The aftermath of the final runway showcase at Full-Figured Fashion Week 2010 provided the setting for the first part of our interview with gorgeous plus-size model Lindsey Garbelman. However, owing to the sundry distractions of the evening—as well as a liberal dose of Chardonnay—that portion of the interview failed to cover even half of the questions that we wished to put to this stunning, size-16 goddess.
With that in mind, Lindsey kindly agreed to a second interview by telephone, the transcript of which appears below. In this installment, we find out much more about the brunette beauty. We are treated to a number of deeply personal revelations, and we learn of her passionately held opinions about some of the most pressing topics related to size celebration. We also hear about the terrifying events of a fateful day when she witnessed someone bleeding to death right before her eyes…
HSG: Hello, Lindsey. How are you?
LINDSEY: I’m great. I just finished building some IKEA furniture, which was so exciting.
HSG: You lead such a glamorous lifestyle.
LINDSEY: Oh, I know, very glamorous.
HSG: Have you recovered from the excitement of Full-Figured Fashion Week?
LINDSEY: I have definitely recovered.
HSG: I suppose building IKEA furniture brings you back down to earth.
LINDSEY: It brings you right back to reality.
HSG: Supermodel one day, furniture assembler the next.
LINDSEY: Hardly supermodel, but thank you. IKEA is the most annoying thing in the world. [laughs] I’m just glad, finally, after a year and a half of living in New York, I actually have bedroom furniture.
HSG: What were you sleeping on till now? A mattress on the floor?
LINDSEY: No, I have a bed, and I have a desk. I have a rolling rack with my clothes on it, because my closet is ridiculous, and my room is pretty big. But my pajamas and bathing suits and all that kind of stuff, they’re still in suitcases on my floor.
HSG: Oh, really?
LINDSEY: But not after today. But when I first moved here, I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. A borrowed mattress on the floor.
HSG: That’s like something out of a movie: a young girl alone in New York, terrified and homesick. She can’t sleep at night because the sirens are wailing. I always wonder how anyone can ever get a good night’s rest in the city.
LINDSEY: Luckily, in Astoria it’s not as loud.
HSG: I listened to the audio of our chat at Full-Figured Fashion Week, and it was a very entertaining conversation. One could identify the exact point at which point the wine started to influence the discussion! But continuing where we left off, what was the casting scenario like for Full-Figured Fashion Week?
LINDSEY: You have to submit your pictures, and they let you know if you’re selected to attend the casting. The casting process was at a dance studio. You just walked in, and there were two people who watched you walk. Then they took all your information and said, “We’ll get back to you when we know something.”
HSG: Do you remember who was doing the casting?
LINDSEY: It was Sharon and someone. I don’t remember who else was there.
HSG: Ah, yes, Sharon Quinn being the casting director. And she didn’t say anything at the time? She didn’t say either, “Way to go,” or perhaps, “Get off my stage”?
LINDSEY: No. She did say, right before I walked out,”Oh, my God. You are gorgeous.” So I said, “Thanks.” I was excited about that.
HSG: Were there any rehearsals for Full-Figured Fashion Week, or was it just a case of, “Go to the casting sessions, get selected, and then arrive on the show date”?
LINDSEY: I actually couldn’t make it to any of the fittings, because I had to work.
HSG: Ah, so there were some fitting sessions?
LINDSEY: Yes. But it’s not like we ever practiced the runway.
HSG: I was wondering about that, because there was a bit of business at the beginning of the show where a model rolled down the runway in a bubble, and at the end, she couldn’t get out of it. She was trapped. I said to someone sitting beside me, “I hope there’s enough oxygen for her in there!”
LINDSEY: [laughs] Yeah. Because I was in the first show, I thought that they were doing the first show, and then I looked through the crack, and I saw this girl on a bubble. I thought, “What is going on?”
HSG: That’s not very helpful.
LINDSEY: No. It wasn’t very helpful. But they apologized, and I ended up doing my fittings the day of the show.
HSG: Do you have any advice for other models as to what to do, or what not to do, either at a runway casting or on the runway itself?
LINDSEY: Well, when you go to a casting for a runway show, wear heels that you’re comfortable in. Because I did not do that. [laughs] And on the runway, as I told you, I was so nervous before I did it. But you just have to act like it’s your own, you’re the only person there, everyone’s there just to see you. I was just so excited. And when I finally got on the runway, I thought, “I got this. I got this.”
HSG: How did you feel about your four looks at Full-Figured Fashion Week? First, let’s talk about your Pheline dress.
LINDSEY: I thought it was great. I don’t think it’s something that… That particular dress, I wouldn’t wear in everyday life. But the way she made everything was phenomenal, phenomenal. It was just amazing. I loved her. And she was so sweet. The designer was amazing.
HSG: For Lotis, you wore the suit. What was your impression of that outfit?
LINDSEY: I love their stuff. It was kind of unfortunate, because their stuff was a little big on me, so I didn’t feel like it looked as good as it could have. But we had to work with what we had, because I wasn’t able to go to the fitting.
HSG: And for K. Renee, you looked great in that outfit, but what were you actually wearing? It was a light-blue colored—
LINDSEY: —jumper kind of thing.
HSG: Or a pajama. What was that? Do you know?
LINDSEY: It was an outfit. I don’t know. I kind of felt like a genie.
HSG: [laughs] It was pretty interesting. Was it day wear, or—?
