7 Plus Size Trailblazers to Watch in 2018

2017 was an incredible year for diversity.

We continue to be inspired and feel empowered by others in the plus size industry who use their platforms to spotlight important topics like ageism, racism and body positivity.

These 7 trailblazers in particular took 2017 by storm and we can’t wait to see what they will do this year.

#1: Paloma Elsesser

Many have said it was the year of Ashley Graham but in our opinion, it was the year of Paloma Elsesser.

This plus size model of color, signed to Muse NYC Management, did major things in 2017 from being one of the faces of Fenty Beauty, being featured in Nike’s new plus size campaign and being on a freaking (!) billboard in NYC for Glossier in the nude for their #BodyHero campaign.

Look, I've never done nude before. I cried 3 times before this shoot. I cried because I still feel scared, paralyzed by insecurity at times, and exhausted by an unfettered vulnerability that I want to present to the world. As I paced the upstairs bathroom of @springstudios I chanted to myself "this isn't for you paloma. this isn't about you. get out of your ego. be of service" over and over until the anxiety subsided and I was convinced of the mantras which guide me through many jobs, most importantly this one. I did this to show that being fat isn't a burden. Being fat isn't ugly or shameful. To prove to one person that it isn't BRAVE to be fat, but bountiful. And for that young girl looking on instagram, or walking down Spring st, that she is fucking perfect despite the precarious and irresponsible versions of beauty we are urged to digest. I love you @glossier thank you for this incredible opportunity, for clearing the set, for wiping my tears, for playing SWV, and for helping me shed my insecurities in pursuit of greater impact and awareness ? #bodyhero

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We’re not surprised as we tapped her as one of the plus models to watch in 2017 here. She has worked with some big fashion brands this year as well, such as Forever 21, Good American, Target, and ASOS as well as being featured in Vogue four times!

Elsesser has been extremely vocal on being plus size and a woman of color in the modeling industry that caters to white, hourglass shaped women as the standard beauty ideal. This 25-year-old avid traveler proves you don’t have to have an hourglass figure to be a beauty muse or be thin to be featured in a beauty campaign. She’s unapologetic about her minimalistic style that lends to streetwear and blurs gender lines. She embraces that she’s different and is one of those rare size-12 models that embraces the terms “plus size” and “fat”.

Case in point, her response to someone calling her fat on Instagram, via her interview with W Magazine in September 2017:

“Two days ago, some girl just randomly commented on my picture, ‘You’re fat.’ And because I don’t have like 3 million followers, I see it, and it’s like, either I’m going to delete this and I’m going to block this girl, or I’m just going to clap back. So I was like, ‘Yeah, but I’m also successful and intelligent, and if there’s anything else you want to point out about me, let me know.’ Also, fat isn’t an insult. It’s so sandbox. ‘Fat’ is a lazy attack. I call myself fat because I’m not over here like, ‘Oh, I’m thick, I’m curvy.’ No—I’m chunky, I’m fat, I’m cute, I’m soft, I’m special, I’m chic. I’m all of these things—I can be all that and still be fat. Why do we think that’s the most insulting thing? Call me stupid or call me ignorant—that’s more insulting to me.”

We can’t wait to see what she accomplishes in 2018!

#2: Jessie Diaz-Herrera

This powerhouse made moves literally and figuratively in 2017. The plus size dancer and new mom from Bronx, New York has been inspiring women of all sizes for years, to dance like no one’s watching, with her fun Curves with Moves dance classes and videos. 2017 was her year to branch out and reach even more women with her bubbly personality and down-to-earth spirit.

She became a campaign model for actress Sofia Vegara’s new intimates subscription service called EBY (Empowered By You). You may have also seen her on Lane Bryant’s website where Diaz-Herrera is one of their Livi Active brand ambassadors. That opportunity has led to her partnering with the brand on fun events and videos. She was also featured in People Stylewatch magazine in Fall 2017.

