There are a handful of women who are taking a stand on what is considered “beautiful” in this day and age. Back in the 1970’s, the female body type that was found to be desirable were usually in the form of models who resembled stick-figures with high hair (hell, one model was even named Twiggy, for the love of crap). While the definition of that beauty word appears to be constantly shifting every single year, these 15 women are out to prove to the entire world that beautiful comes in all shapes and sizes and isn’t reduced to just one particular type. Because these women aren’t your stereotypical size 0 to 4, they are deemed by society as “plus size” – this also includes actresses like Amy Schumer, who falls between a size 6 to 8 and is deemed plus size. These gorgeous women are done and are basically saying “EFF YOU” to the term itself and are set out to change the face of beauty itself.
This Sports Illustrated model is probably the most familiar face in the group, but the company around her is growing at a rapid rate. Ashley Graham is the 29-year old model who has taken the world by storm with her intoxicating beauty and razor sharp confidence. She’s even set to release her first book titled “A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like”. The memoir touches base on her rise in the world of modeling and the turmoil she had to wade through in order to make it to the top. To date, Graham has appeared on the cover of Glamour, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vogue. She has often been criticized by people who claim her body “isn’t healthy”, only to clap back with venom. It’s obvious that these people don’t follow her Instagram, which often shows her vigorous and insane works outs, which are NOT for the weak.
While most models criticize the term “plus size” in an outright disgusted way, model Olivia Campbell does too, but not in how you assume one would: Campbell has often said that she is not “curvy,” a word some people use to describe one who isn’t stick thin, but that she is “fat”. Campbell doesn’t shy away from this word and embraces the absolute hell out of it. The model had battled bullies who would use that word against her since the delicate age of 12, so she decided to turn it around and managed to fall in love with the word and herself. “I get offended when people say ‘you’re not fat, you’re curvy’,” Campbell said in a powerful YouTube video about confidence. “No, I’m fat. Why is it such a bad word? How dare you be fat and happy.” The young mother then stripped down to her underwear in an act of power and confidence in the video. “For me fat’s not a bad thing. I’m fat. It’s just a descriptive word.”
This British 5’8 stunner seemed to come out of the blue with her career. She is known as literally the first British-Asian plus size model in the entire country and is quickly becoming a familiar face both in the United Kingdom and the United States. Those who follow her Instagram account (@bishamberdas) understand both her ability to completely captivate the camera lens and to engage her followers with her stance against body shaming. Das was also the first “plus size” model to win the international Miss India Europe competition (hopefully, with the help of women like Das, that term will be completely demolished in the future of beauty pageants and models will just be models instead of being categorized by their body type). Das has revealed that she grew up in a troubled home and would often turn to food as a comfort, which resulted in her struggling massively with her personal body image. In the long run, she turned her pain into a beaming inspirational light that now shines for young girls all over the world.
Dominican American actress Dascha Polanco is the critically acclaimed actress on the Netflix hit series Orange is the New Black, where she plays the troubled Daya Diaz, an inmate who has a torrid affair with a prison guard and ends up pregnant. Polanco, a familiar face at New York City’s Fashion Week, has been outspoken about certain designers who have not yet embraced ALL sizes when it comes to designing their clothes. “My industry friends, who are and honest with me say, ‘Girl, they don’t have your size, and you’re not at that level yet,'” Polanco told Vogue. “'So you either move that way [drop to their standard size] or just build those relationships so that later in the future maybe it happens.'” Polanco was NOT going to take talk like that, so she decided to show off her assets and flaunt her body during Fashion Week. She called out these designers who refused to dress models who were thicker than others and aired her grievances on her Instagram. She is not about to give up the fight either.
