How 10 Models REALLY Feel About Their Bodies

Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Not much good can come of comparing ourselves to others. Yet, we all know how hard it is not to. Everywhere we turn, there is someone else's idea of beauty, whether it's the opinions of our families and peers or the celebrity, fashion, and entertainment images we're bombarded with daily. Multiply this pressure by 100, and you can begin to understand what it's like to be a model and to have your body scrutinized, constantly. Add in the labels (plus-size, straight-size), and you begin to wonder: How do they do it?

Well, we asked 10 amazing, diverse, and inspiring models, of all different shapes and sizes, how they navigate their industry and the expectations that come with it. And, teaming up with Lane Bryant's lingerie line Cacique, we were able to ask these questions as they stripped down to their skivvies, baring all (flat chests and pooches included). From a petite Texan who used to stuff her bra to a Miami native who now loves her "Spanish butt," these models prove the perfect body is not one size fits all.
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Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Stella McCartney bra and panty set (shop similar).

Marcelle Pallais
Hometown: Fargo, ND

How I became a model:
"I was 19 and at NYU when I was scouted by a really big agency, but when I went in and they started telling me all my problems, I was like, I can't do this. At the time, I was a size 10 or 12 and wanted to be an actress. But, after college, I found myself being put up for these 'fat girl' roles, and I thought, Wait, I'm not just that, you know? So, I decided to give modeling another shot. I hadn't heard of plus-size modeling before — I got connected with a really great photographer, and within a few months I was getting a lot of work."

How I learned to love my stomach:
"I grew up in a really small town — in Fargo, ND — where either you're skinny, blonde, and blue-eyed or you're a leper. I remember looking in the mirror, taking my tummy and squeezing and pinching it, and thinking, If this were gone, then I'd look normal, then I'd look good. A few years ago, there was this picture of me taken for a blog where my tummy was fully out — I wasn't sucking in or anything — and it was the most reblogged image of me ever. That was eye-opening for me, to realize I have a little bit of a pooch and that people liked it, that I liked it. It's not ugly; it's cute! And, if that allows me to eat pasta, I should embrace it, because life's too short to be sucking in all the time."
Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Stella McCartney briefs (shop similar), Araks pajama top.

Why granny panties are hotter than thongs:
"I LOVE a big panty — something that goes to my belly button. Though, sometimes I enjoy putting on some little cotton thing where I'm just flopping about. I feel like it's embracing who I am and saying I don't have to be all sucked in to feel comfortable or sexy or beautiful."

When I feel sexiest:
"Drinking coffee in my underwear — that makes me feel like a woman. The first time I ever did it, it was my first year of modeling. I was having coffee naked, and I thought, This is a new feeling of empowerment."
Photographed by Kava Gorna.
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Kimchi Blue Camellia lace bralette (shop similar), Kaelen stripe culotte.

Devan Mayfield
Hometown: Houston, TX

When I feel most like myself:
"When I’m in no makeup, relaxing at home, in a cute little bra and pajama pants or a robe. I walk around in a robe a lot — my friends call me ‘grandma.’ And, I found this really cool vintage lace slip, so I’ll wear that underneath."

My favorite feature:
"My hair. I used to blow it out and wear it straight, but about two years ago, I cut it all off and let it grow out like this. Usually, after I wash it, I twist it so it’s curlier and more tame, but as the days go by I just let it go wild into this Afro."

How I learned to love my chest:
"I always wondered if I was going to have bigger boobs or not, and my aunt actually caught me stuffing tissues in my bra one day when I was like 10 or 11. She took me bra shopping, and it was so embarrassing! Now, it’s fine. I don’t care."
Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Stella McCartney bra (shop similar) and panty (shop similar).

Nienke van der Peet
Hometown: Heemskerk, Netherlands

How I learned to love my body:
"I love fashion, but I was always bigger — I've been over 6' since I was 12. When I was young, I would rip photos out of fashion magazines and put them on my board; I'd look at them and think, Why can’t I be like those girls?  I’d go running every day and eat super, super healthy, and I still wouldn’t get there. I think the nice thing for me about going into plus-size or 'curve' modeling was that it was okay to look different. Nobody would ever ask me to lose weight — they would even say, 'You might get more work if you were bigger.' I’d rather just have the body and the size that I'm meant to have."

