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Old 27th March 2012   #1
Join Date: July 2005
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Default Interview with Sophie Sheppard

In November of 2011, we had the great privilege of attending the Curves in Couture fashion show in London. This was a truly groundbreaking and unprecedented event, for it was the first time that professional plus-size models walked a fashion runway for top designers in the British capitol.

Of course, the curviest and most significant model in the show was the gorgeous Sophie Sheppard, who was then coming off of the success of her initial British test shoot and basking in the acclaim of her appearance, in print, in Vogue Italia.

We took the opportunity to arrange a live, face-to-face interview with Miss Sheppard via Angel Sinclair and the rest of the staff of M.O.D., which organized Curves in Couture. It was a distinct pleasure--nay, a thrill--to meet this curvaceous goddess in person and to record her opinions on a host of topics, both professional and personal.

Every fan who has been eager to learn more about this Australian stunner will be delighted with the content of our interview, which also includes comments from Sophie's British agent, the enterprising Anna Shillinglaw, as well as from one of the top British plus-size fashion designers, who makes a surprise appearance in the latter portion of our discussion.

Be prepared: the interview concludes in the most unexpected way imaginable, in a finale that is simultaneously wonderful and horrible, a dream come true and a living nightmare rolled into one.

What might that mean, you ask?

Read on, and find out.

We will post the interview in two parts; the first section today, and the rest (with the surprise appearance by the London designer, and the heart-rending finale) in approximately a week's time.

And now, sit back and enjoy our one-on-one dialogue with one of the most beautiful and personable models in the industry: the stunning Sophie Sheppard.

Walking the Curves in Couture runway, November 2011:

- Click here to read interview

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Old 28th March 2012   #2
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Default Re: Interview with Sophie Sheppard

I enjoyed reading this interview very much. Sophie comes across as sincere and likable, and remarkably gracious. It was a special pleasure to listen to the audio excerpts. I love her voice, with its distinctive, elegant accent.

Needless to say, my favourite comments from Sophie are her observations about model size. An important exchange comes up during the discussion of Sophie's popular sleeveless image:

“You do recognize why the public loves it? It’s not inappropriate for me to say that you look beautiful, and you also look plus-size,” I put to her.

“Yeah. And that’s what I think. I think I am a true plus-size model,” Sophie stated with a sudden increase in confidence. Perhaps she had realized that she was speaking to a member of the pro-curvy public, not a tepidly diffident client. “I’m not false-plus. I’m a size 16/18 U.K., I’m a size 16 Australia, and so I’m definitely…yeah.”

“So you have heard how much the public is clamouring for fuller-figured plus-size models.”

“Well, I’m glad. I think plus-size girls should be used for plus-size fashion,” she stated with growing resolve. “I mean, I don’t see the point in getting skinny…not even skinny girls, and padding them out—which actually happens in the industry.”

It's so gratifying to hear Sophie, someone within the fashion industry, echoing the feelings of so many curvy customers, who are sick to death of false-plus models with thin features being used and padded. Such a practice is completely insulting, as it implies the superiority of skinniness.

If plus-size fashion retailers don't affirm the beauty of full-figured women, no one will. It's their responsibility to do so; and it's also good business practice.

Far from being the curviest girl in campaigns or on the runway, a model who is Sophie's size should be the minimum proportions for plus-size models, and there should be a host of plus-size models bigger than she is.

This is probably my favourite statement in the entire article:

“Well, I wouldn’t need to pad out,” she reasoned with genuine satisfaction. “I’m actually plus-size. So I think if you’re a plus-size label promoting size 20 and above, use a size-20-and-above girl. Don’t use a size 14 and pin the dresses so they fit her, and pad her.”

It's so obvious: use size 20+ models to appeal to customers who are size 20+. To use models who are skinnier than the customers buying the clothing is actively offensive, because it implies a client's belief than thinner is better. What a noxious message to send to full-figured women!

I want that statement by Sophie to be framed and a copy sent to every plus-size company: "If you’re a plus-size label promoting size 20 and above, use a size-20-and-above girl."
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Old 28th March 2012   #3
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Default Re: Interview with Sophie Sheppard

I second what Meredith stated. To hear Sophie affirm that plus-size models should actually be full-figured is extremely encouraging. Her words have an extra credibility because she herself is visibly curvy, as the description states:

When Sophie finally did emerge, there was no mistaking the size-18 stunner. Outfitted in a form-fitting dress that lovingly embraced her every curve, she was, unmistakably, a plus-size model, in a far more visibly luscious way than any of the other girls in the show.

