What It Takes To Be A Plus Size Model

So tight, in fact, that in 2013 Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld set tongues wagging when he said nobody wants to see curvy women on the runway.

Also, who can forget the controversial moment in 1998 when the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine Anna Wintour reportedly instructed Oprah Winfrey to slim down before gracing the cover of her magazine.

Fast forward to nearly 20 years later and Ashley Graham made history by being the first plus-size model to be featured on the cover of Vogue this year.

In SA, history was also made at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week recently when an unprecedented number of plus-size models were featured.

It really does seem this is the era of the plus-size model.

Three plus-size models tell us what it is really like being in the fashion industry, starting with social media celebrity Lesego "Thick Leeyoncé" Legobane. With over 200000 followers on Instagram and 102000 on Twitter, Legobane is a Wits University student and photographer who made a name for herself as the big girl who is not ashamed to put herself out there embracing her curves on social media.

"I'm still hesitant to call myself a model, because it's not something that I set out to become, it just sort of found me," she says.

"But I'm a firm believer in destiny, and lately I'm realising that modelling is something I really have to take into consideration because I'm not even signed with an agency, but I have worked with some really big brands like Adidas, Puma and I had a campaign with Woolworths and Donna Claire, which I would consider my biggest highlights in this industry."

Legobane says she was discovered on social media, and although great things have followed since, social media is not without trolls who body-shame and throw jabs at her.

Recently, her clap back to a Twitter user who fat-shamed her by creating a meme of her next to a skinny model went viral when she responded: "I can be fat and still be out of your league" - which saw a lot of people applauding her stance, most notably Hollywood singer Ariana Grande.

"Some people are not comfortable with seeing someone who is comfortable in their own skin and I have learnt that some people go out of their way to try and put me down or bring me down to their level of self-hatred. But I have learnt that misery loves company, and I choose not to feel bad about myself because of someone else's opinion."

Sanelisiwe Mbokazi, a 24-year-old plus-size model from Clermont in KwaZulu-Natal, hails Legobane as her inspiration.

"My interest in modelling started when I was browsing the internet and I came across pictures of American plus-size model Gabi Fresh. I was fascinated by her style and fashion sense, but what made me more interested was seeing her wear revealing clothes and looking great in them because society restricts us in what we can and cannot wear. I started wondering if we have plus-size models here in South Africa. I told myself I want to represent plus-size women because we are often overlooked and the best way to do it is by being a model and changing the perception and stereotype people have about big women.

"I'm now comfortable to show off my body. People like Thick Leeyoncé are my inspiration."

Sanelisiwe Dladla, 24, who hails from Pietermaritzburg, says the big misconception about plus-size models is that they can be as big as they want. She experienced the harsh reality when an agency told her to lose weight.

"I was told that I am too big and that I need to lose weight a little. It was so confusing because I thought that in plus-size modeling it was acceptable to be big, but I understood as time went by that as much as I am thick, I have to take care of my body and be fit. You can't just eat anything. You have to watch what you eat and avoid junk food."

Dladla lets negative comments from social media roll off her back. "I don't pay attention to negativity. The more they talk the more they push me to love myself even more."

Dimakatso Nxumalo, a former plus-size model, is the founder of Thick Barbie Models.

Thick Barbie Model was founded in 2015. Nxumalo, of Durban, says she saw a gap in the market for an agency to represent plus-size models.

"Being in the industry for over 13 years, I was exposed to the world of fashion and saw the growth in the demand for plus-size modelling and how it positively reinforces the importance of self-confidence in the above average-sized woman. I then decided to start my own modelling agency and a clothing label exclusively for plus-size women." she says.

There are certain standards models must adhere to.

"To make it as a plus-size model, one has to be between size 38 and 40, aged 18 to 40.

"Look after your skin and keep healthy by sticking to an exercise regime and proper food choices," Nxumalo says.

"The clients are mostly retail stores that exclusively cater for plus-size women, stores with a limited range as well as designers."

Nxumalo emphasises that any plus-size model must be prepared for rejection.

"The main obstacle to overcome is to understand that they are not booked as much as the mainstream model.

"The agency's vision is to continue placing plus-size models on the map and create awareness that they represent the average SA woman."

Source : http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/goodlife/2017/10/10/what-it-takes-to-be-a-plus-size-model

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