An Interview with Lindsey Garbelman

Part One

Test photograph by Roberto Ligresti; click to enlarge

For the Judgment of Paris, the highlight of Full-Figured Fashion Week 2010 was the opportunity to see gorgeous plus-size model Lindsey Garbelman walk the runway, and then to meet her afterwards for an interview. Remarkable as Miss Garbelman’s poise and grace and on the catwalk may be, the charm that she exudes in person is even more affecting.

No image to date has done justice to this model’s loveliness. Lindsey amply deserves to be termed a living goddess, thanks to her gorgeous facial features, long brunette tresses, and curvaceous size-16 figure.

Speaking with Lindsey was the easiest thing in the world, and although the consumption of two glasses apiece of sparkling Chardonnay certainly helped the evening to pass more smoothly, Miss Garbelman is innately friendly, vivacious, lively, intelligent, and affable, which makes her terribly easy to get along with. To be in her company is a pure pleasure.

Flush with excitement from her Full-Figured Fashion Week runway appearance, Lindsey was in high spirits. We met in the lounge of the Park Central Hotel, where the runway finale of FFFWeek 2010 was held. The evening’s extravaganza actually marked Lindsey’s second New York catwalk triumph, for she had also participated in the opening runway show several days earlier, owing to a last-minute bit of good fortune, as she began the interview by relating.

* * *

LINDSEY: I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it for the Wednesday show. Zach, who is one of my agents at MSA, didn’t know until Monday what time I was going to get out. And then it was kind of iffy. So, I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not, because I was supposed to work until 6:00.
      I hadn’t even fit for them, because I was out of town. But luckily I worked for Pure Energy before, and they were comfortable with me.

Final model walk during the runway finale of FFFWeek 2010; photograph by Richard Lew; click to enlarge

HSG: And tonight you were in four looks, plus the last one?

LINDSEY: I was in four, yes. I was in Lotis, Pheline, IGIGI, and K. Renee.

HSG: And the last look was?

LINDSEY: Mine. The last look, with the whole group? This is my dress.

HSG: This is your own dress? It’s gorgeous.

LINDSEY: Thank you. They didn’t tell us that we were going to be doing a final walk with everyone, and my designer, IGIGI, had already taken my last outfit and left with it. They had already put it away. So I already had my dress on, and they said, “Oh, that looks fine. Go ahead.”

HSG: You made ever item look good.

LINDSEY: Thank you. I’ve had this dress since my freshman year in college.

HSG: I love the lace details.

LINDSEY: Isn’t it beautiful? It’s just so elegant. It reminds me of the 1920s or ’30s. I love it. I love very classic stuff. Things you can wear for years. I’m not a very trendy person. I actually own quite a few Pure Energy pieces. I loved the IGIGI. But one show that I didn’t get to walk in, that I loved, was Susan Moses. It was the one about the night, all black. Very Rihanna-ish. I loved it. Every designer there was amazing.

At this point, a waiter comes by and asks us if we would like something to drink. Our decision will have direct repercussions on the interview, making it a less of a structured question-and-answer session and more of a free-flowing, stream-of-consciousness chat.

LINDSEY: Yeah. I’ll have a glass of Chardonnay.

WAITER: Chardonnay.

HSG: For me as well, please.

LINDSEY: Thank you.[sighs] It’s been a long day. We’ve been here since noon.

The waiter arrives in due course with the Chardonnary, and yours truly raises a toast to Lindsey’s success.

HSG: To the most gorgeous model of the night.

LINDSEY: Thank you so much. I was so nervous.

HSG: But you didn’t look it at all.

LINDSEY: Thank you. I was terrified—until I got on the runway. When I was on the runway, I was fine. But before, I was terrified, [AUDIO] because I’m just… I think of the worst-case scenario, always. I was thinking, “What if I fall? Oh, my gosh.” And when I had to carry the hat, I asked the designer of Pheline, “Okay, worst-case scenario, if I drop the hat, what do I do? Just keep going?”

Waking the runway for Pheline in the final runway showcase at FFFWeek 2010; photograph by Richard Lew; click to enlarge

HSG: Good question.

LINDSEY: And she said, “Pick it up really sexy and seductive.” And I thought, “Okay, I can do that.” So yeah, I loved every minute of it. Being on the runway, I was fine. The only thing I was a little nervous about was when I walked for K. Renee. I was a little nervous because the jacket was kind of big, and it kept going over my hands. I thought, “Oh, no. I don’t want to look like I don’t have hands.” But I loved it. Everyone loved the outfit too.

HSG: You looked like you were in your element. So on to my first formal question: How did you end up getting cast for Full-Figured Fashion Week?

LINDSEY: Well, actually, you. You told me about Full-Figured Fashion Week.

HSG: [playing innocent] I did?


HSG: That was a smart move.

LINDSEY: You told me when it was going to be, and I went by myself. Didn’t go through my agency. So it was all you. You told me when and where, and I was there. And I walked for them, and I ended up getting cast. And I actually met Gwen—

HSG: Ah, so it was Gwen DeVoe whom you met at—

LINDSEY: At the Pure Energy media event.

A few months after this discussion took place, Ms. DeVoe provided her own account of her meeting with Lindsey. Her comments are recorded in our recent interview with the acclaimed producer of Full-Figured Fashion Week.

HSG: And how did that conversation go? Did you approach Gwen? Did she approach you?

LINDSEY: She approached me. It went great. She was so sweet. She came in, and I was standing there, modelling the clothes. Anything they wanted me to put on, I would put on. And Angelina, who is the designer for Pure Energy, they knew I had tried out for Full-Figured Fashion Week, because they were going to be in it. And they had asked me about it. I said, “Yeah, I tried out. But I don’t know,” because it had been a couple of weeks. “I don’t know if I made it. I haven’t heard anything back…”

HSG: I remember your pessimism. Your mother told me that you were pessimistic. In fact, I think you had pretty much written it off.

LINDSEY: Well, it had been so long, so I thought, “Oh, I probably didn’t get it.” Because I actually wore these heels…

Lindsey draws attention to her footwear: a pair of the most towering, terrifying heels ever known to man.

