Be You

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There needs so many people who wouldn’t change you for the world. Don’t let society change you for their financial benefit. Love your size, it’s you.

Alex LaRosa

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I recently had the upmost pleasure of interviewing a model who I have been following for quite sometime – Alex LaRosa.
Alex’s confidence and effortless beauty, along with that amazing Plus Model Mag front cover has captured many who are looking for the same confidence and style as she possesses. Alex and I talk confidence, front cover oppurtunitues and why plus modelling still receives a bad reception.

How did you start plus modelling? And do you have advice for girls wanting to pursue plus modelling?

“I first began modeling in 2009 when I started shopping online and was more interested in the models than the clothing, haha! I remember googling plus size models and finding these gorgeous women who looked like me, but had a confidence that I had never seen before. I wanted in! So I emailed some facebook photos into Torrid. At that time, they were still working with unsigned models. I got called in for a go-see and the rest is history.

I always tell aspiring models that doing your research is the most important thing! I suggest Plus Model Magazine’s Modeling 101 section of their blog. When you’re ready to take the next step, I highly suggest Liris Crosse’s Life Of A Working Model bootcamp! And you can always follow my blog, alexlarosa.wordpress.com, where I give you a behind the scenes look at my career!”

You recently appeared in Plus Model Magazine. What was it like starring in such a poignant platform for plus women?

“It was definitely a goal of mine to be on the cover of PMM! It was so huge when Maddy, the editor-in-chief, told me that I was getting the February cover! I’m still incredibly honored to have been given the opportunity to represent a brand that taught so much about self love, body positivity, and the modeling industry. I left that shoot feeling more confident in my ability to make my goals a reality.”

As a model you must get to wear some amazing clothes. But what is your day to day outfit that you are most comfortable in?

“Ha! I’m not gonna lie, I wear a lot of leggings and T-shirts on my days off! But this summer, I’ve been rocking a lot of fun printed sundresses!”

Where is your favourite shop to get fashionable clothes that suit your curves?

“Eloquii has definitely become one of my go to destinations for fashion clothes that I can trust to fit me well! I’m also a huge fan of ASOS, Ashley Stewart, and Zelie For She.”

What is your favourite type of shoot?

“Editorial work is definitely my favorite! It allows me the freedom to take the fashion and make it my own. It’s emotional. It’s creative. It’s one of a kind work that makes me feel ridiculously blessed to have the job that I have.”

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Although we have had massive strides in diversity, our media still seems to ignore plus models in high fashion advertisements and runways. Why do you think high fashion designers are still holding back on using plus models?

“It’s really unfortunate that there are so many designers who remain uninterested in providing great clothes for all people. I believe it is an ego issue. If someone buys into the societal discourse that distinguishes fat as a negative quality, then why would they want to incorporate it into their brand. Eventually, I think plus size dollars will encourage a lot of designers’ decision to be more inclusive.”

There has been some negativity towards plus models and bloggers in the last 18 months, with even celebrities, such as UK singer Jamelia saying that plus models are unhealthy role models for younger girls. What is your opinion on this?

“I think that healthy looks different on everyone. It’s not about a size. It’s not about having visible abs or posting your workout routines on social media. The truth of the matter is unless you are medically trained, you cannot know ANYTHING about a person’s health by just looking at them.  I believe that every  person should make health a priority: physical, mental and emotional. And if you need help with it, find someone with proper training. The opinions of those, like Jamelia, who are not truly invested in the lives of the people they speak down upon, shouldn’t really matter.”

You are an inspiration to not just me, but thousands of women. How is your message for curvy women around the world who struggle with self-confidence and low self-esteem about the way they look?