LINDSEY: Well, they didn’t exactly say, “You would wear it in this scenario.” So I’m not very sure. I think it was just an everyday look. And that was definitely one of the harder outfits for me to walk in, because the jacket was so ginormous, and it was going over my hands.
HSG: And finally, IGIGI. That was the one with the beret.
LINDSEY: I wouldn’t personally wear the beret, but the outfit, I loved. I would buy that outfit tomorrow. I loved that dress. It was just amazing.
HSG: What are the advantages of having an all-plus-size-model runway show, as opposed to one in which the full-figured girls are interspersed with the androgynous cadavers?
LINDSEY: Look at “regular” fashion week. They don’t have any plus-size girls there, because they don’t make anything for our bodies. And the thing is, with Full-Figured Fashion Week, those designers make plus-size stuff.
HSG: Do you think that full-figured girls feel more liberated being among other curvy girls, freer for not having to endure any comparisons with the skinny models? Is there a sense of empowerment because it’s a waif-free environment?
LINDSEY: [AUDIO] I agree. I really do. And it’s funny, because I say this all the time: I’ve met straight-size models. Some of them are nice and whatever. But the thing is, with the plus-size girls… There were a few divas, I will be the first to admit that. But as a whole, everyone is so… With straight-size models, they’re all in competition. Whereas plus-size models, I feel are more… We support each other. And it has to do with the fact that we’re happy, because we’re not starving ourselves.
HSG: It does help, doesn’t it? It seemed like everyone with whom I spoke at the event was comfortable saying things like, “I love to eat.” They would actually say that. They didn’t feel the need to justify or excuse themselves by saying, “No, no. I’m trying to lose weight.” They felt free about being plus-size; they were comfortable embracing their identity as full-figured women rather than being ashamed of it.
LINDSEY: I agree. I completely agree. We love our curves.
HSG: Oh, and I was very impressed with Richard Lew’s runway pictures from Full-Figured Fashion Week. He used such a strong flash. He made you look so fair.
LINDSEY: Well, usually I’m a bit darker, but I do not ever tan ever my face. Ever.
HSG: Oh, good. Good.
LINDSEY: Ever. Because I don’t want wrinkles. And it’s just bad for your face. I don’t want to get skin cancer and have to get it removed off my face, so I just don’t ever tan.
HSG: I also have you on record admitting that your face looks prettier when you’re curvier.
LINDSEY: I still believe that, regardless if I’ve had a glass of wine or not.
LINDSEY: Honestly, I will tell you the truth, I look at pictures and my face is… It’s just something about it at a size 16, my face, I think it’s more attractive. I really do.
HSG: Also, the extra weight preserves the look of youth. As girls get older, their face unfortunately thins out, so the fuller face brings back the freshness of youth.
LINDSEY: That was my first photo shoot. I was the same size as I am right now, but my face was fuller because I was younger.
HSG: Your debut with Aurora Formals was unforgettable for that very reason. You weren’t with a major agency at the time, but I had to include you on the site because of your gorgeous look.
LINDSEY: Thank you so much.
HSG: I took a chance, because sometimes, a model will do one shoot and then vanish. I was hoping that you would continue with it.
LINDSEY: Thank goodness that I did. It’s been great. And the past four years have been consistent.
HSG: I’m glad you entered the industry at such a young age, because it sorely needs an injection of youth. In fact, let me ask you about that. Do you agree that the industry too often retains “mature” models at the expense of younger talent? Because the minus-size industry has new, youthful talent entering all the time.
LINDSEY: I agree, and the thing that I have been very fortunate about is that I’m 24 years old and I can still look young enough to do prom stuff.
LINDSEY: I definitely feel like I can shoot younger than I am, which I feel very lucky about.
HSG: That’s because of your round face, that cute fullness in the face.
LINDSEY: Yes. Honestly, it just depends on the client, but in some ways, I’d rather do photo shoots where I have to do my own hair and makeup.
HSG: Oh, really? Why is that?
LINDSEY: I like the way I do my makeup. I’m very, very picky, which is bad. I would say, out of all the years I’ve been doing this—and clearly I’ve had countless makeup artists—I’ve probably have three or four that I’ve actually liked the way they did my makeup.
HSG: What’s an example of a makeup mistake that you’ve suffered? What’s your worst makeup experience?
LINDSEY: I hate airbrushing. I hate when they airbrush my foundation on. I think it looks clumpy. And it’s not any one person. Anytime anyone has ever done airbrushing on me, I haven’t liked it.
HSG: Is that a common practice?
LINDSEY: Yes, they do that a lot.
HSG: What about hair? Is there a particular hairstyle that you would like to avoid at all costs?
LINDSEY: I hate when I don’t have a part in my hair. I’ve had people who will put my hair in a ponytail or something, and they’ll just flip all my hair back. I think that looks stupid.
HSG: Although I don’t recall you having a part in your hair at Full-Figured Fashion Week.
LINDSEY: No, but that’s different, because it had the little poof. But when it’s just slicked back to my head… Whether they put it in a bun or whatever, I would rather have a part. I liked the little poof.
HSG: Yes, I did as well. For the ponytail, I thought the volume really helped.
LINDSEY: Showroom is where you try on clothes that clients are kind of iffy about, if they’re not sure how it would look. They want to see if it would look good on a plus-size girl.
HSG: What’s that experience like? Is it something that you do just to pay the bills?
LINDSEY: No. I love doing that.
HSG: You love doing that? What do you enjoy about it?
