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PLUS Model's 15th Anniversary Issue, Featuring Jessica Milagros PLUS Model's 15th Anniversary Issue, Featuring Jessica Milagros

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PLUS Model’s 15th Anniversary Issue, Featuring Jessica Milagros

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Jessica Milagros graces the cover of PLUS Model Magazine’s 15th Anniversary Issue!

Jessica Milagros is a plus-size model, actor, and content creator most recently known for being on the 21st season of CBS’s reality show Big Brother. And while the rest of the world became acquainted with her on TV, in the plus-size community, and to PMM she is the smart, beautiful Latina who has fiercely supported visibly plus-size models, fashion, and unity among the industry.

This month as we celebrate 15 successful years in the plus-size industry we are so excited to have Jessica grace our cover once again.

PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE - JULY 2021.jpg

Some people were first introduced to you via BB21. Within the plus-size industry and community, you have been a plus-size model with a JCPenney swimsuit collection and former PMM cover model.  Let’s chat BB21… what are your fondest memories of the experience?

Looking back on my time there, some of my fondest memories on the show were being able to experience the crazy wild competitions that I would watch from my TV that I never saw a woman my size do on that show. It was all scary and nerve-wracking at the time, but being able to really challenge myself to remain present during so much drama, rough decisions and to also deal with the difficulties that living with 15 other strangers present…. When I tell you I feel like I can do anything, I really mean it.

What was the toughest part of being on the show?

The toughest part about being on the show, aside from living with 15 other people (and only seeing the light of day two days a week), was being away from my community, my tribe. Being so different (being the only Latina Plus size woman on the show) and trying to make alliances with people knowing that it’s a game and someone is going to backstab you at any minute. It almost feels like you always have to be on. I mean, the cameras are on you 24/7 too but at least modeling had me used to cameras – Lol!

Jessica Milagros - Plus Model Magazine Editorial - July 2021

What did you learn from the experience?

I realized that mentally,  I’m an incredibly strong human being – LOL. I’m definitely a lot more patient than I thought I was. But I also realized that regardless of a game where I have to backstab someone in order to win $500,000 that I stayed true to myself, my beliefs and played as honestly of the game as I could. That game is known to really show the ugly in people.

During the pandemic, you did an IG takeover for PMM and we learned that you love art, yoga, and whipped coffee. Tell us about pushing through such an unprecedented year and what you are looking forward to the most as we enter the last 6 months of this year.

Wow, this past year was beyond hard for so many of us and  I really want to give everyone a hand for surviving through it. At times it felt harder than anything else in the world.

The stress from sets closing down had me change my focus on other parts of my career and the only thing that I think really saved me was my art, my family/support system, focusing on creating a plan that would prepare me for when the country opened and lots and lots of reality TV that I was recapping on my YouTube Channel, “Girl, Let’s Agree to Disagree”.

As the country starts to slowly open up I feel very optimistic and I’m looking forward to not only seeing loved ones again in a safe space and going on vacation but to pick up on the projects that were also held off for some time.

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Jessica Milagros - Plus Model Magazine Editorial - July 2021

Lets take it back to the very beginning. How did you get started in the plus-size modeling industry?

I started in the modeling industry while working at a marketing agency. They chose me to help head a project for retailer Lane Bryant and all the research that I did during that time introduced me to the beautiful plus-size community.

Researching, I found ways to work locally then saw that PLUS Model Magazine was hosting a model search and I submitted. I won second place over thousands of entries and soon after that signed to an agency. So PMM has been there through most of my career.

Jessica Milagros - Plus Model Magazine Editorial - July 2021

Diversity has become a buzzword in the fashion industry and media, how do you feel as a Latina in the plus-size modeling industry? Is there room for more diversity in your opinion?

Can I say that it’s very rare when I work with another Latina and that really makes me sad. That being said, I am seeing more nontraditional beauties and more of my BIPOC sisters in-store posters, in campaigns, in magazines and that makes me extremely happy. However, there is so much more room for growth and even more diversity. If I’ve been taught anything the past couple of years is how performative this world is. So it’s not a matter of how far we’ve come, but how much work we need to keep putting in, in order to not make this just a trend.

Jessica Milagros - Plus Model Magazine Editorial - July 2021

In April 2014 we chatted with you about the term plus size and why it was so important for us to change the narrative (View here). How do you feel your work has contributed to this change and all that you shared with us so many years ago?

Working in this industry for almost 10 years, I can say that I feel the same I did back then that I do now. I am really proud of the strides that we’ve made as a collective in regards to body diversity and reclaiming the term plus size.
Aside from all the rejection models receive, it was important for me to keep going and be that representation that I wanted to see… the representation that I didn’t see when I was growing up.

It was the main reason I went on Big Brother and after being on the show, despite so much criticism and hate, I also received so many amazing messages from women who said I helped them with their own body image.

It’s crazy to see that 7 years later, regardless of the improvement, I still see a lack of representation in the media. I mean I was and still am the only plus-size woman on a regular season of Big Brother. There’s still work that needs to be done.

Jessica Milagros - Plus Model Magazine Editorial - July 2021

What is your advice to aspiring models and models who may not be feeling encouraged to continue as the world opens up again?

First and foremost, the most important thing is to love what you do. Really figure out why you were drawn to the modeling industry and what you want to accomplish during that time. Then get ready to be put through the wringer – LOL! But also have in the back of your mind that everybody has a season and their time to shine.

I realized it’s not an industry for those with frail egos. There’s a lot of criticism that models endure, lots of rejection, lots of work, and investing that we do. But all that hard work can eventually turn into something beautiful, so always keep pushing. [divider] . [/divider]

Images by Laila
IG @imagesbylaila

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Get to Know Our Cover Model Sharon Dumfries…

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Get to Know Our Cover Model Sharon Dumfries…

Imagine being scouted while you are performing a dance routine in baggy clothes and not even thinking about becoming a model. This was in part our cover model’s journey to where she is today. This month we are celebrating our journeys and embracing the steps that have brought us to where we are today.

Get to know our cover model Sharon Dumfries…

PLUS Model Magazine - May 2024

Photographer, Milton Goedhoop

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in the modeling industry.

I’m Sharon Dumfries, born and raised on the Island of Aruba but my parents have a different background and are Dutch Indonesian and Surinam Haitian. As a kid and teenager, I got bullied for my looks and for being different, and I had a hard time standing up for myself. It was also hard to find fashion in my size. Taking dancing classes helped me get out of my comfort zone and get better self-esteem during the years. I moved to the Netherlands at 18 years of age to study and today I’m a model and teacher for over 13 years.

I got scouted unexpectedly after dancing a ”Hip-hop and House” routine in my baggiest outfit during a fashion show with primarily straight-size models. I started as a catwalk model on weekends after doing an intensive catwalk and fashion show training, next to finishing my Biology and Teachers degree. A few years later I got scouted by a big brand during a fashion show and this was the stepping stone to getting signed with a bigger agency in Amsterdam.

Get to Know Our Cover Model Sharon Dumfries…

We have spoken to models from all over the world about the plus size industry in their respective countries, and realize it’s different outside of the United States. Can you share the plus-size industry as you see it in The Netherlands?

A lot of brands tend to book models in the same country, so if you really want to make a career it’s sometimes best to be ”on stay”  for a while in the UK or Germany. We don’t have a lot of ”go-sees”. The sizes of most models that get booked are usually smaller than in the US. The sizes size 42- 44- 46- (Sometimes 48) EU are very popular because of the Sample Sizes.

