Velvet D’Amour Gets Close and Personal With Editor Maddy Figueroa-Jones

Velvet D’Amour Gets Close and Personal With Editor Maddy Figueroa-Jones

By Velvet D’Amour

PLUS Model Magazine has been on the virtual airwaves for over three years and I’ve been fortunate to get to know Madeline Jones, Editor for PLUS Model Magazine very well and I was thinking how great it would be to turn the tables on her. After much planning Maddy agreed to couple a photo shoot with an interview, so that the readers could learn more about Maddy, and allow her to be in the spotlight which she so graciously shines on the many plus size beauties and industry here in PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE.
I hope you enjoy…

[Velvet] You are a New Yorker through and through, if you had to relocate anywhere in the world, which city would you choose and why? 

[Maddy] I love living in New York – there is no other place like it but if I could move anywhere in the world it would be Paris. Paris is where fashion ideas originate and are showcased in such a grand way. I would love to take in the culture and art – I love learning about people and their customs and practices. I feel like it makes you grow as a person and enhances your vision.

[Velvet] How do you see the Plus size scene differ between the East and West coast? How has the global Plus scene evolved in your opinion?

[Maddy] Each coast has an amazing way of taking our limited but ever so evolving fashion industry and making it fit their own style. As a whole the Plus scene is making headlines everywhere. We have all heard about Lizzie in Glamour but we are everywhere, we are on the runway in Australia, TV in London, CNN, talk shows, reality shows, it seems like doors are opening even if some are questionable. It’s up to us to make it what we want it to be. Has it evolved from what it was 10 years ago? – Absolutely!! Do we have a lot more to accomplish? Oh yes!

[Velvet] What are your top three magazines (non-plus) and why? Have you incorporated any positives from these into PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE?

Vogue (of course), Elle and Glamour. Vogue is the MECCA of Fashion – where you will see editorials like no other and where you can read so much about fashion history as well as where fashion is going. Elle is brilliant with their fashion editorials and Glamour speaks to the readers and finds ways to incorporate the reader which is what we always have in mind at PLUS.

[Velvet] Are there any limitations or constraints which are imposed upon you when creating the magazine or have you free reign?

[Maddy] Great question. Valery and I pretty much talk about everything when it concerns the magazine as a whole but the monthly details I pretty much handle on my own. I do open up dialogue with our amazing staff on shoots, concepts, ideas, etc. So yes I have free reign but I believe that putting a collective effort together is so much more rewarding. Everyone from the photographer, stylist and makeup artist have input on the project we are working on. PLUS is for the industry and together with important and talented people in the industry we put this magazine together every month.

[Velvet] You recently made an announcement via the PLUS Model Magazine Blog about 18PLUS. Can you tell us about what 18PLUS is and how aspiring models will be affected?

[Maddy] After Glamour featured their 7 plus size models in the buff and promised to try to feature more plus size models within their editorials we received hundreds of emails about the size of their bodies and asked us why bigger plus size models were not used. I posed the question to the readers via our blog and the comments came pouring in and some comments came directly to my email from bigger named clients and agencies in NY and CA.

While we have always pushed the envelope to feature plus size models of all sizes it has been difficult for us because the sample sizes are not readily available for us to shoot on models that are size 18 and above. Valery and I decided to stop waiting for the doors to open and reach out to the designers and clothing vendors for those bigger sizes and just continue to ask until they realize that this is what the consumer wants to see. We are also asking all models who are “18PLUS” to get ready because we are going to be featuring them in 2010 as we receive collaboration from the fashion industry. This means the models have to know how to pose from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes without any excuses.

I intend to wow the industry with what we are going to do and ask for feedback from those clothing companies about their sales. For years we have heard that companies do not use bigger girls because they don’t sell the clothing. I want to see it for myself!

[Velvet] How has PMM progressed since its inception, and where do you see it going/headed in the next 5 years?

[Maddy] WOW! When I look back at the first few issues… we were bi-monthly, no editorials and we were just testing the waters. Many people thought we were on a road to nowhere and would never be taken seriously but we just pressed on knowing we wanted to be a voice and make a difference in the industry. Personally I don’t give myself specific goals for the magazine, I just strive to be better and work “smarter” so that PLUS will reach its full potential. Valery and I work from a point of integrity and being able to stand by everything we do and this is how I believe we have been able to form the relationships and reputation that we have within the plus size industry.

Our masthead is staffed with the best in the industry. These are not just writers, these are people who have “walked the walk” so they CAN “talk the talk.” I have models email me that they print out all of Sharon’s articles and put them in a binder and refer to them before they go to a shoot or go see. I have models that save the links to all of Larissa’s questions and answers because she feels like everything she has written she has needed to refer to at one point or another. I have aspiring models coming to shoot with Lucaspictures with printed editorials from PLUS or pictures from models like Mia Amber. This tells me that we are providing what we set out to do and this is what I’m most proud of.