“We live in a society that sells you an idea that you’re not good enough. It’s a lie. There are multi-billion dollar industries that thrive off of people’s insecurities. So don’t feel bad if you’re not feeling thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough, etc. It’s not your fault. But you can take action to change that. 1.) Surround yourself with people who are also on a magical journey of self love and acceptance. You need people who get it and who will help pull you up when you feel down. 2.) Affirmations are the real deal. I choose a different affirmation each week. I say it out loud to myself when I wake up in the morning, when I’m doing my yoga, when I’m taking a shower, and pretty much any other time I think about it! This week my affirmation is: I welcome abundance, and I will pay attention to the guidance I receive. 3.) Fake it til you make it! Do you want to wear that shirt or that dress, but you don’t feel confident in it. Take baby steps. Wear it to the grocery store. Did you die? Did people point and laugh at you? Most likely not. And if they did, reread the last sentence from the answer to the question above this one! Once you take the first step toward your goal, it is easier to take the next one. Remember, you are capable of anything that you want to accomplish. I believe in you!”

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What does it mean to you to be a plus size model?

“Technically, it means that I model plus size clothing versus straight size clothing. But being able to use my platform to inspire, encourage, and love on other people means the world to me!”

Is confidence something that comes naturally to you?

“Confidence is something I had to work on quite a bit when I was younger. It wasn’t natural to think thoughts like “Oh yeah, I can totally do that” and “Hot damn! I look good.” Now, those thoughts are a lot more normal. I believe that confidence is a practice. It’s a quality that should be practiced regularly because otherwise little bits of fear and doubt come in to ruin all the fun. Building and maintaining confidence looks different for everyone, but I believe the underlying factor is self love. If you love yourself and believe that you have value, it’s a lot easier to be confident in yourself.”

What does the rest of 2016 look like for you? Any projects from you we should be looking forward to?

“The rest of 2016 is looking awesome! I have a lot of AMAZING things happening super soon, but I can’t tell you yet, lol! So make sure to stay connected by following me on my social channels!”

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Hannah Levitt-Collins: Body image in the dance, film and fashion industry

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Being a dancer, actress and model may seem like the dream for many young people; performing in front of thousands and inspiring those who want to break into limelight and get their names out there. But with stardom comes the obvious pressures to conform to a certain look and size.
I speak to Hannah Levitt-Collins, a dancer, actress and model who has danced alongside the likes Kylie Minogue,  was the stunt double for Rey in the new Star Wars movie, and modelled for D&G, about how she deals with her own body image when immersed in the three body-concious industries.

You’re a model, dancer and an actress. Which one came first?

“I trained as a dancer first when i was 16 at Stella Mann performing arts and began my career at 19. Modelling actually kind of just fell into my life as did acting. Acting was such a big part of my dance & modelling jobs so its something i learnt along the way on my jobs.”

Dancing for the likes of Kylie Minogue, Olly Murs and The Kooks must be so much fun and exciting. What style of dance is your favourite?

“My favourite is super feminine & strong commercial dance. I love anything super creative & visually striking. I love working with artists that view their dancers as artists too.”

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How do you prepare yourself the day before a big performance?

“I am usually in rehearsals or doing a dress run of the show before the performance day so I try and be focused & stop myself from becoming nervous. I make sure I eat & sleep enough for sure so my body has the energy it needs for the performance.”

Being a dancer, you must take care of your body. How do you condition your body?

“I do. I am very into my fitness and train at the gym as much as I can with my work schedule. I love yoga & running so they’re my two main things I have to have In my lifestyle. With the pressure of being in shape due to my job it’s very important i feel good in my body. I also need to be strong & fit physically to be sure I do not get injured. A huge key item is my diet. Diet is so important in order to stay strong and fit.”

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You were the double preforming as Rey in the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. What did your double role entail?

“I was the picture & physical double for Rey. It entailed learning new skills & a lot of copying Daisy’s movement & imitating them to the best I could. A lot of running as her characters always on the go which is why it was so key I had fitness on my side. It was a the first film i worked on so it was a huge learning curve for me.”

Did knowing that you would be appearing in a big, blockbuster movie change the way you view your body?

“I didn’t feel pressure about the media or public viewing of myself at all. I just was very conscious of keeping my body looking as close to what Daisy’s looks like as that was my job and I wanted to be the best double I could be.”

