Plus-size models haven’t always been the norm. In fact, while plus-size models have always been present in fashion, they were typically only seen in catalog books or they were seen in other aspects of fashion that weren’t so visible. However, with the rise of the body positivity movement, we’ve started to see more plus-size models—as well as models who have body types that defy the ideal beauty standard—make their way to magazine covers, the runways, and the forefront of the fashion industry.
Because the average American woman is a size 16 or 18, which is plus size, the value of plus-size fashion has skyrocketed to more than $9 billion as there has been more demand than ever for clothing like plus-size blouses. Not only did this rise in demand necessitate brands to come up with inclusive clothing lines and plus-size party dresses, but it has also caused a major shift in what consumers want to see reflected to them from the media and the fashion industry.
Smaller-sized models or plus-size models who aren’t actually plus size are no longer what consumers want to see. There has been a conscious shift from consumers regarding how they consume media and how they choose to support brands. People want to see models who resemble them more closely. Studies show that the idea of fantasy and unrealistic beauty ideals are no longer being tolerated or sought after. The fashion industry has a long way to go, in terms of reflecting a more diverse and inclusive vision, but there are many models leading the way in changing what the industry looks like.
The need for body diversity and the amplification of plus-size bodies in fashion has been a long time coming. The fashion industry has always felt very monotone and catered toward one body type. However, when more American women began to become plus-size, movements like the fat acceptance movement and body positivity movement were gaining traction on social media.
Influential bloggers and others who were a part of the movements started demanding that the industry reflect them more than it had previously. Within a few years, the industry transformed. Over the past couple of years, plus-size women and body positivity were centered around fashion while still trying to fight for more visibility. The industry didn’t get it right immediately, as smaller plus-size models—who were under a size 12—were still used to model larger clothing, which wasn’t truly representative. But, today, the term inclusivity has become the standard. Not only do we now see actual plus-size bodies at the center of fashion shoots, but we also see bodies of color and other marginalized people portrayed regularly. The past five years have truly been revolutionary for the industry, and it’s only going to become more inclusive as time goes by.
This would not have been possible without the plus-size models who are making waves in the industry. At Chic Soul, plus-size fashion is kind of our thing, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of the people who have propelled plus-size bodies to the forefront of this industry, as well as other influencers in the space who have advocated for more inclusivity! So, with this post, we would like to pay homage to the models who have led the way, both decades ago and currently. If you aren’t familiar with these models, you might want to get to know them.
Not only do they look fabulous wearing some of your favorite plus-size clothes and designers, but they also stand up for the consumers they represent by being vocal on social media and holding brands accountable. They aren’t just pretty faces in a magazine; they are the ones who lobby for the industry to become more inclusive. So, show them your support by giving them a follow on Instagram or any other social media platform that you love.
Supermodel Emme was one of the first plus-size models on the scene. And, while she modeled when the fashion industry was completely different and not as inclusive, she still made waves and continues to do so. You can find Emme still modeling and walking the runways every New York Fashion Week. In 2018, she became an educator to help young fashion designers at Syracuse University learn how to make clothing that is more representative and well-fitting of the average body. It’s safe to say that plus-size-fashion wouldn’t be where it is today without Emme.
Precious Lee has graced many high fashion runways, has branching out into an acting career, and has a number of different designer collaborations under her belt. Having graced the cover of Vogue Italia, this model is trailblazing a way for plus-size women around the world. She was also the first black plus-size woman to be featured in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated.
Barbie Ferreira has been on the plus-size fashion scene for years, but, recently, she has risen to extreme prominence for her role on HBO’s Euphoria. As a carefree fat girl, her character, Kat, is the plus-size woman we need to see more of in television! Aside from her cool TV role, Barbie has been seen on runways all over the world, and she has also starred in many editorial campaigns. Not only is she incredibly beautiful, but Barbie is also very outspoken on social media and continues to show plus-size women around the world what it’s like to love your body fiercely.
While many plus-size models have a certain body type or stand at a certain height, Nadia Aboulhosn definitely breaks that mold. She’s a petite plus-size model, standing at 5’2”. Most models—of all sizes—are usually between 5’7” to 6 feet, but Nadia signed with Wilhelmina International, proving that plus-size models come in all shapes, sizes, and heights. Nadia is also an influencer and, aside from walking on runways and being featured in prominent campaigns, she has also collaborated with many plus-size brands to create sexy, fashion-forward clothing like pants for a pear-shaped body.
