It's safe to say that LA-based model and influencer Minami Gessel, 21, is at the forefront of the body positive movement currently making waves on Instagram. Championing self-confidence through her online presence and collaborations with big-name clothing and beauty brands, the Gen Z powerhouse is leading the charge for plus-size inclusion in fashion. Taking a somewhat unconventional route into modelling, her first foray into the industry is an example of how the tides are changing. "It was really just out of nowhere! @thelinebyk slid into my DMs asking if I’d be down to model for them and I said yes," she tells me.
At the time, Minami was hard at work as a political science student (she continues to study even now) but decided to take a chance and see what modelling had to offer. "I was out of a job, going to school, and needed money. I was really nervous modelling at first because I hadn’t even thought about it as a career option," she says. Despite her reservations, the 21-year-old quickly began to stack up an impressive portfolio of brands including Glossier and Nike. Her biggest pinch-me moment so far? "Everything has been so amazing, but probably seeing myself on a wheat paste poster and inside a store. It's crazy that I get to work with brands that I’ve admired for so long."
Although proud to be blazing a trail for plus-size women, Minami says there’s still a lot of work to be done when it comes to progress in the fashion world. "I think that the industry is heading in the right direction by including diverse women not only in front of the camera but behind it too, but I would love to see the fashion industry try to transition into sustainability," she says. "The fast fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters to cause climate change. Many lower developing countries suffer due to mass consumption of products. Microfilaments and chemicals create runoff that pollutes communities' access to clean water. You hear stories of how workers (majority of them women) are working in terrible conditions and aren’t even being paid to support their families. The fashion industry has to make changes towards reducing its carbon footprint."
When it comes to her own style, sustainability is always the starting point for Minami's wardrobe choices, which marry statement accessories, vintage classics and indie eco-brands. A quick glance at her Instagram reveals why she has over 15,000 followers – her feed is inspiration for anyone with a passion for bold prints, double denim and glowing makeup (her shimmering selfies prove she is the ultimate Glossier girl). But beyond her interest in fashion and beauty, Minami’s feed is also proof of her commitment to breaking down barriers in the fashion sphere and the need for inclusivity and diversity in the modelling industry.
To help you get to know the model even better, we thought we’d take the opportunity to ask her a series of 29 hard-hitting questions. From her last meal on Earth to her current celebrity crush, read her unfiltered answers below…
When was the last time you cried?
When I was on my period and rewatched The Notebook.
What music should we be streaming right now?
ANYTHING MEGAN THEE STALLION.
What’s your favourite meme?
What does love mean?
Love means that you care and invest a part of yourself to something/someone. It's about compromise, patience and respect.
What would you last meal on Earth be?
Lawry’s Prime Rib.
The song that always gets you on the dance floor?
Most underrated film?
Mon Roi with Vincent Cassel and Emmanuelle Bercot.
Ketchup or BBQ, it’s basic lmao.
Who is gonna save the world?
You, me, Elizabeth Warren, Greta Thunberg… It takes us all pushing legislators to fix dis climate crisis!
Who is your current crush?
Timothée Chalamet #MyKing.
Describe yourself in three words…
Funny, dramatic, loyal (but in a good way lool).
Who is on your dream dinner party guest list, and what are you cooking for them?
Ali Wong, Tarana Burke and Bill Hader, and I'll cook them spicy fusilli.
Best hangover meal?
What keeps you awake at night?
Embarrassing things I’ve said to people.
What is your most recent saved photo on Instagram?
Desert island beauty product?
Moisturiser with SPF in it.
Next holiday destination?
Paris (hopefully) or Miami.
The three headliners at your dream festival?
At the moment, Solange, FKA twigs, Megan Thee Stallion.
Tell us a secret...
I did judo for six years and it was terrible.
Which creative making moves should we be following?
If you could live in any decade from the past, which would it be and why?
I used to think the '40s or '50s but, like, it wasn’t really popping for minorities, so maybe now? I think people are becoming more socially aware, and even though social media is toxic it has made activism more accessible. Marginalised stories are being shared and that’s important.
Which fashion trend do you wish would die?
Anything Forever 21 puts out hahaha.
What phrase, word or motto do you say the most?
Where can we find you on Saturday night?
Eating at Woon in Filipinotown or the ArcLight Hollywood. I feel like I live there.
Favourite place on Earth?
New York or Disneyland.
Dating apps are...
A waste of time but convenient.
What can’t you leave the house without?
Keys, phone, wallet, a lip product (either lipstick or a balm) and deodorant.
What beauty product can’t you live without?
What’s the next fashion item you’ll be buying?
A Marine Serre rollneck.