Why I don’t need a push-up bra:
"I think I've got quite a decent chest myself, thank you. I usually go for bras with a little padding, but I’ve started getting into the unlined ones. It gives a different shape. And, it’s nice for summer, especially in New York."

Why I don't call myself a "plus" model:
"It’s a tricky word, because plus-size modeling means something very different than plus-size in real life. I prefer to use the word 'curve,' because I think that’s a better representation of most bigger girls who don’t fit into straight-size modeling. I think it’s very damaging to focus on size, too, because it’s so different for everyone. I mean, a size 12 looks very different on someone who is 5'5" versus someone who is 6'. When I was in high school, I remember one boy said, "If you wear a size 12, you’re really fat,' and I was like, 'Well, I wear a size 12, but I don’t think I’m fat.'"
Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Cacique lace bra with boning and lace side bikini panty.

Alisha Shepherd
Hometown: Miami, FL

How I became a model:
"I've actually been modeling forever, since I was 10 or 12. I was a child model growing up in Miami. But, I didn't know about plus-size modeling, so as I got older, I began to feel very self-conscious about my body. I wanted to be a size 2. I remember I found out about plus-size modeling from America's Next Top Model, and it was seen as this really positive thing. I decided to work toward that. I sent my pictures in when I was 20, and the next week everything changed."

How I learned to embrace my hips:
"I’m not as curvy as the plus world would want, and I was getting self-conscious about not having hips. But, one day, I was wearing lingerie at a test shoot, and someone was like, 'Alisha, who cares? You just work your angles.' It just clicked. I looked in the mirror and said, 'Whatever: If they don’t like me, they don’t like me. I just have to love myself.'"

Why I wanted to bare all:
"This is actually my first official lingerie shoot. I grew up hating everything about me: hair, height, feet, boobs. But, I’ve grown from this girl who hated her body to wanting to model lingerie — that’s a milestone! I want to show other girls that it’s okay to not have hips and have a little tummy."
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Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Edith A. Miller crop top, Ten high-waisted undies, Valentine Shangri-La bra.

Enya Mommsen
Hometown: Berlin, Germany

How I became a model:

"I was born in Germany and then grew up in the Dominican Republic, where my mom is from, and Pennsylvania. After school, I moved to Berlin for a year, and I was scouted when I was on the street. I usually was told I was too short — I'm 5'7" — but I did get some freelance work and have continued to do freelancing, in addition to my own photographing and waitressing, here in New York."
Photographed by Kava Gorna.
On the pressure to stay thin:
"It would be silly to say there isn't a [size] standard, but to me, modeling is my work and that's it. It's not my life, and I don't let it dictate how I view myself."

How I’ve learned to love my ears:
"My ears kind of stick out, and I remember one time, I must have been in fourth grade, I wore my hair in a ponytail. There were only nine kids in my class, and everyone noticed my ears. I got so embarrassed, I never wore my pony again until much later. But, then I realized that no one else had ears like that, and that’s what made them great. So, now they are my favorite feature."
Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Lea Mihevc
Hometown: Logatec, 
Slovenia

What I really wear under my clothes:
"I am all about comfort: jeans, hoodies, sneakers. But, I love lacy bras and underwear. Kind of see-through, peachy, not padded — romantic. Knowing that I have something nice on underneath makes me feel sexy."

How I learned to love my body: 
"I was very skinny growing up — just weird looking, super tall. No boy ever liked me, and I was like, Why?  When I first started modeling at 16, it was a confidence booster because I had very low self-esteem about my body. I was scouted on the streets of Slovenia, where I'm from, and it was a side job, since there isn't that much going on there. But, when I turned 19, I decided to go to Milan and London and Paris. There comes a point where agencies tell you to lose weight — and I was shocked, because I was already very thin. Now, I've learned to accept the way I am. I’m comfortable in my skin, and I've realized I book more when I'm confident, not when I'm trying to be super skinny. It's better than trying to make yourself something you're not."

My favorite feature:
"My eyes, because they used to be brown, but then they turned green. They change depending on my mood or what I’m wearing or the season. And, also, my eyebrows: I never do anything to them, but people are always complimenting them."

Cosabella bodysuit (shop similar).
Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Cacique smooth boost plunge bra and crisscross lace garter belt.