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For those of us getting to know you, can you share your work with us as an educator and coach?

I currently teach Biology in High School for the past 12,5 years and have managed to work as a model part-time. I’m also a coach at school and help students with their emotions such as fear of failure. Through coaching, I’m given the opportunity to speak to teenagers who aren’t able to come to school due to anxiety about participating in school in the regular classes, heavy bullying, or being kicked out of school for other reasons. This is still fully new and just started at our school a few weeks ago.

What role do you believe social media plays in today’s society as we raise children and also tend to our mental health?

The stress level is rising earlier on due to pressure to not only be cool and accepted in real life but also online. The level of bullying online is where there is no supervision and it is getting out of control. Teenagers already get burned out at a very young age. There is too much non-visible pressure that everyone needs to be above average. Some try to over-achieve and get burned out and others give up and don’t get to make small steps forward and stay stuck, which in turn also causes a lot of stress.

Get to Know Our Cover Model Sharon Dumfries…

What tips do you have about navigating social media for both the younger generation and those of us who remember the days before the internet?

I am not the best in Social Media, a little bit by choice. I don’t want it to be a must. But a lot of people make a living out of it. It takes a lot of time and effort, so for it to really make it work it’s a full-time job or you need a team. For the ones who remember the days before the internet: just try, and have a bit of fun along the way trying to figure it out, it all changes so quickly nowadays. But most of all be authentic. For the younger generation, I would say the same. It is not a must as a model to have a huge following. It’s about being visible that counts, that people and brands can find you. It’s best to start small and make baby steps. It took me more than 10 years to get where I am now. I believe working together and genuinely spreading love makes the difference.

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As a model, teacher, and coach what are some of your goals for the future and what changes would you like to see in the plus-size modeling industry?

In the future, I would like to combine my knowledge as a teacher, model, and coach. Preferably by helping others to realize what true beauty is. As cheesy as it sounds, from the inside out. In the future, I would like see more diversity and inclusiveness, not as a trend. I would like to see bigger sizes being booked just as often as small sizes. And also better education about what being healthy means. I would like to see more respect from people behind their laptops, to always show love, if there is hate, keep it to yourself ;). In the best scenario, brands need to book models for their charisma and make the clothes fit them. I would like less plastic surgery, and more natural imperfections to be celebrated. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and is different in every culture, never let that define your beauty. You are good enough just as you are <3

Visit online IG @sharondumfries

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We Will Never Be Empty Nesters… And That’s Okay

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We Will Never Be Empty Nesters... And That's Okay

On September 27, 2008, I gave birth to a beautiful little girl we named Madison Eladia Jones.

Like many new families, we thought we knew how parenthood would go, diapers and sleepless nights would lean into school age, teen years, school graduations and college, and all the ups and downs we read and saw in our families. Eventually, we would have to say goodbye as she would make her own life and family.

Very early on Madison met some of her milestones but there were sensory issues present. She could not ride in a car without melting down when we stopped for a red light. She was sensitive to sounds and we would whisper the Happy Birthday song and all the while her doctor kept saying that because she was an only child she just needed more exposure.

One day we were in a store and she flapped her hands and right then I googled ‘Signs of Autism’. Fast forward to a few weeks later, we took her to a new doctor and explained all that was going on and Madison went through a battery of tests and assessments only to confirm what we already knew, she was on the Autism Spectrum.

The woman who came to my home to deliver the news was not exceptionally kind and said that Madison would most likely live in her own world, may not speak but that early intervention was key towards any possible progress. We were devastated and felt so much fear for her and her future.

I’m going to keep it very real here… 

There is no GUIDE to follow, there is a lot of information, and frankly, it’s so confusing you don’t even know where to begin. Madison went to a special needs preschool and that is when we realized how vast the spectrum is and how underfunded these schools are.

After pre-school Madison went to a public school and there were teachers that were wonderful, but a public school is not a place for all special needs children and definitely not mine. I attended a meeting with two men who tried to bully me into putting her into a school that was for special needs kids but geared towards children with behavior-related issues rather than learning disabilities and I had to fight back. I remember that being the first time I realized that I would have to advocate and fight for my daughter if she was ever to have a chance to actually learn.

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One of the most well-known Autism Advocates in the plus-size industry is Christina Mendez.

She was a model and mom to a son on the Autism Spectrum and after reaching out to her our lives changed. She did not hold any information back, she helped and even drove us to the school that would be essential for Madison’s development.

Madison’s Junior Highschool graduation

This is the short version of our story…

Today Madison is 15 years old, she’s verbal, she’s in the high school program at her school and she is part of her school choir, she travels with us and has been part of numerous fashion campaigns and living a life I never thought possible for her because we did not give up. People were willing to help and share their information with us, and because through Autism Awareness, more programs and schools for Special Needs kids are thriving.

We both spoke at a fundraiser for Madison's school

We both spoke at a fundraiser for Madison’s school

I’ve wanted to tell our story for a long time and under my own personal social media channels I do.

I’ve hesitated to tell it via PLUS Model Magazine for years but as the industry has grown I’ve also seen many within our own community share about their special needs children and I felt it was the right time for us to share not only our story but others as well. My intent is not for pity but for people to understand that not all families and children are the same and that special needs families can thrive when we are greeted with grace and not with negativity.

One day last year my husband and I realized that we would never be empty nesters, and that is okay. Every moment with our daughter brings us joy and we get to experience life through her lens which is full of optimism for the future.

This month I will be sharing specific details about schools, programs, and stories from people within our industry who just like me are figuring things out as best we can because we just want what is best for our children.

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I hope that you will join us in celebrating Autism Awareness Month and share kindness everywhere you go.

Websites you may find helpful if you are searching for assistance or information:

hollyrod.org/
cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/toolkit.html
iacc.hhs.gov/meetings/autism-awareness-month/2023/
autismparentingmagazine.com/autism-acceptance-vs-autism-awareness/

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From Catwalk Crusader to Industry Watchdog: Felicity Hayward’s Decade of Disruption

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From Catwalk Crusader to Industry Watchdog: Felicity Hayward's Decade of Disruption

Felicity Hayward…

In 2011, a 20-something Felicity Hayward stumbled onto a photo shoot that would change her life.

Little did she know, posing as the iconic Anna Nicole Smith wouldn’t just be a “15 minutes of fame,” it would catapult her into the role of a pioneer for a revolution in the fashion industry: plus-size representation.

Back then, the UK fashion scene was not as inclusive of curvy women. Magazines, campaigns, and advertising spaces seldom held any reflection of their vibrant reality. Hayward, however, refused to accept this exclusion. What began as a single photoshoot morphed into a decade-long dedication to challenging the status quo and advocating for body inclusivity.

The journey wasn’t smooth sailing. Hayward witnessed the fleeting “golden age” of body positivity (2016-2019) where inclusive campaigns and self-love slogans were all the rage.

But the euphoria was short-lived. High fashion remained a fortress, stubbornly clinging to its narrow beauty standards.

Frustrated by the industry’s regressive tendencies, Hayward refused to be silenced. She launched the #IncludingTheCurve movement, a powerful statement against tokenism and a call for genuine inclusivity on runways and beyond. Her actions spoke louder than words: she boycotted London Fashion Week and the British Fashion Awards, refusing to endorse brands that failed to cater to diverse body types.

