Since then, many mature models and influencers are working side-by-side with their younger counterparts in campaigns, modeling projects, and social media content. The brands have been so incredibly supportive of working with visibly mature talent and we want to see more…
Lisa Scott was there in the very beginning, before social media and zoom castings.
She remembers the fashions, the agencies, and how truly groundbreaking it was to be a plus-size model in an industry that was very much reluctant to embrace size diversity in the modeling and fashion industry.
It’s amazing how the plus-size industry has changed in the last 30 years. Can you tell us how you got started in the industry?
I had never heard of a “Plus Model” and it was my Mom that had seen an ad in the New York Daily News. I remember like yesterday when she walked into my bedroom, handed me the newspaper, and said this would be good for you.
I went on that open call advertised in that newspaper. Luckily it was a legitimate advertisement. Big Beauties Agency was looking for models size 12-20. Big Beauties was one of 3 agencies specializing in plus-size women in the late 80s-90s. I was 16 years old, adventurous, and had no fear… basically, I was too dumb to realize answering a random newspaper ad could have been dangerous. (Please don’t answer ads in newspapers, ladies, most of them are frauds and scams. )
Big Beauties turned me down after the owner Mary Duffy took my measurements. Ironically many years later Mary became one of my bookers at Ford Models. At the time I was a size 12-14. From that casting, I learned about another agency called “Plus Models” owned by Pat Swift. Plus Models Agency was a boutique agency and had a small roster of women that worked out wonderfully for a newbie like me. The owner was very hands-on and would give classes every week after hours at her agency. She taught us how to prep and present ourselves for potential jobs. What a model bag should look like. No long nails, nude polish, light makeup. Essential items we would need as a model in our Model Bags like undergarments, etc. That preparation and teaching is the reason I had longevity in the modeling industry.
At that time ethnic hairstyles weren’t encouraged. I actually was sent home from a booking with a black publication because I had box braids.
My Booker at Plus Models, Susan Georget, was incredible at developing talent. She later went on to run the Wilhelmina 10/20 division. Susan would sit with me and tediously go through every slide of my test photoshoot on a slide machine. She would tell me what poses worked for me. That one-on-one was invaluable to my success as a model.
As a pioneer in the plus-size modeling industry, can you offer tips about developing your modeling style and flow in front of the camera?
For me “testing” was my saving grace for learning to be in front of a camera. (Testing means: Shooting with photographers)
I needed to look at the film and critique myself. This helped me learn many things like what position to hold my head, my best profile, how I could make my legs look longer, and how to work with my hands.
It’s amazing that we are now in an era where aspiring models can practice getting comfortable with the camera in their home with a tripod and cell phone.
Trying different angles and poses before a test with a professional photographer is helpful. The better prepared a model is the more likely she will have more good shots to choose from. I didn’t have the access to do this in my day; instead, I spent a ton of money testing with different photographers trying to learn my body and angles. I don’t regret one penny I invested in my career, rather it was a good or bad test where I didn’t get one usable picture. Testing helped me get comfortable in front of the camera and helped build my confidence.
Back then clients would pick up the phone and tell your agent you nailed the job or you were terrible.
Do you have any examples where your experience and confidence helped your career?
Let me tell you about one job in particular. A husband and wife team who shot for Ames Circulars booked me. The wife was the stylist and the husband was the photographer. I was booked to meet them in a location in Central Park and I got so lost in the park I was at least an hour late. They were getting ready to pack up and leave when I got there. I hurriedly got in my outfit and started posing away. We got the shot in about 10 minutes. Afterward, the photographer told me “you’re lucky you are good”. I went on to work with them for many years.
This is why I know how important it is to have experience in front of a camera. A model has to be completely comfortable to put out good work. There will be times you will get hired to do a job where you absolutely think the clothing is hideous and not your style. Especially today where models are ‘Brands’ not just models. What they attach their image to is important to them.
As a professional, I suggest completing the job and afterward discuss with your agent your reasons for declining such future bookings. That way it will be a clear understanding with your agency what direction you want to go.
Can you talk about size-ism in the plus-size modeling industry?
At the beginning of my career, I was booked with a magazine. The stylist hired pulled beautiful clothes for my size 16 frame, but most were too small or ill-fitted for me. I felt defeated, disgusted with my body for not fitting the clothing correctly, and tried to hide my feelings the whole shoot. The items that did fit were all lingerie, very risqué garments. I was so uncomfortable because I was much younger and there was no “body positivity movement” to empower me to feel comfortable shooting in those types of items.
Back then I was being told to lose weight and that I was too big. Can I be real here? I never talked about this but it was a huge push for models to be size 10-12, not 16-18. Size discrimination was going on heavy back then.