How did you have to prepare to be Daisy Ridley’s double?

“I was training hard for my fitness as her other stunt double Chloe Bruce is an outstanding female who is so incredibly fit! Also daisy was training so hard for the movie so i felt i needed to keep up!”

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Have you ever felt under pressure to be a certain size in the fashion and film industry?

“In the fashion industry yes. I am a shorter model & have felt I have to be a certain size in the modelling industry as well as the dance industry as those two industries collide a lot. The smallest thing in your body image can make or break a job for you!”

Modelling for Adidas, Selfridges, Harrods and D&G must take a lot of confidence to pull off. Have you always been confident within yourself?

“I haven’t always been confident but yes i am now. It has taken years of work to really love myself for what i am in order to become confident. I have had many low moments where I haven’t booked a job & I’ve thought straight away its because of the way I look. The older I’ve got the more I’ve realised I have to love myself & if people don’t want to book me because I’m an inch to small or to wide then it’s simply have to except I’m not right for that job.”

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In your opinion, what does the high fashion industry contribute to girls’ body image these days?

“I feel in the fashion industry there’s still such a huge pressure for models to be size 0 and fit the stereotypical type of ‘model’. However I feel the plus size and real women look is becoming more popular which is amazing! People are realising & recognising fitness models are breaking through & how much better it is to want to be fit and love our bodies. There’s a huge impact from the social media industry which is effecting the dance and modelling industry as now a days your value is on how many followers you have rather than your talent.  I feel fitness for females is a huge trend at the moment and I really hope it remains that way! We should all embrace our bodies and be as healthy and fit as possible.”

Have you got any tips for aspiring girls who want to be in front of the lens?

“Always be you! My tip is always love yourself & know your self worth. If you want to be a model or dancer go for it and follow your dreams! Just remember you are beautiful no matter what anyone says!”

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weight

So many women and men grew up like me, weighing themselves several times throughout the day; hoping to drop a pound an hour and not taking into consideration that the body is a process.
Our bodies are constantly processing, refueling and excreting. Weighing yourself everyday does not calculate a “true” weight because 10 minutes later you could be a pound heavier, or lighter.
Ideally, we should all throw out our scales because the numbers do not define our intelligence, beauty and soul. It only measures a precise moment in time.

Your weight, calculated by a simple machine, does not define you.
Every size and shape is beautiful – Don’t let the media bully you into thinking one size and shape is ideal.

 

Tia Provost

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Being a nature lover myself, and working alongside the curve industry, I was instantly drawn to Tia Provost a couple years ago when on the search for inspirational women. A curve model with the same love of nature, animals and food as me, Tia is a big inspiration for self love, confidence and loving natural beauty. I got the chance to interview Tia about her favourite types of shoots, the modelling industry and who inspires her!

You sport an amazing and enviable curvy figure. Have you ever felt pressure to look a certain way before modelling?

“Thank you!! I didn’t feel I was at a comfortable size when I was a teenager, and like many individuals out there, I suffered with my self esteem and confidence – not that many people knew, I was very good at masking it, but I’m a sensitive soul and things would cut straight to my very being. I would never have my thighs or tummy on display! I would always dress to conceal and distract through my cleavage. I thought if they were looking there then the weren’t looking elsewhere. I didn’t see myself as beautiful or attractive, or even worthy of being with someone. I wasn’t a pretty popular girl that could flaunt around in a bikini. I would avoid the beach, and I didn’t own my first pair of denim shorts until I was 20!!”

Before modelling, did you have another kind of profession dream?

“I just wanted to travel and see the world – and still do!! 
I always said that whatever career I choose it would have to involve travelling…and meeting new people (I love talking! :D) and luckily I stumbled upon my dream career with modelling as it allows me to do all that. But I can’t lie…I still get itchy feet badly! My backpacking side is still in there bursting to get out.”

You’ve modelled everything from high glamour lingerie to raw and natural black and whites. What is your favourite type of shoot?