I was also relieved to hear that Sophie's agent will not be pressuring her into diminishing herself. This is always a problem in the fashion industry, both at the straight-size and plus-size levels, but it's even more appalling in the plus-size sector, where models should be applauded for being visibly full-figured and encouraged to remain so. Thank goodness at least one agent will be allowing a gorgeous model to retain her curvy figure and not pressuring her into a lesser, faux-plus size:

I asked the Milk Management owner, with some dread, if she would ever encourage Sophie to diminish herself. To my amazement and delight, Anna stated that she would not, affirming that she considered Sophie to be gorgeous and one of a kind.

By the way, one of Sophie's statements is as perfect and concise a definition of both the identity and purpose of a plus-size model as I've ever read anywhere:

“Put together,” Sophie eagerly interjected. “That’s what a plus-size model should be: beauty and curves put together.”

Yes! It's such a simple formula, but few clients or agencies understand this point. It's not enough for a plus-size model to be beautiful, if she isn't visibly curvy, and it's not enough for her to be curvy if she isn't aesthetically spectacular. Only when both points are met can plus-size models subvert the media paradigm that falsely equates beauty with emaciation.

Sophie not only understands this, she embodies it.
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Old 29th March 2012   #4
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Default Re: Interview with Sophie Sheppard

I found myself completely in adoration of Sophie by the end of this interview. Her looks are stunning, of course, but she's a joy to read about. It sounds like it would be wonderful to join her for a cup of tea. She's clearly very personable.

And she did bring out the most ravishing descriptions. I love the initial presentation of Sophie as reminding the interviewer of a flower in full bloom:

Even her seductive appearance in the Anna Scholz dress didn’t prepare me for the sight of Sophie in her form-fitting, sleeveless Jill Alexander masterpiece. Jill’s collection was billed as a tribute to Latin America, with outfits in a host of vibrant, natural colours, from lush greens to citrus yellows. But when Sophie emerged, she was outfitted in a bright, juicy red hue, which made her seem like the flower of the collection, the bloom amid the vegetation, as much a fragrant blossom as the other model’s looks constituted stems and leaves. The tropical flower that she wore in her blonde tresses added to this impression, and the way in which the dress embraced her figure, defining her succulent curves, created an overall presentation of luscious fecundity.

Then, I found the related later passage, which describes Sophie's perfume, to be even more beautiful:

As she was speaking, I caught a whiff of the loveliest scent imaginable. I had no idea what manner of fragrance it was, but never before had I inhaled any aroma quite so enchanting. It had a touch of citrus freshness about it, but it also carried a quality of mature, full-blown richness. The intoxicating redolence of her perfume associated the model with a floral blossom, or with the sweetest of fruits, just as her luscious appearance in the Jill Alexander collection had done.

Sophie’s makeup was minimal, but she was wearing a rich, berry lip colour, mostly red but with an undercurrent of pink, like a ripe strawberry-raspberry mixture. The colour stood out vividly against her flawless, alabaster complexion. The perfume harmonized with the lip colour, further relating the model to the juiciest splendours of the natural world.

It was with difficulty that I refocussed on the questions that I had prepared, after imbibing such heady impressions.

It must have been a magical experience to enjoy Sophie's company after her stunning appearance at Curves in Couture.
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Old 31st March 2012   #5
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Default Re: Interview with Sophie Sheppard

I was especially taken by this passage in the write-up, which gives the interview its name, Templum Veneris, or Temple of Venus:

As Sophie departed from the runway, I surveyed the interior of the Tabernacle, with its Gothic-timbered roof and the Romanesque alcoves along either side, as well as the lofts where the pews of this deconsecrated church had once stood. That night, the edifice had once again become a place of worship, a temple of beauty. Just as the pagan shrines of Rome, such as the Pantheon, had been repackaged as Christian churches in the later years of the empire, and were now secular tourist attractions, so this edifice had experienced a reverse metaphysical transformation, from Christian to secular to Classical. Miss Sheppard’s presence had made it a veritable Templum Veneris, a Temple of Venus, for surely no one more closely embodied the goddess of beauty than this curvaceous Australian vixen.

