From London to New York to LA to Miami and around the world, here's a round-up of 12 plus-size models whose Instagrams prove that they're feminist as fuck.
1. Paloma Elsesser
Elsesser says that being a plus-size model is her 'profession — how [she supports herself],' but she doesn't 'want that to always be part of her description.' Elsesser is a writer and activist, too. She moved from Los Angeles to NYC in 2010 to study psychology and literature at the New School, but changed her plans after makeup artist Pat McGrath discovered her Instagram and asked her model under Muse Management.
Elsesser has modeled for commercial brands like Nike, but also focuses her modeling career towards feminist-friendly, inclusive apparel. She has been featured in Lonely Lingerie's SS16 campaign, Pat McGrath's Golden Makeover series, and in i-D.
3. Isabel Hendrix
On her blog, Hendrix writes, 'Young women are told from an early age that no matter what they look like they are in someway [sic] wrong. I use my blog and my internet presence as a way to help promote creativity as a form of self love.' She definitely does; Hendrix's style is idiosyncratic, alternative, and amazing.
4. Barbie Ferreira
Ferreira skyrocketed to viral fame when Aerie used her unretouched photos in the 'Real' campaign, attempting to break down unrealistic beauty standards. After the launch of the viral campaign, Ferreira told Time magazine, 'When I was younger... I would look at all the women on TV, and even the ones who were supposed to be 'geeks' or 'less attractive'... looked similar because they were extremely attractive and their bodies were all a certain way. I didn't relate to it one bit... The media should portray what we are as a society.'
Since then, according to her Wilhemina NY portfolio, Ferreira has modeled in major campaigns for Gucci and Eckhaus Latta, for Grazia magazine, for various art projects by photographer Petra Collins, and more.
5. Tess Holliday
Tess Holliday is the first size-22 woman ever signed by London's MiLK Model Management. Her #EffYourBeautyStandards campaign, targeting proponents of an unhealthy 'heroin chic' look, went viral on Instagram, where she has 1.5 million followers. Talking about the campaign for Marie Claire in 2015, Holliday said, 'Why can't I show off my body? Why do I have to wear ugly clothing?... I said something like 'If you're tired of people dictating what you should wear, post a photo and hashtag it #effyourbeautystandards.' And people did.'
Her plus-size clothing line, Mlbm, is available at Penningtons, Macy's, Nordstrom, and Lord & Taylor.
6. Fluvia Lacerda
In a 2013 interview with Refinery 29, Lacerda claimed her plus-size model title with pride: 'Skinny jeans, A-line dress etc., those are just words to describe something we all know what it is, but to describe it specifically. ... That's how I feel about the whole 'model' or 'plus-size' model. ... I work for a specific niche and I don't get what's wrong about that.'
She isn't interested in making herself marketable to brands like Prada, which 'most likely won't ever build a product to be sold for a woman my size, which is an 18.' Instead, Lacerda models for girls like her.
7. Saffi Karina
In a 2013 Daily Mail article, Karina told the story of being dropped from her original agency because of her size: 'I had only been working for a couple of years, and really loving it, when they dropped me. But I have 41-inch hips — they are pure bone, there is nothing I can do about them, they aren't going anywhere. I had to work with what I've got.'
After experiencing firsthand the challenges aspiring plus-size models face in the industry, Karina founded Curve Project London, 'the UK's first curvy model workshop & body confidence masterclass.'
She has appeared in campaigns for Speedo, H&M, Hypebae, and more.
8. Philomena Kwao
According to her website, Kwao was born in London to Ghanian parents, and obtained degrees in Economics and International Health Management before being scouted by Models1, Evans, and Cosmo UK. She describes herself as a humanitarian and has modeled for magazines like Essence, Cosmo, and Pride and in campaigns for international brands like Torrid, Nordstrom, and Lane Bryant.
Her activism extends to The Lily Project, which seeks to protect women in regions of conflict. Kwao writes, 'Women are hit especially hard in regions of ongoing conflict... They are left as the providers and guardians, responsible for rebuilding their country one family at a time.'
9. Tara Lynn
Lynn tells Elle magazine that becoming confident in her body was a 'natural progression' that occurred 'over time.' She also confesses that, in her teens, modeling 'didn't occur to [her] as something realistic': 'I was never skinny, so I always thought that if I was going to model, I'd have to lose a lot of weight... Based on societal pressures, you think when you're in your teens that by next summer you're going to wear a size 4 or 6... You don't want to invest in your size-14 body when you feel bad about it as a teen.' Now Lynn sets an example for young women who want to show off their diverse bodies with pride.
Lynn is represented by IMG models, and recently participated in this H&M campaign.
10. Essie Golden
In addition to modeling for Ekineyo, Rue107, Monif. C and more, Essie Golden is a trusted voice within the plus-size community. According to her website, Golden 'learned to embrace and love her own body when modeling,' and 'loves using her platform to inspire and encourage other women, ultimately boosting their confidence.'
After seeing comments on social media in which plus-size women expressed their fear to wear swimsuits, Golden told Bustle, 'I decided it was time to do a beach meet-up.' She's since created the Golden Confidence Pool Party, where curvy women can wear whatever they want, and do so together. The event series aims to inspire confidence and solidarity within the plus-size community, and has hosts in NYC, LA, and Miami.
11. Olivia Campbell
Olivia Campbell has been featured in issues of Slink Magazine, Skorch Magazine, Plus Model Magazine, and more. In this interview with Plus Model Mag, Campbell takes issue with industry designers and brands who don't bother to market themselves to plus-size demographics (both models and consumers alike).
She says, 'The problem this perpetuates for me... is that when I am made to feel bad about what I look like on the outside, I am far less inclined to care about how my body is feeling inside. Both health and confidence are extremely important and they truly go hand in hand so when marketed to correctly, we, as a group, not only feel better about ourselves but we actually treat our bodies better.'
12. Clémentine Desseaux
Clementine Desseaux is most famous for her Louboutin lipstick campaign, and for being the 'first plus-size woman' on French TV. In an interview last year with New York magazine, Desseaux touched on a complex issue surrounding plus-size women in the fashion industry: sexual objectification.
She stated, 'I'm a little over this whole 'body thing.' Yes, I like my body and we already have that covered. Yes, it's nice, yes, it's curvy. Do I want to be naked all the time in magazines because people think my body is only good to be naked? No. Do I want my face out there more? Yeah!'
Top image: Instagram.com/@palomija
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Olivia Loperfido is an English and psychology major at New York University's College of Arts and Sciences, and the junior editor of NYU's Mercer Street (2017-'18). She enjoys spending time with her dogs and tortoise, watching RuPaul's Drag Race, and contacting her state representatives. Follow her on Instagram here and contact her via email here.