It's finally out! Been wanting to talk about this for sooooo long! My first magazine shoot!!! I'm in @people_style !!! This week has been such a blessing!!! My dance video with Lane Bryant came out and now this. Won't he do it?! Lord Jesus I cannot thank you enough for blessings on blessings on blessings. Many years I've cried about my body, been dumped because of my body, been pushed aside in dance because of my body. But I stood firm this time and believed because God said I am wonderfully and fearfully made. So I started to believe it more and look and what he did?! This year has been nothing short of amazing. And there is only more to come. Keep pushing everyone. You can achieve greatness if you put your faith in HIM! #icanttakeallthecredit #TYL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #thankyougod #honorhim #respectmycurves #killinit #curveswithmoves #thickdancer #fatdancer #pspfit #plussizefitness #plussizemodel #plusizedance

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Her Instagram feed is one to follow as it’s filled with body positive messages and imagery as well as Diaz-Herrera’s journey as a new mom, vegan and entrepreneur. We are excited for her and can’t wait to follow more of her journey in 2018.

#3: Latoya Shauntay Snell

Snell’s story of being heckled at the NY Marathon made headlines and propelled this plus size athlete into the spotlight, inspiring people everywhere that despite the naysayers, we can achieve anything we set our minds to. This writer, photographer and chef has been running her blog Running Fat Chef for almost two years where she offers features on food, activity and lifestyle. 

She now has a regular writing gig over at The Root, where she is very vocal about being fit and fat, as well as not looking at the number on the scale. She instead wants to inspire readers to focus on activity and incorporating fitness into your life at any size.

She’s been featured in People Magazine, Revelist, Refinery29, Redbook Magazine, Women’s Running Magazine and countless other media outlets. Her Instagram feed is amazingly full of inspiring messages, workout videos and positive imagery.

She started the new year with a marketing campaign for Blink Fitness and we know the sky’s the limit for this incredible woman who continues to defeat all odds and stereotypes with her determination and willingness to never give up.

#4: Jes Baker

A leader in the plus size community, this writer/activist/speaker continued to inspire men and women worldwide with her message of body positivity and love in 2017. In her sixth year of blogging (The Militant Baker), Baker has used her platform to tackle heavy-hitting topics such as rape culture, body shaming, prejudice, body acceptance and mental health issues.

We love how Baker also uses fashion to promote positive body image, body love and confidence. She has worked with some major brands such as JC Penney, Modcloth and Fashion to Figure.

In 2017, we saw her travel to Paris where she was a speaker and helped launched a fashion show during an “Anti-Fatphobia” event hosted by the Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Deputy Mayor Helene Bidard. She also unveiled the cover for her next book Landwhale, launching in May 2018.

Her “10 Years of Self-Portraits and Why It’s Important to Love Your Body Now” blog feature, “Wear What Scares You” with Dia & Co campaign, “I Wear What I Want” blog series and “Current Crush” blog features are just a few of the amazing content that Baker offered her readers in 2017 that helped spread her message of embracing who you are and living your best life now.

We look forward to her second book launch, which will also include a book tour and some public speaking engagements. All of this while her first book “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls” continues to be a critically acclaimed must-read, making its rounds worldwide. Yes!

#5: Liris Crosse

Dubbed the “Naomi Campbell of Plus“, 2017 was THE year for Liris Crosse. This veteran plus size model got one of the most sought after opportunities this year by being one of the models chosen to be on Project Runway. She used this opportunity to inspire the designers on the show to open their minds to designing for women who are not a size 0 and won over viewers with her confidence and her stunning runway walk, which even had Heidi Klum smiling every time she saw Crosse on the runway.

This wasn’t her first time gracing the Project Runway runway at NY Fashion Week. She previously walked for season 15 winner Ashley Nell Tipton in her finale show. This season, however, her work earned her a win in the modeling portion of the competition, which includes her being featured in an upcoming fashion spread in the digital edition of Marie Claire.

She recently told the Baltimore Sun:

“I’m a big believer that representation matters. A lot of times we don’t see plus models in editorial spreads and even less of black plus models when the opportunity is given. I’m going to continue to show the world how beautiful it is to include both in fashion.”

