating when I could no longer take the hunger. I ate because I knew I was nourishing and healing my body. I stopped seeing my food psychologist who encouraged me to eat boiled eggs and bacon for breakfast, and I started to take yoga and practice healing, nonjudgmental thoughts. Ok, so my butt’s growing in, and my arms have grown too. Thank you body for giving me a beautiful suit to wear on my journey. I went from a size 4 to a size 14.
A few years into being a full-time plus size model, I had another career epiphany. As models, we get a lot of messages from women who idolize us and our career. I was receiving emails from high school girls who said they wanted to be just like me and I realized: Young women should not have to aspire to be, “plus-size.”
They should aspire to be themselves. Wherever that happy balance lies for them.
Every woman should feel free to identify with her own unique shape and not a broadly marketed label. We should all feel that we can be whatever size we are, and not have to tell everyone, “I’m plus size.” Trust me, no one’s mistaking me for a size 4, so why keep the label?
From a modeling standpoint, why should anyone pigeonhole herself by saying that she's plus size or curvy? These labels are so widely interpreted and if you take a look at the models working today, you might agree that size is trivial. After all, “plus size” represents anyone from a size 6 to a size 16.
Now, when I introduce myself, and people ask me what I do, I simply say, “I’m a model.” There’s a lot of freedom and self-love in leaving the labels behind.
Wherever your body is supposed to be, that’s where we should confidently stand, and that’s the message I’m spreading. I hope you join me in self-loving with your comments below. If you support this label-free movement, please comment on what you love about yourself. For me, I love that I’m able to inspire women to love themselves (big surprise, I know) and that I married a handsome man who loves me for taking a stand.
By sharing this message, you embody this empowering, inspirational confidence. Go, you!
Photo Credit: Michael Weschler