HSG: Oh, goodness! Those are ferocious.

LINDSEY: I know. They were brand new, which was dumb on my part, but I had to go to work that day—because I also work at a bar at night. And I just grabbed them because I had to go to work after the casting. I wasn’t thinking. And it was on a regular floor, so it was slippery. And I did not do well. And I thought, “Oh, God, I didn’t make it.” But I talked to Gwen, and she said, “No, don’t worry about it. I’m sure you did. Don’t worry.”
      And I’m the type of person where I never say, “Okay, yes, I one-hundred-percent got it” unless someone tells me, “You one-hundred-percent got it.” Until I got the email saying, “You’re in Full-Figured Fashion Week,” just her saying that… I’m not saying that I didn’t believe her, but…

Waking the runway for Pheline in the final runway showcase at FFFWeek 2010; photograph by Richard Lew; click to enlarge

HSG: It’s good to be realistic.

LINDSEY: Exactly.

HSG: Prepare for the worst.

LINDSEY: Always, always. So I just wanted to make sure. I had relayed the conversation to my mom a little bit, and she just took it as, “Yes. She’s definitely going to be in it.” And I thought, “Wait a minute. No. I don’t know if I’m in yet. I haven’t gotten the e-mail.”

HSG: By the way, this is a great hairstyle for you.

LINDSEY: Thank you. I had to get it done twice, because it was a little lopsided the first time. And I’m not a diva in any way, but I knew that these pictures of me were going to be published, and it literally was flat on the side. I asked, “Can you fix this?” So she did. They were really nice. Everyone was so sweet about everything.

HSG: Don’t you love the fact that for these runway shows, they cast genuinely curvy plus-size models, not the size 10s?

LINDSEY: Yes! But that’s all they’re using for print. It’s unbelievable to me. I was so happy to see actual plus-size women, because when I go to a lot of castings, I’m the biggest girl there.

HSG: Is that true?

LINDSEY: Yes. [AUDIO] And I think, “Are you kidding me?” Especially for print, because that’s all they use. They use size 10s. And it’s sickening.
      I’m going to tell you the truth. I have a friend. I’m not going to name her name. She is a plus-size model. She’s a size 6, one hundred percent. And she works all the time. All the time.

HSG: [dismayed] I believe you.

LINDSEY: It makes me sick.

HSG: Will you be able to resist the pressure to waste away to faux-plus proportions?

Modelling for Aurora Formals; click to enlarge

LINDSEY: I like the size that I’m at. And I’m doing fit modelling, so I’m steadily working right now doing fit.

HSG: So there’s no need to decrease your beauty, is there?

LINDSEY: Because I’m a 16 right now.

HSG: And you look so good. You tragically diminished yourself for a while, a few years ago, but it’s encouraging to see that you have regained your curves.

LINDSEY: Thank you.

HSG: For a long time, the fans’ favorite images of you were the tears from your very first Aurora shoot.

LINDSEY: I was probably a 16/18 then. I love the way that I am. I love being a curvy girl.

HSG: You do?

LINDSEY: I do. I love it. Are you kidding me? I love it.

HSG: Fortunately, you also have a soft and natural physique. Will you be able to resist the idiotic industry pressure to “tone” your figure into an androgynous form?

LINDSEY: I will, because it’s one of those things where people do say, “Lose weight,” or “Be a 14,” or “Do this,” or “Do that.” You know what? I work all the time. The past two weeks, I worked every single day. I was just in Chicago. I just worked for K-Mart again.

HSG: Excellent. By the way, you recently took a picture for K-Mart that was more beautiful than a tear sheet from Vogue. You were in yellow, and they put a blossom in your hair. Gorgeous. But I guess it’s not something that you can wear in day-to-day life—a blossom in your hair?

Modelling for K-Mart; click to enlarge

LINDSEY: No, not really.

HSG: Pity. It harkens back to Victorian style, where Victorian girls would wear blossoms in their hair. And if you ever wanted to do a test shoot with flowers in your hair, it would be an amazing look. At any rate, the extra curviness gives you a little added roundness in the face, a little extra softness.

LINDSEY: I love it. I like being a 16.

HSG: Is it comfortable for you to be there?


HSG: You can enjoy food.


HSG: You don’t need to starve yourself.

LINDSEY: No. I mean, I can’t indulge all the time.

HSG: You can’t?

LINDSEY: No. No. I can’t indulge.

HSG: You could try it and see what happens. [chuckles]

LINDSEY: I have my days where I want a grilled-cheese sandwich and some soup, and I’ll eat that. And I have days where I want a salad or sushi. And I try not to drink a lot. But I will tell you, working at a bar, we’re allowed to drink. We’re allowed to have our customers buy us drinks, so that’s a little bit harder. But you have to balance it out. I know what I have to do to stay at the size I am. I have a five-pound range that I could go from, and still be a 16 and be fine with it and be good. I will tell you, a lot of people don’t hire 18s in print at all.

Modelling for Lane Bryant; click to enlarge

HSG: Isn’t that awful?

LINDSEY: Yes. They want literally… My agency told me that if I drop down to a 12, that I would do more print.

HSG: That’s infuriating! By that rationale, if you dropped down to a size 2, you’d do more print as well. What kind of thinking is that?

LINDSEY: I know. Someone was just telling me about… Someone is putting into these designers’ heads that they don’t need to use big girls anymore. They need to use smaller girls. I can’t remember who told me that, but…whatever. It doesn’t matter. And my agent, my New York agent, loves the size I am. Whatever I want to be, he markets me at. He loves my size.

HSG: Kudos to him, and thank you for resisting the pressure. Isn’t it the height of hypocrisy that within the plus-size industry, there exists a mirror image of the same size discrimination that the straight-size industry levels against plus-size models?

LINDSEY: Yes. One hundred percent.

HSG: The same individuals who would complain, “How dare you discriminate against these size-8 models?” will themselves discriminate against size-18 models. The hypocrisy is galling.

