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30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

The opportunities for plus-size models is greater now than ever before. These 30 models challenging the industry for the better good.

30 plus-size models challenging the industry
© Lane Bryant | Cass Bird

By Kim Mannix, Espresso

The days of models needing to be a size zero in order to succeed are long gone, as the fashion industry moves towards including more diverse body shapes in shows and advertising. Curvy models from around the globe are making history on the covers of magazines and by speaking out about the importance of plus-size representation. Here are 30 inspiring, plus-size models that are challenging the fashion industry.


Vanessa Romo

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

California model Vanessa Romo was so fed up with the lack of body and ethnic diversity in the fashion industry that she decided to enter the world of modelling, even if it meant overcoming lifelong insecurities about her appearance. “I can’t name a Mexican model—I really want to be the representation as a Chicana woman,” she told Hip Latina. She began sending out photos, including full-body shots and swimsuit photos, and found the response more accepting than she expected. Romo is now managed by Natural Models LA and produces a YouTube channel that showcases fashion and body positivity for fat Chicanx.

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Jessica Vander Leahy

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Australian model Jessica Vander Leahy is also a contributor to publications like Cosmopolitan, ELLE and Body and Soul, and has frequently written about the lack of diverse representation in the modelling industry. Aiming to dispel the myth that plus-sized means unfit, Leahy says she enjoys exercise and staying active. Leahy has appeared in runway shows like The Iconic’s 2018 swimwear campaign, and launched the Project WomanKIND video series featuring curvy and diverse models talking about their experiences.



Precious Lee

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

She was one of the first African-American, plus-sized models to appear in an ad in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue and was featured in Lane Bryant’s “This Body” fashion campaign. She’s also done runway shows for Tommy Hilfiger and Christian Siriano. She’s said that while strides have been made to showcase diversity in fashion, “there has to be an effort on different parts in the industry to make a visible, tangible change.”

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Ashley Graham

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

She’s probably the most recognizable plus-sized model in the world, though she personally prefers the term “curvy.” An influencer and barrier-breaker in the fashion industry, the Nebraska native became the first plus-sized model to land the cover of Sports Illustrated’s famous swimsuit issue. She has launched a bathing suit line at Swimsuits For All, a lingerie line at Addition Elle, and has a clothing line at Dress Barn. Graham presented a TED talk in 2015 discussing how she overcame her own negative self-image to become one of the most famous models in the world.

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Jada Sezer

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

London model Jada Sezer was the first plus-sized model approached to star in the reality series Love Island, but turned down the opportunity because she wasn’t sure if the message of body positivity that she lives by would be reinforced. “Would it all have been about my body?” she asked in a column written for The Sun. “And would they have put me in a position where I would have to justify my size?” Sezer gained fame after she started posting photos of herself on Instagram as a way to give curvy girls the representation they don’t often see. She was soon tapped to appear in ads for L’Oréal, ASOS and Speedo and in 2014 became the first plus-sized model to take part in London Fashion Week.

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Denise Bidot

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

The American model of Puerto Rican and Kuwaiti descent became the first plus-size model to appear in multiple runway shows during the 2014 New York Fashion Week. Working with online retailer Swimsuits For All on the “Beach Body. Not Sorry” campaign, Bidot said she was proud to appear in photos that were untouched and not digitally manipulated. “It’s nice to take your power back and say, ‘You know what, I am beautiful just as I am and I want to show the world how I feel’,” she told Flare magazine.

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Philomena Kwao

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

London-born model Philomena Kwao began modelling in 2012 when she was scouted through a modelling competition put on by Models1, Evans and Cosmopolitan UK magazine. She’s been a vocal advocate for racial and size diversity in the modelling industry, and told i-D, “I see no reason why size or colour should be a barrier against a model booking a high level editorial or a big campaign.” She’s modelled for brands like Torrid, Chromat and Lane Bryant, and says that while she dreams of landing a huge editorial campaign someday, or appearing on the cover of a magazine, she would ultimately like to use her fame and platform to advance health care around the world.

