How did you get started in modeling?
I’ve been performing, one way or another, for as long as I can remember. did my first modeling job in San Francisco when I was twelve, but I never really pursued it seriously. My focus was always more on acting and singing. After I graduated, I studied drama at the North Carolina School of the Arts.
I went to see my brother in New York, who was appearing in an off-Broadway show. I had done some straight size modeling before I went to college, but I filled out when I matured. I thought my modeling days were over. I had heard about plus modeling, so I brought a couple of photos with me. After I got to New York, I stopped by a couple of agencies and showed them my pictures.
I wasn’t familiar with the concept of the open call, so I just walked in and asked to speak to an agent. The receptionists were nice, and I ended up getting to meet with an agent every place I went. I decided to sign with Click a couple of days later.
My first job was with Champion Sportswear. I got the job a couple of months after I signed with my agent. It was so exciting! They flew me out to Santa Barbara for a couple of days. Everyone was very kind. The focus was on outdoor and workout wear, so they shot me running on the beach, rock climbing and paddling around in a sea kayak. It was a great first experience.
Is being a plus size model as exciting as you thought it would be?
Yes! It’s a lot of hard work, but I knew that it would be. My expectations coming into it were pretty realistic. I love what I do. There are some moments that feel exactly like you’d imagine a model’s life is supposed to feel. One of my favorite times is just before I go on stage at a runway show, when the music is filling the room with energy. But there’s a whole other side that isn’t glamorous at all. You have to be very committed if you want to work regularly.
What has been your favorite job so far and why?
That’s a tough question. I enjoy modeling so much. I could keep saying my last job was my favorite! In terms of sheer environment and ambience, I did a shoot for a client in Florence, Italy last April that I will never forget. We stayed at a very old winery and shot for several days all over the countryside and in town. The people I worked with were so wonderful. I picked up a little Italian, and the food was amazing!
I’ve also done a couple of shoots for Grace magazine that rank among my favorites. The James Bond spread in this last issue was great fun. I LOVE the people there, and I get excited every time I have the opportunity to get together with them.
How often do you work?
I’d say I average between three and five days per week. It goes in cycles. Some weeks I’m working more, some weeks I get more time off.
What do you think clients love most about you?
It’s tough to say what makes a client book a particular model for the first time, but I think that clients tend to work with me again because of my professional attitude. To me, professionalism has a lot to do with taking care of the small details, and doing it consistently. I think dependability counts for a lot with clients. My goal is never to be a part of the chaos. I try to be one less thing they have to worry about, and I think that attitude is appreciated.
I also think that clients appreciate the sense of wonder that I try to bring to each shoot. In my opinion, modeling at its best is like acting in slow motion. The model’s job is to project a persona through the clothes; in other words, to make them come alive. I approach each job like an acting project, and try to maintain a fresh perspective for every client I work with.
What do you do to keep in shape?
I make an effort to be active throughout the day. I often take the stairs instead of the elevator, or when I have time to spare I’ll walk instead of take a cab. I work out when I can. When I’m on the road, I try to stay in hotels with exercise facilities. In case that’s not an option, I always bring my yoga mat with me. It doesn’t take up much space, and I can work out in my room. I actually plan on getting certified to teach it in the near future. Yoga Journal (http://www.yogajournal.com/) is a good resource for anyone who is interested in learning some basic positions. It’s great for flexibility and strength training. Overall, I think when exercise involves more creative expression than mindless repetition, it is less of a chore and more of a joy.
I try to eat healthfully, but I wouldn’t say that I diet. I don’t deny myself food. In my opinion, that’s one of the great things about being a plus model. It’s certainly not carte blanche to eat whatever you want whenever you want, but at least you don’t have to starve yourself. And it’s a good thing too. I have a major sweet tooth, and I’m guilty of eating chocolate regularly. It’s like my kryptonite.
You do a lot of traveling as a model. How does this affect your social life?
I do spend a lot of time on the road. When I get a couple of days off, I make the most of them. I guess you could say that I don’t have much of a social life outside of modeling, but that’s not entirely because of the travel. I’ve always been the type of person who has a small circle of really close friends, and I know I can count on them to be there for me. I also have an amazing family that I love more than anything. Even when I’m gone, those people are never far away thanks to the wonders of technology. I have lots and lots of minutes on my cell phone, and I send a lot of emails. I talk to my mom and dad pretty much every day.
You have participated in two very visible projects – Grace magazine and the “Curve” documentary. What were these experiences like and how did it feel to be a part of them?
