Social media is now a legitimate way of getting cast in a major fashion campaigns. “Twitter, do ya thing,” is a call-to-action of sorts, boosting certain images or campaigns to viral status and earning aspiring models exclusive contracts with Prada or cameos in Cardi B’s latest music video in the process. Or, in the case of Vivian Eyo-Ephraim, a supportive fan base in the form of ASOS shoppers.
Ephraim is a 20-year-old from Nigeria currently living in Greenwich, England. She’s studying Media Communications at the University of East London, and developed a sudden passion for modeling after "a conversation I had with my mom and sister,” she tells Refinery29. Before her career took off, she worked as an extra on Hoff De Record with David Hasselhoff, as well as hundreds of other TV shows on UK networks ITV and Channel 5. But after applying to a model search competition on Star Now, Ephraim signed with Bridge models in September 2017. Her one goal for 2018 was to work for a major United Kingdom retailer. And thanks to Twitter, she didn't just meet her goal — she was heavily praised and celebrated for it.
Customers immediately took to Twitter to applaud ASOS for photographing the dark-skinned plus-size model in a yellow bikini (you can buy the top and bottom here). “I had no idea it would go viral, but I’m so grateful and excited that so many people all over the world are supporting me,” she says. “I hope the industry sees this and makes a more positive direction in terms of inclusiveness for plus and curve models.”
When asked how she felt about people calling her the first dark-skinned plus model in the body diversity movement, Ephraim said: “It’s quite shocking that people are saying that, only because there are thousands of other black plus-size models out there. More representation is something that needs to be worked on if people still feel this way.” In February, Ashley Graham echoed this sentiment, calling for more plus-size models of color on the runway.
For Ephraim, the most important thing is about having a public platform is to help “people feel confident and celebrate themselves and their amazing bodies.” Especially because going viral isn't easy. “As a model you are putting yourself out there, so it's easy for [criticism] to feel personal. But you need to view yourself as your brand,” she says. “It’s very competitive and understand. Before you go into it, be honest and ask yourself: Are you prepared for both the lows and the highs?” Still, it's thanks to people who have come before her, like La'Tecia Thomas, that Ephraim feels like she can change the narrative to what a model — plus-size or not — looks like.