“Anything in nature! Especially by water! I don’t care what the temperature is or if I have to be out there for 12hrs…I just love being by nature. Its me at my true essence.
Im pretty cruisy, and see everything for its own beauty in its own unique way. Location shoots are great fun as you really vibe off your surroundings and you take on the entire story, it adds another dimension for you. But then theres something so gorgeous about having a clean cut studio shoot. Like everything in life theres pros and cons to all sides.”

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Do you have a “night before” beauty regime in preparation for a photo shoot the next day?

“It depends what type of shoot I’m doing, but honestly – lots of water and sleep!! Staying away from fatty, heavy greasy foods or anything that is going to weigh down on my skin. I want it to be healthy and refreshed so I reflect that in what I fuel my body with, because after all – it starts from inside. I dry brush every morning upon waking and after my shower I use a Natural Instinct moisturiser for my face and chest and organic virgin coconut oil for my legs and tummy.  After a shoot is where my whole regime comes in. I take all my make up off straight away, with coconut oil, using my hands to really give my face a good rub and massage, then get a cloth with hot water to wipe off. I do a green tea face mask to help clear my skin and rejuvenate.”

You inspire so many girls, (including me!) to love the skin you’re in, and embrace our natural beauty. But who inspires you?

“My parents 🙂 They are so supportive and encouraging. The best role models to have guiding me through this life. Our fridge would always be covered in positive sayings and affirmations, and every year we’d repaint it and start again. Mum’s so strong and has amazing believes that she stands by. She has always been into the natural way of life and was frowned upon for how she choose to bring us up, in an organic chemical free household. She’s an avid gardener and I remember sitting outside in the sunshine watching her work away.  Both my parents are extremely talented business owners and I grew up working in the shops from a very young age, which taught me so many useful life skills, such as dealing with people and communication skills. My dad always reminds me of an old willow tree, so peaceful and calming yet so strong and powerful! He has always told me ‘whatever your mind can believe it can achieve’. Louise Hay is also a fabulous uplifting teacher. Actually one of the first things I remember from my childhood is my mum singing her song to us while we were growing up
“I love myself, the way I am, theres nothing I need to change, Ill always be the perfect me, theres nothing to rearrange, I’m beautiful and capable of being the best me I can, and I love myself, just the way I am”

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Last year, a SFU study suggested that plus size models could be sending out an unhealthy message. What is your opinion on this?

“I don’t think it’s a promotion of an unhealthy message I think its a promotion of accepting yourself as you are. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to improve on yourself. I am constantly trying to improve myself! But until you love and accept yourself as you are right now in this moment – nothing will change no matter how hard you try as your mindset isn’t there. We all come in different shapes and sizes. For me its not about promoting plus size or straight size or this size or that size, its about promoting whats healthy for you, for your own body.”

What defines a healthy body for you?

“At the end of the day we’re all individuals, and what works for me or what is healthy for me isn’t for the person next to me. I think theres too much of this comparing one another to each other. I can look at someone and see their beauty and their strengths and weaknesses without putting it beside my own and feeling that I’m coming up short. Genetically its impossible to be exactly the same as someone else – and thats what so amazing!!!”

The fashion industry can be a demanding and fierce world. How do you stay confident and positive when many designers are still avoiding using plus models?

“I’m lucky that I have a really good supportive family who keep me very grounded and give me encouragement to keep going. They always have a different perspective for me to consider, which is quiet refreshing to get someones opinion who is outside of the industry, who can look upon something with fresh eyes and see what I’ve been missing with my own. My parents are my best friends. I tell them everything and talk through decisions, getting their advise. I even take them to events when I can! Hahaha. I am also careful on who I choose to surround myself with. My closest friends are some of the most down to earth people that just love rolling around in the grass with animals crawling all over them 🙂 like me, not worrying about what we look like. I am very aware of the industry I’m in…but also that I’m not that industry.  So through my friends and family…and my upbringing, I’m kept quiet grounded. The more mainstream its getting the more designers will open up to using curvier girls. But if not everyone does…well thats their choice.”