LINDSEY: It pays well. Showroom pays well, so that’s good. But also I get to meet people from all different countries and businesses. When I did DKNY, Bloomingdales reps came, and Macy’s reps, and reps from this country and that country. And it was just very cool. And I get to learn another aspect of the business. I get to learn how they sell the clothes to businesses, to Bloomingdales, and all that, and I get to learn the lingo. So it’s cool. It’s another aspect of the fashion industry that I get to learn, that if one day I stop modelling, I could possibly go into.
HSG: And you enjoy fit modelling for a similar reason, yes?
LINDSEY: I work for an amazing company, American Rag. They do straight-size clothes. They actually just came out in stores with plus-size, which I’ve been working on with them, along with another model. We’ve both been doing fit for them. And we give them our feedback. We tell them, this would look better on a plus-size girl if it hits here, if it hits there. And it’s not because, “Oh, this is what’s going to make us look the thinnest.” It’s because this is what’s going to be the most flattering for our bodies and our curves. And they listen to us. American Rag is going to have some great stuff coming out. Great stuff.
HSG: What has been your favorite shoot so far, or your favorite image?
LINDSEY: My photo shoot with Michael Anthony Hermogeno from L.A., where I’m in a black-and-white dress. Those are probably my favorite pictures, because I feel like that’s when I really started to learn how to control my face and do more sexy stuff.
HSG: You’re signed with multiple agencies. Are there significant differences between agencies in terms of how professional they are, how much of a percentage they take, how much work they get you?
LINDSEY: Not with money and stuff like that, with percentages. But where you live is where you’re going to get more work. So because I live in New York, my New York agency gets me the most work.
HSG: What would your dream photo shoot be like, in terms of setting, theme, wardrobe, etc.?
LINDSEY: Oh, wow. I have never thought of that, actually. It’s just so hard, because I am in the plus-size industry, and most of the stuff that we do is very commercial. But I would love to do a photo shoot with some male models, and just show how sexy plus-size women are. I think that would be so much fun, to really show people that we are sexy and we love our curves.
HSG: Have you ever travelled to any exotic locations in your modelling career?
LINDSEY: Not out of the country, no. Oh, my God, I would die if I got a photo shoot out of the country.
HSG: What would be your dream destination?
HSG: Australia? Why is that?
LINDSEY: Regardless if it’s for a photo shoot or not, that’s just one of the places I want to go before I die. And I think that would be so sick, to do a photo shoot there.
HSG: [laughs] ”Sick” being slang for “good.” Yes, I’m sure it would be. You’re the daring type. I can see a water-based theme, perhaps a shoot in the Great Barrier Reef, swimming with the sharks.
LINDSEY: Oh, gosh. I would be a little scared of the great whites, but…
HSG: In your shoots for Aurora Formals, has it always been the same photographer, or does Cathi change shooters?
LINDSEY: She’s changed a few times from the beginning.
HSG: I thought the fellow who shot you with Kelsey was probably the best from a technical standpoint. I also really loved the way that they did your hair for that session.
LINDSEY: Yeah, I loved that shoot as well. And I loved working with Kelsey. We just laughed the whole time.
HSG: Oh, I know. Your outtakes were good as the published pictures. You created many fun, comical photos, as well as the seriously alluring images.
LINDSEY: Yeah, we were just being goofy.
HSG: Let’s move on to the “All About You” section of the interview. How would you describe your personality?
LINDSEY: My personality? I’m very outgoing, and I think I’m the funniest person I know. I like to crack jokes.
HSG: What books or movies do you enjoy?
LINDSEY: I’m obsessed with Nora Roberts. I love her mystery novels. Nora Roberts is my favorite author. I also love Chelsea Handler. I read all her books, because I think she’s hilarious, because I’m a very sarcastic person, so I love her sarcasm. And she’s very witty. Movies, my all time favorite movie is Pretty Woman, which is kind of funny because it’s about a hooker. But I love Julia Roberts. She’s probably my favorite actress. So Pretty Woman. But I love all movies. I love comedies. I just don’t like scary movies. I do not watch scary movies.
HSG: Not a horror fan? Even though you’re so fearless, you don’t like horror. Any particular reason?
LINDSEY: Because I still think that the girl from The Ring is chasing me up my stairs every time I walk up.
HSG: Ringu is an authentically disturbing film! I’m not sure whether you saw the American version or the Japanese version, but a friend of mine showed me the Japanese original, and I have to admit that it was rather unnerving.
LINDSEY: It was terrifying. I was not down with that movie. I just don’t like scary movies. When I was little, it’s weird, because I loved scary movies. When I was little, I probably saw The Exorcist four or five times. Now I wouldn’t watch it even if you paid me to.
HSG: Why is that?
LINDSEY: I have no idea. I just don’t like it. [AUDIO] I feel like The Exorcist is one of the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, because it’s based on a true story, but it was with a guy. Because me and my mom, when I was little, watched… I think maybe that’s what it was. Me and my mom watched a documentary on the true story behind The Exorcist. And I didn’t know when I first watched the movie that it was based on a true story. So then, when I watched this documentary, and it was about a young boy, I thought, “Never again.” I guess that’s probably why.
HSG: What’s your own fashion style? What do you like to wear on your own time?
LINDSEY: I am a very classic dresser. That’s exactly how I put it. I rarely buy trendy things, because they go out of style so fast. I like classic things more, because I can wear them for years. I like wearing little sun dresses, but I really like to wear tube tops, jeans, and heels. Nothing too crazy.
