Super sexy with a strong business sense, plus model Jamil Kali is taking the industry by storm with her gorgeous looks and soon to be released calendar, Flawless, co-created with PLUS Empowerment Editor Chenese Lewis!
[Maddy] Did you grow up with positive feelings about your body?
[Jamil] I think I grew up with the typical self-conscious feelings that all girls grow up with. I developed pretty early and I took pride in the fact that I had a curvy body. I remember feeling the pressure to be in shape. Those pressures came from outside influences including the media
In my family all the women came in different shapes and sizes. I was never encouraged to be skinny but learned that the most important thing was to be as healthy as possible. I never viewed plus size people in a negative way.
[Maddy] Did you come to a time in your life when you became comfortable with your body? If so, what was the turning point and how has it helped to mold you?
[Jamil] I was always comfortable with my body for the most part because I always knew that my body wasn’t meant to be skinny. I think I equate curves with beauty because all the role models I had growing up were curvy women. And as I got older and became more and more comfortable in my skin, I grew more and more confident.
[Maddy] When did you become interested in modeling?
[Jamil] I can remember wanting to be a model when I was 10 years old. When I became a teen though, I figured it could never happen because I wasn’t skinny. I didn’t learn about the plus modeling industry until I was 23. While I was on the subway, a designer approached me to be in a fashion show. I loved it and after that I knew this was what I wanted to do.
[Maddy] What steps did you take to learn about the industry and pursue a plus modeling career?
[Jamil] I found terrific websites like plusmodels.com and venusdivas.com to learn all about the industry.
Once I had that knowledge I decided to take a trip to New York and try my luck. I visited three modeling agencies that represent plus size models and was offered contracts by all three. I decided to sign with IPM and I’ve been with them ever since. I took a chance and I’m happy I did.
[Maddy] Tell me about your first job? Do you remember who the client was and how you were able to handle “first time jitters”?
[Jamil] My first job as a professional model was a fashion show for Ashley Stewart. I definitely had jitters and butterflies in my stomach but when the time came for me to strut my stuff I just went out and had fun with it. I was professional of course but I didn’t take it too seriously or over think what I was doing.
[Maddy] How long were you modeling part-time before you took the leap to full time model?
[Jamil] About two and a half years.
[Maddy] How did you come to this monumental decision?
[Jamil] The decision was kind of made for me. I found out that a client needed to book me for three weeks. I wasn’t about to turn down the job because this was what I had been working so long and hard to achieve. So I let my corporate day job go. I considered getting another one but then I learned that the client would be booking me for another three weeks a couple of months later. So it seemed pointless to get another day job and quit so quickly.
[Maddy] What advice do you have for models thinking about making this decision?
[Jamil] Talk to your agent and make sure that it is a realistic goal for you. Can you work often enough to support yourself and keep the lifestyle you’re accustomed to? If you’re not at that point yet, ask your agent what you need to do in order to get there. Be open-minded to making adjustments in order to be more appealing to clients. Also have a backup plan to earn income if things get slow. Even the most successful models have slow periods. It’s just part of the life of being a model.
[Maddy] Who are your favorite plus size models and why?
[Jamil] Maiysha with Ford Models because of how long she’s been on top in the industry. Jordan Tesfay and Crystal Renn because of their ability to transcend as plus models and work for companies that aren’t specifically geared to plus size women. Also all three are just fierce, period! They all have skills and as much as they work I never get bored seeing them. They inspire me.
[Maddy] How do you feel the modeling industry has changed in the last five years?
[Jamil] There are definitely more companies catering to plus size women and that creates more opportunities for models. There’s a rise in demand for teen plus models because of the popularity and success of companies that provide clothing for young plus size girls. Also mainstream society is grasping more and more the concept that beauty isn’t determined by size. This results in more opportunities for plus models to go outside the box and work for non-plus size companies.
[Maddy] How is being a full-time model different than what you imagined?
[Jamil] I think working as a model part-time for so long prepared me for what to expect working as a model full-time. Also I’m friends with a few other plus size models that are working full-time as well, and I asked them a lot of questions about their experiences.
A typical week for me consists of working for a client maybe once or twice that week. And the rest of the week is filled with go-sees and castings. Also every now and then I have to test and a job might come up that requires me to travel.
[Maddy] What do you think is the biggest misconception aspiring models have about the modeling world?
[Jamil] I think the biggest misconception that aspiring models have is that being successful in this business does not require hard work and dedication. A lot of girls think that all they need is the right “hook up” to get started in the business. However, the reality is that one, you have to have a marketable look in order to work regardless of who you know and two, after you get your foot in the door, the work is not over.
In order to be successful, you have to take the initiative on your own to nurture your career. Don’t rely on anyone else to make it happen for you. Even if you have an agent, their job is to get you in front of the clients. It’s up to you to put the effort in and do whatever it takes. You are your own business.
More about Jamil:
My favorite brand of makeup is…
I can’t leave the house without my…
My favorite vacation spot is…
My dream-modeling job would be…
Any campaign that I can be the “face” of. Whether it’s clothing, lingerie, cosmetics, fragrance, etc.
For bookings contact www.ipmmodels.com
Photography: Rebecca Jennings for Hips and Curves, Gian Andrea di Stefano, Michael Hermogeno for Torrid, Matthew D., Stanley Debas