As part of our ongoing effort to pay tribute to plus-size fashion developments outside North America, we recently chanced upon the following, fascinating, first-person account of a young lady who entered a modelling contest for Zallia, a new plus-size fashion line in France.
and while we were initially struck by her the soft beauty of her rounded features (she rivals Giani Forte model Anabelle as the loveliest native French plus-size model), her narrative intrigued us even more.
And so, with the aid of two online translation programs--supplanted by our own limited knowledge of French--we rendered Sabrine's story into English, for all to read. The translated text appears below.
Sandrine's account is startlingly forthright and honest. She shares the full range of her emotions, sparing nothing, and the inner journey that she recounts, showing how her initial vulnerability is slowly supplanted by a growing sense of confidence, and even, by outright vanity (excitingly so), is utterly captivating.
True, this phrase ["plus-size model"] may seem like a contradiction in terms, because when one hears the word "model," one thinks of the supreme canons of beauty, and their perscribed measurements.
It proves that regardless of our roundness, we can still be alluring, and feel comfortable in our own skin.
My name is Sandrine. I have been full-figured since childhood, and have weighed up to 285 pounds.
I was always told that I was photogenic. I found this remark flattering, of course, and I was not untouched by the desire to submit myself for a casting. But the fear of being confronted by other girls--and especially by a camera--long prevented me.
Then, one day, I went browsing on our favourite site [StylXL.com]. As usual, I perused the casting announcements without being overly tempted. But then, I made a leap of faith, and decided to submit my pictures and my contract information to a new clothing line.
I didn't pay a second thought to the package that I sent, and for several weeks afterwards, I received no response. But then one day, a letter from Karine K appeared in my mailbox, telling me that I had been retained to go on a fitting for Zallia.
I was happy to have been singled out, and very proud as well. It's true that when one is round, one tends to feel excluded from all of this. And now, someone was noticing me--someone who thinks that I am pretty enough to be photographed.
For fear of not being booked at the casting, I only shared the news with my immediate family, who encouraged me in this new experience. I answered the message, indicating my availability, and then, I was scheduled for the following week in Paris. During the intervening week, I was pervaded by doubts: "Am I pretty enough?--curvy enough?--too curvy?--to be photographed?"
I was scared at the prospect of meeting people who were still going to assess me. But this time, I decided to see this through to the end.
I took two friends along with me, because I was not very self-assured. But when Karine and Soumia met me at the studio, the pressure lifted. They did everything to put me at ease, and asked me questions about my aspirations, my measurements, etc.
I then tried on the various items offered by Zallia, and some photographs were taken. My confidence did not last long, and when I left, I told myself that even if I wasn't booked, I had succeeded in battling my fears, and believing in myself enough to say, "Yes, you can be a model."
Two days later, Karine telephoned me to say that the photographs turned out well, and that I had been booked, along with another girl. Thus, I ended up in Orleans five days later. I felt a bit nervous about meeting the photographer, and I wasn't sure how well I would be able to pose in front of strangers.
On the appointed day, early in the morning, I arrive at the studio of Gerard, our photographer. The other girls have not arrived yet, and this gives me the opportunity to get to know him. This helps put me at ease, and lets me deal with my stress, so I can be really myself at the photography session.
The day begins with makeup. I had always dreamed of being made up by a professional--like a true model.
We carry out the fittings: which outfits will be a "hit," which work best with which accessories, etc.
And then, it's time to pose.
At first, I didn't really feel that I was in my element, given that this was the first opportunity that I had ever had to do any real posing. But then, I quickly got into the groove, and the session went very smoothly. It really gave me pleasure to pose, to show myself, and I really felt beautiful in front of the camera, especially with the encouragement of my partners.
The shooting day comes to an end, and we look at the photographs together. I am immediately very pleased with our work. The photographs are splendid, and everyone is delighted at how the day turned out.
I therefore go home extremely happy with what I accomplished that day.
Subsequently, I became very impatient to see myself on the site, and to discover which photographs were chosen. I visited the site every single day in anticipation. And then, one day, I am there, like a true model--dazzling. I invite all of my friends and family to visit the site, and I receive many compliments in return.
Everyone admires me, and I am proud of that. Even if some people consider that superficial, that doesn't matter, considering all of the taunts that I once endured about my weight. It's a vindication of my curves. I am round, yes, but I accept it, because I am beautiful.
I invite all the young girls who read my words to go all the way with their desires, and to rise above the demeaning looks that some may give you, because beauty is not a matter of weight. The important thing is to have self-confidence, and to feel comfortable in your own body.
I am round, and I am a model--and I can't help but smile when I write this sentence.
We suspect that many curvy vixens who have experienced a similar divergence in their self-image--i.e., how to reconcile the fact that modern media culture deems their beauty questionable, when their own looking-glasses tell them that they are goddesses--will identify with Sandrine's story, and will recall similar experiences in their own lives.
Sandrine modelling for French plus-size retailer Zallia (linked below), Summer 2005: