(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, August 02, 2004.)
It is a measure of how far the industry has progressed that today, finally, size-18 models are not only finding representation with the top agencies, but are also beginning to attract mainstream clients.
Sadly, it wasn't always this way.
Long-time readers of this site may recall that in 2001, when the industry was at its lowest ebb, (both size-wise, and otherwise,) a blonde model who was by far the most beautiful talent that the industry had ever seen--whose title as the most gorgeous of all plus-size models has never been seriously challenged--blossomed into a size-18 goddess.
As far as we know, the model in question first parted ways with her New York agency, and then lost clients, and finally, left the industry altogether--no doubt in complete frustration at its diminishing standards.
This was a "missed opportunity" of the highest order, because said model possessed a beauty that staggered belief, along with a superlative posing technique, to which her numerous Mode appearances testified. She could have been the one--the one model whose beauty would have silenced all critics, and settled any arguments about the true shape of the timeless feminine ideal; the one model who could have showed clients, for once and for all, that they do not need to resort to booking nearly-straight-size models to create enthralling campaigns; the one model who could have compelled the majority of men to acknowledge their preference for plus-size beauty; the one model who could have showed all women that in aspiring to be gorgeous, they did not need to strive to be thin.
*Sigh* All this could have happened--three years ago. But it didn't.
Eternal optimists that we are, however, we still hold out a hope that this goddess may someday return to the modelling world--because now, three years later, the industry is finally beginning to accept size-18 models.
MSA's Megan Garcia has undoubtedly been the "breakthrough" talent in this respect, with her commercial and editorial successes,
but in a more practical way, we must give the majority of credit to two retailers. Fashion Bug was both the last client to hire the blonde angel to whom we initially referred, and the first client to use size-18 Megan Garcia in a national campaign. And with its steady stream of size-positive imagery, Torrid has demonstrated, for once and for all, that form-fitting, curve-adoring, body-revealing attire looks best when it is modelled on true plus-size girls.
The only size-18 model who is currently signed with either of the top two New York agencies (as far as we know) is Ford's Cathy Bole, who appeared on the disappointing premiere cover of Figure, but who made a much better showing in a summer Fashion Bug campaign. (See the recent "I am not invisible" discussion for an example.) Ms. Bole's current online portfolio is small, and her test images are not as compelling as her Fashion Bug promos, but perhaps she will create more interesting work in the future.
Here is another one of Ms. Bole's Fashion Bug images. The outfit has a charming, Torrid-like sense of fun (although one of our readers observes that the hairstylist should have tried a more youthful approach, to compliment the attire):
Ms. Bole also currently appears in a Laura Ashley Woman ad for the Parisian chain.
But this is only the beginning. Once the top agencies can offer clients a variety of size-18 models with different looks--and especially, in different age groups (including the continually under-served teen/twentysomething category)--then clients will surely become more willing to book models in this size range. And this, in turn, will show young, full-figured women everywhere that they really can look just as sexy and exciting as their underweight rivals--and that they don't need to starve away their curves to do so.
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