Plus Model Suzanne Lyons Has it All… Beauty, Smarts and a Successful Career

Suzanne Lyons…

This powerhouse plus model is a gorgeous addition to our November cover. Many of you have seen her work, but we want to introduce you to another side of this charming, witty and wonderful woman!

[Maddy]  Tell me a little about yourself?

[Suzanne] Well, I was born in Rochester, New York, but my parents quickly moved to a warmer climate and I’ve spent most of my life in San Antonio, Texas (go Aggies!).  I’ve got two older sisters, so my dad was always outnumbered by 4 women.  Given that he’s 6’4″ (where I get my height from); the female-to-male ratio seemed pretty fair.

[Maddy] I have always loved your work, how long have you been modeling?

[Suzanne] Thanks, Maddy, that means a lot coming from you!

I started modeling back in 2000 when another plus model (Michelle Rogers) contacted me and asked if I’d ever considered it.  Like most folks, I had no idea that size 12s were considered “plus models,” but I was happy to hear it as I have been the same size for the last 10+ years so it’s a safe bet that I won’t change much in the next 10 (hopefully).

[Maddy] When did you decide to begin modeling? What steps did you take once you decided to pursue a modeling career?

[Suzanne] Well, after talking to Michelle, I shot with a photographer she’d recommended to see what I thought of modeling.  I had a fantastic time and learned a heck of a lot from the fabulous Marlene G, who did my makeup and helped guide me in posing.

My next shoot was with Les Delano, with Taylor Bartoe (another plus model) doing my makeup and the fabulous Bette Tilch assisting with styling and reflectors.  They were GREAT mentors and really helped shape my path and the decisions I made.  It was actually a photo from that session that caught my agent’s eye (Lisamarie at Brand) and she asked Taylor who I was and wanted me to come in to talk to her.  She signed me the next week when I came in.

[Maddy] Tell me about how important “testing” with photographers is to a models career?

[Suzanne] It is EXTREMELY important to test!!  I can’t stress this enough.

Many models think that you have to have professional shots before you go to an agency, which is not true, and I think mediocre professional shots will actually HURT you when you’re looking for an agent (best to go in with just snapshots).  But once you’re signed and are getting advice from your agent on what he/she wants in your book, testing is a great way to expand your portfolio and practice your poses.  It keeps your book up-to-date and you never know when you’re going to get that “money shot” to use for your card.

[Maddy] What does Suzanne’s model’s bag contain?

[Suzanne] Hahaha.  This is actually pretty funny because most folks will tell you that I always over-pack for shoots.  But I have a large clear bag that I always bring to shoots (Isaac Mizrahi for Target – woo hoo!) that contains: my portfolio; business cards with my name, photo, and agent’s contact info (see below); nude thong; nude strapless bra; black strapless bra; nude pantyhose; assorted jewelry; “chicken cutlets” (bra inserts in case they want a D-cup); a brush; a flatiron; my “everyday makeup” in case of emergencies; makeup-removing towlettes; and sugar free mint gum (so I don’t gross out the makeup artist).  I also carry a separate bag with a variety of shoes and belts in it, depending on what we’re shooting.

[Maddy] How did you learn how to pose? Are there any techniques you learned to help you?

[Suzanne] Well, Marlene, Les, and Taylor were instrumental in helping to teach me to pose in the beginning and each photographer I’ve worked with has added a bit of something to my repertoire.  But the best trick is posing in front of a mirror to see what works and what doesn’t with your shape.  I know it sounds goofy, but it’s true!  Just don’t let your sister catch you or you won’t hear the end of it.  *grin*

I also constantly look at magazines and catalogs and try to emulate some of the poses I like from there.  The more you practice, the easier it gets and eventually even some of the more difficult poses will feel natural.

[Maddy] As someone that has been in the industry for a while, what pitfalls have you seen aspiring models fall into and how can they be avoided?

[Suzanne] It is vitally important to make good choices as you progress in your career.  Plus modeling is very conservative, so be prepared to do lots of catalog-style shoots.  Most models want to do the more editorial Vogue-style shots, but commercial modeling (catalogs) is where the money is.  There are a lot more opportunities for commercial work as a plus model than for editorial work, so when you’re starting out, shoot conservatively.

Quite a few aspiring plus models do risqué lingerie shots to start out with and that is rarely going to help you out and definitely won’t get you an agent.  Commercial Cacique-style lingerie shots are fine and show your figure, but Frederick’s is not employing plus models yet, so practice shooting what your market will be.   You’ll always have time later to shoot sexy once you’re established.

[Maddy] The modeling industry has changed in a lot of ways – what changes would you like to see in the next 5 years?

[Suzanne] I really wish we had models across the entire size spectrum.  Right now, models typically come in size 0-4 for “straight sizes” and 12-18 for “plus sizes”.  But women come in all sizes, so why do we limit ourselves?  I understand the demand for proportionate and toned models, as we’re selling the “ideal.”  But why is size 6-10 a no-man’s land?  Or 20+?  I would like to see more of a merging of straight and plus in advertising.  After all, if The Gap offers jeans to a size 20, why not use models bigger than a size 4 without having to call them “plus?”  It’s great to see that things HAVE changed over the past few years, and I’ve done quite a few runway shows with straight-sized models, but I wish it was more prevalent to see the mixing in mainstream media.

More on Suzanne Lyons

My favorite hobby is ice hockey.  It’s my obsession.  I’m a goalie on two men’s beer-league teams and a women’s travel team.

If I could load one artist in my ipod/MP3 it would be Tori Amos (if I’m in a calm mood) or Disturbed (if I’m in a rowdy mood).

My MUST HAVE beauty product is MAC lipstick and lip liner (I consider it one product since I use them together – hahaha).

One thing most people do not know about me is I’ve got a doctorate in geophysics.  Not all models fit the stereotype. *grin*

My dream modeling job would be:

Editorial – Vanity Fair.  This is my favorite all-around fashion-oriented magazine.  Not only are their editorials stunning (Demarchelier’s 2005 photos of Nicole Kidman are my all-time favorite), but the advertisements are inspiring and the articles are well-written.  What a combination.  I just wish they’d use more “real-sized” models.

Commercial – Target.  I LOVE this store.  I’m addicted.  And their recent designer additions and trendy advertising campaigns are fantastic.  They make shopping at discount stores cool.

Designer – Tadashi.  This designer (Tadashi Shoji) is AMAZING!! He understands a woman’s curves and how to highlight them.  I can’t say enough about his dresses.  Whether you’re a size 2 or 20, he makes the perfect dress for you.

Photo Credits
Les Delano
Marlene G, Hair: Jo Williams