But Hayward isn’t just a crusader; she’s an industry watchdog. In the age of buzzwords like “diversity,” where brands often use them as mere marketing tactics, Hayward’s #IncludingTheCurve reports provide crucial transparency. These reports meticulously document the number of plus-size models used in fashion weeks, holding brands accountable for their actions and highlighting the ones truly embracing inclusivity.

“Last season Milan came third place with 45 plus models, but 30 of those models came from one designer Karoline Vitto who had a full curve show in partnership with Dolce and Gabbana, this season Dolce was in partnership with designer Feben, who is inclusive, but this season used one single plus model, Ashely Graham. So without Karoline Vitto, I believe Milan will go back to last place once again.

These reports are so important to me to showcase who is doing it right for us, who is using plus size models as a fad, and who simply doesn’t care.” – Felicity Hayward

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Felicity Hayward’s story isn’t just about personal success.

It’s a testament to the unwavering power of challenging the norm and demanding change. As she continues to champion inclusivity, her journey serves as a beacon of hope, not just for the plus-size community, but for anyone seeking to break down barriers and create a more equitable world.

Be sure to subscribe to our email list to learn about our Instagram LIVE with Felicity Hayward happening soon!

Cover Photographer, Jamie Abbott
https://jcastudio.cargo.site/
IG @jamescharlesabbott

Feature Photos, Mary Benson
Dress by @marybensonlondon
Photography by @davidnyanzi

Follow Felicity on IG @felicityhayward
TEDxTALK
ted.com/talks/felicity_hayward_the_great_body_positivity_swindle
Book Felicity
milkmanagement.co.uk/clients/felicity-hayward-2

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PLUS Cover Model Halle Deneen, Keeping Her Eyes On Her Blessings and Goals

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PLUS Cover Model Halle Deneen, Keeping Her Eyes On Her Own Blessings and Goals

As a plus-size model, influencer, devoted mother, and thriving entrepreneur, Halle Deneen has shattered stereotypes and redefined conventional notions of beauty and success.

With a magnetic presence both on and off the camera, Halle Deneen effortlessly inspires countless individuals worldwide to embrace their uniqueness and pursue their dreams unapologetically.

In our exclusive interview, Halle Deneen opens up about her personal journey, the challenges she’s overcome, and the pivotal moments that have shaped her into the influential figure she is today. From her empowering messages on body positivity to her entrepreneurial ventures aimed at fostering inclusivity, Halle offers invaluable insights into navigating the worlds of fashion, social media, and motherhood while staying true to oneself.

Get to know our cover model Halle Deneen.

You’re an inspiration to many, balancing multiple roles with grace. How do you manage your time effectively between modeling, influencing, motherhood, and your entrepreneurial ventures?

I think one thing that I had to learn (maybe the hard way), is to manage my time properly. Time is so expensive. I have to be very intentional with how I spend my time because it’s so precious.

Balancing everything on my plate is very challenging. I had to realize that when I spend time doing one thing, I’m sacrificing not spending time doing another. One thing that helps me plan my time wisely is my digital planner. I absolutely LOVE planners and organizational tools and I’ve been searching high and low to find one that fits my needs. I want to be able to track things like my habits, tasks and projects in an effective way, and I couldn’t seem to find one… so, I made my own. I’ve been using it every day to plan everything from major projects, to small tasks, appointments, family activities and more. My planner has been a game changer to keeping me on point. I use to be the type of person that would try to remember everything and it almost drove me insane. Being organized and spending my time wisely with intention has been a major key to balancing my life. 

I also want to add that setting boundaries in my life is something that I’m proud of. I used to be the girl who said yes to everything (even if I didn’t have the strength or energy to do it). I found myself so drained trying to “do it all.” When it comes to my time, saying “no” has become a norm and I’ve never felt better. Boundaries are a form of self-love. If I find that I’ve been overworking myself and haven’t tended to other aspects of my life, then I have to reevaluate myself and take breaks when necessary. The hustle and bustle has to be coupled with restoration and peace. 

As a plus-size model, you’ve challenged traditional beauty standards and promoted body positivity. What motivated you to enter the world of modeling, and how do you hope to change the industry’s perception of beauty?

When I first started modeling, it was a completely different industry. Plus size modeling wasn’t nearly as open and accepting as it is now. I remember being told that I would never make it as a model because I was “too fat” and photographers telling me that it would be an extra rate to work with me because I was bigger than a size 0. I will also never forget when I was cyberbullied for simply wanting to step outside of what was considered the norm and pursue my dream of becoming a plus-size model.

When I decided to go full fledge with my dreams, I remember telling myself that If I became a successful model, I would reach back and help aspiring models as much as I can. I wanted to show women around the world that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what society has to say about you – anything is possible if you simply believe in yourself and have faith. I wanted to prove to my younger self that I’m a fighter and I will never give up when someone tells me I can’t do something or that I’m not cut out to do something because I don’t fit their image of what it looks like.

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I’m a barrier breaker because beauty is much deeper than what meets the eye. I wanted the modeling industry to be more open and accepting of women who look like me and to women who maybe don’t look like me, but could relate to my challenges of struggling to be seen and heard by an industry for so long.

Even breaking beauty standards as a black plus-size model, I’ve always wanted to prove our undeniable existence while highlighting how diversely beautiful we are. 

Social media has been a powerful platform for you to advocate for body inclusivity and self-love. How do you use your online presence to empower others, especially women, to embrace their bodies and identities?

I’ve always used my social media platform as a safe space to pour into women. My entire mission is to empower women of all shapes and sizes to love themselves, flaws and all.

The other day I was talking to my friend Kortlynn, and I was so afraid to post a picture of a campaign I shot when I was freshly postpartum that showed how imperfect my stomach was. When I tell you, Kortlynn gave me the reality check that I needed- she didn’t play any games with me! She reminded me of the foundation of my platform and told me that I have always been so inspiring for so many women. I needed that.

I think social media has a way of making us feel like we have to always be picture-perfect when we really don’t. Especially as a new mom- the societal pressure for us to “bounce back” is toxic. We lose sight of the precious experience that our body went through to bring forth life into this earth. I always want my community to know that you are perfectly imperfect. Beauty is all about your soul and how bright you shine from within. In everything that I post, I seek to inspire my followers to love on themselves a little more each day.

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Motherhood is an influential aspect of your life. How has becoming a mother influenced your career choices and personal growth?

Motherhood has been life-changing for me. Once I got pregnant with my son, it was almost as If I had a huge wake-up call. I knew that I wanted to establish longevity and stability with all of my career choices. I focused more on defining and further solidifying my model coaching and consulting business. I absolutely love teaching, so this business allowed me to focus on motherhood while running my business.

With motherhood came a new Halle. I have always been selfless, but now? I’m even more selfless! I’m so much stronger and I know that I can get through anything.

Motherhood has taught me patience and the importance of rest, which… I would say I struggled with it a bit in the past. Before I had my son I was always on the go. I remember one time I was back and forth from Maryland to NYC 4 times in one week. I pushed myself to the limits for my dream, but I neglected restoration often. My son has taught me to refill my cup (I especially need my energy to keep up with him – lol).