HSG: Where do you like to shop? I know you said INC…
LINDSEY: Macy’s INC.
HSG: Right, you called yourself an “INC whore.” Have you ever bought anything that you’ve modelled?
LINDSEY: Yes, I have. I did a thing for Macy’s, actually. It was for Clinton Kelly, where he would style us. And I bought one of the outfits that I wore. I literally took it off and took it to the register.
HSG: What manner of job was that?
LINDSEY: It was a little runway thing we did at Macy’s in Naples [Florida].
HSG: I believe your mother told me about that, and I kept encouraging her to get someone to video it. But I suppose that never worked out.
LINDSEY: Nobody went, because it was so far. Naples is three hours away.
HSG: That’s pretty far. Still closer than a plane ride to California, though.
LINDSEY: That’s true. I don’t know what it is from Toronto, but it’s five-and-a-half hours from New York to California.
HSG: It’s about the same length of time from Toronto, if you take a direct flight. But if you take a connection, there’s always the danger that it’s not going to connect, or that it’s going to be delayed.
LINDSEY: When I went to San Diego for vacation, I just slept in the Philadelphia airport, so trust me, I know.
HSG: Slept in the airport? That’s awful.
LINDSEY: I flew U.S. Airways from New York to Philadelphia. My fight was delayed. By the time it finally took off and we landed, I had 15 minutes until my other flight was supposed to leave. I told the woman at the gate, “I have a connection flight to San Diego; this is the plane.” She’s said, “Let me call them.” I said, “Make sure they know I’m coming.”
LINDSEY: I’m a plus-size girl. We don’t run. I literally ran across the airport. Then I had to take a bus to the other terminal. I had to wait and take a bus. Take a bus. I had my little suitcase behind me. I am running. And of course, it’s the last gate. I got there: three minutes late. My flight was supposed to leave at 5:45. It was 5:48. And I had her call.
HSG: For heaven’s sake.
LINDSEY: I said, “Oh, you guys are going to pay for my hotel room.” She said, “No. It was air-traffic control’s fault. No airline would pay for your hotel.” And I was just so mad. I said, “You know what? Forget this.” So I went to the bar, had some beers, and slept in the airport.
HSG: Well, that doesn’t sound too bad, but it’s still very annoying. I guess the moral of the story is either don’t fly U.S. Airways, or always get a direct flight.
LINDSEY: They were so rude to me. I will never fly U.S. Airways again, ever, and I will never have a connecting flight, because that’s the second time in Philadelphia that exact situation happened to me. But the first time it happened, my other flight was delayed as well. That’s the only reason I didn’t miss it.
HSG: It sounds like Philadelphia is the black hole of airports, where flights go to die. That’s good to know. Travelling in Europe is so much easier because you can get anywhere by high-speed rail.
LINDSEY: I’ve actually never been to Europe, so I would love to go one day.
HSG: You’ve been much celebrated for your prom campaigns. Did your high school have a prom, and if so, did you attend?
LINDSEY: I did, in my junior and senior year.
HSG: And where did you get your gowns? Did you obtain them from a plus-size promwear outlet?
LINDSEY: Actually, the first time, my junior year, I wore a Jessica McClintock dress. And the second year, because it was the first time I had worked for Aurora Formals, they gave me a dress to wear.
HSG: That was a nice gesture. How did you end up going to two proms? Is that something that happens in the U.S.?
LINDSEY: That’s how it is where I’m from. Juniors and seniors go to prom.
HSG: Do you think that modelling has boosted your self-confidence?
LINDSEY: One hundred percent. Definitely. I’ve always been a heavyset girl, ever since I was in the third grade. And when I was younger… You know, you get teased. I didn’t get teased all the time. I was always friends with everybody. It was in middle school. And still to this day, people will say stuff to me.
HSG: [astonished] Really?
LINDSEY: Oh, God, yes. It’s very rare, very rare, but people will still say comments about my weight, and I just think, “Well, I like the way I look, so whatever.” It doesn’t bug me. But I’m the type of person, though, that I’d rather someone say something to me, or about me, than say something about one of my friends, because then I just lose it. I’m very defensive when it comes to my friends and my family.
HSG: That’s a very good point. I’m genuinely surprised, though. I can’t picture you as ever being a target, because I remember the girls who used to be picked on in school, and they were never the attractive girls. They were bullied less for their weight per se than for their simple lack of attractiveness and unsociability.
LINDSEY: Well, when I was younger, I had some awkward moments. [laughs] I was very tomboy when I was younger. Until I was in the eighth grade. Because my grandma, God rest her soul, she took me shopping at Lane Bryant when I was in eighth grade, and I bought real clothes. Anytime before that, when I was younger, I had cute little clothes, but when I was in fifth, sixth, seventh grade, I didn’t know myself. I was very uncomfortable, very awkward. I wore Addidas shorts and a white t-shirt and tennis shoes to school. I used to wear boy’s clothes. And I had really short hair, because I used to get bad migraines because my hair was so thick.
HSG: You told me that. That’s right.
LINDSEY: I had really short hair when I was in middle school. I had braces. So it was a very awkward time for me. I got my braces off the day before I started eighth grade. And then my grandma took me shopping. I started wearing makeup. Everything clicked into place, and I started becoming the woman I am now.
