With all mom duties taken cared of, plus size model Natalie Laughlin, sits to talk about her rise to “Super” plus model stardom, and what she learned about herself in the process. As a teen, and into young adulthood, Natalie struggled with self-esteem and an eating disorder. Natalie was able to turn things around for herself finding inner peace and genuine love for her body and spirit.
Maddy: How did you get started in the modeling industry?
Natalie: I was studying and acting at New York University, and when I was graduating I needed to get acting headshots. I went to this photographer, and he asked me to do this hair/magazine shoot with him. So I thought, “Great, I’ll do it to make some extra money.” He asked me if I considered modeling, and at that point I had tried, when I was 18 years old, but I was too big for modeling. He then told me about “plus size” modeling, the industry was really small at the time. There was only one agency; it was called “Big Beauties, Little Women”. They handled petite models and plus size models.
I visited the agency and they wanted to work with me, but my look was a little exotic so I did some “testing”. My career really did not take off until I went to Miami and started working there.
Maddy: I know a lot of models go to Miami for “the season”. How did you make the decision to leave NY and take your chances in Miami?
Natalie: Well BBLW was bought over by FORD Models, and during the holidays I went to visit Ford in Miami. I met with Cory Bautista, he was running the division down there. He sent me on a go-see to JC Pennys and I booked it, so he asked me to move to FL for the season. While in Florida, I stayed with family and friends, and sublet my apartment in NY. I was there when the “Miami boom” was just beginning I worked constantly with all German and European clients doing mostly catalog work.
Once “the season” was over, I went back to NY and I did not work at all! I was staying with friends, because I had sublet my apartment and I remember sitting down and realizing my money was running out. I was reading an issue of Vogue Magazine, with Kate Moss on the cover, and at that time the “in” thing was that grunge, emaciated look. I looked at the cover and said, “this is crazy, we should have full representation of women”.
So I sat down and wrote a letter to every fashion magazine editor, put my Ford comp card in the envelope, and sent them out. About two weeks later, Glamour Magazine had made a request for my book from Ford, and not long after I was given a six page spread and interview.
This is when my career took off, and I worked all the time.
Maddy: I had no idea; we had so much in common. My writing career in the plus size industry began as a result of me writing to every editor at ALLURE Magazine over their weight loss story. They contacted me, printed my letter and the pictures I had submitted of me and two model friends (we re-created Allure’s AFTER pictures in our size 18 bodies). Great minds think alike!
Natalie: Good for you! It’s important to exercise your voice. My motto in life is, we all have something to give. We may think we have nothing to contribute in this world, but we all have something unique that we can give and put out into the world. If you act on that, you will get something in return.
Maddy: Most people think, plus size models are full of confidence and do not have “bad” days. How did you find your confidence?
Natalie: I was a classic chubby kid; the kids would make fun of me in school. I struggled with my weight growing up. Looking back, who would have thought, “that” struggle would actually pay off in the form of a career? The thing I thought paralyzed me throughout my life is what ended up giving me my greatest reward. My weight paralyzed me; I abused laxatives from age 13 to mid twenties. I binged and exercised excessively and then I would try and starve myself. I could never throw up, but I was struggling because when I would lose the weight I would get such great feedback. I thought, unless I was thin – I would never be successful, unless I was thin – I would never find peace in my life, unless I was thin – I really did not belong in the world. That’s how I felt when I was growing up.