One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is to be present and to tap into my inner child. I find so much joy in being in the moment and actually living life. There is so much beauty that the world has to offer. While I’m a businesswoman and entrepreneur, I’m never too serious to run around and play on the playground with my son as If I’m 2 years old again – haha. 

It’s so important to have a village as a new mom. Whether that’s your family, friends, or simply people that love and support you. Once you find that village, lean on them to help you grow and thrive as a mom. 

Being an entrepreneur requires creativity, resilience, and determination. Can you share with us the inspiration behind your entrepreneurial ventures and how you’ve overcome challenges along the way?

The inspiration behind all of my entrepreneurial ventures is to always find a way to empower, educate, and motivate the people that are in my industry to succeed.

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I currently have a model coaching program and a recently launched influencer coaching program and my inspiration behind both is pretty simple: teach the world what I know, while instilling confidence and worthiness of success in every person I encounter.

As I mentioned earlier, I also launched my first digital planner called The Winning Season Planner. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to name this planner and one night as I was brainstorming, I had a gut feeling that this planner is going to help a lot of people step into their winning season!

Every service and product that I create has to have a meaningful impact on those that experience it. I want my clients and customers to feel transformed when they interact with me and experience my energy, because it’s true – I truly enjoy pouring into others and I find joy in seeing people succeed. I really wanted to create a product that spoke to the busy mom, the busy entrepreneur, or simply the busy person who needed a space to organize their life, track their progress, and even engage in some self-therapy.

Of course, there are challenges along the way. Each challenge has taught me something different about myself. Challenges show me how resourceful, resilient, and powerful I am. I always tackle challenges by recognizing the challenge as something that is here to build me up. The next thing I do is immediately think of ways to overcome it. I always remind myself of this one truth, “everything is figureoutable” …and yes, I made that word up – lol. 

What advice do you have for aspiring models, influencers, moms, and entrepreneurs who may face obstacles or doubt in pursuing their passions?

When you are pursuing your passion, you have to expect challenges. In the Bible, God didn’t promise us that weapons would not form against us, he just promised us that they wouldn’t prosper. I find so much peace in this truth.

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One piece of advice I would give is to not be afraid to try something new. I believe that you can only fail if you don’t try. There have been several ideas and ventures that were not in alignment with myself. Does this make me a failure? No. I tried and when It didn’t work, I pivoted. Learning how to pivot has helped me grow a lot in my business.

Believing in yourself and recognizing your own capabilities is also key. Oftentimes, the solutions to our problems lie within our creativity, business ideas or artistic expressions. I realized this when I started creating my own opportunities based on my creativity and innovation. Doubt only seeps in when we lack confidence. We must realize that we already have what it takes to win because it resides within us. It’s our duty to dig deep and to know that we are powerful enough to overcome anything.

Placing my faith in God when facing adversity has been my anchor because I can rest assured knowing that what’s ahead of me is greater than what’s behind me.

As a model, influencer, mom, and entrepreneur, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, especially with social media. If you want to keep your sanity, keep your eyes on your own blessings and goals. There is no bigger thief of joy than comparison. 

Representation matters, especially in industries like fashion and media. How do you envision the future of inclusivity and diversity in these spaces, and what role do you hope to play in shaping it?

Representation absolutely matters, not just for the individuals seeing themselves reflected in media and fashion but for the entire fabric of society. Inclusivity and diversity shouldn’t just be buzzwords; they should be the foundation upon which these industries are built. I envision a future where every person, regardless of their size, shape, ethnicity, or background, feels valued and seen. This means dismantling outdated beauty standards and embracing the richness of diversity in all its forms.

As a black plus-size model, I strive to be a catalyst for change in this movement towards inclusivity. I want to use my platform to amplify marginalized voices, challenge stereotypes, and advocate for more diverse representation both on and off the runway, in magazines, campaigns, and more. Whether it’s through speaking out against discrimination, collaborating with brands that prioritize inclusivity, or mentoring aspiring models from underrepresented communities, I am committed to playing an active role in shaping a more inclusive future for the fashion and media industry.

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Your journey is undoubtedly empowering. Can you share a particularly memorable moment or achievement that encapsulates the essence of your mission and values?

As I reflect on my journey, it truly inspires me to keep going and while it’s tough to pick just one moment, there are so many that really capture the heart of what I’m all about.

Like when I helped some aspiring models land contract modeling deals with a household name plus-size agency, breaking down barriers and showing them they belong in this industry. Then there was that time I had the unique opportunity to be the keynote speaker at a middle school graduation. I gave a speech about believing in yourself as you take on new adventures and seeing those kids light up was unforgettable.

Oh, and starting my own agency at 25 was a huge milestone for me. This accomplishment was all about creating opportunities and nurturing talent.

But honestly, it’s the little things that mean the most. Like seeing the confidence bloom in Comcast execs during their headshot sessions, or talking with young women I bump into about their dreams and goals. Those moments remind me how powerful positivity and inspiration can be, no matter where you are in life.

Balancing authenticity with the demands of social media can be challenging. How do you ensure that your online persona remains true to your identity and values?

Authenticity is at the core of everything I do, both online and offline. In a world where social media often encourages perfection and curated images, staying true to my identity and values is so important to me.

One way I ensure authenticity is by consistently checking in with myself and reflecting on my intentions behind each piece of content I create. I ask myself whether it aligns with my values and if it genuinely represents who I am. I also strive to share not only the highlight reel but also the real, unfiltered moments that make up my life. By being vulnerable and transparent with my audience, I build trust and connection. I also actively engage with my community, listening to their feedback and incorporating their perspectives into my content. This is so important to building my tribe! This allows me to be my authentic self while staying grounded and connected to the people who support me.

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I’m constantly learning and evolving as both a model and a content creator. By staying true to myself I hope to inspire others to embrace their authenticity.

Lastly, what’s next for you in your career and personal journey? Any exciting projects or goals on the horizon that you’d like to share with your followers and supporters?

This year is the year of limitless possibilities. I’m so excited to see what this year has in store for me! I’m looking forward to reaching more and more aspiring models and influencers and teaching them how to turn their dreams into their goals. I definitely want to invite everyone to join my influencer program. The doors will be opening soon!

HOW TO CONNECT WITH HALLE:

Influencers interested can email me at: halle@halledeneen.com

My digital planner will be released on my website: www.Halledeneen.com.

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I’d love to connect with new followers on my Instagram and Tik Tok: @halledeneen

Photo Credits

Trenchcoat Cover
Photographer @tonyellisnyc
Hair @deestyling

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Sarah Taylor is Shattering Stereotypes and Inspiring Change

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Sarah Taylor is Shattering Stereotypes and Inspiring Change

Plus-Size Fitness Advocate, Sarah Taylor, Shatters Stereotypes and Inspires Change

While most of the world will be obsessing over “thinness” and disguising “diet culture” as wellness during the beginning of a new year, PLUS Model Magazine is honored to feature a young mom, author, and fitness advocate who shares her journey to redefine the narrative, proving that strength, confidence, and love can coexist in every step of our unique paths.

Can you share a bit about yourself, your background, and what inspired you to become a plus-size fitness coach?