Model and singer Hayley Herms has actually been a familiar face in the modeling world since the age of 12 (damn – most people don’t even know what they want to do by the age of 40 let alone 12). “I’ve been in the plus size industry for 10 years and I think in the past 2 years we’ve made such a huge progress, but in general, we have so much further to go,” Herms told Luxe Kurves in an interview. “I can’t wait to see the day I can buy the same thing a skinny girl is wearing, in store, in my size.” Herms is an active fighter against films, TV, and any sort of media that tend to project a negative mindset at women who aren’t stick thin. “Instead of changing to match these (skinny) women, we need to embrace ourselves and be SEEN! Being you, being unique, having different sizes, colors, shapes – slamming it in people’s faces so it can’t be ignored that there are MORE diverse women waiting to be heard and seen – that’s how society will change.”
Sabrina Servance is another model who is making waves, but didn’t really start out as an actual model, but a stylist from New York who starred in Lifetime’s Big Women: Big Love. Her addictive personality makes her not only extremely lovable, but a positive influence on today’s youth. Thanks to the Lifetime show, Servance has since said that she gained an extreme amount of confidence. “I would never have done this show if I wasn’t in a place where I couldn’t handle being myself,” Servance said during an interview with ifelicious.com. “There’s no other show like this on television, especially because it’s focusing on what we look like. This is the first time in my life where people are listening to me instead of looking at me.” Since the show, Servance has taken social media by storm and landed a modeling contract.
By now, pretty much everyone knows the name Rebel Wilson. When I first saw her, the Aussie was playing the raunchy sister of Annie Walker’s roommate in Bridesmaids and seemed to steal almost every small scene she was in. She went on to steal hearts with her upfront, confident ways in Pitch Perfect when she played the self-dubbed “Fat Amy”. Wilson once said in a Cosmopolitan interview that “being unique and different was a really good thing,” the actress said. “When I walked into my agent’s office for the first time, they looked at me and said, ‘Wow, we have nobody on our books like you.’ And they signed me on my second day there.” Wilson is now a familiar face in Hollywood and is known as an “ungetable get” since everyone wants to cast her in their film. “I wouldn’t ever want to compete with what I call ‘the glamours’- the really gorgeous people. I’m about the brain, the heart, and what’s on the inside. I feel really lucky to be the body type I am.”
Model Liris Crosse came onto the scene back in 2013 when she was featured in Essence Magazine’s summer swim issue. Since then, the Wilhelmina model is known as one of the top “plus size” models in the industry and has been an advocate on loving the skin that you’re in. She’s walked the catwalk during multiple Fashion Weeks and starred in campaigns for Pelle Pelle, Lane Bryant, and Ashley Stewart. “I think there has been a surge in the plus size model industry in the last couple of years,” Crosse said in an interview with Madamenoire back in 2015. “The new generation is not feeding into the stereotype that we all need to look one way. I think the younger generation is embracing diversity.” These days, Crosse is building up her brand and exploring the different areas of fashion.
Dandridge has actually been part of the “body-positive” trend for a long while now. She was discovered by Domino Dollhouse as a model after seeing some of their pieces on Tumblr. She even called up the company herself and asked if they were looking for models. Even though she’s modeled for different brands since then, she’s more so known for being an “Instagram model” and networking via social media. “My voice is my story,” Dandridge told WearYourVoiceMag.com when asked how she wears her voice. “As humans we go through a lot and we’re taught to keep our stories a secret. In my opinion, if you don’t wear your voice and tell your story, you can’t help other people. I want young plus size girls to not have to go through some of the things I went through by hearing my story and learning.”
Jennifer Buckingham is not just out there taking the modeling world by storm, but she also maintains a blog called Model Radical, a love-your-body personal style blog where her motto is “Great style knows no size and you are worthy, beautiful, and enough as you are.” Buckingham is known for sharing her personal stories and photos on Instagram and has spoken about becoming the self-confident woman she is today AFTER she gained weight. “There was a time where I felt my weight directly correlated to my self worth and lost a drastic amount in order to feel valued, but even at that point I still did not see that I was enough,” the model shared in a very personal Instagram post. “Even though my body is larger and curvier now I can 100% say I am on the journey of truly loving and accepting myself which takes time and constant practice.” Buckingham is a fierce woman who is proving that weight is just a number and not who you really are.