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What has been your favourite shoot of all time?

“There’s been a couple that have stood out to me for one reason or another.
Recently I did a shoot for a new brand launching in the next few months, and I love the product and the designer! But then I found out who the photographer was…Jez Smith! It was such an honour to work with him! I have never been so nervous for a shoot!!! Hahaha. I also have to say the shoot I did in NYC for Plus Model Mag, April Issue. It was my first ever cover shoot and for it to be with PMM was such a privilege! The entire team there are so lovely and welcoming its like i’ve immediately been accepted into this one big family. I cant express my love for those guys enough! Maddy – Lucas…you guys are phenomenal!!!”

Many girls are not coming forward and wanting to get into plus modelling. Do you have any advice for someone wanting to represent the “average” sized woman?

“If you have always wanted to try modelling then 100% go for it! Life is to short to have regrets and ‘should have’s’. The biggest advice I can give you – be prepared for rejection. I know thats quiet harsh, but it’s apart of the industry and its gonna happen more times then your accepted. But you need to understand that its not personal, its business, and if you are not what that director is looking for then thats it. Good self esteem as digital photography shows everything! Theres no hiding once you’re in front of that camera. And of course grounded people around you because you can get quiet inflated by your own ego.”

What can we expect to see from you in the rest of 2016?

“If you follow me on snap lots of food; Buddha my dog, and nature hahaha. As I’ve just moved back to Aus to be based here, continue to build myself up within this market, I want to start moving towards more TV roles, and also I’m starting to look at the States and getting my foot in the door in that market…but I am home and struggling with wanting to relax and get lost in nature – but still work at the same time 😀 hahaha Its all a balance after all!”

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#Strongplus with Julie Wills

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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.”

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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!”

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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.”

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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!”

 

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Body Diversity with Plus Size Model Michelle Marie

 

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Michelle Marie is a plus size model, spokeswoman and ambassador for The Body Confidence Revolution fighting for self-love and body diversity in our fashion industry. With her strong determination and inspirational strength, Michelle is also running Body Pride 2016, a body positive event in Mayo, Ireland. I chat to Michelle about her beginnings as a model, her health journey, and Body Pride 2016.

When did you start modelling?

“I was given a boudoir photography session as a gift in early 2014. I was really unsure about stepping out in front of the camera, but I was determined to go for it and in the end it gave me such a confidence boost. I’d long held a pipe dream of being  a model, but, being short and plus size, I never thought it would become a reality. However, when I got the photos back from this shoot and actually liked what I saw, that gave me the confidence to pursue it seriously, and I’ve never looked back!”

What fuelled you to want to become a model?

“I’ve spent so many years hating my body, being ashamed of how I look, and battling my weight.  I became a mum to a little girl at the end of 2014 and that was the real catalyst in getting me modelling. I didn’t want her to ever feel as worthless and unattractive as I did growing up. But I didn’t want to just tell her that beauty and worth comes in all shapes and sizes, I wanted to prove it to her. I don’t want to be a model as such, but more of a role model to inspire my daughter, girls, and women, that it’s okay to be you. You might not fit the narrow unrealistic beauty ideal, but you are still good enough.”

You have created Body Pride, a body positivity event in Co, Mayo, Ireland. Can you tell us more?

“Body Pride 2016 is an event with a difference. No matter what our body type or shape, we all feel insecure about our bodies so I wanted to create an event which celebrated all bodies and all sizes. We are going to have catwalks using everyday people to represent you and I, inspirational talks from people who have embarked on a journey of self love, and stalls from brands and companies who have a body positive ethos and/or encourage happiness and wellbeing from the inside out. The aim is to have fun in a relaxed, non-judgmental environment, and leave with a much needed boost of confidence and self-esteem.

Where: The Castlecourt Hotel, Westport, Co. Mayo

When: 10am – 4.30pm, Sunday 4th September 2016

facebook.com/BodyPrideIreland”

You have mentioned before on your social media that you have beaten an eating disorder. What was the main support line throughout?

“I am still on the journey to beat it. Learning to love myself has been a pivotal part of that journey. It’s so vital, for me at least, to truly love and accept myself. Punishment and shame are big factors in eating disorders, so I want to combat those with self love and self acceptance as much as possible.  Being open about having Binge Eating Disorder has also played a big role in my recovery. It is scary to be so open and honest about it, but secrecy is another strong element in the world of eating disorders, so by opening up I am taking back some control. I also hope that in being so open that I provide reassurance to those still suffering in silence.”

Many people struggle from eating disorders and low self-esteem. Do you have any advice to help them overcome?

“Many people develop eating disorders when their life is in freefall and they desperately need something to cling on to. We are told all the time that we are not good enough, and we therefore feel like we should punish ourselves, but I have come to see that the best weapon against the negativity and the cruelty of life is to love myself. Holding my Shield of Self Love instantly makes me feel that bit stronger and that more confident.”

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Learning to self-love can be a challenge for some people. As a self-love advocate, how do you self-love?

“Learning to love yourself is hard, but it also incredibly rewarding. Self love doesn’t have to be big, grand gestures. It can be quiet and personal.  It can be as little as having your favourite thing for breakfast, or indulging in your favourite activity.  Above all, it’s about giving yourself permission to be kind to you. For me this means going easy on myself. For example, if I go to put my jeans on and find they’re too tight, instead of beating myself and giving myself a hard time about it, I stop and tell myself that it’s okay. It’s okay because I am still the same person whether my jeans fit or not. I am still a good person, I still have value, and I’m still good enough.”

We have seen the US and UK slowly start to celebrate body diversity over the past few years. Is Ireland just as positive?

“Yes, I would say it definitely is. Coming from the UK to Ireland I notice how ready Ireland is to move away from the shame culture it’s known for. The people of Ireland are ready to embrace change in all areas. That’s why I decided to hold the first ever Body Pride in Ireland. This is a country of strength, drive, outstanding natural beauty, and inner confidence – all the things that Body Pride represents and embodies.”

Where do you shop for clothes that flatter your curves?

“I have issue with the use of the word ‘flatter’ here.  I no longer feel I should flatter, hide, cover, modify my curves in any way. I like to wear clothes that I like, and that make me feel good, but they are not to please or appease society. I am not here to be an acceptable fat because I try to make my fat rolls look lesser than they actually are. To be body confidence and self loving means to accept myself and my body exactly as they are, without alteration.

I struggle to find plus size clothes that I’m happy with.  Over the years I have shopped at Evans,  Simply Be, and New Look; and more recently, Yours Clothing and The Curvy Gurl. Every year brings more brands expanding their size range, but what is on offer is often still very limiting and overly priced. If you’re able to go into a store the plus size range is often shoved at the back, out of sight, and you have to pick the best of a bad bunch. It’s a humiliating and dehumanising experience. So I tend to shop online where there is more choice and less humiliation. The Curvy Gurl (available online and instore)are becoming my go-to place, because they have a strong body positive ethos, provide a wide range of clothing, and all at affordable prices. Plus their customer service is second to none. But as a whole, the plus size fashion world is lacking. Much more needs to be done, both in what is available, who it’s available to, and how it’s marketed – both to the customer, and society.”

What are your modelling goals for the next year?

“Going forward, my modelling goals are to model for body positive, body diverse, and body inclusive brands only. I do not model for the glamour or status, I do it to inspire all those who feel bad in themselves, and to reassure them that we all have beauty and we all have worth, no matter what society says. For too long the fashion industry and media have championed a certain look, but humanity comes on a spectrum, and it’s time for all parts of the spectrum to be recognised and represented, not just one, so I am here to represent all those currently underpresented.”

To keep up with Michelle:

instagram@chocolatecurvesmodel

twitter@ChocCurvesModel

facebook Michelle Marie – Model & Spokeswoman

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