HSG: That’s a powerful story. I don’t wish your hard times on any other girls, but if they do face such challenges, then I hope that reading about your experiences will help them grow into themselves and develop self-esteem as well.
LINDSEY: The way I see it, though, people making fun of me and people saying stuff like that has made the person I am today.
HSG: That’s true. Okay, now on to the big question: why does the media resist plus-size beauty?
LINDSEY: [pauses] Because they are scared of it.
HSG: Because they are scared of it?
LINDSEY: Yes. [AUDIO] People hate change, and they are very resistant to change, and straight-size models have been around for so long, and that’s what it’s always been. And now plus-size is getting more notice, and we’re getting a little more popular, and I feel like they’re resisting because they don’t like change. And some of them, just because they’re bougie assholes. Can I say that?
HSG: What’s that word? You’ve used that word before.
HSG: How do you spell that?
LINDSEY: I have no idea how to spell bougie. I have no idea.
HSG: I’ve never heard that word before. Is it a New York term or a Lindsey term?
LINDSEY: No. Me and my friends used to say it in Florida. I have friends in New York, and I always call them bougie too. Everything has to be really nice, everything has to be designer, and you’re just a little full of yourself. I guess that’s the best way to describe it. It’s hard to describe, but if you’re bougie, you like thing with big price tags, and you’re a little full of yourself.
HSG: And this mentality is part of the reason why the media resists plus-size beauty? They consider it an indication of class or wealth?
LINDSEY: I wouldn’t even say wealth. Like Gwen DeVoe said, plus-size women, we’re willing to spend more money. If Louis Vuitton or Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana, if any of those designers came out with plus-size clothes, I would save up my paychecks for months to buy something.
HSG: You do think so?
LINDSEY: Oh, my gosh, yes.
HSG: What gives you that indication?
LINDSEY: Well, look at all the magazines. Glamour, you know, always does stuff on plus now, always uses plus-size models. My roommate works for Elle magazine, and they’re starting to slowly do some plus-size stuff. They’re talking about Gabourey Sidibe. My roommate had to go and find her an outfit. So I feel that magazines… Because I feel that that’s what people base stuff on.
HSG: Yes, that commercial was beautifully filmed.
LINDSEY: It was amazing. It was just as sexy or sexier than a Victoria’s… Because I think that Victoria’s Secret, it’s sexy, but it’s a little raunchy. I thought that ad for Lane Bryant, for their lingerie, was so just sexy.
HSG: And it featured a size-16 model.
HSG: But you mentioned Glamour. Isn’t it a shame that when Glamour uses “plus-size models,” the plus-size models whom they do use are so thin that—as one Web site recently joked—-unless you’re told which model is the plus-size model, you can’t identify her?
LINDSEY: I completely agree. And it’s funny, because when they printed the issue with all of the naked plus-size models, (that’s the issue I was in too,) besides Ashley Graham, the rest of them are a size 10 or smaller. They can’t shop at plus-size stores. I don’t know if you saw this or not, but they were all on Ellen. And it really made me mad, because these girls all got their start as plus-size models. And now they’re trying to say,”We don’t want to be called plus-size anymore. We just want to be called regular size.”
HSG: [groans] I know.
LINDSEY: I thought, “Did you really just say that? Really? Because you got your start being a plus-size model, and now you’re trying to turn your back on it?” That was a little disappointing.
HSG: Disappointing is an understatement. Here’s a related question: Plus-size models appear to be getting more editorial work, but this is going to girls who are the least plus-looking. Is plus-size modelling diminishing the size of its girls in a slavish attempt to be more like straight-size modelling and to be more tolerable to an industry that is contemptuous of full-figured girls?
LINDSEY: It almost makes me laugh, because when it comes to the plus-size industry, I’m on the bigger side of plus size. But when I go into a plus-size store, I’m the smallest size. So it makes no sense to me. It’s absurd that people model for plus-size who can’t even fit in the clothes. If you can’t walk into a plus-size store, then why are you a plus-size model?
HSG: And if you yourself feel that way at a mere size 16, imagine what the standard size-22 Lane Bryant shopper feels like. She’s thinking what you’re thinking, except times ten. She would barely even be represented by you, let alone by those skinny faux-plus models who are being passed off as plus size.
LINDSEY: When I go into Macy’s, the seventh floor, half the floor is just plus-size stuff, which is great. The Macy’s in Herald Square is amazing. They have so many options for plus-size women, it’s great. But if you go into Macy’s, on the plus-size floor with the plus-size clothes, they have pictures of straight-size girls. And that makes me so mad. It angers me that they have posters of straight-size women in the plus-size section. It doesn’t even make sense. Like you said, I’m on the smaller size of the plus-size section in Macy’s. I wear the smaller clothes. How does a woman who’s a size 24 feel?
HSG: The mentality seems to be, “We’ll take your money, but we don’t want to have to look at you.”
LINDSEY: Exactly. And I love Macy’s, I really do. I work for Macy’s. I think they’re amazing. But they need to get on top of that.
HSG: Do you think that glamorous, fashionable images of plus-size models can undo the damage that images of underweight models do to women’s self-esteem?
LINDSEY: I honestly do. [AUDIO] If you can show society, America, that “Look at this woman, how beautiful she is, and how sexy she is, and she’s a full-figured girl”—if you can show them that that’s sexy and beautiful, then maybe it will start doing the opposite, whereas they think, “Oh, you know what? That really skinny woman? She’s not cute. She’s not that pretty. She looks unhealthy.” If you can show people that a beautiful woman who’s plus-size, if you could show them that image, then yeah, I definitely think that that can change their point of view.
