Who is this dark haired beauty on our February cover? She is beautiful Victoria Castillo, a smart, sexy plus size model… and yes a Latina!
Victoria captured our attention on our trip to LA last year for “Love Your Body Day”, she was naturally stunning and her inner beauty was undeniable. It was a joy to work with Victoria in the studio for the February cover and editorial… now we bring her to you with this in-depth interview.
[Maddy] Tell me a little about yourself. Where were you born and raised?
[Victoria] I’m from sunny Southern California. I was born in Fullerton, CA, but was raised in Santa Ana, CA, so naturally, that’s where my heart is. I’m the eldest of three siblings.
[Maddy] Tell me a little about your childhood?
[Victoria] As a child I was a total loner. I was shy, quiet and very attached to my mother and grandmother. My parents worried that I was surrounded by too many adults and they would force me to play with other kids from our block. I’ve always been extremely close with my mother and for a long time she was my only friend. When I was five years old my mother enrolled me in ballet lessons so that I could be amongst other girls my age. I quickly became addicted.
At school I was always the tall, chubby kid and I never felt pretty. Kids can be so cruel sometimes. I remember my mom would make me stand in front of a mirror and stay there until I could name three things that were beautiful about me. I spent a lot of time in front of that mirror! Junior high and high school were not much better, but that’s definitely where I made more friends and came out of my shell. I learned that if I didn’t stand up for myself nobody else would. I focused all of my time and energy on dance, which gave me sanity and an outlet from the world into my own.
[Maddy] As a child who were your favorite Latina entertainers and why?
[Victoria] I pretty much grew up watching “Telenovelas” (Soap operas) with my grandmother. I remember thinking “I want to do that!” every time I would see the Mexican actresses tearing up the small screen. I loved Thalia, Tiare Scanda, Daniela Castro and Salma Hayek (pre-Hollywood, when she was a Spanish soap star). I also loved Rita Moreno and Lynda Carter. As for modeling I have always looked up to Christy Turlington.
[Maddy] When did you first become interested in modeling?
[Victoria] I didn’t. I have been dancing and acting since I was five years old so I was never a stranger to show biz, but it had never crossed my mind to be a model; I use to think that modeling was for skinny blondes! I didn’t know any better, especially that there was such a thing as plus size modeling. About 4 years ago, I sent my headshot and resume to an agency for commercial representation (for acting) and they brought me in for an interview. The agent said she wanted to sign me and I thought it was some kind of scam since she hadn’t even heard my monologue! She explained that she wanted me for the print department, and that she thought I could get work as a plus size model. After she explained what that meant, and lot of questions and answers later, I was signed and on my way.
[Maddy] What steps did you take when you were just beginning?
[Victoria] As it turns out, getting representation actually meant I had skipped a few steps. I didn’t know at the time that I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t have to spend months or years trying to get agency representation. The first job I ever booked was for an online promo and didn’t know what the heck I was doing! But that job helped me pay for my first test with a fantastic LA photographer and I made my first zed card.
[Maddy] Do you feel like there is adequate representation for Latinas in the modeling industry?
[Victoria] In straight size modeling, perhaps. There are gorgeous Brazilian and Hispanic models all over the place. In plus size modeling, not so much. There are definitely not enough of us represented by agencies and getting legitimate work. A lot of clients are using Caucasian brunettes as their “Latinas”, so the demand for Latina models is not incredibly high. I’ve seen ads that are intended for the Hispanic market that feature models whom I know for a fact are not Latin, not even close! But this business is about having a versatile look and that’s what gets you the jobs, not necessarily your ethnic background, so unless more clients are specifically demanding Latin models, work will continue to be scarce for many Latinas.
[Maddy] Do you feel like you are passed over for jobs because you do not look “ethnic” enough?
[Victoria] It’s always a gamble with me. I often get jobs which originally were not supposed to go to an ethnic model, but the client likes my look and books me anyway. Sometimes they don’t know the difference. But there are times when I don’t book the job because I’m not “dark enough”. It’s quite interesting, this “ethnicity” thing I have going on. I have had clients ask me what my ethnicity is, and when I respond that I’m Mexican, they say “Yeah, yeah, but what else?” (Laughs). People always expect me to say that I’m some kind of mix, or Italian or Persian or even Native American. But I’m very proud to say that I am just a Mexicana.