From a very young age, I hated my body.  I came into this world a big girl – almost 10 pounds and almost 2 feet tall at birth (my poor mother) and although I grew up in a loving household I was bullied so heavily in school.  I was a size 12 at 12 and I’ve been 5’11 since grade 7 and while that might be the story of so many, I think what a lot of us don’t realize is that how we are treated by our peers can shape so much of our lives but mostly shape how we see ourselves and ultimately how we show up in the world. But it wasn’t until I got out of an abusive marriage over 10 years ago that I started to do the work to change how I saw myself and it all started with how I talked to myself.  I had to re-record the negative tape that played in my head and I literally had to work on every area of my life – body, soul, and spirit. 

I also spent significant time reconnecting to my faith (I grew up as a Pastor’s Kid and it’s always played a very big role in my life). It took years of healing and doing the work and I call leaving my abusive marriage my first step in the journey to self-love.  This is also where I started to do the work to repair my relationship with food and movement. 

Fast forward a few years of healing and I started to dream and that included modeling – I made my vision board and a few months later I had a couple of opportunities, then an email asking if I was the next Miss Plus Canada, and well…that changed my life a lot. In 2014 I was crowned Miss Plus Canada Queen, People’s Choice, and Talent.  My talent was a spoken word of my Journey to Self-Love, and it was then that I knew I didn’t get through what I got through to sit down and keep my mouth shut, but to help other women on their journeys.  From there I started speaking and sharing my story, modeling in Toronto, New York, LA, the Caribbean, etc and doors kept opening and I kept taking one step at a time which has ultimately led me to where I am today.

How did your journey into fitness coaching begin, and what motivated you to focus on empowering plus-size women?

Fitness was such a big part of my own Self-Love Journey.  I had done all this work on the inside to love myself, be confident, and be at peace with my body.  I was a size 22 when I won Miss Plus Canada, but I truly loved myself.  However, I was also in a lot of pain from a couple of car accidents.  At the time of the pageant, I was actually scheduled for gastric bypass and when I won, I decided to cancel the surgery (there are a few reasons why) and I decided to focus on feeling my best physically because I had done the work internally.  So, I focused on foods that reduced inflammation in my body and started working with a trainer to rehab – when I started I literally used a broomstick instead of dumbbells because I had to just get my muscles working.  I kept at it for years and it became one of my biggest tools to manage stress, feel good, and be strong. 

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A couple of years into my journey and I had been attending a women’s gym that offered bootcamp classes – I had been there for 2 years, and a woman looked at me while I was in a class (doing the same exercise as her) and she said, “Are you sure you have medical clearance to be here?”  I was shocked.  I was about a size 16 and was the strongest I had been in my life.  I knew then that I had to do something about it. 

My mentor at the time suggested certifying as a personal trainer – she actually paid for half my course because she believed in me and so I did and as I was about to finish, I had an opportunity to open my first fitness studio in a shared space to run boot camp classes.  I knew my focus would be plus-size women because my experience at the gym told me that there are women like me to just want to move their bodies and not be shamed for it.  So, I design all my workouts for the plus size woman in mind – modifications in case you need them but don’t want to ask, a little extra rest and a trainer who might have a body that looks like you, and self-love coaching based on my own journey – because it’s not just about fitness. 

I then opened a second location in downtown Toronto but had to close due to COVID-19 and now I’m 100% virtual.  I taught over 350 online virtual classes since the closure and now I coach women 1:1 and offer an On Demand  Video Based Membership.

Balancing motherhood and a fitness career can be challenging. How do you manage your time to ensure both aspects receive the attention they deserve?

Becoming a mom was a total surprise and my little Princess Brooke-Lynn is my greatest blessing in life.  With that said it’s also been one of my biggest challenges adjusting to being a mom, running a business, and taking care of myself. 

I had a very rough pregnancy and was sick my entire pregnancy and I also had a 10 cm hamstring tear that I was unaware of until a few months ago (she’s 2 now) so it explained why I struggled even more with rehab postpartum.  I have had to change my personal training program multiple times to adapt to pregnancy, post-partum, and her ever-changing sleep schedule.  This also meant my business model had to change multiple times.  Before I had Brooke-Lynn I was teaching up to 10 live virtual classes PER week -that’s 2 a day sometimes and I had to go to 100% on Demand, then resumed live classes at 4 months postpartum (after a c-section) and I could hardly move.  I’ve now transitioned to coaching women 1:1 because it’s what works for my life being a full-time mom and business owner. 

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I think one of the biggest things I had to learn was I had to build my business on what I desired and what would work for my life as a new mom – and not what everyone else expected of me.  That’s a big change for this people-pleaser but it was essential to thrive – both for me and for her. I think the other thing here is that things will change constantly which means your plan is always changing so being agile will be important while still maintaining your boundaries and desires.

Can you share any specific strategies or routines you’ve developed to maintain a healthy work-life balance as a mother and fitness coach?

First of all, I will say, I’m still working on it.  And I truly think that’s the key – any journey you are on will require different versions of you, different commitments, evolution, transition, and ultimately change so I think the first strategy is accepting that if you set out a plan, it will likely change in the future and making peace with that will save you a lot of strife.

My daughter will always be my number one priority but also for me to be able to take care of her, I must take care of myself so those two go hand in hand. When she was wee little, I worked a lot and she’d be right beside me – now she’s non-stop (talking and running around) so I work around her schedule (aka I work on naptimes and when she goes to bed) and I now do my workouts when she is awake and include her.  Here are the areas I recommend making sure you focus on if you are on a similar journey.

  1. Sleep and Rest – this is massive and completely overlooked.  I’m personally useless unless I’m sleeping well, and I had to work so hard on better sleep routines – this means leaving my phone in another room at 8 pm onwards every night and having self-care before bed – usually reading my Bible or a book to wind down.
  2. Make a plan – this is one of the biggest tools I work on with clients in my programming too and it’s because I’ve learned my lesson. Start with what you must do (work, school, appointments, your kids, meetings, etc) and then fill in around that – time for you (self-care), getting in some movement, food prepping to make sure you are actually eating, etc.
  3. Focus on habits – this is another huge one.  So many of us think – “Oh, I need to make change” and you decide you are going to change 100 things at once and 2 days in you are done.  Ditch the all-or-nothing thinking and focus on small habits that you can work on getting consistent in and build on them.  Start with 1-3 at a time and stack them with other habits you already do.
  4. Keep your boundaries – set them and stick to them.
  5. Be present with your kids – put your phone down.  This was a hard one for me because I was always working but the difference in Brooke-Lynn’s demeanor and honestly my enjoyment with her was revolutionized when I was more diligent about this.
  6. Make peace with where you are at.  This has been one of the hardest seasons of my life and I’ve had to make peace with the fact that I don’t have all the answers, I don’t always know what to do and I had a choice to keep freaking out in the storm or be peaceful in it and get through it…I’m still getting through it.

What unique challenges do plus-size women often face in the fitness world, and how do you address those challenges in your coaching approach?

Unfortunately, the story for most plus-size women in fitness spaces (in person and online) is around being shamed, and bullied and most women who have that happen to them never go back to those spaces.  It’s honestly such a shame and it’s made so many women have an even more challenging relationship with moving their bodies.  Add on diet culture and the extreme fixation on ‘what we should look like’ or ‘what society thinks is beautiful’ and I believe so many are robbed of the actual joy and benefits of fitness (stress relief, more energy, increased confidence, and body awareness, better sleep, being stronger to enjoy the life you want, the list is literally endless).