It never fails to annoy me when people see a larger person, they assume that they must be that way due to poor health style choices. They must be “lazy” or consume a great deal of junk food. Fact of the matter is, all these women are health advocates and often have to go through intense exercise regiments. Model Jezra M. is one such model, who is slowly changing the way the fashion industry sees models outside of the size 0 universe – one picture at a time. Jezra M has modeled for brands like Forever 21, Pop Up Plus, and Bgnplussize and many more. “Modeling for me is how I speak and connect with people,” the model once said. “I have a long list of goals and achievements to accomplish. One of my dreams is to travel around the world and help women with my voice to gain self-love, self-awareness, and self-confidence.” Recently, Jezra M did an exclusive interview with Namita Nayyar, President Women Fitness that can be found online.
Model Katana Fatale sticks out in a crowd – not just because of her stunning looks, but also because of the brightness of that teal hair of hers. Fatale’s look is of an old Hollywood type glamour with a chic twist. Katana was “accidentally” discovered by Buzzfeed, and since then her life has been turned upside down in the best way possible. “They (Buzzfeed) mentioned my Tumblr as a body positive style blog to check out,” Fatale told Volup2 blog in an exclusive interview. “I had my blog for maybe twelve days at that time, I don’t think I deserved recognition like that, but my selfies caught the attention of a Buzzfeed editor and that put my Tumblr blog on the map.” Fatale uses the power of her blog to influence young women who struggle with self-confidence. “Women’s value is rested on her youth and the size of her jeans. What kind of starting chance is any of that for a girl?” This young model is hell bent on changing what’s considered normal in the eyes of the fashion industry.
25-year old Katie Knowles, a law graduate who happened to stumble into modeling, has a spinal condition known as spinal stenosis and had lost the ability to move her legs. She defied the odds after she began to walk on crutches after doctors informed her that she would never walk again. She has starred in a series of bridal shoots and works as an ambassador for Models of Diversity. A friend of hers actually recommended that she start to pose for photos in order to help her confidence, and it ended up turning it into a full fledged career. “Don’t let my disability put you off, it makes me work harder,” Knowles once said of her modeling career. Knowles happens to be the first “plus size” model who happens to be disabled. “People have got it ingrained in their minds that beauty looks like one thing and disability isn’t included in that by the fashion industry or media. We wear the same clothes, we buy from the same shops, why aren’t we represented?”
One thing that model Philomena Kwao has taught the world is that her mind is just as beautiful as her outer being. Along with the other models/actresses who grace this list, Kwao is challenging today’s beauty standards. She’s even runs a charity called “The Lily Project”, a mentor program where mentors help troubled children all over the world virtually. “Whenever anyone is feeling down about their looks I always remind them of the beauty of individuality,” Kwao said in an interview after she was asked about handing out solid advice for people who are self-conscious. “There is no one on the planet who looks like you or has your unique features so you celebrate them and don’t put them down. I’m a big advocate on the extraordinary or the different and I believe everyone is inspiring because we are all different.”
Jade Allwaze can pretty much hypnotize you with her olive-gaze and face that would drop many to their knees in worship. She has not only been a familiar face on Instagram, but has walked the catwalk in numerous Fashion Weeks as well (New York Fashion Week and Full Figured Fashion Week, to name a few). Not only can she rock the glamorous look, Allwaze is not afraid to fresh-face herself on social media, which gives her more power. Her Instagram proves to be a diary of a model living and loving the New York City lifestyle and she’s not afraid to prove that confidence and a positive outlook on life can open so many doors. It’s easy to see that Allwaze is going to be a face we’ll see everywhere in the next few years just like her other model counterparts and will trail blaze the way for confident young girls everywhere.
Sources: youtube.com, cosmopolitan.com, womenfitness.net, volup2.com, i-d.vice.com