[Maddy] You were asked to be the cover model for the sexiest issue PLUS Model Magazine has ever had. How do you maintain a positive body image?
[Victoria] Thanks Maddy! It’s definitely not easy! Modeling is modeling, no matter how you put it. Straight size or plus size, this business is full of insecure people and it’s hard not to fall into that. There have been times when I’ve done shows with straight size models that are like, “Oh my God, I am so fat!” and you can’t help but think, “Geesh, you are a size 2! What must you think of ME?!” But then you remember that THAT is why you are there! You are the person that defies society’s standard of “beautiful” and you just have to love yourself. I didn’t love myself for a long time. I struggled with weight my whole life and always thought I had been struck with the “ugly wand”. Now, I stay positive about my body by accepting the things that I can’t change and working on the things that I can, like working out, eating right, taking care of my skin, hair, teeth, etc. You just have to work with what you’ve got.
[Maddy] Crystal Renn is one of today’s most recognized plus size models and she has shot some very risqué photos – how did you feel about joining her with the photos in this issue?
[Victoria] I think risqué is cool as long as it remains classy. Crystal Renn has no problem doing that so she can get away with just about anything! A lot of times a fully covered model can look trashier than one doing a complete nude, it all depends how the model translates into it. For this shoot, I wanted to bring out a confident, classy, “comfortable-in-her-skin” kind of attitude, not a sexual one. Anyone can be sexual. There is a huge difference between sexual and sexy. Plus size models are often portrayed as overly wholesome, maybe even a little boring. I enjoyed working on this cover because it’s different than much of the work I’ve done.
Of course I was a little nervous, I knew this was going to be a shocker! And the hardest part about shooting out of your “comfort zone” is that you must give up all control to the person holding the lens. You have to trust that that person will watch out for your best interest because you no longer can. It’s good to push the envelope, you just have to trust the team you’re working with, and I worked with complete professionals.
[Maddy] How do you respond to those who feel that plus size models do not belong in High Fashion?
[Victoria] I personally think that is a very ignorant and narcissistic ideal. I’m sure those are the same people who take plus size lines out of their stores and limit women to online shopping. Fashion models exist because there is a consumer sitting at the end of the catwalk that may, or may not, be interested in purchasing a product. If there is a supply and demand for plus size women’s clothing, there NEEDS to be a plus size model on that runway to represent the women whom that product was indented for. It’s ridiculous to pretend that we don’t exist, or worse, that we don’t matter. Plus size models were a sleeping lion for a long time, but we’re awake and aware now, and we’re stirring things up!
[Maddy] What is your advice to aspiring models reading your interview?
[Victoria] The best advice I can give is: Do your homework, be careful, be realistic, and be humble.
Do your homework: Find out everything you can about the industry ahead of time. Do some research and get as much info as possible. Google EVERYTHING!
Be realistic: Make sure you meet industry qualifications before jumping on the bandwagon. Be honest about what kind of work you may qualify for. Don’t submit to a modeling agency saying you’re 5’9 if you’re really 5’6, you’ll be wasting your time. You may be gorgeous but just not model material. There’s other work out there for different types of people, you just have to look.
Be careful: Know the difference between schools and agencies. Don’t fork up money on classes, workshops or “model conventions” that promise to get you work or representation. Research photographers before you meet with them and bring a friend or family member to shoots if it makes you more comfortable.
Be humble: I have met many aspiring models who come off so “Diva” right off the bat. Don’t think that because you are beautiful, jobs are going to just pour in. You have to pay your dues and put the work in. A good attitude is essential. This industry is not that big and you’ll see the same faces over and over again, it’s not worth burning any bridges.
More about Victoria:
1) My favorite color is black and hot pink
2) Lip gloss or lipstick? Chapstick
3) Can’t leave the house without cell phone
4) I love to shop for cosmetics
5) My favorite part of my body is neck/shoulders/arms
6) My favorite movie of all time is Dirty Dancing
7) If I could be anyone for one day I would be Pablo Picasso because I would really like
to know what went on in his head.
Cover Model: Victoria Castillo
Photographer: Stanley Debas
MU: Lavette Slater