Tabria Majors first stepped onto the scene when she won the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Search in 2018, and, since then, she has basically become the face of plus-size fashion. There isn’t one plus-size brand that you could shop for without seeing her! She has had so many successful clothing collaborations with top plus-size brands, and we love her unapologetic attitude and her presence on Instagram. She is a force!
You may know La’Shaunae from her viral Universal Standard ad, which was incredible! La’Shaunae also breaks the traditional plus-size model mold with her figure, which resonates with so many plus-size women. Since she made her first impression, she has taken the fashion industry by storm. Not only has she collaborated with brands, but she is also using her social media platforms to bring plus-size women together and propel them into the fashion industry.
Hunter McGrady was the first plus-size woman to ever be featured in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated in 2017, and, since then, she has graced several runways and magazine spreads and gone on to release her own clothing line. Hunter is also very vocal about body positivity on social media!
As the body positivity and fat acceptance movements gained traction in 2013, Denise Bidot quickly became one of the faces of plus-size fashion. For unapologetic confidence and beauty, she graces national campaigns to this day. And we love that she’s also a social activist and champions plus-size women through clever hashtags like “no wrong way” on social media.
While many plus-size models have an hourglass figure or are considered to be on the smaller end of the plus-size spectrum, Tess Holliday is truly a visibly plus-size woman who has broken down many barriers when it comes to representing plus-size bodies of all shapes and sizes.
Tess has been a social activist for a long time, but she rose to prominence when she landed on the cover of People Magazine as the first-ever size 22 model. You could also say it was one of the first times that a visibly plus-size woman without a “conventionally beautiful” body was on the cover of a magazine.
Since then, Tess has gone on to grace the covers of many magazines, further breaking down the barriers that plus-size women face in fashion and in the media.Tess has also had a hand in designing clothing lines, and she also uses her social media presence and her “EffYourBeautyStandards” movement to propel plus-size bodies to center stage.
While seeing more “conventionally shaped” plus-size bodies on the runways is great, it’s also very important for young girls to see different plus-size bodies and shapes, aside from the typical hourglass figure.
There is no denying Ashley Graham’s importance and role in the plus-size fashion space. Not only has she been a huge presence in the plus size fashion industry but she also plays a big role in continuing the conversation about plus-size fashion and normalizing it in pop culture through a variety of television appearances, podcasts, and on social media. We love that Ashley shows us what it’s like to be a plus-size woman and isn’t shy when it comes to showing off her cellulite and stretch marks.
Danielle Brooks is an actress who got her big break on Netflix’s hit show Orange is the New Black. But since starring in the show, Danielle has gone on to become a prominent model for high-end designers like Christian Siriano. She’s walked in many runway shows, and she’s even had her own collaborations that have propelled inclusivity in fashion. We love seeing her on the big screen, as well as in the magazines and on the runways!
Today, you might see Leah Vernon’s face everywhere! Not only has she modeled for many major and popular plus-size brands, but she also has her very own book out titled Unashamed: Musings of a Fat Black Muslim. She continues to make her mark on the plus-size fashion industry through social media and making the entire space more inclusive.
You may have seen Paloma on a Fenty Beauty or Glossier Billboard. Paloma Elsesser has become the face of plus-size beauty. Typically, beauty ads only feature smaller-sized or slender women, but, when Glossier decided to use Paloma on billboards, it showed the world that beauty isn’t just for thin women. Since her debut, we have seen her strut her stuff in Savage X Fenty and Nike. We expect to see Paloma grace billboards everywhere, and we can’t wait to see what she does next!
Philomena Kwao may be newer to the plus-size modeling scene, but we think she has a bright future ahead. She has been photographed for top plus-size brands, and, soon, her face will be everywhere! We also love that Philomena uses her voice to advance social justice issues on social media.
Did we mention some of your favorite plus-size models? The good news is that the plus-size fashion industry is only growing, and it’s to be expected that we will be seeing more plus-size women centered and featured in the fashion industry in the future.