Latina plus model Larissa Laurel has been bringing diversity to the industry since 1998 and shows no signs of slowing down.
With her supportive family and loving boyfriend by her side this Texas native has opened doors for a new generation of Latinas to enter the modeling industry.[Maddy] When and how did you decide to start modeling? [Larissa] My roommate in NYC from 1996-1999 was a working plus-size model. She was 5’11” and a size 12/14. She always encouraged me and said there was no one in the business that looked like me (Hispanic/Latin looking) at the time. I didn’t think about it too much because when I called all the agencies they emphatically said they would not see anyone under 5’9″. I’m only 5’7″. So, as fate would have it, I ended up working as an agent’s assistant at the plus-size agency my roommate was signed with. One day the owner came out and was desperate to find a size 20 woman. She took my measurements, sent me out, and I booked the first go-see I ever went on. Since then, I lost 50 lbs. and now work regularly as a Jr. 18 fit model. [Maddy] As a Latina, do you feel like there are more plus size Latinas in the industry now than when you first started your career? [Larissa] Most definitely!! When I started I never saw Latinas who looked like me…when I went to go-sees I’d see blonde hair, blue-eyed Latinas (European looking) or Dark-skinned Latinas who could pass for African American. I myself am more Indian looking due to my Mexican heritage. I think sometimes I would book jobs and be the shortest woman there just because the job required someone with my looks and there was no one else out there. Now, there are tall Latinas out there who are in the industry. I’m sure they were always around, but agencies maybe never realized their money making potential. When an agency knows they will make money with you, then you get representation. We are no longer the minority, so I think it is fabulous that plus-sized Latinas are working and Latinas in general are starting to work in the fashion/entertainment industry with more prominence! [Maddy] You have been working as a Fit model for a while, what can a new model being booked for her first job expect? [Larissa] A new model can expect that her measurements for EVERYTHING will be taken. One must understand that with FIT you are basically a “living mannequin” meaning your measurements are not allowed to fluctuate. FIT models are let go from designer showrooms due to either gaining weight or losing weight. So maintenance with your figure is key.
Secondly, before you even start with a new account, go try on as many designers you can find… go to as many stores that carry plus-size as you can. TRY ON all the clothes in your size. See how each designer differs. Find out which designers fit your body like a glove, or fit poorly on your frame. All this info will give you knowledge to help your client, or your agent, so you know which accounts to look for. This is also great to have when you need to pick up an amazing outfit in a flash…you’ll know which designer uses your type of body for their fit sample.
Thirdly, start learning the sewing/pattern terms. Pick up a book on patterns, you don’t have to become an expert or a pattern maker, but when they ask if your “front rise” is okay you will know what they are talking about.[Maddy] Staying at your “fit-size” is incredibly important to your work – what type of workout regimen do you follow? [Larissa] I work out doing Pilates reforming training and do cardio about 2X a week. I’m also a flamenco dancer and take classes once a week. Since I also act and sing, I’m running around the city 5 days a week by going to fit jobs, auditions, classes, and working part-time in an office. I tend to put on weight very easily, so when I know my measurements are increasing I stay away from starches for a while. As a fit model you constantly have to take your measurements, if you tend to gain or lose easily.
One plus-size model friend of mine has to constantly eat more due to the fact that she is a yoga instructor and this makes her lose weight quickly. She has to fight to keep the weight on! Whew, I love food so much; I wish I had the same problem!![Maddy] I have seen you do “Print” most recently with Oprah Magazine wearing a fabulous bathing suit. Can you tell us a little about your experience and how you nurture your self confidence? [Larissa] I am always getting sent to bathing suit go-sees for plus-size. I’m thankful that my genes have kept my body smooth even with weight. The Oprah shoot was amazing! They pampered us while we were there. All the women got manicures and a spray on tan! I’ve never had a spray on tan before and I LOVED it because after the shoot it stayed for about 2 weeks. My bathing suit was so flirty, so I asked the photographer if I could “play” while he was shooting. I went with the mood of the swimsuit and did pin-up poses. I laughed when I read the article and they titled my pic with the phrase “1940’s pin-up”.
As far as self confidence, it is a mind game at times. I truly believe you are what you tell yourself you are. I was the only plus-size model at that shoot, so I strutted around not caring that I was probably a good 6 to 8 sizes bigger than every other model there.
I just focused on the excitement of getting my makeup/hair done, the manicure, the spray on tan, etc. that I didn’t have time to focus on “oh, I feel so big”. I think being in the moment and enjoying the present keeps your focus positive.
I always try to walk with good posture and my shoulders straight, it helps me feel confident and that I am allowed to take up space and not be ashamed of it. Too many of my plus-size friends hunch over or hold in their shoulders as if “apologizing” for taking up space with their God-given body. When you accept yourself, and I know it is a struggle from day to day, then your body and mind responds. No one should “apologize” for their body!