[Velvet] Unfortunately, you lost your very dear father. I wondered what wisdom he imparted which comes to mind when you work on PMM, as well as when you deal in the Plus community in general.

[Maddy]  My father was a gentle soul and always put people’s needs before his own and that is something that I hold on to every day. He was always very proud of me in whatever I did and was very supportive of my passion for the plus size industry. I was blessed with mom’s “gusto.” She is the one who taught us to be smart on our feet and defend our personal space so I feel like, between the both of them, I received a great mix of what I need to face life in general.

[Velvet] Your husband is a fashion photographer specializing in PLUS fashion, what is it like to pose for the one you love?

[Maddy] Luke is amazing! I still remember when he reached out to me on a model site asking if he could test me. I would be the 1st plus model he would be shooting so I was not that enthused about the shoot but like a fairy tale we just had instant connection. Once we got together and he decided to go from film to digital I was one of two models that would pose for him endlessly (the other being my friend Mia). Sometimes we would be sitting at home on a Saturday night and he would say “Go put something on – I want to try something” and an hour later I would be in full makeup/ hair and shooting. I think we both learned a lot from each other because we were able to speak freely about details of our work.

[Velvet] Have you ever had an uncomfortable experience when modeling, if so how did you handle it?

[Maddy] Hmmm fortunately I have never been through an experience where I felt like my life was in danger, I always took my sister with me on shoots when I was first starting out. I’ve had photographers be totally rude to me though and I just handled it the best I could. If it was a TFP then I gave them the option of ending the shoot but if it was a paid shoot I was the one who stopped the shoot and asked for my money back. I don’t think models realize the power they have on shoots. If you are promised a shoot – you should not have to put up unprofessional behavior like smoking, cursing and two hour long breaks because the photographer wants to check his email, call his mother or go shopping. Yes ladies… this stuff happens so be aware!

[Velvet] Have you ever had to deal with a models bad behavior as Editor of PLUS?

[Maddy] For the most part the plus size models I have ever worked with are professional, amazing and hard working. On a few occasions models have not handled themselves in the best way and those are the ones I will never work with again and then there are those that think that they know better than I do about what is best for PLUS. You should never do something that is underhanded or “shady” because you put people in a bad position and you now developed a bad reputation with a person that could have helped your career. For the record I don’t take submissions anymore and that is not the way I choose the cover models for PLUS. I think that aspiring models simply need to allow themselves time to develop in front of the camera and trust that your time will come and it will be a wonderful experience.

[Velvet] I recently had the great pleasure to shoot you, (with the amazing Tara on makeup and hair), and I found it such a pleasure to shoot you, not simply because you have a very vivacious and effervescent beauty, but because you are highly capable of emoting, which isn’t always easy to do. Have you any tips which you could offer other models on opening yourself to giving more than a mere pretty face?

[Maddy] Have you ever heard people speak of being book smart as opposed to having on the job knowledge? This is what I think modeling is like. You first have to know the practical details of the business, like knowing what type of modeling you would be most successful at. Then gather pictures of models and mimic what you see, such as hand placement, feet placement, facial expressions, etc. Stay away from the booty and very urban shots because that will pigeon hole you: and you will only be known as an urban model when you could very well be modeling for Macy’s also. Once you feel comfortable with knowing your face and body placements, just test and test and test. I think that’s what made me so good in front of the camera was being able to practice so much. Once you get over the jitters and have your confidence – then you can bring endless emotions to the camera and even embody a mood or character; but it all takes time, practice and commitment.

[Velvet] Who are your favorite mainstream fashion photographers?

[Maddy] Besides the ones who shoot for PLUS? Love Keith Majors… I think he is phenomenal so working with him for the first Flawless Calendar was a dream!  Steven Meisel is simply brilliant. Victor De Mello’s lighting is amazing! I also love Michael Jordan – I think that he incorporates all that I love about photography into even the simplest image. As for the photographers we have been fortunate to work with, I think they are masters at what they do – they are not only photographers, they are artists and their passion inspires me.

[Velvet] How has modeling affected your life?

[Maddy] Well my initial interest in modeling and where my journey has taken me are completely opposite. Spending time in front of the camera, dealing with clients and agencies gave me the insight I needed to be able to appreciate how hard the models work in this industry. That was needed to help the aspiring models so I could bridge the gap between being an aspiring model and a working model. Modeling brought me to where I am today because the path and choices I made were very definitive. Through this industry I have met the most amazing models, photographers and stylist. Some have become my very best friends.

