Renaissance Woman: Plus-Size Model, Blogger, And Student Mandy Fierens

Mandy Fierens must be an expert juggler. One month away from college graduation, the 22-year-old is balancing classes, The Curvy Model blog, a photography job at indie-darling clothing company ModCloth and a developing career as a plus-size model. She’ll graduate from Robert Morris Univerity in Pittsburgh with a major in marketing and a minor in photography in May. We chatted with her about how she juggles it all, her go-getter spirit, and the scrutiny models of all sizes face.
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How did you get your job at ModCloth?
“I landed my job at ModCloth by Facebook messaging Susan Koger (co-founder, and CCO of ModCloth) about two years ago. I basically asked her how she got started, and if she would be interested in meeting with me because I thought she was so fascinating. One thing led to another and I asked her if they needed any interns. I was the first intern at ModCloth.”
What are your plans after graduation?
“I am looking at working at ModCloth at least part time when I graduate, and I guess just experiment with other career paths. Unfortunately, I don't know if I see myself modeling. What is very difficult for me as a model is that I really do not like a lot of the clothing brands out there for plus-size women. I know, I know, models are supposed to shut up and make it look good. But it is very hard for me to do that. So, lets just say I have some tricks up my sleeve that may be surfacing soon!”
What are your favorite kinds of shoots?
“I love shoots with a vision, AND COOL CLOTHES. Clothes can really make or break a photo shoot. A dream of mine is modeling couture clothing.”
How do you find your modeling jobs?
“To be honest, my coolest jobs came from advertising and networking myself. I got my bathing suit gig at ModCloth because they needed a curvier girl. Hips and Curves contacted me from my blog (how cool is that?!), and most of the other small connections I have made were through Model Mayhem.”
Has modeling changed the way you see yourself?
“Definitely. I think modeling helped me develop a hard shell. You get criticized a lot, and it's part of the business. However, I think my blog has made me more unafraid to be myself. My followers are so supportive; I have only a handful of rude comments.”
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How do you stay positive when faced with adversity or size discrimination?
“I think the one time I was faced with this head-on was this photo I shared on my blog. When I share modeling photos like this, I do it to show those following my blog that imperfections are beautiful, too. Some people called me gross, but to be honest, I really could care less about their opinions. I live a healthy lifestyle—who are they to know anything about it?”
What’s your take on the controversy around Crystal Renn’s weight loss?
“I think the big thing with Crystal Renn is how much attention she brought upon herself when she was a size 16, and how proud of herself she was for being that size. Even in her book, Hungry, she talks about how she feels the best at a size 12. I feel like the plus-size industry felt betrayed when she started losing weight, because she was leading our pack. She is still beautiful, and she is still a fabulous model, but she is not a plus-size leader any longer.”
Do you think the fashion world is becoming more accepting of different types of bodies?
“I think that it is slowly getting there. I think if it doesn't happen over the next two years, then I’ll do it myself!”
What’s your response to people who argue that fashion’s idea of plus-size is not “reality” of plus-size?
“Yes, plus-size models are sizes 8-16 typically, and 'real' plus-sizes start at a 16. But right now, you see models with a 00-4 body and the average woman is a 12, I think that is a more obvious gap. I am all about the fashion world showing all sorts of body shapes. I want more than a size 4 at each runway show.”
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You say fashion and curves should go together. What do you think needs to change to make that a reality?
“My dream is to have the fashion industry realize how big of an issue this truly is. Young girls all over the world think they are fat just because they might have seen a supermodel and compared themselves to her. I also think that if designers are truly talented, they should be able to make a woman of any size look absolutely amazing. However, I have only seen Jean Paul Gaultier and Mark Fast accomplish this.”
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