HSG: That’s a very optimistic attitude. I hope you’re right. I asked Kelsey the same question, but her answer was more pessimistic. She said that it wouldn’t have a significant effect because there’s so much else out there that’s contradicting it.
LINDSEY: When it comes to stuff like this, I’m very optimistic. Okay, look at Kelsey. She’s gorgeous. We both know that. I would much rather look at pictures of her than any of those… Because she’s got such a great smile, and she also can be so sexy. The picture of her in the red bathing suit, where she’s in the shower, or where she’s lying on the… Oh, my God, I thought, “Get it girl. You look sexy.” Then you see these girls, they weigh 92 pounds, and I would much rather look at Kelsey, because I think she’s gorgeous, and she fills out that bathing suit, whereas the other ones, it’s awkward.
HSG: In that case, since plus-size customers do prefer seeing fuller-figured models, why does the industry resort to the size 8s and 10s and call them plus-size?
LINDSEY: [AUDIO] I don’t know. I don’t know who’s putting it in their heads that they need to use smaller girls. I don’t know. It makes me mad, though. It really does. It makes me mad to see those pictures. And I’m not saying that girls who are size 10s or 12s or whatever aren’t beautiful. But it’s just one of those things where, if you’re going to be plus-size, if you’re going to be a plus-size model, be plus-size. If they want to start a whole new industry of a size 6 to a 10 or 12, or whatever, go for it. But don’t consider that plus-size.
HSG: Yes, because the tragedy is, if you call that “plus size,” then that absolutely excludes everyone above that.
HSG: If the minus-size category (which is by definition the lowest parameter) goes up to a 4, and plus-size (which is by definition the upper parameter), is reframed as being a mere 6 to a 10, then that excludes every woman with actual curves, which is to say, the vast majority of women. That’s unconscionable.
LINDSEY: You know what’s funny? I am a real woman. I’m not fake. [laughs]
HSG: But how do you feel about this approach?
LINDSEY: I understand where they’re coming from, but in a way, I think it’s kind of silly, because I’m a real woman. I do real-woman stuff every day. I build furniture. I cook dinner, do laundry. The difference is, when it comes to commercials or photo shoots and stuff like that, I know what to do. That’s the difference. But I am a real woman. Surprise! [laughs]
HSG: This approach goes from opposing minus-size beauty to opposing all beauty. In other words, they’re not just throwing out the minus-size aesthetic, they’re throwing out any kind of aesthetic, any view of glamour. Thus, they deliberately seek women of the “plain Jane” variety.
LINDSEY: Yeah, that is. I didn’t even think of it from that aspect.
HSG: It has an undertone of resentment and resignation, implying that “Beauty is theirs as opposed to ours.” Consider, as a hypothetical case, a young, impressionable girl who, on the one hand, sees a glamorous, airbrushed Guess ad, and on the other hand, sees a deliberately homely-looking “real woman” ad with a curvy model, and thinks, “Oh, that’s all I deserve? My skinny friends get high-fashion glamour, and I’m stuck with plain reality?”
LINDSEY: Now I see where you’re coming from. I agree. See, now I get exactly what you’re talking about. Because it’s like, “Oh, wow, that curvy ‘real’ woman, that’s not very attractive,” or “I can look up to this gorgeous woman who’s airbrushed, who’s a size 2.”
HSG: Exactly. Why doesn’t the curvier woman deserve fantasy, a glamorous look, glamorous photography? To combat the underweight aesthetic, isn’t it preferable to feature a picture of you, rather than a woman who was deliberately chosen not to look beautiful?
LINDSEY: I agree. It would be fine if they did that and there was other stuff in the media with beautiful, curvy women who are all glammed up. [AUDIO] I completely understand where you’re coming from, as in, there are no images like that out there, or not as many, and then you see this homely-looking woman, and they think, “Oh, that’s what plus-size women look like.”
HSG: It’s the same false binary that exists in Hollywood, which goes from pretty-faced actresses who are a skeletal ize 2 or 4, to Camryn Manheim. Where are the actresses who are the aesthetic equivalent of plus-size models? Where are the actresses who are the equivalent of you, or Kelsey, or someone like that? They don’t exist. The roles are either written for “hot, young ingénues” who are a size 2, or matronly characters. It’s as if plus-size beauty doesn’t exist. It’s deliberately suppressed.
LINDSEY: Heinrich, I’m going to have to start acting now.
HSG: Have you ever thought about that?
LINDSEY: I would actually really like to do that. I think that would be so much fun. I did it in high school. I took drama all four years in high school. I was in some plays, and it was fun. I loved it.
HSG: Well, if anyone could introduce the industry to the concept of the plus-size ingénue, it would be you.
LINDSEY: Thank you. I think that would be so much fun. And I have thought about it. When I first started modelling, I went up for a role in some TV show in L.A., and I got past all the casting directors, I got past everybody, and it came down to between me and this girl who was in SAG, and I didn’t get it. But you never see plus-size girls in TV shows or movies or anything. Very rarely, unless they’re homely-looking girls who are working at a diner.
HSG: And America isn’t like that. If you walk into any shopping mall, you see plenty of attractive, fashionable curvy girls. They exist. That’s reality.
LINDSEY: I’m telling you, they’re scared of change. And eventually, if we keep pushing the envelope, then someday they’ll have to admit, “You know what? That is beautiful.”