They were both great experiences, and I feel that I have grown a lot professionally as a result. The more I learn about the history and evolution of plus modeling, the more in awe I am at the women who have worked so hard to bring it to this point, and the more pride I feel about what I am doing and who I am representing. My experiences shooting footage for Curve and my continuing involvement with the wonderful people at Grace magazine have really made me aware that some serious plus modeling history is being written today.
The Curve documentary was unlike any other experience I’ve had. When I found out that someone was interested in shooting a documentary on plus modeling, I was really excited. It was one of the first times that I really began to understand the social impact of full figured modeling. I jumped in with both feet. I spent a lot of time shooting footage and promotional stills for Curve, and have been to several film festivals to help them promote it.
I think plus modeling is on the verge of another peak in terms of mainstream recognition. Kate Dillon was in Vogue and there have been several major magazines that have done “size diversity” issues. Tonner came out with the collectible Emme doll (http://www.tonnerdoll.com/emme.htm). Many congratulations should be given to PlusModels founder Anne Garber for creating the petition to air the Lane Bryant Fashion Show. What this means to me is that plus models are beginning to become prominent role models for young women, and are starting to provide a counterpoint to the images adolescents see everyday in the mainstream media.
What do you plan to do once your modeling career is over?
I’m working to ensure that day is still a long way off. One of the great things about being a plus model is your potential career longevity. Since we represent a wider variety of women, our expiration dates don’t come as quickly as for straight size modeling. My goal is to be a slow burning flame, not a flash in the pan!
In terms of performing, I’d really like to get back into acting, either in film, TV or on stage. I would also like to devote more time to singing. I’ve been working on some songs, but recording a demo is still a long way off in the future. On a practical level, I’ve thought seriously about going back to school and getting a degree in psychology. People seem to feel comfortable confiding in me, and it makes me feel good when I can help someone work through a problem.
You mentioned an interest in television and film. With the average Hollywood actress being a size 0-6, is it difficult to imagine having a successful career in TV and movies at your current size?
It’s not difficult for ME to imagine. I’ve been imagining it since I was in elementary school! Now if producers and casting directors could share that vision with me, everything would be fine! Seriously, though, that’s a great question. I’ve thought about it a lot, and it’s a major dilemma for me. I have the training and the acting chops to do well; the only problem is getting the parts. I know a lot of women have had the exact same experience: If you really want to boost your chances for big screen success, you need to lose weight.
One of my drama instructors told me that I’d be ingénue material if I lost twenty pounds. If I didn’t, I’d be confined to “large person” roles. Well, I have no problems with being a character actor. I think some of the best parts are written for character actors. I just don’t want to be stereotyped into playing one type of part just because of my size.
More full figured women are getting roles today, and the parts are (slowly) getting more substantive. “Real Women Have Curves” was a major breakthrough movie on that level.
Any advice for aspiring and new models?
Be persistent, especially if it is something you really want to do. Rejection is a huge part of modeling. Not every look is right for every client, and different agents will get excited about different faces. Keep trying, because your contract may be waiting at your next open call.
Also, educate yourself about the business side of modeling. Read books on modeling and take advantage of the resources available on the Internet, such as this site. When you do get an agent, take good care of your body! Do everything you can to follow your agent’s recommendations about health, nutrition, and hair & skin care. Keep up with facials, manicures, and pedicures. If you have trouble affording them when you are first starting out, call your local beauty college and see if they have reduced rates.
Make sure your agents have all the promotional materials they need, and check in with them regularly. Your comp cards are how you get work, so if your agent has run out or has an old one, you shouldn’t be surprised if you aren’t getting a response. Also, remember to communicate with your agent. Ask them what clients are saying about you. Find out what’s working and what isn’t, and be responsive to their answers.
When you do book a job, be professional. Arrive early. Never complain about waiting. Be kind to everyone, be courteous, and treat everyone with respect. Resist the urge to join in any gossip that is going on. That doesn’t mean that models shouldn’t talk, because they should. That’s a great way to learn about the business. It’s when you are talking TRASH that you risk getting yourself into trouble.
After you finish a job, get everyone’s contact information. Keep track of this contact information in a folder or on your computer. That way you can contact people again if you ever need to. Also, keep good track of your jobs and rates. Make sure you get paid for everything, that all expense deductions are legitimate, and don’t forget to hunt down your tear sheets!
Above all else, don’t forget to have fun!