LINDSEY: They are beautiful girls. I’m not going to deny that. But some of them are a plus-size 4.

HSG: Without padding.

LINDSEY: Oh! I have been to photo shoots and girls were padding. And I thought, “What?”

HSG: I know. The premise behind that is so appalling. You want a fuller-figured model? Book a fuller-figured model. The Judgment of Paris tries to show the industry, “Look, here are the gorgeous size 16s and 18s. Here’s Kelsey. Here’s Lindsey. Here’s Katherine. Book them.” I cannot comprehend why any client would book a faux-plus model and then pad her. What’s the point? Are they actually looking for models with harsh facial features and jutting clavicles? I’m glad that you avoid all this.

Test photograph by Jo Liu; click to enlarge

LINDSEY: I love the way I look.

HSG: You do? When look at yourself in a mirror, are you able to say, “I am gorgeous”?

LINDSEY: [pauses] Yes. Yes I do.

HSG: I’m in heaven.

LINDSEY: But I’m not going to lie to you; when I look at pictures of when I was thinner, sometimes it does make me sad.

HSG: Because your beauty was so diminished then.

LINDSEY: No! Because that’s the—

HSG: Because you lament how you could have ever done such a terrible thing to yourself, even for a short while.

LINDSEY: It’s the opposite! It’s honestly the opposite, which I know is going to make you upset, but it’s the opposite, because of how society is. I got down to a 10/12.

HSG: It was such a tragedy. I couldn’t believe it. The fans had celebrated you for years, so I couldn’t understand why you did that.

LINDSEY: And the thing is, I love being a curvy girl. I do. And I do look at my pictures sometimes, and I think, “Wow.” And when I was a 10/12, I still thought I was a big girl. And I look at pictures of myself now and think, “Oh, my God, I wasn’t big at all. I was thin!” But I love the way I look. I love being curvy.

HSG: Do you ever have times when you evaluate your current, more beautiful state and recognize that you are more gorgeous now than you were when you were in a diminished state?

LINDSEY: [AUDIO] When I… You’re actually the first person I’ve ever admitted this to. When I look at my face in pictures when I was thinner, and pictures now, I think I’m prettier with the fuller face. I think my face is prettier fuller, because my face was kind of sunken in, and it just wasn’t… I don’t know what it was. Sometimes I look at those pictures and I think, “Did I just not know how to do my makeup?” I think my face looks so much prettier fuller. I really do.

HSG: Well, hopefully there will come a day when you will recognize that your figure is much more beautiful at a curvier size as well. But at least you recognize the point about the face. That is indisputable.

Fatefully, a waiter comes by at the point and inquires whether we would like another glass of Chardonnay apiece. We agree—a decision that further diminishes the interviewer’s clarity of thought over the next while, but makes for an uninhibited conversation.

LINDSEY: I have to tell you, I am so excited to be in Full-Figured Fashion Week, because I can find beautiful clothes that make me look sexy and feel sexy. Because honestly, I will tell you, I am the biggest IMC whore you’ll ever meet. That’s all I wear is IMC. I love IMC. I love it. But it’s hit or miss with them sometimes. I think their designers are amazing. But you don’t have Susan Moses—nothing like that for plus-size at all. Even Pure Energy. There’s nothing trendy and fun like that. The pink shirt that I had with the pants, there’s nothing like that for plus-size girls. People want us to look dowdy and old. Big girls, we’re sexy. We like our curves. We want to feel sexy. We want to show off our curves.

Entry for Torrid model contest; photograph by Michael Anthony Hermogeno; click to enlarge

HSG: By the way, you do something in your personal pictures that I love so much.

LINDSEY: Oh, the kissy face. I always do that. I started doing that years ago.

HSG: I first saw it in your Torrid Polaroid—which was fantastic, because you wore something that was body conscious and showed off your waist.

All evening, the interviewer has been distracted by a small tattoo on the model’s wrist. He finally summons up the nerve to mention it.

HSG: What’s the story with this?

LINDSEY: It’s “pi love.” Pi goes on forever, so it’s “forever love.” And it’s actually from my sorority.

HSG: At least it’s subtle.

LINDSEY: No one ever sees it, because I always wear a watch.

HSG: That’s right. Even when you were in an implied nude photograph, you still had your watch.

LINDSEY: After we took the picture, they said, “You had your watch on.” I thought, “Dang it.” I wear my watch all the time.

Eager to share a host of photographs from the various FFFWeek events, including the main runway show, the model takes out her cell phone and provides an impromptu slide show. Ultimately, however, it is the phone itself that becomes a source of conversation.

HSG: You have a pink phone.

LINDSEY: This is a new phone. I was in Florida this past weekend, and I was in my parents’ pool, getting some sun. I was calling my sister, and a wasp comes at my head. And I have my phone in my hand, and I just go under water.

Test photograph; click to enlarge

HSG: [laughing]

LINDSEY: I decided to go swimming with my phone. Not a good idea. So it’s a brand-new phone. Two hundred and fifteen dollars later for another one.

HSG: A pink phone. Brilliant. Have you always been a girly girl?

LINDSEY: When it comes to certain stuff, yes. But when I comes to other stuff, no. When I was younger, I was such a tomboy. But now I will not leave my apartment without makeup on. But I am probably the biggest sports fan you will ever meet. I am that girl.
      But I’ve been so stressed and under a lot of pressure, these past few weeks.

HSG: Well, have you ever heard of the phrase, “comfort food”?

LINDSEY: Oh, are you kidding me? Of course. I’m from the South.

HSG: There you go. I’ve heard that “comfort food” eases tension.

LINDSEY: Ice cream. [chuckles] Well, the way that I am is when I get really stressed out, I clean—and I already did that. I clean my apartment. I’m not a complete neat freak, but I’m very organized. I’m a Virgo. I’m very true to Virgo: I like everything in order.

HSG: You’re the second model who has mentioned astrology to me. Kelsey is also into astrology. So you believe in that?