And perhaps this was what the minimalist-loving, materialist-oriented postmodernists found so troubling about plus-size beauty, a concept that Sophie so ideally incarnated in living flesh. It was too pagan, too elemental, too much a blending of fleshy womanliness with celestial glory. Sophie exhibited a well-fed abundance that betokened a love of physical indulgence, yet simultaneously exuded a divine, transcendental loveliness, as epitomized by her dazzlingly fair complexion, her sky-blue eyes, and her radiant tresses, which shone with an angelic luminance in the runway lighting.

There is much truth in this.

In the past, particularly in the Middle Ages, beauty was subordinated to religious concerns and was viewed through the prism of Christianity. Its value was determined by the degree to which it could be made to reinforce the beliefs of the established Church.

In the present -- when politics has become the new religion for much of the populace -- beauty is once again viewed with suspicion, and the value of beauty is determined by the degree to which it can be made the support the dominant ideology. Today, beauty is subordinated to the current political religion's values (those being "diversity," "equality," etc.) just as in the past, beauty was subordinated to Christian values.

This leads to the circumscribing of beauty, the constraint and limitation of beauty.

But Classical beauty -- pagan beauty -- was beauty as pure aesthetics, beauty unconfined and unconstrained. As such, it is subversive of all latter-day moralistic ideologies, religious or political. Thus, I find it exciting to contemplate how, for the evening of Curves in Couture, the Tabernacle in Notting Hill (which was once a Christian and is now a secular edifice) escaped both belief systems and became a temple for the worship of pure beauty, beauty in itself, with Sophie as the admired goddess -- Venus in the flesh.
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Old 5th April 2012   #6
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Default Re: Interview with Sophie Sheppard

At long last, it is a pleasure to release the second, concluding part of our interview with lovely plus-size model Sophie Sheppard.

Whereas the first portion of our write-up presented Sophie the model, covering various aspects of her professional career to date, this section introduces Sophie from a more personal perspective, discussing her interests, her plans for the future, her family, her friends, her school life, and how she really feels about her appearance.

Chocolate, as readers will find, figures as a central motif in this write-up.

The interview is also interrupted, in the most delightful way imaginable, with a surprise appearance by a famous British designer.

In its conclusion, it takes a completely unexpected turn, and ends in an unforgettable manner that careens like a roller coaster from a dizzying high to an abysmal low and then back again.

Without further ado, here it is: the surprising second part of our interview with the stunning Sophie Sheppard.

Modelling Anna Scholz at Curves in Couture:

- Click here to read part 2

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Old 7th April 2012   #7
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Default Re: Interview with Sophie Sheppard

The second part of the interview is absolutely wonderful! For many readers, I'm sure that Sophie's expressions of open, unapologetic love of food will be an absolute delight:

Actually, I really enjoy food, and I enjoy being able to travel with my job and being able to travel for six months. I really enjoyed trying different cuisines and… Yeah, I do. I love food. I cook when I’m home, me and my housemates cook. And I love Japanese food. There’s a lot of that in Australia, so I love that.”

The most decadent statements about the model's love of self-indulgence are, of course, her enthusiastic affirmations of her love of chocolate. The fact that this led to a gift for her agency in the form of a "massive coffer filled to the brim with chocolate treats of every description" gave the interview a wonderful symmetry. Sophie's pro-chocolate commentary comes with an audio clip, and she puts a great comic spin on it:

People who say, ‘My favourite food is lettuce,’ are lying. Are lying!” she repeated for emphasis. “I know they’re lying. But who doesn’t like chocolate? Every girl loves chocolate, and if you would be stranded on an island with one thing, you would take chocolate. Obviously I don’t eat chocolate for every meal, but I do love chocolate.”

Altogether, I especially loved the audio excerpts, which made the interview come alive and gave a real sense of Sophie's witty, endearing personality. She's a treasure.
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Old 8th April 2012   #8
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Default Re: Interview with Sophie Sheppard

I finally had the chance to read the second part of the interview today in full, and enjoyed it immensely. And what a wonderful surprise to see a guest appearance by designer Anna Scholz!

The most important passages, I think, are the continued affirmations of the virtues of using genuinely full-figured models. Sophie herself makes a wonderful statement on this score:

"Beauty can be at any size. It really doesn’t stop at a size 16."

