Our February 2020 cover model, Sommer Green has been in the plus-size modeling industry for many years and has been advocating for equal representation of black models for her entire career. As a corporate professional, producer, model, and thought leader Sommer is still doing the work behind and in front of the camera to this very day.
Get to know our cover model up close and personal and get ready to be inspired!
Please tell us a little about yourself.
Those who know me probably know me as a plus model but what many do not know is that I have been working in the field of Occupational Safety and Health for over a decade. Currently, my role has slightly pivoted and I have been COVID Response Manager during the pandemic for a major entertainment company. I also have several other hats I have worn in the fashion industry that include but not limited to fashion show production, event coordinator, art direction, fashion PR, and casting coordinator. I’ve even dabbled in design and have produced 2 collections to date as well as co-created a comic book full of plus size superheroes called True Curves.
Was modeling always on your radar?
When I began modeling I wasn’t sure what to make of it because fashion has never been my passion. I had been an athlete since I could walk. I played softball, volleyball, and basketball. Modeling kind of fell in my lap after my athletic career was torn away from me due to an injury to my shoulder, which required full reconstruction.
I was approached by an agency in Beverly Hills, CA and that sparked my modeling career. After my first photo shoot, I decided I would give it my all, I would do the same that I did with my sports. I use to watch America’s Next Top Model and tell my mom don’t disturb me I’m doing my homework. I watched endless fashion shows and researched so many poses. I have worked both as a freelance model and an agency model. I have often seen this career as a marathon. I had to build stamina, thick skin, and drive. Those qualities and characteristics I have learned through the years of sports and modeling have helped me with real-life experiences too.
You have a wonderful husband and true partner. Can you tell us about him and your journey together thus far.
I have been blessed with a wonderfully supportive husband who always encourages my next crazy scheme. Right now that just happens to be the start of my personal care line BODY by Sommer. He is my cheerleader, hype man, and quality control. He supports me and I support him. I can truly say I’m blessed to have the actual definition of a partner by my side.
A couple of years ago, just 6 months after our wedding my husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. That journey was one that we both looked at as a way to make us stronger, in everything we do, every decision in life. I learned my strength through that and he became my superhero. He endured so much after a 14-hour surgery, 12 days hospitalized, and 9 weeks of chemo and radiation. However, through all of that, we both held on to our passions, his music, and my modeling. I had to take a step back from modeling but I never stopped working on my craft. Even through the pandemic, I worked in 4 test shoots that I think have been some of my favorite work to date. I’d definitely have to say it has been a journey but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Can you take us back to the very beginning of your modeling career?
This kind of question always cracks me up because now I’m about to show my age. However, I am proud of how long I have been working in the industry and how many experiences I have to share. I started plus-size modeling after my athletic career ended and way before Instagram existed. I was in a singing group that was folding and somehow an agency in Beverly Hills, CA got ahold of one of our photos. At the time the agency didn’t have any plus models and wanted to add variety to their board.
I’d have to say the true turning point was a photographer in my neighborhood who introduced me to a rising designer. She booked me for the photoshoot of her new collection, which she happened to use for her submission to Torrid to be a part of their design team. They asked her to bring me along when she met with them in person. The lead photographer, Michael Hermogeno, offered me my first job then and there. From there my career continued to bloom and I booked Igigi not too long after.
During the beginning of my career, I also met fellow plus model Meilee Marcella who took me under her wing and showed me so much about the industry including how to walk the runway. These bookings were all done as a freelancer but I wanted the coveted prize of being signed by a modeling agency. Although it took some time and some agencies didn’t work out, I have been represented on and off by IPM for the last 8 years.
What have been some of the highlights of your career?
I’ve had many highlights but I’d have to say this one right now is definitely on the top. Although I have been blessed with several editorials in PMM this is my first cover. I am beyond words right now.
Some other highlights include modeling for some major brands such as JC Penny’s, Ashley Stewart, Torrid, Igigi, and Kohl’s, which I also shot my first national commercial with. There are so many others but I think those at the top are walking in NY Fashion Week and Melbourne Fashion Week. I often forget about my highlights because I am moving on to the next thing I want to check off of my list. But when I sit back and think, would I be happy with what I have achieved thus far if I stopped today, I can honestly say yes. But at the same time, I would say I want more and that drive keeps me pushing forward. This industry has expanded so much that there is an entire list of new highlights I want to experience.