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Yolanda

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Canadian model Yolanda, represented by modelling agency Next Canada, was one of four models to start an initiative called Canadian Curvies aimed at promoting body positivity, diversity and self-love. The project, featuring the women in untouched swimsuit photos, was officially launched on social media on July 1, 2017, Canada’s 150th birthday, and received plenty of positive feedback. Yolanda said she was thrilled when her nieces rallied behind the project. “Not everyone is going to love our movement, not everyone is going to embrace body diversity and self love; but even if we reach one little girl, who just like me hated what she saw in the mirror, but can now feel confident to love the skin that she’s in, then we’ve done our job,” she said.

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Tess Holliday

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Mississippi-born Ryann Hoven, better known as Tess Holliday to her 1.9 million Instagram followers has been modelling since 2010 and has worked for indie brands Orchard Corset, Domino Dollhouse and Jessica Louise Clothing. In 2015 she was signed to UK agency MiLK Management, and has appeared on the covers of People and LA Weekly. She was also named one of the world’s top plus-size models by Vogue Italia. In 2019, she appeared at New York Fashion Week, walking the runway for fashion brand Chromat. She also started the body-positive movement “Eff Your Beauty Standards”, encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to post a photo of themselves in something that scares them.

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Brysha Danika

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

While the fashion industry is often criticized for negatively impacting women’s self-esteem, American model Danika Brysha said breaking into plus-size modelling actually helped her accept herself and overcome her eating disorder. While working as a production assistant on the show True Blood, Brysha was approached by an L.A. modelling scout. She has worked on campaigns for Target and Kohl’s and started her own healthy food delivery company called Model Meals.

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Naomi Shimada

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Naomi Shimada started modelling at the age of 13, but after struggling to stay under a size 10 decided to make the move to plus-sized modelling in her twenties. She’s outspoken about the need for the fashion industry to embrace plus-size models as more than just a trend or a token part of one campaign. “As a size 16 woman—and as a model—I want to live in a world where models of all sizes are used for all brands,” she said in an interview with The Guardian. She’s been featured in Vogue and ELLE, and has done ads for Nike, H and M and The Gap. She also co-authored a book called Mixed Feelings about how the internet and social media impact our well-being.

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Tabria Majors

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

In 2017, Majors became one of six women who were selected in Sports Illustrated’s open call for new, diverse talent to feature in its annual swimsuit edition. The curvaceous model from Tennessee also walked the runway during Sports Illustrated and Wall present SWIMMIAMI. Majors has been vocal about the fact that the fashion industry needs to go beyond body positivity, and focus on body inclusivity in the way plus-size models are represented. She is also proud of her strength, and says just because someone is plus-sized doesn’t mean they aren’t fit. Speaking to Women’s Health magazine, Majors said “I want to see plus-size models doing real workouts. I want to see them sweating on set. I want to see them sweating on screen.”

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Fluvia Lacerda

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Brazilian model Fluvia Lacerda has been called “the plus size Gisele Bundchen” and was voted model of the year at the 2011 Full Figured Fashion Week. She has also been the only plus-size model to be featured in Playboy Brazil. She is a proud advocate for the plus-size community, and considers it a privilege to represent curvy women in magazines and on the runway. “Modeling has led me to meet many women who have struggled with being told they have no value in society. Representing those women has a far higher meaning to me than just a paycheck,” she told Vogue.

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Candice Huffine

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

During 2019 Fashion Week, curve model Candice Huffine, who has been part of the event since 2015, spoke with Glamour magazine about how the event is changing. “For a while, you could count on one hand the curve girls you would see at every single casting. Now I’m seeing the casting process open up a lot more,” she said. Hailing from Washington, D.C., Huffine has been modelling since the age of 15, and has appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and ELLE and has done runway shows for Christian Siriano, Tommy Hilfiger, and Tadashi Shoji. She was also the first plus-size model to appear in the Pirelli Calendar.