HSG: Well, Full-Figured Fashion Week is definitely a step in the right direction.
LINDSEY: Not only is the exposure amazing, it’s a good time. And honestly, this is history that’s being made. This is history. Eventually, this is going to be just as big as fashion week. I honestly believe that. History is being made, which I think is amazing. And I’m a part of it.
HSG: A crucial part, in fact.
LINDSEY: I’m so optimistic about this. I think the way things are going right now, I think it’s getting better. And honestly, even with photo shoots and stuff like that, I’m twenty times busier now than when I was a 10/12. So I’m hoping it keeps going in that direction. I’m sure there are always going to be companies that prefer 10/12s and what not, but hopefully they’ll start using a 10/12 and a 16/18 in the same shoot, or something. Even if we could get to that point, that would be great.
HSG: On a different note, what’s this about someone getting stabbed right in front of you?
LINDSEY: My gosh. I was at work. [AUDIO] I start work at 5. I walked downstairs to get some napkins or ice or something. I walked back upstairs. I hear this guy saying something. I wasn’t really paying attention. And I hear something hit the floor. It sounded like someone threw up. And I looked around the corner. And this guy got stabbed in the neck. And it literally went like… I mean, it was like a movie. There was so much blood. He said, “Call 911.” And he was a regular. I knew him. I’ve had tons of conversations with him. And our bartender asked, “Why do I need to call 911?” And he moved his hand, and the blood just starts spurting out.
HSG: You were that close to actually watching someone die.
LINDSEY: The knife went all the way through. It was an inch from coming all the way out, going in and coming out the back of his neck. It was terrible. He literally almost died, and there was blood everywhere, and our bartender had blood all over her, and she was in the back there, freaking out, trying to wash it off. The whole situation was just awful.
HSG: And how long ago did this happen?
LINDSEY: Three months ago.
HSG: Are you okay now?
LINDSEY: Yeah, now I’m fine. I still would prefer not to see that guy, because it brings back all that at once, but I’m fine now. I had a couple of nightmares about it, but I’m fine now. I don’t ever really think about it.
HSG: No wonder you don’t want to watch horror films. You experienced one in real life.
LINDSEY: Oh, yeah. It was literally like a movie. It felt like a movie. Thank God for the police, because by the time I went back and came back out, they were already there. They were already running inside. It was literally a minute and a half.
HSG: Wow. New York has such a reputation for crime and danger, but the few times that I’ve been there, I haven’t seen anything like that.
LINDSEY: And where I work is not even like that. It’s not a bad part. It was random.
HSG: Well, stay safe. Please.
LINDSEY: [AUDIO] I guess it still kind of does affect me, because there will be moments at work when I’m there, and I’m sitting there, and everything is just so calm, and especially if I’m not busy, I’ll just get this really anxious feeling: “Oh, my God, I don’t want it to happen again.” It makes me nervous. Especially on Mondays, because it happened on a Monday. It’s just, “It’s so calm and peaceful. It shouldn’t be like this. Something bad is going to happen.” I guess that’s the only thing I really have from that experience.
HSG: Does being alone in New York ever bother you? Or did it bother you at the beginning, being there alone without—?
LINDSEY: Not at all. There has never been one time I’ve ever felt threatened here, ever. There are people who have made me feel uncomfortable, but not that I was scared of, not that I thought, “Oh, my God, something might happen to me.” I’ve never felt threatened here, ever. But I’m a very conscious person of my surroundings. I always know who’s around me. I make myself very aware. But no, I’ve never felt threatened or nervous or any of that kind of stuff.
HSG: Interesting. Even though, as a model, you are in a profession that requires you to dress in a feminine manner, to be girly, and so forth, there are challenges to the job. You have to navigate your way through unfamiliar cities. You find yourself in difficult situations. Maybe it requires a certain fortitude, and that keeps out more tender-hearted girls.
LINDSEY: You could definitely say that, because even when I go to Chicago, I have to get on the plane at 6:00 A.M. Get there. Then I have to walk to the airport, which is ginormous.
HSG: Yes, the Chicago airport is a monstrosity.
LINDSEY: [AUDIO] Then I go to O’Hare. Then I actually have to take the subway. I have to take the train to a stop, and then I can either wait for a bus, or I can take a cab to the photo shoot. Because I have to be in Chicago by 7:30 A.M. their time, so if my photo shoot call time isn’t till 1:30, I’m not going to go sit in the studio for five hours and wait, so I’ll go into the city and walk around.
HSG: Did your mother ever accompany you on shoots early on, when you were younger?
LINDSEY: No. She once took me, but my mom has never watched me actually do a photo shoot. I’ve never had anyone watch me do a photo shoot, aside from the ones who were working on it.
HSG: Is that generally the way the photographers prefer it, or is that your own preference?
LINDSEY: I’ve never invited one of my friends, “Hey, come watch me,” just out of respect for clients and my personal preference.
At this point we discuss the passing of a close friend and former client of Lindsey’s, who died under tragic circumstances.
HSG: You know, you’ve had a fair bit of tragedy surrounding you.
LINDSEY: There’s a lot of tragedy surrounding me. I have a very young family, so I’ve known all of my great-grandparents, which I thank God for every day, but I’ve also had to watch all of them except for one die. I still have one great-grandmother left.
HSG: I’m sorry. But you’re blessed to have known them at all.