Modelling with Kelsey Olson for Aurora Formals; click to enlarge

LINDSEY: Yes. I am one-hundred-percent true to being a Virgo. I like a plan. I like to know what I’m going to be doing. There’s nothing wrong with being spontaneous, and I’ve been bungee jumping and skydiving and all that stuff.

HSG: I remember the skydiving pictures. Your mother was so proud of you.

LINDSEY: No, my mom… I didn’t tell my mom I was going skydiving until I was there. She said, “Don’t you dare do it.” I said, “I’ve already paid for it. I’m doing it. I’ll call you when I land.” She and my dad wanted to kill me.

HSG: Your mother is very kind. Oh, and speaking of Kelsey, there will never be another shoot that can match the beauty of having you and Kelsey together.

LINDSEY: She’s such a sweetheart, and she’s so much fun. And she can take an amazing picture. She can be sexy, and fun, and commercial… I love Kelsey. She’s so funny.

HSG: The two of you together once more, that would be the ideal shoot. The fair model and the brunette model, a perfect binary. And she speaks very highly of you too.
      But let’s run through some more of these questions. Had you done any runway work prior to today?

LINDSEY: Yes. I did a runway show for David’s Bridal. It was a while ago, actually. I was still in college. I have pictures on Facebook of the dress I was in, a picture of Nigel Barker and myself.

HSG: I do remember the Nigel Barker picture, yes.

LINDSEY: I was actually the only plus-size girl, and I was terrified because they told us right before we were going out—and I’m the only plus-size model, remember—“Girls, be careful,” because the runway, the material they used, their heels were sinking in. And I’m the only plus-size model. I thought, “I’m going to get stuck. [AUDIO] I’m the big girl. I’m getting stuck.” So I was terrified. And I was talking to the hairdresser, terrified. I said, “Oh, my God. I’m going to get stuck. My heel’s going to get stuck. I don’t know.” He said, “You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine.” With noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker at a David's Bridal fashion show; click to enlarge
      I literally walked out and the crowd—there were 500 people there—went insane. Insane. Everyone stood up. I was the only plus-size… Everyone was going insane, because I was the only plus-size girl. And I came back and the hairstylist said, “Girl, they went crazy over you.” I was so excited. I was so happy. It was amazing. [AUDIO] Modelling, that was one of the best feelings I have ever had. I wanted to cry. I literally cried a little bit when I got out, because I was so touched. I thought, “Oh, my God. They love it, because I’m curvy.” So it was great.

HSG: I wish there was a video of that. You have to be more… How can I put this?

LINDSEY: Aggressive?

HSG: Well, yes. I generally don’t favour self-promoting models, but you could be more proactive in keeping a record of your material.

LINDSEY: I’ve used some of my modelling pictures as my profile pictures, but for the most part, if you look at my pictures on Facebook, if you just go through my regular pictures, I love being silly. I like doing stupid faces. I can keep one eye straight and cross the other one. I like silly stuff. I like to be silly, because my job is to be serious and sexy and commercial. And in my real life, I love being me.
      I’m not saying that I’m not a model in my real life, because I love it. It is my passion. I would love to do it until I’m 40, then I would love to work for an agency or open my own agency. I would love that. And instead of these stick-straight models, I want to bring back glamorous-looking women, instead of these very plain-looking, plain Janes.

HSG: I’m glad to hear you say that. There are so few truly gorgeous plus-size models. It’s basically you, Kelsey, Katherine—

LINDSEY: Katherine Roll. I love her. She’s so sweet. I don’t know why she didn’t do Full-Figured Fashion Week this year. She did it last year.

HSG: I remember your amazing shoot with Katherine for Aurora Formals. You keep getting paired with these blonde goddesses. And you’re the perfect brunette complement to them.

Modelling with Katherine Roll for Aurora Formals; click to enlarge

LINDSEY: Thank you. And I love Cathi and Formal Source. I love them. They’re amazing.

HSG: Tell me candidly: When you compare yourself to most other models, do you recognize that you’re more beautiful than they are?

LINDSEY: [pauses] The thing is, you have to understand, I am the most modest person. I will tell you any day, all day, I think I’m a beautiful, curvy girl. I am confident. I love the way I look. If someone doesn’t like something about me, screw them. I don’t care. But I’m never going to be the person who says, “Why is she doing that? I’m so much prettier than her.” I’m not that girl at all.

HSG: I understand. That’s a different sensation entirely. That’s resentment.

LINDSEY: I will tell you that sometimes… I can’t believe I’m going to say this because this sounds so vain.

HSG: [eagerly] Say it, say it, say it.

LINDSEY: Sometimes I look at myself… Yesterday, I was going to work. I had my hair curly, because I diffuse it, because I love it like that. One of my shoots, I’m going to do it like that, all diffused. I talked to my agent, and I talked to Anthony about it…
      (I love Anthony. He’s amazing. Not only is he good at what he does, he’s just an amazing person.

HSG: Certainly.)

LINDSEY: But yesterday, on the train, [AUDIO] I was sitting there, and I saw my reflection and… Because I’ll look at other girls, and I’ll think, “She’s pretty,” “She’s cute,” whatever. And I looked at my reflection in the train window, and I thought, “Oh, my God, I’m gorgeous.”

The interviewer clutches his heart, mimicking a coronary episode brought on by an overdose of delight.

LINDSEY: [laughing] I really did.

HSG: I adore you.

LINDSEY: I thought, “Oh, my God.” And I had smoky eyes, because I was going to work, working at night. My hair was diffused, my makeup was on point. I had some lip gloss on. But I literally looked in the window and… I will tell you, though, I do have high standards, very high standards. You are either, “You’re pretty,” “You’re beautiful,” or that’s it. If you’re neither of those, sorry, you’re not that cute. I’m not trying to be a bitch! But I have high standards, because I’m around beautiful women all the time.
      And I did, and I hate to say that. I hate to say that.

Test photograph; click to enlarge

HSG: Why? It’s true.

LINDSEY: I know, but I feel like I sound so vain.

HSG: But you deserve to be vain.