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Tara Lynn

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Discovered at an open call in her hometown of Seattle, Washington, Lynn got her big break in a “Curves Ahead” editorial feature in V Magazine. She’s appeared in ads for Forever 21 and Lucky Brand, and was the star of H and M’s 2011 campaign. Lynn told ELLE that it was difficult growing up as a size 14/16, and that it wasn’t until college that she came to accept her body. She said she’s also pleased that there’s been more acceptance of bigger bodies in the industry. “We're getting covers and great editorials and amazing photographers wanting to shoot with us: it's not just PR stunts. They're excited to see what we do and capture our bodies,” she said.

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Jennie Runk

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

When H and M used Jennie Runk as the face and body of their 2013 swimwear campaign, they did so without a lot of fanfare or special announcements. Business Insider applauded the retailer’s decision to integrate the plus-size model into their ads without drawing attention to the fact that she wasn’t the usual, super thin model. After catching the attention of a modelling scout while volunteering at PetSmart, Runk was told to either lose or gain weight in order to make it in the fashion industry, and she chose the latter. Since then she has appeared in Glamour, Marie Claire, Vogue and Cosmogirl.

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Liris Crosse

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Crosse said she knew she wanted to be a model at the age of 18, but it took some time to come into her own as one of the leading African-American, plus-size models in the industry. While she caught the attention of agencies like Elite Models early on, she was often told to lose weight. After she stopped the intense dieting and workout regimes, and found the world of plus-size modelling, Crosse’s star began to shine. She’s been called the “Naomi Campbell of Plus” and was the first plus-size model to win the model competition portion of the reality show Project Runway. She’s done campaigns for Lane Bryant and Ashley Stewart and has appeared in Vogue, Essence and Vibe. She also wrote a book called Make The World Your Runway and runs a workshop of the same name aimed at promoting self-esteem and body confidence.

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Anita Marshall

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

After a few bad experiences when agencies told her she was “too big” to make it as a model, the Boston native took one last stab at the modelling life in New York. Urged by a co-worker not to give up, Marshall soon caught the attention of model agent Dorothy Combs. She’s been named an Essence “curvy model of the month” and has modelled for Khloé Kardashian’s Good American label. She’s also done campaigns for Macy’s, Nordstrom and Monif C. She has said that her role model is rapper Queen Latifah, because she is “such an inspirational and accomplished woman and she always looks stunning.”

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Justine LeGault

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

The Canadian plus-size model said that she only received positive feedback after appearing on the cover of ELLE Québec in 2013. She has also donned the cover of Clin d’Oeil, and was featured in campaigns by Lane Bryant, H and M and Old Navy. A vocal advocate for body positivity, no matter what your shape, LeGault has said, “Free yourself from the fear of judgement and be the woman you always wanted to be.”

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Saffi Karina

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

The former straight-size model was dropped by her agency after her body changed and she developed a more curvaceous figure. Determined not to let it mean the end of her career, Karina made the switch to plus-size modelling and founded Curve Project London, a plus-size modelling workshop aimed at teaching young women how to succeed in the industry. As a plus-size model, Karina has worked on ad campaigns for Macy’s, Lane Bryant, H and M and L’Oréal, and was part of Christian Siriano’s 2017 fashion week show.

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Joby Bach

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Montreal model Joby Bach, whose real name is Jody Bachand, was first spotted by a model scout at age 16. She says she was unable to keep the shape and weight necessary for straight-size modelling, but due to her naturally curvy figure, found her niche in plus-size modelling. She’s been on the covers of RNG, e and PLUS magazines, and became a viral sensation in 2017 for posting a creative solution to a bodysuit that had become too small for her “big booty.” Bach cut the bottom off the suit to make it into a flattering crop top, and was praised for both her humorous innovation, and continued promotion of body positivity.

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Bishamber Das

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Bishamber Das became the first British Asian model to become a notable name in the plus-size industry. While the 32-year-old has a degree in criminology to fall back on, she is currently focusing on her modelling career, and has appeared in several international ad campaigns. Das said she wanted to be a model her whole life, but felt that her size held her back from the traditional path to modelling success. After seeing an ad for a beauty pageant that had no size restrictions, she decided to enter and ending up placing second runner-up.

