Terri Murray Speaks About Fit Modeling and Life As a Grandmother

Terri Murray Speaks About Fit Modeling and Life As a Grandmother…

Fit Modeling may not seem like the most glamorous of careers, but it is one of the most important, and well paying jobs in the industry. Terri Murray‘s physique may have affected her marriage, but in the end, it opened doors that she would have never imagined.

Maddy: Tell me a little about yourself.

Terri: I was born in Columbus, Ohio, the oldest of eight children and lived there all my life until I signed a contract with FORD NY and moved here in 2003 to pursue an opportunity of a lifetime.  I was a plus size teenager.  My mother took me to a doctor for diet pills, I lost a lot of weight – 60 lbs.  I met my husband and was married 21 years and have two beautiful daughters and four granddaughters whom I love dearly.  My oldest granddaughter was 18 last week.  The others are 15, 9 and 6. All my family, my mother, siblings, daughters and granddaughters all live in Ohio.

I’m a former Director of Education of a major modeling school, former Regional Director of Fashion Group International and currently the Immediate Past President of the New York Tri-State Chapter of AICI, the Association of Image Consultants International.

Maddy: How did your modeling career begin?

Terri: I was divorced after a 21 year marriage and needed a job.   I answered an ad from Lane Bryant for a fit model in the local newspaper.  I thought I was close to their measurements.  So after 172 women were measured for the position, they chose me and another woman to begin the fashion and style transformation at Lane Bryant in 1994.  My marriage broke up because my husband didn’t like my size.  When I quit smoking, I gained 50 pounds and became who I am today.   Being a stay-at-home mom, I had no education outside of high school.   Now I have a successful full-time modeling career and get paid to stay the size I am.  My friends in Ohio at the time cheered, “Such perfect justice!”  My ex husband is sincerely happy for me now – it’s been 20 years.

Maddy: How did you learn the ins and outs of the business?

Terri: Lane Bryant hired me full time as their fit model and I jumped in and embraced it all.  I had never modeled before, although a few people over the years mentioned that I should.  But I thought I was too big even then.  I started out as the bottoms model, but over the years I “fit” all sportswear and intimate apparel.   I’m a seamstress so I knew about patterns, etc., however, Lane Bryant trained me in Web PDM, Gerber, Quality Assurance and how to measure samples.  After a while, a wonderful Senior Technical Designer trained me as Assistant Technical Designer and gave me many opportunities to learn more about the design, technical and production end of the business.  As a result of that, I developed the first Fit Focus Group and the wear test procedures at Lane Bryant.  This involved measuring hundreds of women and standardizing the wear test evaluation forms for the buyers, designers and production groups.

Maddy: What were some of your most memorable jobs in your career?

Terri: Being a full time it model at Lane Bryant for nine years, signing a contract with FORD NY as a fit model, and moving to New York! I also enjoyed modeling in National Sales Training Intimate Apparel videos for 800+ Lane Bryant stores and Traveling to Hong Kong twice a year.  Working hard and long hours didn’t deter us from exploring the city in the evening.  I modeled for Lex Wexner, owner of The Limited Co, twice a year there.  They picked me up in a Rolls Royce and I stayed 7 days in a private luxury hotel on the bay all expenses paid, of course. It was an incredible experience. Going to Sri Lanka developing and approving the Santoni panty fit in 3 days with an order of 500,000 panties.  On the way home, I stopped in Paris for the weekend.  Since I was flying over Paris, Lane Bryant allowed me to stop there for a little R & R paying only for the hotel.

Maddy: Years ago, plus size modeling jobs consisted mainly of catalog shoots. Tell me about your experience in watching the industry begin to change, along with the fashions.

Terri: In 1994, I began my career as a full time model at Lane Bryant.  That was a turning point at Lane Bryant where their focus went from frumpy and old-fashioned to stylish and trendy – one of the first to offer stylish and trendy clothes for plus size women.  MODE magazine appeared on the scene.  I kept many of their magazines and researched plus size clothes and began following several rising star plus size models like Angelika, Emme and many others at the time.  Over the years little by little, retailers have added plus size to their assortment in fun, fashionable and great fitting clothes.  This year has seen great strides in the plus size industry.

Many big name designers have developed and are developing for us.  Fashionable magazines have created plus size versions such as Vogue Curvy and online magazines like Plus Model Magazine are gaining momentum for us in the industry and growing our recognition.

Maddy: You are one of the most successful fit models in the business. Tell me about being a fit model and how you have been able to experience longevity in this business.

Terri: I have been a full time working fit model for over 16 years – 9 years at Lane Bryant and 7+ in New York.   Most importantly for a fit model is to maintain measurements.  I have found a system that is well for me.  I eat the first half hour after rising in the morning.  That was hard to do since I like to wait until late morning to eat.  This is important because it starts your metabolism for the day.  The second part is I eat something every three hours to maintain my metabolism and eat one full meal a day.  It works for me.  I’ve been asked to be a health coach for the program.

Additionally, the ability to communicate technical information, having a sense of style and knowledge of patterns adds to the value of a fit model.  This is a great time to be a plus model and a mature woman in the industry.  The most successful fit models in my agency are mature women who have been fitting for 20 – 25 years.  Someone once asked me how long I think I can fit (especially since I fit intimate apparel as well).  I tell them as long as I keep my measurement I’ll keep going.  There are fit models (intimate apparel) in the industry older than I am – even 70+.  I am 61 and became a model after I was a grandmother.  I am so excited that I had the opportunity and seized it and moved to New York.  Even if I failed, I had to “go for it.”

Maddy: What do you want today’s up and coming models to know about the years that led to today’s plus size modeling industry?

Terri: Be ON TIME or early! Arrive well groomed – nails, toenails, hair, makeup, clothes pressed.  Look stylish! Pay attention and learn technical terms to communicate effectively with designers, technical designers and the production team.  Take classes. Be prepared with necessary skin tone undergarments (no thongs for fitting), shoes, boots, etc. Know your body.  If you need a minimizer or a butt booster, if your measurements are smaller or larger than client’s spec’s.  Take advantage and pursue every opportunity you have to model.  Sometimes you start out with no pay.  The experience is invaluable.  Learn everything you can about the industry so that you are ready when the opportunities present themselves. Overcome your fear and  take a chance and pursue your dream.  Move to NY if you are able to do so financially.  Realize that it will probably be slow at first.  Hang in there and be persistent.  Take a part time job if needed.  Sometimes you can work a booking in during your lunch hour. I knew I needed to work five bookings a week to afford my lifestyle in NY.  When I needed something else, I thought in terms on one more booking a week or a month and I could get another apartment, etc. Give back to others.  Share your success – with the community, models, shelters like the Bottomless Closet which helps women back on their feet with classes and clothes for work, etc. Go for it when the opportunity arises as long as your family and finances are in order.

There are too many people to thank for the wonderful experiences and friendships experienced in my career.  I am so thankful and sincerely grateful.

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