LINDSEY: No, I don’t! I’m just a very modest person in general. I would never want someone to think that I’m cocky, but I’m confident. I’m very confident, and I always have been.

HSG: It’s a curious world we live in, because in many ways, it’s a world of deliberate mendacity. It’s as if, the more beautiful you are, the more you’re not allowed to say that you’re beautiful. Do you see what I’m getting at?


HSG: The more of a genius you are, the more you’re not allowed to say that you’re a genius.

LINDSEY: You’re not allowed to say how smart you are; exactly.

HSG: Conversely, those who are not particularly attractive, they’re the ones whom you’re supposed to call attractive.

LINDSEY: It’s funny, because they are the ones who will strut around like they’re hot stuff.

HSG: Isn’t that vulgar?

LINDSEY: Yes. I think, “Girl you do not look that good.”
      Last night at work, I had just gotten there. The other waitress had a table, and I kept seeing this group of guys all looking at me and talking about me. I thought, “Wait a minute. What is going on?” Because [AUDIO] one thing about New York, people will stare at you, and when you look at them, they don’t look away. They just keep staring at you. It makes me feel so uncomfortable. I know I’m a beautiful girl, but I thought, “Oh, my God, is there something on my face? What’s going on?” They kept talking about me, and I thought, “What is going on?”
      This guy finally stops me. He grabs my hand and says, “I just want to let you know, you are honestly the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life.” And my face when bright red immediately. I said, “Thank you so much.” That was genuine. It wasn’t, “Hey, girl, you’re f---ing hot.”

HSG: [gasps] Do you get that?

LINDSEY: Are you kidding me? All the time. I live in New York City. Guys are so unbelievable here. I have never dealt with this. I’m used to Southern gentlemen. I’m from the South.

HSG: Coming back to Full-Figured Fashion Week, where did you get the idea to blow the audience a kiss at the foot of the runway? It was wonderful!

LINDSEY: I didn’t know if I was going to get in trouble for it or not, because it was just supposed to be, “Walk down. Pose.” And you know what? I loved my outfit. I felt sexy in it. I felt cute, and it was fun. It wasn’t serious. It was fun, and the music was fun. And when I got down there, I thought, “You know what? Let me show them how I’m feeling.” So I just blew them a little kiss. I just wanted to show everybody how good I felt at that moment.

Modelling for Swimsuits for All; click to enlarge

HSG: I’m glad that you did. It was a winning touch.
      The fans also loved your work for Swimsuits for All, by the way. And would you not agree that the most gorgeous of all of the shots that you did for Swimsuits For All was the one that showed you in profile, and actually exhibited a bit of curve at your waist?

LINDSEY: It did.

HSG: That was heart-attack-inducingly beautiful.

LINDSEY: Actually I just got a great bathing suit. La Blanca, I think it’s called. It’s turquoise.

HSG: One piece or two piece?

LINDSEY: It’s one. It’s a tube top, and it has lift, so it gives me a little cleavage, and it’s got a little ruching right in here. It’s a beautiful bathing suit.

HSG: Are you a gourmand? Do you enjoy food?

LINDSEY: [AUDIO] Do I enjoy food? Oh, my God, I’m a plus-size girl. Of course I enjoy food. I love food. I don’t enjoy food. I love food. I don’t eat to live. I live to eat. I love food. [chuckles]

HSG: [enraptured] This is too good to be true.

LINDSEY: I love good food, and I love every kind of food.

HSG: What are your favorites?

LINDSEY: If I could eat anything for the rest of my life, if I had to pick one thing, it would be bread. I love bread. I would eat bread and cheese. I don’t know why, but I love bread and cheese. I love it. I could eat a grilled-cheese sandwich every day of my life.

HSG: But don’t you recognize, this is your—

LINDSEY: I would weigh 500 pounds if I—

HSG: But you would be so gorgeous!

LINDSEY: Not at 500. [laughing] I do love bread, though.

Modelling for Torrid; photograph by Michael Anthony Hermogeno; click to enlarge

HSG: You saw Rosie Mercado tonight. She was the Face of Full-Figured Fashion Week.

LINDSEY: And she is stunningly beautiful. Her face is stunningly beautiful.

HSG: Yes, very nice face, but she also has a curvy figure.

LINDSEY: She has a very curvy figure. She’s gorgeous, though.

HSG: She’s very pretty, and she could be the breakthrough model who pushes the industry in the direction that it needs to go.

LINDSEY: The truth is, I hope eventually it gets there, but right now, it’s just not going to. I hate to say that, but you have to understand, the way these people talk about skinny models is unbelievable to me. It pisses me off—and I’m going to say pisses me off—that girls who cannot shop at a plus-size store shoot for plus size. I think that that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard about.

HSG: It is. It makes me sick.

LINDSEY: “You can’t fit in plus-size clothes. That is pinned all over you. You can’t even wear that.”

HSG: But you know why: Many of the bookers for these companies, they likely wanted to work in the minus-size part of the industry. They just ended up in plus size because they needed a job in fashion, and a position in plus size happened to be available, and so they entered the plus-size industry. But in doing so, they imported their straight-size bias.
      What the industry needs is a total revamp. We need people running the industry who have an aesthetic preference for plus.

Throughout the chat, Lindsey has been partaking liberally of the trail mix that the waiter had brought over in a bowl.

LINDSEY: These are good. See? I do eat. It was so hard today, though, because we were so busy all day. I had to work last night until two in the morning.

Test photograph; click to enlarge

HSG: At least you could sleep in today.

LINDSEY: I didn’t get to sleep in! I had to be here at noon. I had to get up at 9:00 A.M., because I had to have my hair washed and blown out—which was a waste, because it’s up in a ponytail with hair spray.

HSG: Okay, promise me this: You’re never going to cut your hair short are you?

LINDSEY: Nooooo.

HSG: Thank you.

LINDSEY: No, but what I am going to do is I’m going to let it grow out, and I’m going to do layers, kind of like Khloe Kardashian, with big layers.

HSG: Growing it out, layers, that’s all fine, all good.

