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Why Thinner Allies Are Important to the Plus Size Industry

Emme. Nicole Le Bris. Caralyn Mirand. Melissa Masi. Liris Crosse.

Models may have gotten larger over the years, along with the size of the average American woman, but we should never forget those names above, as well as many other smaller plus models who have made an impact on the fashion industry.

The change in model size we see today started with the inclusion of smaller curvy models who were not quite “plus size” but were viewed as such in the mainstream fashion industry.

They’re the ones who knocked down those doors within the plus size fashion industry years ago that many current models are now walking through successfully.

They helped in giving more visibility to plus size fashion, which has made the plus size modeling industry grow successfully.

They’ve paved the way for plus sizes to go mainstream and were preaching body positivity via their platforms before it became a trendy term.

And they’re still around, using their platforms to push change and continue the conversation about the need for true size inclusivity within fashion, not just in the media but from all aspects within the industry.

Nicole Le Bris is now a successful photographer, mentoring models that have come into the industry after her. AND she is still modeling! She is truly one of the unsung heroes within the modeling industry.

Emme, who is considered the first plus size supermodel and is an icon within the industry, has turned her successful modeling career into a platform to create change within the fashion world. A few years ago, she launched Fashion Without Limits, an inclusive fashion design initiative, teaching future fashion designers how to design for all sizes at Syracuse University’s School of Design. 

Liris Crosse, the first plus model winner of Project Runway, has created a platform where she mentors aspiring models in her Bootcamp series, has written a book and also travels the country as a public speaker, while still slaying the runway.

Melissa Masi and Caralyn Mirand are both currently successful models who have remained on the top of their game after being in this industry for many years. They’ve turned their platforms into body positive spaces where they also act as lifestyle influencers.

You may have seen Masi modeling for major brands such as Lands’ End, Kiyonna, Maurices, Kohl’s and Macy’s. 

Mirand often talks empowerment and size inclusivity from a fashion standpoint. She’s been modeling for 9 years, having been discovered by Tyra Banks.

While these models may not look “plus size” to some, they’ve disrupted an industry where mainstream brands considered models over a size 4 “plus size”. They’ve essentially redefined what a sample size should be.

“The whole point of being a designer is making people feel good. We’re not here to cure cancer; we’re here to make people look cute in a dress. You want to look cute in a dress and you’re a size 26 ? why not?” — Christian Siriano, Fashionista.com.

Their worth and contribution to our industry should not be diminished because they’re a smaller size. They’re our allies and so needed in this fight for size inclusivity.

With clothing currently more accessible to those women under a size 18, these women do not need to continue aligning themselves with us and being immersed within the plus size industry. But they remain because they want to.

And let’s not forget that in the mainstream world, these models are still considered “big“. They, too, have experienced going to model castings and being the biggest ones in the room within a sea of size 0s and 2s.

To those of us visibly plus and larger, we may look at them and think they are not plus size “enough”. However, just because they are smaller than us, doesn’t mean they aren’t in this movement with us.

Allies come in all shapes and sizes.

“We women are a lot more powerful if we see ourselves as fighters on the same side. But it’s easier to judge others – their choices and their bodies – than to think about the struggles we share.” — Crystal Renn

Being that they are thinner and have access to the mainstream fashion world, their voices can be heard in circles that we don’t even have access to. And that’s a major bonus.

Case in point, size-12 model Iskra Lawrence, who has 4.5 million followers on Instagram, has leveraged her platform of body positivity to where she also does speaking engagements and is viewed as an authority on the topic, She’s frequently quoted and praised by the media for her efforts. When she speaks, people in the mainstream world listen.

It’s not just models either.

British actress Jameela Jamil, who is a size 6, has been very vocal about body shaming and size inclusivity, advocating for all sizes and bodies. She created “I Weigh”, a movement about radical inclusivity, “so that no one feels alone”. She has 2.4 million followers on Instagram alone and spoke this year at theCURVYcon.

“I wanted to be a part of telling women there is no segregation. There is no need to ever not feel beautiful or glamorous. There should be nothing that gets in your way.” – Jameela Jamil

While their smaller bodies may not look like ours, their voices transcend size. And when we judge them on being too thin to represent us, we are essentially treating them as others in the mainstream world have treated us. And that’s simply not body positive.

In order for the industry to be truly body positive, we can’t dismiss someone because they are not visibly plus or below a size 18. They may not know the struggle of a size-28 woman but they can still empathize with their plight and fight alongside them.

We all have our experiences and journeys, navigating a sizist world in a plus size body. However, understanding and respecting each other’s struggles while using our own platforms to speak up on the need for equality and acceptance, is what will make ALL of us change the world and how they see us.

So thank you Emme, Nicole, Carolyn, Melissa, Liris, Iskra, Jameela and so many others who have changed the landscape within the plus size industry and continue to keep that conversation going.

Their passion and hard efforts have led us to this place where we see models like La’Shaunae Steward, Tess Holliday, Erica Lauren and Maxey Greene in spaces where a decade ago, you would rarely see a visibly plus model front and center.

There is still lots of work to be done but we’re well on our way. 

“I think compassion is the only way to approach any subject, especially if it’s to do with physical appearance. I don’t think it’s really about tearing something apart.” — Jameela Jamil

How do you feel about thinner allies advocating for all shapes and sizes?

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