Tess Holliday — formerly Tess Munster — was told for most of her life that she was too overweight and short to be a model.
Today, she's a jet-setting rising star who's been featured in Vogue Italia, modeled for dozens of fashion designers, and this week became the largest plus-size model signed to a mainstream agency.
"I feel like it's breaking ground. This is a milestone," said Holliday, 29, from her home in Los Angeles. "I never could have imagined that I could be here."
On Thursday, MiLK Model Management and Holliday announced their deal via Instagram, and a new model was added to the agency's plus-size division, Curves.
In a blog post following the announcement, Plus Model Magazine declared Tess to be the first plus-size model of her size and her height to be signed to an agency.
Plus-size agency models are generally taller than 5 feet 8 inches and U.S. size 8 to 16. At 5-feet-5 and size 22, Holliday is by far the largest at MiLk.
"I think we're the only agency with a model of her size. She is by far the largest model I have in the (Curves) division," said Anna Shillinglaw, the owner and director of MiLk Model Management, from her office in London.
Shillinglaw, a former straight and plus-size model whose agency focuses on diversity, found Holliday through Instagram.
"I started following her, and saw how many followers she had — more than most models. She's such an important role model for so many women."
As a blogger and body positive activist who started the viral #effyourbeautystandards campaign, Holliday has become a force online over the last four years, with over 624,000 followers on Facebook and 308,000 followers on Instagram. She posts photos of herself flaunting her curves, modeling designer clothes and with friends, her son and fiancé— all with body positive mantras. Under a recent photo of herself modeling black lingerie, Holliday wrote: "I hope this makes you realize that it's okay to be yourself, even if you happen to exist in a fat body."
"It's astounding the reach she has and how many people respond to her," said QueerFatFemme blogger Begin Branlandingham. "She created a movement around being a plus-size model.
"It's radical to have an agency willing to stand behind someone and push the envelope about what way models have to look. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. A good model has more to do with how she works in front of a camera then what her height and weight proportions are."
Tess Holliday — who had changed her last name from Ryann to Munster and now officially using the name of her fiancé, Nick Holliday — was born and raised in the Southern Mississippi town of Laurel, where she recalls a difficult childhood and relentless bullying — much of it due to her size.
"It took a really long time to get over things that had happened to me during the vital years of my life," she said.
With dreams of being a model, Holliday went on her first audition in Atlanta as a teenager and was told she was too short and big, and would be lucky to even do catalogue work.
"My mom always encouraged me," she said. "But the rest of my friends and family thought I was nuts."
Her first modeling break came in 2011, while working as a receptionist at a Los Angeles dental office, she was cast as the face of the A&E show “Heavy” after producers found photos on the Model Mayhem networking site. She has since modeled for dozens of clothing brands, was named one of the top plus-size models by Vogue Italia and has been featured in hundreds of blogs.
She tells commentators who are critical of her size that she's very active, has a trainer, works out at least four days a week, swims, hikes, and walks.
"I never sit down. If I'm not shooting twelve hours a day, I'm out doing errands and going to meetings," Holliday said.
"I see a lot of negative comments as well, and I ignore those. I know she's healthy and active," said MiLK Model Management's Shillinglaw. "We're all built differently. She goes hiking, she's in love, she has a son, she has a gorgeous husband. Maybe people can lose weight if they walked more and ate less, but it's so easy to say that. Everyone has their things in life.”
Despite her success, Holliday still can’t believe how far she’s come.
"It doesn't feel like it's me. Every time I have a big thing happen in my career, it's an out of body experience,” Holliday said. "I'm always still that 13-year-old girl in Mississippi who people told I wasn't good enough. I never could have imagined that I could be here."
Source : http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/plus-size-model-tess-holliday-busts-stereotype-article-1.2090500