LINDSEY: No, I will never cut my hair short. When I was younger, I had to cut it short, because my hair is so thick that I would get migraines. I would cry for hours, and my head would hurt so bad, because it was so thick. A plus-size girl with a full face, with a round face, should never have short hair, ever. Ever.

HSG: Exactly! Why does everyone not realize that? You’re so right. It’s part of an overall aesthetic of opulence.
      How did you feel when you learned that you would, in fact, despite your pessimism—

LINDSEY: Oh, I was so excited. You don’t even have to ask the question.

HSG: But tell me anyway.

LINDSEY: I was so excited to find out I was going to be at Full-Figured Fashion Week. And I said to the other models on Wednesday night, “Girls, I hope you realize we’re making history right now.”

HSG: You said that?

LINDSEY: Yes, I did. I said to the other girls as we were in our Pure Energy looks, “We are making history. This is the second year, and twenty years from now, they’ll remember that we were the girls who started this.” I said, “We are the reason why they started doing Full-Figured Fashion Week, because they see beautiful girls like us, and they want other people to see us and showcase that we can have good style, and we can be sexy.”

HSG: What is the environment like backstage at Full-Figured Fashion Week?


HSG: Crazy?

LINDSEY: [AUDIO] Insane—especially during changes. Because I did four total shows, and I had one after another, and then a break, and then one after another. We literally have to run. As we’re running to the back, we’re taking off clothes. Shirts are flying. Bracelets are flying, necklaces are flying, clothes are flying. People are dressing you. There are men back there—(most of them are probably gay)—

Waking the runway for Lotis Clothing in the final runway showcase at FFFWeek 2010; photograph by Richard Lew; click to enlarge

HSG: Undoubtedly.

LINDSEY: —they’re hooking your bra for you. They’re making sure your hair is straight. It is insane.
      I was number eleven for Pheline. I was number two for Lotis, and they were one right after another. I had to run. I’m just throwing stuff off. I had to literally run to the stage. Run to the stage. Insane. But it just builds up your adrenalin and makes you more excited to go out.
      In Lotis, I had to wear the sunglasses with the lines. I had them on before I went out there, and I told the guy, “I can’t see.” Because it was dark back there, and the glasses had lines, and you could only see a little bit. He said, “Well, take them off and put them on right when you get out there.” I said, “Okay,” so that’s what I did. It was just insane back there. But I will tell you, they know what they’re doing. I had to change my bra four different times.

HSG: Why?

LINDSEY: I had to wear strapless for two of them, and two of them wanted my bust pushed up and whatever. So I said, “Okay, I have to wear this bra for this.” I said, “Here’s my bra. When I come back, I’m going to be throwing my clothes off, so be ready.” And they said, “Okay.” So they’re ready, and they know, and they’re organized in that way, and they got us all out there.
      But total chaos. Total chaos, but amazing. The energy was amazing. Before you went out, or after you went out, the girls who didn’t do that show would say, “Oh, my God, you did great. You look great.”
      And the thing is, with plus-size models, I’ve met a few divas, but for the most part, plus-size models are so genuinely nice. We love each other, and the way I see it, it’s because we’re not hungry!

HSG: Isn’t that true.

LINDSEY: On Wednesday night, one of these girls… I was talking about straight-size models. We’ll go to castings with straight-size models, or we work with straight-size models. And she said, “Yeah this one straight-size model, she was in such a bad mood whenever I went with her to a casting,” and she was telling me that she was probably just hungry. She said, “I get crabby when I’m hungry too.” I said, “Oh, my God, that’s genius. Next time I see a straight-size model and she’s a bitch to me, I’m going to look at her and say, ‘Girl I get crabby when I’m hungry too.’” I thought, “That is genius, because it’s true.”

Lindsey on 'The View'; click to play

HSG: It is true!

LINDSEY: We get to eat. They get mad about it. They’re eating a couple of almonds, and we’ve got bagels and cookies and everything. [laughs] We’re just shoving them in our mouths, and they’re eating celery. We’re, like, “Gotcha, bitch.”

HSG: And on some level, they know that you’re more beautiful than they are. That’s what kills them.

LINDSEY: Honestly, for the most part, straight-size models, especially runway models, I think they’re hideous. I hate to say that, and I know that sounds rude. They’re very plain Jane. I don’t understand why the industry… They’re just so sunken in. And it’s not even the fact that they’re sunken in. Even if they were plus-size girls, that look is not beautiful.
      We need to get back to Cindy Crawford. That, to me, is beautiful. She’s glamorous. We need to get back to glamorous models.

HSG: Yes, I will agree with you in principle—however Cindy Crawford is nothing compared to you.

LINDSEY: Adriana Lima, she’s my girl crush.

HSG: I love the fact that for one of the FFFWeek designers, you were the first girl who was sent out on the runway.

LINDSEY: Oh, it was just because I was standing there.

Waking the runway for IGIGI in the final runway showcase at FFFWeek 2010; photograph by Richard Lew; click to enlarge

HSG: But that’s where you belong—in a position of primacy.
      Was the runway experience as you expected it would be, or was it different, and if so, why? Because I imagine that every young girl dreams of being a runway model after watching
Fashion Television and the like.

LINDSEY: I would say it was different.

HSG: How?

LINDSEY: I thought I was going to feel the way I felt before I went on the runway: I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. Behind the scenes, before I went, I was terrified. But when I got out there, I felt like, “This is my runway. I own this, and I’m ready to work it.” I thought I was going to be way more nervous on the runway and not feel as comfortable as I did. And I felt like I had been there a million times, and I loved every second of it.
      Between the designers, every time I was about to go out, I was terrified again. But when I got on that stage, and I posed my first pose, and I started walking, I thought, “I’m ready for this.”

HSG: You deserved it. Okay, I now have a crucial question to ask you: Would you ever betray the cause of size-celebration by appearing in a diet ad, or a weight-loss TV show, or some other media propaganda vehicle designed to make women feel bad about themselves and to trick then into diminishing to a smaller size?

LINDSEY: [pauses] I did an audition for a diet company—

HSG: Oh, no!

