“The Barriers Are Being Lifted” Our Interview with Australian Plus Model Jessica Vander Leahy
Interview with Australian Plus Model Jessica Vander Leahy
Maddy: How long have you been modeling?
Jessica: I’ve been modeling since I was 19 years old.
Maddy: Where were you born?
Jessica: I was born in Sydney, Australia.
Maddy: How did you get started in the modeling industry?
Jessica: I got started through a modeling competition that my aunt had tried to get me to enter. I wasn’t really interested, but my aunty persisted and eventually I entered, after the competition was over I didn’t win. A few days later the agency offering the contract said they had received my pictures and wanted to sign me. I’ve been modeling ever since.
Maddy: How would you describe yourself in three words?
Jessica: Inquisitive. Spirited. Blessed.
Maddy: Plus size models in Australia are doing really great things, how did you come to love your body?
Jessica: Plus models in Australia are kicking “azz” at the moment, I’m so proud to be a part of it and call many of these girls friends. Changes in the fashion industry need to be made and mindsets need to be adjusted. When I see a plus model, especially an Aussie, getting a great campaign or walking in a great show I feel so pleased because I know that the barriers are being shifted. I know that in a few years these beauty hurdles put up by the media and the fashion industry that make women feel so inadequate and drive people to lead unhealthy lifestyles are going to seem so ridiculous. Because of the kind of work plus models in Australia, and the world are now doing, people are really beginning to seriously question how the fashion industry and media could ever allow such a narrow portrayal of beauty and health.
Like so many women, at times I have suffered from the pressure to look and be a certain way. Like most people, I’ve had moments where I’m not happy with the way I might look, but I don’t really allow myself to wallow in those thoughts. I realize I have been so very blessed to have a body that functions, that is healthy and I just revel in that fortune rather than worry about the size of my thighs. After a while of focusing on the positives the negatives seem to matter far less. I am indebted to nature for the body I was given and I’d be a fool not to love and nurture it because it’s the only one I’ll ever get.
Maddy: How do you keep in model shape?
Jessica: I try to work out about 5 or 6 times a week. It’s not always strenuous exercise; sometimes it’s just a walk or light jog on the beach. But I do enjoy exercise and I feel good after I do it.
Maddy: Tell me about some of the most memorable jobs you’ve had so far.
Jessica: I find every modeling gig comes with its own experiences. I worked with some really great clients, photographers and stylists. One of the most memorable shoots I had was one where I was naked and covered in gold paint. I remember being a bit nervous before the shoot but I walked away from it thinking that was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. It was really so liberating and I actually recommend it to anyone because if you just get comfortable and let go of your inhibitions about your appearance and just be naked, you get such an overwhelming sense of freedom. I just really felt that that experience made me forget any body hang ups I may have walked in with and walk away with an appreciation for the body I have.
Maddy: If you were not a model, what would you be?
Jessica: Well, modeling isn’t a 9-5 career and is often seasonal. There are times of the year when I might be running from job to job and that is great because I am passionate about my job and am so glad to be busy and working. But, because of the unconventional hours, often models have the brilliant luxury to often pursue other passions in their downtime. I study at university and am doing a Communications and Media degree. I understand that modeling has an expiry date, and this degree leaves me with options. I’m not too sure exactly the type of career I want after modeling but Iâ??d want to stay in the creative field. I would like to act also. Ive studied drama and that is certainly a passion of mine that I’d like to explore further. I want a career that fills me with excitement and that makes me happy, one that doesn’t feel like work but a passion.
Maddy: What are your tips to aspiring models?
Jessica: Just try to be yourself. Don’t try to change yourself to fit everyone else’s mold because that will just mean that you won’t fit the mold you’re destined to.