What are some of the differences between the modeling industry then and now?
The industry in total has changed to me. When I first started you were told of all these restrictions and qualifications to be a model. Now it’s pretty much open to all. I think that is contributed to the body positivity movement. I do think there is a difference between body positivity movement and modeling however, the body positivity movement has helped the modeling industry evolve to what we see now. Even though we still see change happening with brands booking more models of color, we still see models of darker skin tone and kinkier hair textures overlooked for the models that are racially ambiguous.
During my time in the industry, there have definitely been some changes for the better. In the beginning, I often had to carry my own pressing comb, hair products, and make-up on set; even today this is still the situation but I will say it has gotten a little better.
I remember networking at events was how you were seen but now you can just upload a picture and use some hashtags to go viral, which could possibly lead you to an overnight success story.
The industry is more accepting now of what use to be considered flaws when I first started… skin, hair, nails all needed to be flawless. Your height and weight were key factors even as a plus-size model. Then, models were nothing more than walking hangers and should not have opinions, now models are spokespersons and activists. It is definitely a completely different world in some ways but others like diversity can still use some work.
With this being Black History Month, let’s talk about the contributions of the black community in the plus-size industry. Today it’s easier for us to SEE how people are contributing via social media. Years ago, it was not so easy. What contributions do you feel have helped us get to where we are today?
I truly believe the contributions have been there but as you said not as easily noticed before social media. Some are more in-your-face than others but they have definitely been there. The contributions are not just in the form of designers and models but also the back end of the industry when we look at influencers, bloggers, make-up, and trends. The black community has often created a lane of their own due to a lack of representation in the industry. The plus-size industry is no different… we have seen breakthroughs in how the black plus-size model is represented and used in the industry. I do think the past year has had a large impact with the push to supporting black owned businesses and paying more attention to the cultural apparition. Now the black community and its supporters have also started holding brands more accountable.
When thinking of the black community, we naturally have a curvy shape, so when speaking of the plus-size industry and contributions from the black community it started with us just being a part of that industry. So many times the black community started their own brands, runway shows, productions, and troops because we were underrepresented. There has always been a sense of if you won’t let us through the door then we will build our own door leading to our own building for us to party in. A lot of those concepts and trends were taken and used in many of what we see in the industry today.
Keep in mind that those trends were developed on curvier body frames from the start. Everything from streetwear and hip hop to hairstyles and nail designs have all contributed to the fashion industry and plus-size bodies have been there every step of the way.
What is your advice to aspiring plus size models looking to make a name for themselves but most importantly to have longevity in the plus-size industry?
The best advice I can give to aspiring plus models is to be realistic and logical coming into this industry. There is such a misconception these days on what to expect in the day-to-day life of a model. I think a lot of that is because we use social media platforms as a gauge of what is considered or viewed as successful but a lot of models pick and choose what they want to share so you never get the complete picture. Also understanding that longevity doesn’t come from overnight success rather it comes from being able to stay afloat and creating new ways to be noticed.
I often hear a lot of aspiring or new models mention that they feel they have paid their dues so they don’t pay for test shoots and only work with photographers that shoot them for free. I want to make one thing very clear, you get what you pay for and nothing comes for free. Yes, there are times you get amazing collaborations out of trade but you need to invest in your craft. That comes with paying for top photographers, make-up artists, and even sometimes stylists.
You have to have thick skin and believe in your craft. Success doesn’t come overnight but having an understanding of what your lane is will help you tremendously. I am constantly working on my craft and I have a firm grasp on the fact that my lane is constantly changing with the flow of the industry.
You should definitely test often in the beginning and then eventually 2-3 times a year can be sufficient for a more developed model. I also suggest being very realistic financially. Don’t expect to have a career that will support a household overnight. Not very many models get to the point that modeling is their sole source of income. Now there are some success stories but don’t quit your day job after signing to your first agent.
Remember what you pay for is what you get and you need money to get to castings, testing, and be properly groomed for gigs.
The last bit of advice would be to always stay on your toes, be prepared to spruce up your look, create new content, or even look at different avenues besides just being in front of the camera. You’ll be surprised at what can bring you back into the forefront and all of a sudden you have landed the cover of a magazine *wink*.