LINDSEY: —which I didn’t know it was, at that time. I actually got it. It was for a commercial.

The model allows this appalling idea to sink in for a moment, discomfiting the interview, before she adds an all-important qualifier.

LINDSEY: But I didn’t do it.

HSG: Oh, thank God.

LINDSEY: So, no. I like to celebrate the way I look. I don’t want to lose weight.

Modelling for Torrid; photograph by Michael Anthony Hermogeno; click to enlarge

HSG: No betrayal is worse than when a plus-size model shills for diet-starvation or exercise-torture profiteers. That is the cardinal sin of any plus-size model, because in doing so, she gives the power of her beauty to the enemy. The very idea is appalling: “Look at me selling this product.” Think of it! In doing so, she is promoting the very toxin that is going to take away a woman’s chance of looking like a full-figured goddess.

LINDSEY: And the truth is, this is my size. This is what my body is comfortable at. And I love it. I eat. I like food too much.

HSG: You do?

LINDSEY: I love food too much.

HSG: You really do?

LINDSEY: Are you kidding me? I love food. I love food.

HSG: [sighs]

LINDSEY: I love it. What’s not to love? Honestly, I’m a Southern girl. Half of my family’s in Alabama. When I was little, I used to go to Alabama every year for three months at a time. Every morning: pancakes, bacon, grits, biscuits, gravy, eggs. It’s what I’m used to. That’s what I love.
      My grandmother—God rest her soul. She passed away—but she made the best… I told you I like bread. I love carbs. I don’t eat them all the time, but I love carbs.

HSG: It’s the source of your beauty.

LINDSEY: She made—and my sister now makes—the best dressing in the world. I mean, it is just… It’s corn bread. It’s made of corn bread. Best dressing in the world. Oh, my God. And macaroni and cheese, homemade macaroni and cheese. I love food. How can you not love food?

Test photograph; click to enlarge

HSG: Lindsey, stop resisting. This is your body trying to persuade you to become more beautiful. [laughs] It’s your body telling you, “This is what I need to become the most gorgeous of all plus-size models.”
      The other key question that I must ask you—one which we have already obliquely addressed—is, would you ever diminish yourself because of industry pressure?

LINDSEY: Clearly I haven’t. I’ve been pressured for the past year and a half, and I haven’t.

HSG: And hasn’t it been more enjoyable this way?

LINDSEY: It has been, because you know what? I get to enjoy food. I get to enjoy carbs. And I love my sweets. I love ice cream.

HSG: How young were you when you first thought, “I should be a model”?

LINDSEY: Never. I didn’t ever think of it.

HSG: You didn’t? So how did your career begin?

LINDSEY: Someone approached me when I was a senior in high school, 17 or 18. My sister had tried out to be an extra for The Punisher, which was filmed in Tampa. And she took a bunch of pictures to an agency, and I was in one of them. They asked, “Who is this?” And my mom was with her. She said, “Oh, that’s my other daughter.” They said, “We want her to be in our plus-size division.”

HSG: Wonderful! This was for [name of Lindsey’s first agency]? How were they as agents?

LINDSEY: Awful. I hate them. They didn’t pay me all my money. They charged me more taxes than they gave me money. Awful. They’re awful people.

HSG: And then you did your first test shoot?

LINDSEY: I did, with Shawn Ray. Her took my very first test shoot.

Test photograph; click to enlarge

HSG: Those were lovely images. Do you remember a shot that you did where you are seen placing your hands in a fountain?

LINDSEY: I hate that picture! Oh, my God, I hate that picture.

HSG: But why?

LINDSEY: My hair! The headband. I hate that picture! I will tell you, though, I like the one where I’m in the red, and kind of—

HSG: Yes, but you looked great with that headband.

LINDSEY: I don’t know. Ugh!

HSG: It was original. I have never before seen a model doing that particular pose. You had your hands in the fountain, and you were smiling. You had your smile perfected from day one, by the way.

LINDSEY: I’m a happy person.

HSG: But serious looks took you longer to master.


HSG: Why do you think that has been the case?

LINDSEY: I think… I think I’m a very sexy woman, but I’ve always been… I think I’m the funniest person I know. I crack jokes all the time. I was a very free spirit. I’m not a very serious person, unless I know it’s time to be serious. I’ve never been that sexy, seductive… [Lindsey flashes a smouldering look.]

HSG: But you just were!

LINDSEY: Now I know how to do it. It took me time. I had to learn from other models. I literally had to practice in the mirror. But now I have it down. My sorority sisters will ask me all the time, “Lindsey, Lindsey, do the sexy face. Do the sexy face.” I’ll go, “Okay,” and I’ll do it for them. As soon as I shot with Michael Anthony in the desert, I think that’s when I really started to get it.

HSG: Your first job was for Aurora, right?

Lindsey in the 'New York Times'; click to enlarge

LINDSEY: No, my first job was for Dillard’s. And I had never been so excited in my life. When it came out, I was in St. Petersburg, Florida, staying with a bunch of girlfriends at my friend’s house, and I woke up at 8 in the morning to get the newspaper to see it. It was actually a prom dress as well. My hair was to the side. It was really pretty, and there was a bunch of pearls. Beautiful. But yes, that was actually Dillard’s. It was for the newspaper.

HSG: I don’t think I ever saw that.

LINDSEY: My very first photoshoot, and I was terrified. Terrified.

HSG: Why?

LINDSEY: Well, I was nervous that the dress wasn’t going to fit, because I didn’t know what size they wanted me to be or expected me to be.

HSG: What size were you at the time?

LINDSEY: A 16. But Aurora has been a great client. I love them. I love Cathi.

HSG: Had you ever had any formal training? Had you ever gone to a modelling school?


HSG: You just had a knack?

LINDSEY: That’s why it took me so long to get the sexy face down. I had to teach myself.

Test photograph by Michael Anthony Hermogeno; click to enlarge

HSG: And you did that in the mirror?

LINDSEY: Yes. You literally have to practice in the mirror.