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Barbie Ferreira

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Queens, New York model Barbie Ferreira’s career took off when she received a message on Tumblr asking her to submit to an open casting call for American Apparel. At the time, she didn’t consider herself a model, but has since earned a contract with modelling agency Wilhelmina and starred in a campaign for American Eagle’s loungewear brand aerie. The untouched photos were a hit on social media. “The amount of positive messages that move me to tears are so much more frequent than the negative ones,” Ferreira has said about the comments on her posts. Ferreira also stars as Kat on the HBO series Euphoria.

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Hayley Herms

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Herms entered the world of plus-size modelling at the age of 12, and learned to use social media as a way to find modelling jobs early on. She’s been featured in Skorch Magazine and GL Magazine and on Khloé Kardashian’s show Revenge Body. She has also spoken out about the pay gap between straight- and plus-size models and hopes that the industry will see that both types of models are of equal value.

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Jocelyn Corona

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Mexican model Jocelyn Corona has been modelling since 2015 and gained popularity when she was featured in Sports Illustrated’s 2018 swimsuit edition. She’s managed by Muse Management in New York City and has done runway shows for Christian Siriano and Chromat. After her second New York Fashion Week, Corona said she’s already seen an improvement in the diversity of models in relation to skin colour, nationality and body size, but that more designers still need to make an effort to cast plus-size models. “I think it should be normal to see a curve model doing runway—as well as beauty campaigns, editorials and commercials—in the same way that it's completely normal to see a straight-size model,” she said.

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Iskra Lawrence

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

Lawrence is a British model who overcame bullying and body shaming as a teen to become a successful plus-sized model. She is also a fitness enthusiast and has been praised for posting unedited and un-retouched photos to show what real women’s bodies look like. She’s walked the runway for L’Oréal, Christian Siriano and Chromat and has participated in New York Fashion Week. “My job as a model, whether I am on the runway or in a photo shoot, is the same—I want to show that fashion is not just for one body type, but can be made to fit and look great on anyone,” she said.

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Olivia Campbell

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

With 178,000 followers on Instagram, Campbell has become a bona fide social media influencer. She uses the platform to spread a message of self-love and body positivity, and has said that when designers don’t make interesting or stylish clothes for plus-size women, the women often tap into their own creativity to customize the clothes. She said that when she was signed as a model in London, she noticed she was not only their fattest client, but also the one with the darkest skin, and hopes that the fashion industry will continue to grow to include more diversity.

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Steven Martin

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

In case you think the only plus-size models breaking ground in the fashion industry are female models, Steven Martin is here to set the record straight. In 2015, German model Martin became one of three male models to sign to an agency for bigger guys, Bridge Models. Martin began modelling as a teen, but said his weight fluctuated depending on how much he was, or wasn’t, working out. He said that while the male plus-size modelling world is about five years behind the female movement, there are increasing opportunities for male curvy models to represent different body types on the runway and in ad campaigns.

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Paloma Elsesser

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

L.A.-born Paloma Elsesser’s modelling career began to take off when she moved to New York to study university. She soon found herself as the face of Pat McGrath’s makeup line, which led to campaigns for Fenty Beauty, Glossier, Nike, ASOS and H and M. She’s appeared in Allure, Teen Vogue, i-D and Glamour and appeared alongside Ashley Graham on the cover of Vogue Arabia in 2018. She recently collaborated with Nike on her own sneaker design, and has done runway shows for Prabal Gurung and Eckhaus Latta in New York.

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Georgia Pratt-Holiber

30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry

New Zealand model Georgia Pratt-Holiber has walked the runway for Christian Siriano and Tome and got her big break as part of Lane Bryant’s “Plus Is Equal” campaign. She has appeared in photo spreads for ELLE and DAZED, but her true passion remains in the world of design. She sewed her first garment at age 12, and studied design at Auckland University of Technology. She started modelling to raise money for college, and while her star has certainly shone in that field, she continues to work in design. She was approached by label Universal Standard to design a piece that appeared in the brand’s 2017 Tria collection.

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Lifestyle Magazine: 30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry
30 Plus-size Models Challenging The Industry
The opportunities for plus-size models is greater now than ever before. These 30 models challenging the industry for the better good.
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