And Anna Scholz confirms this, with her observation:

“I know my customers respond really well to women who are properly curvy. They get really upset if I use girls who go too thin.”

Also, it was a pleasure to read all of the wonderful things that Anna says about Sophie. She calls her "such a lovely lady" and makes many favourable references to her look and her disposition:

I had to ask the designer what she thought of Sophie’s appearance, in her dress, on the Curves in Couture runway.

“I think she looked gorgeous and curvaceous and beautiful, as always,” Ms. Scholz gauged. “She’s a fantastic role model for us, definitely. . . And a sweet personality. That helps.”
“I’m always trying to find somebody who actually carries their curves in such a beautiful way. . . And you know, she is such a nice person too,” Ms. Scholz added. “It’s not only about the looks, but it’s the woman behind it.”

I only wish that the interview had been videotaped, so that everyone could have seen Anna's enthusiastic physical embrace of Miss Sheppard when she raved about Sophie carrying her curves "in such a beautiful way," as described in the text.
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Old 10th April 2012   #9
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Default Re: Interview with Sophie Sheppard

In their interviews, I've noticed that plus-size models always present themselves as very modest about their looks, so it's a pleasure to see how, with a little coaxing, a model can be prompted to express some justified pride in her beauty. I loved this part of the interview, and the audio recording really brought it to life. At first, Sophie sounds hesitant, but then she speaks with real pleasure about her beauty:

To further explore Sophie’s awareness of her own allure, I began my next question with a gentle imperative: “You have to answer this. What would you say is the most attractive aspect of your appearance?”

“Of my appearance? Oh, God, I don’t know,” she replied.

I knew it would take a moment for her to acknowledge her own beauty. “What?” I gently prodded her.

“I don’t know. I like… I like my hair. I’ve always had thick hair. Yeah, I have always had a lot, a lot of thick, blonde hair, so that’s been such a huge asset.” As she continued speaking, she quickly warmed to the topic. “I’ve never needed extensions, or I’ve never needed anything like that, so I’m all real. Everything’s real. So, yeah, I love my hair. I like my lips..."

(And in the audio, she goes on to say something quite candid.)

In this context, Sophie's referring herself to "real" is more than a reference to the common presentation of full-figured girls as "real women." Indeed, Sophie's comment is factually justified, because after all, the minus-size models often inject and implant themselves with silicone or other artificial matter, to compensate for the flat-as-a-board frames that their starvation-torture routines have given them. They not only look plastic, they are plastic, or at least part of their bodies are. So they contrast between the reality of Sophie's soft flesh and fair hair and her rivals' synthetic physical structures is definite: it literally is the difference between a real body and an artificial body.
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Old 14th April 2012   #10
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Default Re: Interview with Sophie Sheppard

Sophie is absolutely gorgeous, but what I found even more appealing about her are the qualities of classiness and dignity that the interviewer perceived:

As she was speaking, an impression that had been forming the whole night solidified in my mind. While Sophie was certainly a contemporary girl in every meaningful sense, her poise, her sense of class, her refinement, her accent—more English than Australian, at least to my ears—and perhaps even the fact that I was interviewing her in Britain, all presented her as an aristocratic young lady who had stepped out of the pages of a Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë novel, updated for the present day. Her frame of reference was entirely contemporary, of course, but her dignity and polish evoked qualities of propriety and good breeding more associated with another time. If a literary heroine of eighteenth-century literature had stepped into the modern day and donned contemporary clothing, I could easily imagine her carrying herself in a manner identical to Sophie, with the same mixture of self-possession and femininity.

And later:

I also reflected, once more, on how Sophie resembled an elegant young lady of the 18th century, though transported to the modern age and acclimatized to our own time. In another era, she would have enjoyed minuets or waltzes, whereas in this day and age, she danced in a modern fashion. Yet even in this present-day context, she still preserved a level of elegance and sophistication and poise, avoiding the vulgar motions that commonly demean dance-club partying, simply moving her body to the rhythm in a sensual, languid manner.

All too often, these days, beauty -- especially feminine beauty -- is corrupted and poisoned by the vulgarity and even depravity of the degenerate modern world.

It's so refreshing to hear that Sophie has somehow managed to avoid all that and still presents herself as a lady, with manners and good breeding, even though she clearly enjoys having fun.
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