Julie Wills is a plus model on a mission. Not only does she model, but her goal is to be the strongest plus model ever, dedicating her time and body to strength training and spreading the message that you do not need to be skinny to be fit. I chat to Julie about her modelling and workout life, fitness and BMI and her opinions on our current plus fashion world.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a model?
“I wanted to model for years but finally decided to get some professional photos last year so I could start submitting them because Ashley Graham made me truly believe in myself.”
What came first, the love for working out, or the love for modeling?
“Well I started working out before I started modeling however I didn’t always love working out. I started working out because I hated my body and thought I had to weigh a certain amount to be happy. Long story but I lost over 60lbs in 2008 via eating 500 calories and hours of cardio per day to get to the magical number I thought would make me happy but realized how unhealthy I was and looked. I started focusing on my speed and performance at the gym instead of the number on the scale and have grown stronger and faster ever since which continues to fuel my love of my body and what it can do, and working out and how it empowers me.”
As a plus model, what is your favorite type of shoot?
“Good vibes definitely make for the best shots. I did a shoot recently in freezing cold water but the photographer really “got” me even though he just met me and the results were beautiful.”
Who have you modeled for?
“TV: My first gig ever was modeling for 2 fashion segments on national TV on HLN Weekend Express with Lynn Smith recorded at the CNN center in Atlanta. Good Day Charlotte on Fox 46 WJZY in Charlotte, NC with Felicia Lawrence, fashion segment for Diary of a Fatshionista.
Photoshoots for clothing lines: Boutique 3125, Nine21 Boutique, Eleven60 by Kierra Sheard
Fashion Shows: Bjuled Couture Swimsuit fashion show in NY, Thiq Boutique, Fluff Couture, and Beautiful You Fashion Tour all in Atlanta, GA.”
Last year, a debate in the “plus” fashion world kicked off, where women were debating whether to keep or drop the “plus” in modeling. What is your stance on this?
“I am so sick of hearing about this so called “debate”. Honestly I am not offended by the term plus. I like being unique in a LOT of different ways, this is another one.
Fun facts about me: I am fluent in Spanish. I grew up in a small town called Agawam in Western Massachusetts where my family still lives. I doubled majored in Spanish and Political Science and did a concentration in Latin American Studies at Furman University here in Greenville, SC where I met my college sweetheart. I am extremely passionate about sustainability and have been voluntarily helping the IT company where I work improve their waste management, energy efficiency etc for over 2 years. I am determined to make a major difference in environmental awareness. I am currently researching sustainable and ethical fashion and how to help move brands that direction, check out the Fashion Revolution @fash_rev for some of the things they are doing to make a difference. My boyfriend Gary and I have two cats, one named London because we adopted her during the 2012 London Summer Olympics and one named Paris because we adopted her the same week as the November 2015 Paris attacks; plus the names work perfectly together! I love hot yoga, the beach, candles, spicy food, Minions from Despicable Me, Fiona Apple- I would love to spend the day with her, my dream car is a neon pink SUV and The Rock is my dream husband, I even have a framed picture of him on my desk!”
It can be tricky finding clothes that suit curves, especially if you are not tall. Where do you shop for clothes that flatter curves?
“Man oh man, we still have a LOOOONG way to go in this area, especially with trendy, well made clothing. I still have a tough time today, I think especially because as a 16, I just barely fit into an XL of a lot of straight size brands and also find a lot of plus brands too big for me. I do a lot of online searching, thousands of pins on Pinterest, don`t buy anything shipping from China. Lately I’ve purchased from Asos, Charlotte Russe Plus online, Target straight size clothes, Kohls TekGear workout gear, Katie K Active, Gianni Bini straight size clothes, and Torrid. Just like all other plus size women, we just want brands to make us the same exact amazing stylish clothes in our size. I think one major issue is that most items that do come in plus, are completely different than what is offered in the straight sizes of that same brand or store. We want equality, we want to be trendy, and honestly sexy. Why is that so many brands make plus size dresses/skirts so long? My legs are so sexy! I want to show them off!”
Your goal is to “be the strongest plus model ever”. Is physical strength something you think is important in the modeling world?
“That is not why it is my goal. It is another way for me to differentiate myself but more importantly, finding my physical strength was how I escaped hating how my body looked and found confidence in what my body was capable of. I want to inspire other curvy women to challenge themselves physically in order to find their mental and physical strength too.”
A lot of women are now more and more starting to weight train, and not just be a slave for cardio. What to you are the benefits of lifting?
“I am glad to start seeing the cardio bunny days end because as I mentioned, that was me in the past. I think one of the most important things that women should be aware of, regardless of their goals, is their current body fat and muscle percentage and pounds. This is important because so many women obsess over the scale. According to BMI, which only accounts for height and weight, my body builder boyfriend who keeps a six pack all year round, is considered obese! The scale is the worst way to track overall health improvement. I currently have 127 pounds of muscle… that`s more than most straight models weigh! This info is empowering because it tells me my body composition and realistic areas of improvement.
Strength training has innumerable benefits including faster metabolism, more energy, increase muscle mass which will enhance the curves you want, increase fat burning, reverse symptoms of osteoporosis, increase in confidence.”
Some women struggle to find workout clothes that look cute but also support them in the gym. Do you have any gym clothes recommendations?
“I am a brand ambassador for Katie K Active. They sent me several items and one of the best features of their tops, is that the material on the inside is mega soft, AND it’s a material that does not move or slide up against other clothes. I usually have a tough time keeping my shirt down during mountain climbers or burpees but not with Katie K! I’ll be reviewing their newest items soon and they are now available on Amazon! One of the most vital items for a busty girl like me (I`m a 34HH) who loves going hard at the gym, is a sports bra. I have a bra by Elomi I was measured for which holds me in place even when sprinting, jumping, etc however the hooks and straps are rough against skin. I literally had to have a friend put band aids on my back where the hooks cut me. So I am currently wearing a thin stretchy sports bra underneath that to protect my skin. Also it gives a lumpy look under shirts, not cute. I have other bras that look beautiful but are completely nonfunctional for high impact moves of any kind. I want to look good when I work out because it makes me feel even more confident and helps me focus on the workout instead of how I look.”
What is your diet and training schedule like?
“My main focus is to have 90% of my diet be clean foods (eggs, chicken, veggies, fruit, quinoa etc) and eat 5 meals a day. I drink a gallon of water a day and take a multivitamin, L-Carnitine, and fish oil. I continue to try to avoid the patterns that made me obsess over my weight before like being extremely strict with my diet and not allowing for any social activities or never taking a day off from the gym. I work out 5-6 days per week. I am currently doing 2-3 days of morning cardio and a strength circuit at night. The other days I am lifting after work. I like all kinds of workouts so to describe my workout split would be pretty lengthy and detailed. Some months I like to do a very simple split with biceps, triceps one day, chest and back another, shoulders one day, and a couple leg days. However right now, I am having fun doing different high intensity circuits like TABATA, countdown workouts, and lots of other fast paced intense circuits.”
Do you have any tips for aspiring plus models?
“Reach out to local photographers, review their work, ask a lot of questions about their photo session packages ahead of time, and have a friend who knows Photoshop use it to format your comp cards for you and then you can print them pretty much anywhere.”
What can we expect from you for the rest of the year?
“I will be attending Full Figured Fashion week in June to watch one of my good friends walk. As far as what the future holds for me, only time will tell!”
Follow Julie on Insagram for more #strongplus