So my goal is to help women learn how to enjoy working out and creating new habits, provide modifications if they need them (without having to ask for them and feeling shameful – there’s no shame in modifying), and infuse them with my self-love banter and coaching because there is so much more to life than just your body and you deserve to feel amazing – body, soul, and spirit. I also don’t promote weight loss and never have.  With that said, that’s what most clients come to me for – my goal is to help them shift their perspective to realize they are as beautiful as they are, and we focus on feeling your best. So much of the work starts on the inside so my hope is to challenge you and help you grow so you are no longer bound by your negative thoughts but walking in freedom living your best damn life.

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How do you foster a supportive and inclusive environment for plus-size women in your fitness programs?

There are several things here and I’m always working on finding more ways to do this because I think it’s important.  I think one of the biggest things is not having assumptions – not having assumptions someone wants to lose weight as their goal (I have women tell me their goals – not the other way around).

Another big one is not assuming women can or cannot do something.  If I had a dollar for every time someone thought I couldn’t be a personal trainer because I’ve my size, I’d be rich – It’s part of the reason I show modifications in all classes as well as all my video demos – choose your level – I’ll show you usually 3 and attach no value to them.  You might be new to fitness and doing something like a jump squat might scare you, you might have an injury, or you might be wearing the wrong sports bra that day – just move that beautiful body.

Community is another big piece – I’m very big on checking the vibe – so if you aren’t the vibe then we aren’t fit and that’s ok.  It’s important to me that my community feels safe, protected, and supported.  With that said, because I’m clear in my marketing and how I coach I’ve never had an issue where I had to address a woman.  I lead by example here.

Have you personally experienced a fitness journey? If so, how has it influenced your coaching style and the way you connect with your clients?

My fitness journey has been a hot mess and it’s also been beautiful. 

When I was 21 I decided I was going to get skinny because I thought it would make me happy.  I did 3 hours of cardio, 6 days a week, and threw up after every workout. I lost 80 pounds in 6 months, and I still hated myself.  I was also hardly eating.  It was so toxic.  Of course, I gained it all back and then some and then ended up in the abusive marriage I mentioned before and as part of my healing journey had to try an entirely different way.  It’s what my program and my new book are based on. 

A healthy and sustainable fitness journey (in my opinion) starts on the inside.  You have got to fix how you talk to yourself and have a healthy relationship with exercise and food.  You also need to re-record the negative tape that plays in your head because you are not going to make long-lasting changes through the lens of self-hatred – true change comes through the lens of self-love. I share very openly and candidly with my clients and my following and always have (I’ve been sharing online for over 10 years) and I hope to show women if I can do it, they can too.

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Can you share a success story from one of your clients, particularly someone who has experienced positive changes in their life through your coaching?

I have a client who has been with me since my first gym – so over 6 years.  She’s now coaching with me 1:1 as well.  But when she first started with me she was obsessed with weight loss – she thought that is what was going to make her happy.   In coaching with me, she realized there was so much more to life and she fell in love with the journey and is no longer obsessed with the scale.  I think this is just one of my favorites because I’ve watched her have freedom in all areas of her life because of this shift in her mindset – her relationship with herself and others, her career, etc.

There are so many amazing things that have happened over the years – women who were pre-diabetic and in 4 months of working together no longer pre-diabetic.  Another client had bad knee pain and had to wear a brace every day she hated exercise and wearing workout clothes in public and within 6 months of training her knee pain was gone and she’s so confident to wear what she wants. I’ve had clients come to me who wanted to prepare their bodies for having babies and now have 1 or 2 babies.

These are the reasons I keep going -seeing changes and transformations in women – body, soul, and spirit.

How do you incorporate body positivity and self-love into your fitness coaching to help plus-size women build confidence in their bodies?

If I’m honest, I stopped referring to myself as body-positive years ago because a lot of people didn’t understand you could be body-positive and work out (which is a shame) but essentially, I work on helping women make peace with their bodies and learn to love themselves.  I think so many of us grew up thinking we had to look a certain way that there has been one ideal beauty type and that the only way we would be happy is if we were thin.

Essentially, I coach around making these mindset shifts and that includes utilizing tools like affirmations, journaling, actually looking at yourself in the mirror and doing mirror work, talking about the importance of taking care of yourself, and focusing on how you feel.  In my classes, I always have self-love banter all through the class and share personal stories and in my 1:1 coaching I actually have video-based lessons to help women start doing the work to make those changes and my book goes through all these things as well to teach you how to re-record that negative tape in your head.

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In your experience, what role does mental and emotional well-being play in achieving fitness goals, especially for plus-size individuals?

My personal experience has told me that if I don’t work out – my mental and emotional well-being suffers greatly.  Moving your body can literally be a game changer in helping manage things like stress, anxiety, overwhelm, sleeping difficulties, sadness, happiness, joy, and all the emotions.  I have heard repeatedly from clients they see the difference as they get consistent as well.  It’s honestly one of the biggest reasons I have clients focus on how they feel rather than what the scale says.  With that said, it is also work to connect to your body to see how you actually feel but when you do, it’s an absolute game changer.

I’m currently in one of my hardest seasons of life – rebuilding my business post covid, working on feeling like myself after having a baby, ending my 7-year relationship with her father 6 months ago, moving back in with my mom just before turning 40 and the 2 things that have remained constant in keeping me grounded and peaceful has been my faith, and making sure I’m consistent with working out. I would likely be a mess without both of those.

How do you customize fitness routines to meet the unique needs and abilities of plus-size clients?

The first thing is having clients tell me where they are at and what their history is like (history with their relationship with fitness as well as if they are currently active and previous fitness history). I don’t assume anything.  I have an extensive intake for my 1:1 clients so I get to know any injuries, preferences, and potential issues we might need to work through.  We then look at how many days they realistically think they can commit to, and I refuse to program 5-7 workouts per week if they are currently doing nothing.  We focus on building habits that will sustain them and we usually start with 2-3 workouts per week however I’ve also had some clients start with just 1 per week because their relationship with movement is so damaged and that’s ok – it’s a great place to start. I also offer modifications, a little more rest in between exercises and I’m mindful of belly’s, boobs, and thick thighs as I show you how to complete an exercise.  I also always offer a low-impact option in exercises.

What advice do you have for plus-size individuals who may feel intimidated or hesitant to start a fitness journey?

I think one of the best things to do is sit down and write out how you currently feel – body, soul, and spirit.  Go into detail.  When you are done, read it out loud.  Then ponder this question, if you were to keep going as you are now, will you be happy or will you feel a ways about it?

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Then take some time to write out how you want to feel.  Read it out loud (there is power in reading it out loud, trust me) and pull out 1-3 things that you believe you could immediately start to work on and make a plan to start doing it.  But be mindful as you make this plan – you don’t have to go all or nothing and you don’t need to take on the world to start.  For example, if you want to start exercising – you don’t have to commit to an hour a day, 5 days a week.  Start small with something like three 20-minute walks a week.  Get consistent with it and then consider adding to it.  Focus on how you feel and how you want to feel and let that be the driving force.

Can you tell us about your book FITNESS + SELF-LOVE?

My book is a labor of love that I am so proud of.  It is a cumulation of all the things I’ve learned to be effective on my own Fitness & Self-Love Journey and it’s my signature coaching program that I coach my 1:1 clients with as well.  It is right to the point to give you practical tools to see long-lasting change.  I share my story briefly, go through all the lessons, and then there are 12 weeks of tracking designed to help you start your journey and support you through it. There are monthly goal setting and calendars, weekly reflection, and daily tracking as well. I also have a second version with just the tracking pages for when you want to continue your journey.

