Interview With PLUS Model Magazine Cover Model Valerie Lefkowitz
Plus Model Valerie Lefkowitz has been a staple in the modeling industry for a number of years. Watching her move in front of the camera, while shooting the July Cover, was nothing short of amazing. She’s fluid; she had fun and embodied the essence of each look perfectly. We sat with Valerie for a few minutes for a one-on-one… enjoy![Maddy] I read that you have been modeling since you were fifteen years old. Can you tell us how you got started? [Valerie] It’s true that I attended Barbizon when I was about 14 years old. It was so much fun. The other girls there were a blast and it was definitely something I looked forward to every Saturday. The photographer at Barbizon sent a Polaroid to Wilhelmina Models in NYC and I was called in for a meeting. By this time I was 15, it was the summer before my sophomore year of high school, and I didn’t really have any experience other than the classes I took at Barbizon. I had a meeting with Susan Georget and left with a contract. [Maddy] At this tender age, was there pressure to stay below a particular size? [Valerie] No, No pressure. I’ve always been on the plus board. Sure, when I was first starting out I was smaller, maybe a size 10-12, but I was also 15. I had yet to develop my womanly curves. [Maddy] You have been represented by two of the most notable modeling agencies, Ford Models and Wilhelmina, what advice can you offer ladies who have just been signed with an agency? [Valerie] Well, trust your bookers, but don’t be afraid to put in your two cents. Also don’t be afraid to ask questions, meaning don’t be afraid to look silly by asking a seemingly silly question. Your bookers are there for you, so let them be there. It’s better to look silly to your bookers than to a client.
The best booker-model relationships I’ve had have been professional, personal, open, honest, direct, and super fun all in one. Stay on top of your book, meaning testing and getting tear sheets from clients. Turn your vouchers in immediately, even if you have to mail it in, that’s what I do. It really helps accounting. And it’s ok not to talk to your bookers every day. Maybe that sounds weird, but some days I have nothing going on, and that’s ok. In addition to that, it’s good for your agency to see you at least once a month. Keep your face fresh in their mind, and let them see how gorgeous you are in person![Maddy] Great advice! Many of our readers ask us about how to be prepared for a shoot. Can you tell us what your MUST HAVES for a models bag includes? [Valerie] Ooo, my model bag, of course! Here is my list: portfolio with cards, nude seamless bra and thong, nude seamless strapless bra, black strapless convertible bra, sun block, lotion, body makeup (nothing too fancy, I have a can of Sally Hansen Airbrush legs, mix that with the lotion for an instant glow), ahem…chicken cutlets…bra padding :-), and other padding… you never know when the sample size will not be your correct size, and sometimes filling it out is better than pinning it in. And I have a little book of puzzles. [Maddy] You have worked with amazing clients such as Fruit of the Loom, Dress Barn, Dockers and Target to name a few – can you tell us about your first big “gig”? [Valerie] Gosh, my first big gig would have to be my first gig ever. Not that it was so huge, I’ve been in bigger productions since then, but it was my first gig, so, yeah, that’s big! I was 15 or 16 and it was an editorial spread for Mode Magazine. We shot in a studio in NYC, a really cool studio I haven’t been to in years, Primal Light. One of my sisters was living in the Manhattan area at the time so I stayed with her the night before, and she dropped me off in the morning. We even packed a lunch for me, I just didn’t know what to expect. Of course they do feed you on shoots, and very well. It was a great day. The name of the spread was “Phat Stuff” and I made the opening page. A huge smiley close up, with my hair in knots. I’ll always remember this shoot fondly. I think I definitely knew right there that I could do this for a long time and be quite happy. [Maddy] Models often want to expand their careers into acting and commercial acting. Tell me about your commercial experience and working with Isaac Mizrahi. [Valerie] Working with Isaac Mizrahi was fantastic! I only wish I hadn’t been so nervous, I would have taken the moments in much more. I’ve always done commercials in addition to print over the years. Not regularly, but as they come up. My first one was for Perkins Family Restaurant when I was a teenager. I did have one commercial where I had a line, it was for MCI, and my line was, “Hi Mom”, answering the phone obviously. Commercials are so fun! Somehow the same as doing print, but different in a good way of course. I would love to do more! [Maddy] Weight and size is always an issue in the modeling industry Did you find it harder to book jobs when you were a size 16/18? [Valerie] Actually, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t working steadily at a size 16/18, I wasn’t working at all. My clients knew me at a size 12/14 and when I gained weight their sample sizes didn’t fit. I think that’s one of the most important things for models to know. When a client knows you a certain way and loves you, it’s good for you to stay put, and any changes you make, hair, dress size, etc., it would be beneficial to talk to your steady clients about. Or rather have your agency talk with them. Or at the very least tell them before the next shoot.
To further address size, my body is very happy and natural at a size 12/14. It always has been since I’ve been an adult. So the times when I have gained weight or lost weight have been times when I was struggling in other ways. When I let my body do it’s thing, and eat everything in moderation, no restrictions and no overdoing it, then I steady at 36C-D, 30, 44, and a size 12/14. I guess it’s my happy weight, I think we all have them. And I love myself exactly the way that I am, isn’t that the most important thing? No matter what size you are? Self-Love and Self-Acceptance and Appreciation for yourself just as you are, no matter where you are, I capitalize it because it’s so important! And I’m 5’8″! So a size 12/14 on me is deliciously curvy! 🙂[Maddy] I read your story at the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness site. Tell me how you got involved with this organization and how you maintain such a positive body image. [Valerie] Oh what a wonderful organization! I was featured in YM when I was around 20, and the founder and director of The Alliance read my story. We met in NYC at my agency and got along great! Her name is Johanna Kandel; she has a great story of her own. I only wish we had met not during my busiest time as a model, I would have been able to work with her more.
As for maintaining such positive body image, well, I read a lot of books on the subject. As a plus model it’s always been something that has come up…meaning the positive influence we are able to set for women. So it’s good for me to be well read, right? And the bottom line is, I know I’m worthy and deserving of the very best in life, as we all are. This includes the choice to Love myself completely and totally as I am, exactly as I am. All you have to do is be willing to learn to Love yourself and the door has been opened. I remember recently sitting on the couch with my sister Jen. We had just had a lovely dinner, and my stomach was feeling it! So I looked down at my protruding belly full of good food, and gave it a rub and said, “I Love you stomach”. We both laughed of course. It was funny and sweet and true.
Photographer: Krista Svalbonas
Makeup Artist: Layna Roberts
Stylist: Mia Amber
Hairstylist: Eve Whittington