Photographer Roberto Ligresti, Makeup Rene Court
I’m back with the smart and beautiful plus size model Sara Alloy, who was nice enough to talk to me about modeling, body image and all sorts of things. Without further ado…..
Let’s talk a bit more about the plus size modeling industry. What advice do you give to aspiring models?
If somebody writes to me, I say I’m not an agent, and it’s completely subjective so it’s hard for to say. I could say “you’re beautiful” and they could go to an agency and get turned down, so my opinion is only worth so much. I ask them how tall they are and what their measurements are and let them know the basic requirements. If they’re 5’9″, that’s a great starting point. Next I say that it’s important how proportionate you are. The taller you are the bigger you can be. So if you’re 5’11” being a size 16 or 18 is more acceptable. If you’re 5’8″ or 5’9″ they want you to be a 12 or a 14. I tell them examples of the type of work I’ve done and expect to do. A lot of them get the wrong idea from shows like America’s Next Top Model as to what you can do.
Where do you tell them the most opportunities are?
Mostly print and web work, some editorials. There are very few runway shows for us these days, which is why Full Figured Fashion Week is so great.
I went to Full Figured Fashion Week and one of the retailers there was talking about how they would use smaller size women and then pin the clothing in the back to make it look like it fits. Have you seen that?
Absolutely. They want to show the clothes as fitting who will be wearing the clothes. Sometimes they can’t get a sample that will fit the model, so they will pin the clothes. I don’t think pinning is as controversial as padding to size up.
Women at Full Figured Fashion Week said that they had done research and plus size consumers don’t want to see plus size models that look like them. Instead they want to see smaller models that give them something to aspire towards. Would you like to comment on that?
I think most women idealize a slightly smaller size, whether or not they admit it. I might be a size 14, but often times I’m shopping where the models are much smaller. Naturally you envision yourself reflecting what you see in the advertising. I’m putting on my advertising hat when I’m speaking like this, but honestly, what they are doing is good marketing. You are ultimately selling people a dream. Even if you are comfortable with who you are, it’s so drilled into our heads that we should be thinner than we are that when you go shopping you automatically look at a mannequin or model and see yourself reflected in whatever advertising you’re looking at.
So do you think that a size 20 wants to see a size 20 or that a size 20 would rather see a size 16 or 18?
They say they want to see a size 20 but honestly every time they try to use a size 20 or other bigger sizes they don’t sell the clothes. If a company books a size 18 model and the clothes aren’t selling, they aren’t going to book the model again. I’d like to see more diverse models used, but the retailers aren’t going to respond to what customers say, they’re going to respond to what their sales say. As consumers we all need to be better about voting with our dollars.
What do you think would change that?
I think the shoot Steven Meisel did for Vogue Italia was very helpful. Rosie Mercado who was the face of Full Figured Fashion Week 2 years ago, she’s larger but she’s so beautiful. She’s tall and carries herself with such confidence that clothes look great on her. They could use someone like her, and have Steven Meisel shoot her and put her in a high fashion spread and show that ideal of beauty.
Do you think the change will come from retailers or designers or consumers improving their body image so they want to see models that look like them or a combination?
I think it’s a combination because on the one hand you have imagery drilled in our heads from the time we are little girls, you’re seeing the actresses on TV from the time you start watching it, you’re seeing them in magazines, you are being told everywhere that you need to be a certain way. So that is a problem, that girls are being bombarded. We’re conditioned to think that skinny is beautiful.
On top of that designers don’t cut clothes for bigger girls. Agents won’t book bigger girls so it seems as if they feel it’s a waste of time to put bigger girls on their boards. So there are no bigger girls to shoot campaigns should they decide to use bigger girls. It’s a cyclical thing. Continue reading