In 2017, she also appeared on the Steve Harvey Show, received the Model of the Year Award at Full Figured Fashion Week and continued her Model Boot Camp workshops, where she mentors new models on the industry while inspiring them to have confidence in whatever they do. She traveled throughout the country for speaking engagements, while still working on set and posting positive messages and imagery via her #LirisMotivates hashtag.

She has already kicked off 2018 with the cover of World Bride Magazine and more press rounds for Project Runway, showing how versatile and talented this model/actress is. Word on the street is that her model boot camp is returning in the spring, she’s working on a capsule clothing collection and will slay more TV looks in 2018.

We can’t wait!

SWIPE LEFT : STARTING 2018 WITH MY 1st COVER of the year & yes I'm taking it prophetically too!?? Proud to grace the 1ST EVER #curvybride ISSUE of @WorldBrideMagazine ???It goes on sale Jan.30th but till then they need you to VOTE WHICH COLOR COVER THEY SHOULD USE?? COMMENT BELOW PLEASE! Model: liris at @ipmmodels Producer: @myrdith #Photography : @mikeruizone Art Director/Makeup: @reneegarnes Fashion Director: @mimilombardo #Hair : @_omhhredroom Dress: Tara Keely for JLM couture #Flowers by: #SimplyNia #Shoes: #badgleymischka (Not seen) #Jewelry: #JacobandCo Creative Director: #DaveWise #FullFigure #CurvyGirl #goldenconfidence #liriscrosse #projectrunway16models #projectrunway #Bridal #weddings #plussizebride #worldbridemagazine

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#6: Bruce Sturgell

Sturgell founded seven years ago at a time where there weren’t many online spaces for big and tall men. Since then, Chubstr has become one of the leading websites that cater to this still under-served group.

In 2017, we saw big and tall men in the forefront with many other websites and blogs launching, which Chubstr paved the way for. The plus size men takeover was real and fashion found its way to them too!

With new subscription services launching such as The Winston Box and Maximus Box, as well as new fashion brands like MVP Collections, BadRhino and Brandon Kyle Menswear, big and tall menswear finally became a priority in the market. Brands and designers finally caught on, that this is a profitable, untapped market.

And Sturgell is still in the mix, highly regarded as a leader in this arena. His Sized Up video series just wrapped up Season 1, where he traveled the country and met up with those individuals leading the way in big men’s fashion. You can view Season 1 here.

With brands looking to use influencers in campaigns, Sturgell has also taken on another role; the one of model.

You can see him featured on Columbia Sportswear’s website repping the Big & Tall category. And he’s one of Destination XL’s brand ambassadors. He has created a space for himself where he is not only offering a media space for big and tall men but is also an influencer that uses the Chubstr platform to support other organizations and bloggers in this community. 

With big and tall menswear still on the rise, we’re certain Sturgell and Chubstr will be doing some amazing things this year.

#7: Cece Olisa & Chastity Garner-Valentine

When two powerhouses and blogger besties partner up, incredible things happen. Cece Olisa and Chastity Garner-Valentine are proof of that.

Co-creators of theCURVYcon, 2017 was their biggest year yet. Moving the event date to September during NY Fashion Week was a genius move and add to that, actress Chrissy Metz as the keynote speaker and a fashion show with Dia & Co that featured models above a size 16, and you can see why the event is still being talked about months later.

Girls just wanna have fun ? #theCURVYcon #NYFW

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These ladies always ask for input from attendees and annually have made it their mission to make theCURVYcon better each year.

Meanwhile, both ladies still blog and work as influencers for major brands such as Macy’s, JC Penney, Ross and others while in different aspects of the plus size industry. Olisa focuses on fitness at any size, travel and fashion whereas Garner-Valentine focuses on beauty, fashion and lifestyle. We love seeing their individual hustles as well as their partnership and friendship, and look forward to what’s in store at theCurvycon 2018.

All of these trailblazers have us watching to see what they do next. We have a feeling 2018 is going to offer us so much more than 2017 and we are here for ALL of it.

Who inspired you in 2017? Follow us on social media @plusmodelmag and let us know!