The problem was that I was young and impressionable, and took that one measly theme — thinness — to heart. At the time, there were no plus-size models, like Tara Lynn, Robyn Lawley, or Candice Huffine. I hadn’t read Crystal Renn’s Hungry or heard of Ford's plus-size division-head Gary Dakin. In essence, thin was all I had to look up to.
I later experienced what I assume many other young aspiring models are familiar with. It began with endless research on famous models’ body measurements, weights, and career paths. Then, in an effort to emulate them, dieting, calorie counting, overexercising, and self-induced brainwashing kicked in. Eventually, I was 14-years-old, 5’10”, and a size four. Yet, in my mind, I was not thin enough. As disciplined as ever, I wasn’t yet ready to make my debut in the world of fashion modeling. So, when my mother finally took me to Elite Model Management in Toronto, I refused to get out of the car. I was immobilized by the thought of rejection. Ironically, that may have been the best decision I ever made for myself.
What I didn’t know in the time between buying my September 2004 issue of Vogue and growing into my body was that there is — believe it or not — more to those models than a thin frame. I later learned that Daria Werbowy is a laid-back sailor who would eventually take a break from the modeling business to travel the world. I was inspired by Liya Kebede’s philanthropic foundation for mothers and children in need. Gemma Ward seemed more human when she gained weight after her famous friend Heath Leger passed away. Hell, did you know that Karen Elson has enough wit and spunk to throw herself a divorce party? Really, I discovered that they aren’t invulnerable to the normal physical and mental stresses of life. And, that was the first step to healing myself of my unrealistic body goals.
I was lucky to evade spending my teenage years in straight-size modeling and instead, develop other interests. But, 10 years later, I have not stopped wanting to be one of the models on the cover of Vogue. I still find inspiration in models, whether they’re the supers of the 1990s or the new faces of fall 2014.
As it goes, I have finally embraced my size 12 body, and now, I am a plus-size model. In one short year, I’ve worked with amazing clients, including major powerhouses and smaller start-ups. I’m thrilled to work with both types of clients, because I never fail to learn something important. It’s exciting to be involved in what the big brands are doing to set the stage for plus-size fashion. On the other hand, it’s interesting to see how the smaller companies interpret that and strive to create something innovative to make their own brands unique.
Speaking of scrutinizing, I think it’s important to avoid indulging in a battle between sizes. Some women are built like straight-size models, some are built like me, and some are built bigger. All women are beautiful. Don’t take my message the wrong way. I am not on a crusade of defaming thin models, nor am I on a mission to push plus-size fashion onto people who want nothing to do with it. My message is this: We should celebrate all women and treat them equally; you should love yourself independently of how you look; and everyone is different, but all people should strive to be healthy. I have a positive body image now, but I had to teach myself that and unlearn unhealthy habits over 10 years. I wish that young girls could see more size diversity in fashion, so that straight-size isn’t their only idea of beauty like it was mine. I think we’re getting there.
I used to worship the thin bodies of models. Now, I admire their bodies of work, personalities, and individual beauty — regardless of size. I will never discard my beloved issue of Vogue, but now, it sits beside an Italian copy covered by plus-size supermodels Tara, Candice, and Robyn. It’s the perfect reminder that there’s room for more than one size in fashion.