Also, where we can purchase the book?

My book is available on Amazon worldwide and on my website at fitnessbysarahtaylor.com

To be honest I think just being a plus size personal trainer and showing up as I do online and with the brands I work with is helping to fight the stigmas.  When I started out, I was only aware of a handful of plus-size personal trainers and now there are so many and all of us are putting in the work to show that plus-size people deserve a safe space in the fitness community.

On a client or potential client level just showing up shows them if I can do it – they can do it and that alone is pretty cool.  Then add on working with brands like Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, Joe Fresh, Knix, Penningtons, etc, and being a fitness expert on shows like Breakfast Television & Cityline just pushes the agenda even more.  I know I didn’t grow up seeing bodies like mine in media let alone fitness so being that representation is such a dream but also such a privilege that I don’t take lightly. For the 5 negative & ignorant comments on campaigns like those, I get 100 from women who are inspired, see themselves, and realize they can do it too and that’s what counts.

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What message do you hope to send to society about body positivity and fitness for plus-size individuals?

My hope is that society would stop seeing plus-size individuals as less than.  Literally, everyone in the world is unique and we all carry something in us that no one can – and imagine if we really all looked alike – how boring. Because we are plus-size does not mean we are not capable, it doesn’t mean that we are worth less, it doesn’t mean we are defective, it doesn’t mean you are better than and should treat us poorly.  We are deserving of feeling good and safe in spaces just like everyone else.  We are not a different species and I know that sounds kind of extreme but the comments I’ve heard from people sometimes just blows my mind.

What are your future goals as a plus-size fitness coach? How do you envision expanding your impact and reach in the coming years?

I don’t often share my full vision and if I’m honest it’s because the last few years have been so challenging in my personal life as well as in business.  But my grand vision includes hosting events globally for women to empower them in every area of their life – with a focus on fitness, wellness, and faith.  There is something so significant about community for women and fostering a community that is safe for growth.  Fitness is one of many tools that I believe we need in our lives but what I’ve learned in coaching thousands of plus-size women around the world is, so many women are hurting emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

So many women think if they can just be thinner, or they can just lose weight or look like what they see in media they will be happy – it’s what I thought too. So many women are hurting and have no idea how to heal and although I don’t have it all figured out, I’m doing the work and have learned some significant tools along the way. One of the hardest parts of healing is making difficult decisions and I’ve had to make several of those in the last 2 years, but they are all leading into my next chapter. I know what it is like to hate yourself and how that affects every single area of your life, but I also know that when you live out of a place of self-love – it transforms your life and that’s what I want to help women do – transform beyond their wildest dreams.

Are there specific projects or initiatives you’re currently working on to further empower plus-size women in the fitness realm?

I recently launched a 1:1 coaching program with a new app.  This was a huge project that I am so proud of, and the goal is to help women make real, lasting changes in their lives while working on their fitness journey in hand with their relationship with food, themselves, and others.  There are over 200 fitness demo videos with modifications, self-love coaching videos, amazing meal plans to keep you nourished habit tracking to help you stay consistent, and of course weekly check-ins to not only keep you accountable but support you every step of the way. I do also have an on-demand membership in my app for those who are not quite ready for 1:1 coaching, and it has over 150 on-demand full fitness classes with modifications and my self-love banter.  I am also always open to opportunities to work with brands and media to push inclusion further as well.  I will also likely have some more in-person classes and events in the New Year.

If there’s one piece of advice you could give to plus-size women who are considering starting their fitness journey, what would it be?

The first step is the hardest – so decide that you are ready for change and then pick 1 or 2 things to work on and ease your way into them to make it consistent. Through it all, focus on how you feel – focus on feeling good, feeling strong, and feeling empowered. Then just keep taking one step at a time, one foot in front of the next.

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Follow Sarah and begin your journey…

fitnessbysarahtaylor.com/
instagram.com/the.sarahtaylor
facebook.com/TheSarahTaylor1
tiktok.com/@the.sarahtaylor
youtube.com/thesarahtaylor

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Cover Models

Stephanie Rosa… Thriving Against All Odds

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Stephanie Rose… Thriving Against All Odds

Stephanie Rosa… from homelessness to a career as a supermodel!

PLUS MODEL MAGAZINE - December 2023 Cover Model Rosa

She’s been a staple in the plus-size modeling industry for many years and this month we have the incredible honor to feature Stephanie Rosa on our cover and feature story.

When she was younger, she aspired to become a supermodel like Tyra Banks and today SHE IS the inspiration for so many… Her journey has taken her from homelessness to supermodel status all the while living with grace and gratitude.

This is one interview you do not want to miss… Get to know Stephanie Rosa (IG @thestephanierosa)

Can you share more about your journey from growing up in the Bronx to becoming a plus-size model in New York? How did your background shape your perspective and influence your decision to pursue a career in modeling?

Growing up in the Bronx instilled in me a resilience and determination that shaped my perspective on life. It was a tough environment, where scarcity was often a reality – there were times when food was scarce, and the living conditions weren’t always pleasant. The struggles I faced made it clear that I couldn’t settle for that kind of life. Having experienced such scarcity, I realized I couldn’t stay stagnant; I had to strive for more.

The challenging circumstances I witnessed motivated me to seek something more extraordinary. It fueled a fire within me, pushing me to break out of the limitations of my environment. Modeling became an avenue where I could redefine beauty standards and represent those who, like me, didn’t fit the conventional mold. It wasn’t just about pursuing a career; it was about breaking barriers and showcasing the beauty of diversity in an industry that often adhered to narrow standards.

My upbringing taught me the value of perseverance and seizing opportunities. It’s what propelled me to chase my dreams relentlessly, knowing that staying in the same place wasn’t an option. Ultimately, my background served as a driving force behind my decision to step into the world of modeling and make a difference by embracing diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry.

Earlier this year we read an article about your journey from homelessness to being one of the most successful models in our industry. Overcoming homelessness is a tremendous feat. How did you find the strength and courage to continue pursuing your dream of becoming a model during such challenging times? Were there specific moments or realizations that fueled your determination?

The experience of homelessness was undeniably challenging, yet it also became a pivotal moment in my journey. During those difficult times, the dream of becoming a model served as a beacon of hope, a guiding light that kept me focused and determined. What truly made me resilient during those challenging times was my unwavering belief in a higher power. I found strength in faith, trusting that there was a guiding force that would help me navigate through the hardships.

There were moments of despair and uncertainty, but within those moments, I found a reservoir of inner strength that I didn’t know existed. Believing in something beyond myself instilled a sense of purpose and hope, reminding me that there was a greater plan beyond the struggles I was facing. It was this belief that fortified my spirit, allowing me to endure and persevere through the toughest moments.

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The realization that my dream was bigger than my current situation became a powerful driving force. I made a conscious decision to channel any negativity or hardship into fuel for my ambition. The human spirit, when intertwined with belief and faith, becomes incredibly resilient. It’s this combination that kept me steadfast and resolute in pursuing my dreams. Even in the darkest times, my faith in a higher power and the strength of the human spirit propelled me forward, reminding me that with perseverance and belief, anything is possible.