[Velvet] How do your Latina roots color your life?

[Maddy] I love my Puerto Rican roots. It gives me a spark and flare that makes me different from many people in the industry. There are not many Latina’s in positions of power in the plus industry.  I’m very intense and passionate and I believe that comes from having a multitude of races running through my veins.

[Velvet] Where do you think the world of Plus will be by the time your daughter Madison is your age?

[Maddy] I’m thinking positively now – LOL!  I want to believe that the Plus size industry will be a part of mainstream modeling industry. The powers that be will embrace the curvier form and therefore bring more fashion choices to all women beyond a single digit size.

[Velvet] If Madison declared a desire to model what advice would you give her?

[Maddy] I don’t think modeling is a bad field. It’s a field where you have to be secure about who you are and have a strong will and desire because it’s very competitive. My advice would be exactly what I advise aspiring models today. Research the industry, know where you will be most successful and be ready to work hard to make it. The only difference would be that I would manage my daughter along side her agency (Big Smile)…

[Velvet] Who are your hero’s?

[Maddy] My grandmother is my greatest hero. She was 13 years old when she was pulled out of elementary school in Puerto Rico to tend to the farm along side her sisters. They did not have any brothers so the three girls did everything that a boy would have to do and it was not pretty. Still she managed to marry a young handsome Christian man and raised three wonderful children. She stood by her husband as he pressed on to become a pastor of a Pentecostal church in the South Bronx. She is my hero because she is a true God-fearing woman and even when people would attack her or the family she never lost her cool. She relied on God to bring her through and fight on her behalf. Her love is so pure and I could only pray that I could be as pure in heart as she is and has been for 80 years of her life. She now has Alzheimer’s disease and barely remembers meeting Madison, but telling her that I have a child and that she held her is always a joy to me and something we share. I never thought the day would come, and sharing it with my grandmother was a dream come true for me. Madison’s middle name is Eladia. Eladia is my grandmother, my hero!

[Velvet] What life lessons has dealing with MS taught you? Are you planning another walk and if so how might PMM readers help?

[Maddy] Learning to live with a disability is a process that I’m still going through. I think it has made me appreciate life and my experiences even more. I live in the moment and strive to be a better person everyday and not entertain any of the negativity that sometimes comes your way being in my position. We are planning on having another All Star Curvy Weekend and include one night of partying and one day for the walk and possibly some other surprises. Readers can participate by walking with us in NY or donating to our ultimate goal and therefore becoming a virtual walker.

[Velvet] What was your experience being plus sized and pregnant?

[Maddy] I loved being pregnant. I had a great pregnancy once the nausea went away. I can remember every kick and move. Every time something new happened I was able to experience it with Luke and with my family. We had the ultimate baby shower for Madison. It was a party like I had never seen before but it was for a life that Luke and I were bringing into this world and I wanted to celebrate! I was not affected by being plus size during my pregnancy. I did not get diabetes or high blood pressure and I only gained 25 pounds so I have only good memories of feeling Madison growing inside of me.

[Velvet] I’m so excited about the PLUS SIZE INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS website… can you speak a bit more about that innovative new site please?

[Maddy] The idea for this site came as a result of various things Valery and I were experiencing. I watched media people not researching the industry properly and just asking “anyone” to comment on the industry. We have been getting requests from clients such as Charming Shoppes and various denim companies looking for fit and showroom models; models they can work with and groom. They were not willing to take the time to go through other sites where straight size models were also present. They needed to be able to look at a model’s stats and pictures and say – I want to work with her! We decided to take our current PLUS Model Mag Directory and expand where models can post their professional pictures, update their stats and also read about castings and events. I also like to be able to correspond with the models one on one and reach them right away when opportunities come up. So far one of our members was signed with an agency about three weeks ago, two were seen on Good Day NY and I booked one member on her first mini runway show. Another “plus” for the PSIP is a unique way of promoting our advertisers on this site. When a client like Ashley Stewartadvertises with us –, it covers the magazine and the PSIP.

[Velvet] And finally, how has having the cutest lil’ babygirl everrrr, changed your life?

[Maddy] My cutie pie… she is my heart and my love. I live to be able to make a life for her and leave a legacy that she can be proud of. In the big scheme of things – it’s modeling and fashion – I’m not curing a disease or anything, but in my daily life I’m touching lives, helping women to find their way and making a mark on an industry that I love, while finding my own way through this incredible journey we call LIFE. Madison is here to complete my family life with Luke and to fill a void that losing my father left. Madison is here because she was destined to be here.

STYLING: Deb Malkin –