Christina Andrews
Hometown: Miami, FL

When I feel sexiest:
"I love taking care of my skin, so when I have no makeup on and I'm walking around the house, usually in lingerie, that's when I feel best. I would totally wear this around the house. I think it'd be really funny to be cooking in this when my roommate comes home and just say, 'What's up?'"
Why everyone needs to stop worrying about stomach folds:
"I’ve been 5'9" since fifth grade, and I remember that year, for some reason, they did a weigh-in in PE class. I had to step on the scale in front of my entire class, and I was the only one over 100 pounds. I will never forget that. It wasn’t really until I got into plus modeling that I became completely comfortable with myself, because you’re constantly surrounded by such diverse, beautiful bodies. And, I’m really grateful for that, because I hear my friends talking about how they’re so fat or saying, 'Oh my God, when I sit down my stomach folds.' And, I’m like, 'That happens! That's the way it is!' It's really crazy how much society's rules can kind of train our brains."

My favorite feature:
"I used to hate it, but I have a cool Spanish butt. Other people like it, too. Literally every guy I've ever been with has been in love with my butt even before I was in love with it. I wish someone had told me that big butts were attractive when I was younger — would have saved a lot of anxiety."
Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Park Hee Hyun
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

When I feel the most comfortable:
"I love being in front of the camera — any camera. When everybody is looking at me and focusing on me, I feel very confident, like I can do anything. I am normally very shy, so it's like a different 'me' comes out."
How I learned to embrace my height:
"When I younger, I was so much taller than all my friends, and I hated it. All the boys would point at me and say, 'Look at her.' They would come up to me and measure themselves against me. Then, I saw a modeling reality show in Korea, and all the women were tall like me. So, I looked it up on the Internet, went to an audition for the show, and I won!"

My favorite feature:
"I don't have have the double eyelids, and I feel like that makes me look very Asian. It's something I embrace. It makes me different."

Topshop cutout balconette bra (shop similar), Zinkē boyshorts, Base Range over-knee socks.

Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Cacique lace cami bra and boyshort panty.

Marina Bulatkina
Hometown: Siberia, Russia

How I learned to love my body:

"Growing up in Russia, it was hard to find clothes that fit, so my mom used to sew clothes for me: dresses in bright colors like fuchsia and ballroom-dancing costumes with flowing skirts. I was really lucky to have my mom as a role model. She has the same body type as me, size 14, and she would wear nice things in lots of colors and belts, never complaining about her body. Still, I used to wear long jackets in school to hide my hips. Now, I buy high-waisted jeans to make my legs longer and show off my hourglass figure. No more boxy things!"

Why my grandmother knows best:
"My grandma always told me to wear a bra even when I am at home because it lifts your breasts up. My grandma is 87 — she knows what she is talking about. She was like, 'Marina, buy yourself a corset.' So, I did a few months ago and wear it after 6 p.m. It’s a good thing — it’s good for your posture."

When I feel sexiest:
"I feel sexy every day. We all have ups and downs, but I feel sexy when I have plans for my life — when I’m happy and excited and feel powerful about what I do."
Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Kiki de Montparnasse molded bra and high-waisted panty.

Annabelle Lyttle
Hometown: Lancaster, PA

My favorite feature:
"Probably my hair. Growing up, neither of my sisters had curly hair, and I was always fighting it, straightening it. Now, I realize the curls and the red are what make me stand out, and I’ve learned to embrace it."

When I feel sexiest:
"After I work out, because I’m sweaty and out of breath a little bit and can see the lines of my muscles. But, I don't feel sexy that often to be honest, although fancy underwear helps. It’s nice to know you have something really sexy underneath your clothes — even if it’s just jeans and a T-shirt. It’s your own little mysterious secret that you have."

My underwear addiction:

"I don't usually wear bras, so I have a lot of underwear. It's kind of a problem; I periodically have to go through my underwear drawer and weed out stuff I’ve had for 10 years. My style is pretty monochromatic and casual, but my underwear — that's where I have the craziest colors, like neon and tie-dye, and bows and lace and everything."

How I’ve learned to love my body:
"I was always very skinny, so I was bullied a lot. Kids would come up to me and ask, 'Do you have an eating disorder?' Boys would ask, 'Why don’t you have boobs?' People made fun of my long hands and long fingers. It's definitely a journey, learning to love yourself. To go through childhood thinking you weren’t pretty, and then seeing yourself in pictures and knowing that you look beautiful. It’s weird, but I’m growing to love myself more and more every day."