Stephanie Rosa... Thriving Against All Odds

The modeling industry can be notoriously competitive and challenging. What obstacles did you face, and how did you navigate them to establish yourself in the industry?

The modeling industry is undoubtedly competitive, presenting numerous challenges along the way. One significant obstacle I encountered was the lack of financial resources for appropriate clothing during photoshoots. With limited to no funds, I navigated this hurdle by leveraging alternative approaches.

To address this issue, I strategically utilized an approach known as “TFP” (Time for Print), where I offered my modeling services in exchange for images from photographers and collaboration with stylists without financial compensation. By advertising TFP opportunities, I aimed to attract professionals who shared a mutual passion for their craft and were open to collaborative, non-monetary arrangements.

This experience served as a realization that success in modeling doesn’t solely hinge on financial means. Instead, it underscored the importance of resourcefulness and collaboration. Working with like-minded individuals who shared a genuine passion for their work became my cornerstone. I discovered that success in the industry isn’t solely about financial wealth but about utilizing available resources and partnering with individuals who share a profound love for their craft. Modeling wasn’t just a job; it was my passion, something I was willing to pursue regardless of monetary gain.

Who were your role models or sources of inspiration in the modeling world, especially considering your admiration for Tyra Banks? How have they influenced your approach to your career?

Tyra Banks has been a significant inspiration to me in the modeling world. She stood out as a trailblazer, especially being a woman of color, and her success resonated deeply with me. Her ability to excel across various facets of the industry—from modeling to entrepreneurship and television—sparked a sense of possibility and potential within me. Tyra’s resilience, confidence, and advocacy for diversity in the industry greatly influenced my approach to my career.

Additionally, I’ve looked up to other figures in the modeling world who have redefined beauty standards and championed inclusivity. Icons like Ashley Graham, who broke barriers as a plus-size model, and Adwoa Aboah, who uses her platform for mental health advocacy, have been instrumental in shaping my perspective. Their fearlessness in embracing their uniqueness and using their voices to promote positive change has profoundly impacted my modeling approach.

These role models collectively taught me the importance of authenticity, resilience, and using my platform for more than just modeling. They’ve inspired me to challenge conventional norms, celebrate diversity, and advocate for inclusivity within the industry. Their influence drives me to carve a path beyond just modeling, aiming to create a more diverse and accepting space for everyone.

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As a Hispanic woman, did you encounter unique challenges or stereotypes in the modeling industry? How did you address and overcome these challenges?

Facing stereotypes in the modeling industry can be a significant challenge, especially when these stereotypes intersect with cultural biases. Being a Hispanic woman in this field can sometimes invite assumptions or biases that undermine intelligence or capabilities.

I’ve encountered the stereotype that models might lack intelligence. Moreover, as a Hispanic woman, I’ve observed the tendency for some to treat individuals from specific backgrounds differently. However, I address these challenges by firmly acknowledging my capabilities and worth.

I combat these stereotypes by embodying confidence in my intellect and abilities. I actively demonstrate that intelligence isn’t determined by profession or ethnicity. Through my actions, work ethic, and dedication to my craft, I debunk these misconceptions. By being articulate, knowledgeable, and proactive in my approach to modeling, I challenge these stereotypes head-on.

Furthermore, I aim to be an advocate for change within the industry. By promoting inclusivity and diversity, I work towards breaking down barriers and reshaping perceptions about Hispanic models. Embracing my cultural identity while excelling in my career, I strive to inspire others and create a more inclusive and accepting space within the modeling world.

Balancing motherhood and a career can be demanding. How do you manage to strike a balance between your responsibilities as a mother and the demands of your modeling career?

Balancing motherhood and a career in modeling is undoubtedly a juggling act, but I’ve found a supportive partner to be instrumental in maintaining this balance. My partner plays a significant role by sharing responsibilities, alleviating some of the weight on my shoulders. Whether it’s helping with household chores or understanding the demands of my career, their support is invaluable.

Prioritizing my daughter is paramount. I ensure she feels included and informed about my work commitments by communicating with her beforehand. Setting aside quality time for her is a non-negotiable aspect of my routine. Every moment I’m not working is dedicated to her, cherishing and nurturing our bond.

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Modeling is a passion, but my family is the core of my life. They are my anchor, my source of strength. Balancing these responsibilities involves making deliberate choices and managing time effectively. It’s about dedicating myself wholeheartedly to both aspects of my life—modeling and motherhood—while maintaining a clear focus on what truly matters: the well-being and happiness of my family.

Can you share any specific moments or experiences in your modeling career that have been particularly rewarding or memorable? What achievements are you most proud of?

Throughout my modeling career, there have been numerous rewarding and unforgettable moments that I hold close to my heart. However, what I’m most proud of is the consistent growth and the fulfillment of the goals I set for myself.

Walking the runway for esteemed names like Tommy Hilfiger and being part of projects like Project Runway have been surreal experiences that have exceeded my wildest dreams. Each opportunity to showcase my talent on an international stage has been a monumental achievement and a testament to the dedication and hard work I’ve invested in my career.

But beyond these incredible milestones, what truly fills me with pride is the continuous growth I’ve experienced. From envisioning these accomplishments to actually manifesting them, I’ve remained committed to my goals, turning aspirations into reality.

The ability to evolve, adapt, and keep reaching new heights in an industry as competitive as modeling is what I cherish the most. Each step forward, each new opportunity seized, represents not just a career milestone but a personal triumph. These moments serve as a constant reminder that with determination, perseverance, and dedication, dreams do come true.

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Representation and diversity in the modeling industry have been important topics in recent years. How do you see your role as a plus-size Hispanic model contributing to the broader conversation about inclusivity in the fashion world?

As a plus-size Hispanic model, I aim to challenge beauty norms and promote diversity in the fashion industry. By confidently representing my body and heritage, I break barriers and advocate for inclusivity. I use my platform to amplify marginalized voices, collaborate with brands prioritizing diversity, and inspire others to embrace their uniqueness. My goal is to foster acceptance and create a more inclusive fashion landscape for everyone.

What advice would you give to aspiring models, especially those who come from underrepresented backgrounds or face difficult circumstances? How can they navigate the industry’s challenges and stay true to their dreams?

My advice to aspiring models, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds facing challenges, is to stay true to yourself. Pursue modeling because it’s your passion. When you love something, you infuse it with life, dedicate time and attention to it, and naturally find the resources needed to progress on your path. Stay committed to your dreams and authenticity; that’s the key to navigating challenges in the industry.

Looking back at your journey, what would you say to individuals who may be facing adversity and contemplating whether to pursue their passions? What lessons have you learned that you would like to share with others?

For those facing adversity while contemplating their passions, I strongly advocate pursuing what ignites your soul. A vital lesson I’ve learned is to discern advice, avoiding counsel from those who lack self-love. Celebrate each milestone on your journey, big or small. Remember, success correlates with the effort you invest. If you aim for the top, devote yourself wholeheartedly to your career.


Photos

Cover Image Series

Photographer: Ace Amir @spadesstudio2
Stylist: Ayumi Perry @ayumiperry
Stylist: Fet Hilario @rufiopierce
Makeup Artist: Stefanie Lamm-siu @anie_lamm_siu

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Photographer: Carly Tice @bycarlytice
Stylist Ada Victoria: @adavictoriachoaarce
Makeup Artist: Andrea Wilson @andreawilson_hair

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