HSG: Well, that’s not such an unpleasant task.

LINDSEY: It took me a while, though, because whenever I used to do kind of a sexy face, I would look just like a bitch.

HSG: [quietly] I like bitches.

LINDSEY: [laughs]

HSG: Let me qualify that. I like girls who seem like bitches, but who are actually very sweet. You have the best of both worlds, because you can perform bitchy without being one.

LINDSEY: Oh, I can get nasty [laughs]. No, but there was a while where it was awkward, where it was just a straight face. Then I was doing it too much, and I kind of looked—

HSG: Angry.

LINDSEY: Angry. I looked angry.

HSG: That’s what you don’t want to be doing.

LINDSEY: Yes, exactly, and Michael Anthony, when I shot with him, he said, “Lindsey, you look angry. You need to soften it up.” That was the shoot in the desert. And then I softened it up.

HSG: One of the high points of your career was surely your appearance in the New York Times.

LINDSEY: That was amazing.

HSG: However, they chose to run an odd photograph on the Web—the one showing you with a bag of frozen peas in your hand.

Lindsey in the 'New York Times'; click to enlarge

LINDSEY: There was so much controversy with that photo, with everyone saying, “Just because she’s a plus-size girl, why is she in the freezer section?” Blah, blah, blah. That had nothing to do with it. That never even crossed my mind. I was in the food section. It was the lighting, just the scene, everything.

HSG: But the other picture was very effective. They ran another picture where you were—

LINDSEY: I was holding the freezer door.

HSG: That was a gentler, dreamier image. That was the one that went into the print edition.

LINDSEY: And then there was another one with the coolers behind me.

HSG: Did you put any of those in your book?

LINDSEY: No, I couldn’t, because it was from a newspaper, and they didn’t send me any of the photos.

HSG: That’s interesting, because Anthony Higgins was discussing this very subject in one of yesterday’s seminars. He stated that even when it comes to jobs for K-Mart and the New York Times and so forth, those may constitute print work, but he won’t put the images in a model’s book.

LINDSEY: They don’t send you tears from that, and you can’t just cut out a tear from a newspaper.

HSG: You can’t do that?


HSG: That’s surprising. But still, you were in the New York Times.

LINDSEY: I know. And everyone around the world saw it.

In the editorial pages of 'Glamour' magazine; click to enlarge

HSG: You also recently appeared in Glamour.

LINDSEY: That was so much fun. That was the most professional photo shoot I’ve ever done in my life.

HSG: How so?

LINDSEY: They had two hairstylists. They had three makeup artists. They had a seamstress to sew things on us. They had a lady to do our nails—which, of course, I came with mine done, because I always do.

HSG: [admiring model’s hand] Are these your natural nails?

LINDSEY: No, I actually have acrylic over my real nails. I’ve done that since I was young. But it was the most professional photo shoot I’ve ever done in my life. Everything was top notch—hairstylist, everyone was top of the top.

Realizing that two hours have already passed, and not wanting Lindsey’s personal belonging to be left unattended backstage, we decide to call it an evening and to pick up where we left off in a forthcoming telephone interview. We proceed backstage to obtain the model’s considerable gear. Surprisingly, nearly everyone is already gone. As the model collects her copious luggage, the interviewer offers to assist her.

LINDSEY: Oh no, no, no. Please don’t. I got it. I’m a New York girl now. We’re used to this stuff.

HSG: To having lots of luggage?

LINDSEY: Oh, my gosh! Especially for photo shoots, they make us bring a bunch of stuff.

Modelling for Torrid; photograph by Michael Anthony Hermogeno; click to enlarge

HSG: What do they make you bring?


HSG: They make you bring shoes?

LINDSEY: They say, “Hey, bring your own shoes.” I used my own shoes tonight, except for one designer.

HSG: You used your own shoes at the fashion show? I’m surprised. I would have thought that the designers would have selected them for you.

LINDSEY: No, for a lot of the girls, the designers picked from among our own shoes. The only one that did their own shoes was IGIGI.

HSG: That’s interesting. How do you like living in New York as opposed to—?

LINDSEY: I love it.

HSG: You do?

LINDSEY: Yes. It’s amazing.

HSG: What do you like about it?

LINDSEY: I like that it’s fast-paced. I love the fast pace. I love everything about it.

We proceed to the hotel entrance, and while the interviewer hails a cab for the model, a horse-drawn carriage passes by.

HSG: Now, this would have been your most appropriate manner of travel. Pity that I didn’t think of it sooner. We could have conducted the entire interview in a horse-drawn carriage.

LINDSEY: And I’ve never ridden on one of those.

HSG: Perhaps someday.

LINDSEY: Heinrich, thank you so much.

HSG: It’s been my pleasure.

The interviewer offers the model a handshake, but she reciprocates with a warm embrace.

LINDSEY: This is from me and my mom. She said, “Make sure you give him a hug for me.”

HSG: Thank you.

LINDSEY: It was nice to meet you. Get home safe.

HSG: It was nice to meet you too. Take care. Goodbye.

* * *

The rest of the evening is spent in a somewhat inebriated state, less from the Chardonnay than from the memory of Lindsey’s heady presence. The interviewer drank deeply of beauty’s vintage during the encounter, but the intoxication will last long after the effects of the wine have passed, for Lindsey’s beauty is unforgettable.

Shortly after FFFWeek, we conducted a follow-up telephone chat with Miss Garbelman, the text of which appears in the second part of this interview. In this subsequent discussion, Lindsey relayed much more about her life experiences and her views on the most pressing plus-size topics of the day. She also recounted a harrowing tale of a violent crime that took place right in front of her, and how she watched the victim’s life blood draining away before her very eyes…

Be sure to read part two of our interview with Lindsey Garbelman to discover everything that you ever wished to know about one of the world’s most gorgeous plus-size models.

* * *

All FFFWeek runway images licensed from Mr. Richard Lew (www.richlew.com). No reproduction in any form is permitted without the express consent of the photographer.

Interview recorded June 19, 2010.

Lindsey Garbelman Galleries: One · Two

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