When I first started, the demand for plus models was size 16/18 but over the years the plus model size demand started shrinking. Plus models deal with size-ism just like straight-size models. There is a huge misconception that plus models are so lucky they can eat and just be fat & happy. This was way before plus bloggers & influencers of today, who have proven women like seeing larger bodies and statistics showing a majority of women are size 14/16.
Do you feel this was just a brand issue or was the issue the agencies as well?
At a size 16-18, I had to work twice as hard on bookings to prove I was worthy to get rebooked. I was the only size 16-18 model on the Ford Models roster. There were no models above a size 14.
I was on a booking where the client told me, Lisa, I called to book you and one of your agents stated Lisa is the biggest model we have. She told him I want to book Lisa. He said she’s a size 16 are you sure? She said I know that’s why we want her. This agent would continually not send me out to castings. In the end, I was already seeking new representation and sometimes would get sent the same casting by another agency and book the job. It was insane!
All this craziness was the reason I made the decision to leave Ford Models and sign with another agency. I never uttered one word to anyone about this whole fiasco. I moved on, it just got too hard to struggle with this particular booker’s idea of an acceptable “plus model”. I don’t even think my other bookers were aware of his behavior. He was not a bad person, he just had his standard of what size he considered plus size.
One place a model should not be struggling with is their agency. It’s difficult enough as a model to put ourselves out there to be constantly critiqued. The last thing needed is an unsupportive agency or booker.
Sometimes in life, you have to close the door yourself not wait for it to close in your face.
One of the most impressive things about being at a shoot with you is your sense of confidence. It’s the same today as it was over 15 years ago when I first set foot at one of your shoots. What does confidence mean to you and how important is confidence when you are in front of the camera?
After leaving Ford Models after 15+ years, I freelanced with a few agencies and signed up to a few casting networks. I started submitting for commercials and theater work. I went on to book many commercials and did lots of off-Broadway theater work in NYC. During this time my confidence really got a boost. I was relying on myself and not an agency to book work. That confidence I developed definitely transferred over to my modeling.
I cannot say how important it is to find your confidence with the camera. That camera is like a 3rd eye, literally picking up everything. It’s like it can read your thoughts. The camera captures every facial expression and our body language. It is mandatory to find your sweet spot as a model.
You don’t have to know 100 poses, but instead, get a good solid 10 under your belt. I mastered catalog modeling because that was my bread and butter during my era. There were many catalog opportunities back then and they liked the smiley, friendly, happy girl movement. I learned how to model sitting as well as standing.
The confidence I built in my modeling career carried over to every area of my life. Keep in mind clients not only are hiring you to get an image but they love models that exude confidence.
Let’s chat style… Styles change every season and over the years OUR style changes as well. How would you describe your fashion aesthetic?
My personal style aesthetic is “explore it” and “try it”. Let me tell you why… When I was in my late teens and 20’s plus size clothing was not great or youthful-looking. I was shopping in Nordstrom’s and Macy’s where my mom shopped. I would search the racks for something hip and trendy the way I felt inside. Back then I would have killed for some sassy, trendy Forever21 or Fashionnova.
So here I am today willing to try everything that I like. I’m not afraid to make fashion faux pas. I admire women that have their style down to a science but I know I’m not ready to settle for an identifying style yet. Especially when there is so much plus size goodness being introduced to the market more frequently.
Believe me, I tried to edit my wardrobe and capsule dress, but I have come to grips with the fact that I like different styles depending on how I feel on a daily basis. I dress for my mood. I can put on a sweatsuit one day and the next day a black satin slip dress and cardigan duster. I’m ok with being all over the place style-wise.
What does Ageless Style mean to you?
Ageless Style to me is not letting anyone put you in a box, especially the “old lady” box. Many women and men have put the mature woman out to pasture. Totally written us off as if our life ends at 40.
We are treated, as we should not be socially on the scene. I notice there are tons of women 40+ on Facebook but not many visible on Instagram. Definitely not many doing fashion content specifically for the plus size mature women. It’s really disheartening to see because what do people think happens to a woman after 40?
I’m here to tell you life goes on after 40, 50, 60, 70+. I plan on living an active 40+ more years because both my grandmothers lived well into their 80’s and my mom is in her 70’s. So that means I’m going to need activewear, casual, business, vacation, and date night clothing options. As long as I’m breathing I’m going to be indulging in those activities.
It would be awesome to see more mature women like myself in campaigns and advertisements. Actually, it would probably make me buy more.
…also it means staying open and continuing to make self-improvement, forgiving myself for days I don’t have it all together and could have done more, admitting I’m not always right, listening to my inner voice speaking to me, not being terrified of the number is going up every year and laughing as much as I can every day is how I define ageless style.
It’s clear that confidence and preparation are at the forefront of long-lasting careers.
Follow Lisa on IG @lisaisasil for more style and modeling tips. And check out Lisa’s children’s book… A book that tackles the big issue of teen/preteen self-esteem & body-shaming: thelifeofasil.com and on IG @TheLifeofAsil