LINDSEY: [AUDIO] Yes. I am blessed, but it definitely has been very hard. I lost a really… It was actually one of my teachers in high school, but we became really good friends. I would hang out with him. Even when I was in college, I would always hang out with him, and he got really sick and got cancer, and I’d always go and see him at Moffitt, which is the cancer centre, and I had to watch him die, and close friends of the family. It’s definitely been hard. It’s been very hard.
HSG: Your Formal Source bridal video was beautiful, by the way. With the verdant background, the water, and you in white, it was a lovely piece of film.
LINDSEY: Yeah, it was really nice. It was fun. It was so hot though. Oh, my Lord. It was 90 degrees outside, and we were in wedding dresses.
HSG: Ah, yes, those wedding dresses. I don’t think they’re made of cotton, are they? They’re heavy, dense fabric. Another example of the model’s not-so-easy life.
LINDSEY: It looks so easy and glamorous.
HSG: But you have your tough moments.
LINDSEY: Exactly. But it’s fun, and it’s so worth it. The way I see it is, I get to live every little girl’s fantasy. I get paid to play dress up.
HSG: And you have the added bonus that you’re not playing dress up and triggering eating disorders. You’re actually undoing the damage that the androgynous models do with their emaciated figures. It’s a wonderful job, but it’s also for a legitimately good cause.
LINDSEY: Thank your for saying that. That means a lot.
HSG: And I hope you get to the point where modelling is your full-time job, and you don’t need to work where people get stabbed right in front of you.
LINDSEY: And the truth is, I work so much. I really do. That’s why I went on vacation, because there was a point, between modelling and working at the bar, that I had four days off in 40 days.
HSG: That’s brutal.
LINDSEY: It’s exhausting. And I’ve been fortunate. I had yesterday off, and I’ve had today off, so that was fortunate. But I had to build furniture [laughs], and I had so many errands to run yesterday, because I work so much.
HSG: There’s your independence.
HSG: You could just wire home and say, “Mom, Dad, rent,” but no, you do it on your own.
LINDSEY: When I first moved here, they helped me out a lot.
HSG: Because it’s so expensive! I’ve known people living in New York who have paid fortunes for tiny hovels; closet-size apartments.
LINDSEY: Fortunately my apartment is actually a really good size. I live in Astoria.
HSG: Better than downtown Manhattan?
LINDSEY: Well, size wise. And it only takes me 11 minutes to get into the city from my doorstep, so it’s nothing. But my apartment is a lot bigger and cheaper than… If I had this exact apartment in New York City, it would easily cost me $3,000 a month.
HSG: Ouch! Just to make $3,000 a month is not the easiest thing in the world.
LINDSEY: I know. See, I don’t even make $3,000 a month from the bar.
HSG: You would lose all your wages just on rent.
LINDSEY: And I don’t ever want to be in that position. Honestly, I was out yesterday, hanging out with one of my friends. We were walking around. He was helping run errands and stuff. He’s such a sweet guy. Such a sweetheart. He’s actually one of the models here at MSA, and we were on the Upper East Side, and we were walking by all these gorgeous brownstones. I said, “Honestly, I really hope I can live in one of these, one day.”
HSG: Be careful, though, because modelling is unpredictable, and while upscaling when you’re doing well is nice, downscaling when your career goes south is not fun. You know this from your sports interests. It’s like being an athlete. You need to save what you make now, because it’s not necessarily going to be a permanent wage.
LINDSEY: One hundred percent. That’s definitely what I do. I’m trying to save, and I do have a couple of credit cards. I’m trying to pay those off.
HSG: Dangerous things.
LINDSEY: I put a lot of money in savings, and I try to be slightly frugal, but I still enjoy myself. I’ll still go out to dinner with friends and buy nice stuff and whatever.
HSG: You’re managing it so well. And you’re not falling into any of the traps. I won’t even ask about vices, because I’m sure that you’re not descending into the drug scene or anything like that.
LINDSEY: Oh, God. No! There is nothing… I just don’t get these girls, because I do know models who do drugs and stuff like that.
HSG: Plus-size models or minus-size models?
HSG: Really? You’ve seen it in the plus-size industry? That surprises me.
LINDSEY: Yeah, it surprises me as well.
HSG: Because the assumption is that the minus-size models do it to themselves to preserve the grotesque, anorexic look. But plus-size models? I’m astonished.
LINDSEY: I agree, but there is nothing that anyone in this world could tell me to make me think it was a good idea to snort white powder up my nose. There’s nothing anyone could tell me to make me think that was a good idea.
HSG: Thank heavens.
LINDSEY: [laughs] I don’t get it. I think, “Really?”
HSG: It’s just something about your city, or something about your profession, that makes girls vulnerable to such self-destructive behaviour. Is it the loneliness? Is it the peer pressure? Whatever it is, I’m glad you avoid it.
LINDSEY: Thank you, and I do, and I can tell you, one hundred percent, I don’t do any drugs. I do drink occasionally.
HSG: There’s nothing wrong with that.
LINDSEY: And I’m not saying I’m perfect or anything, because I’m far from it, but I’ve just never been one of those people. And I don’t have an addictive personality, so it’s just one of those things where… I’ve seen people smoke weed or do coke or whatever, and that’s just not my style.
HSG: Well, thank you very much for the interview, Lindsey. You’ve been very patient. I’ve probably exhausted you completely with all of my questions.
LINDSEY: No, no, no. I enjoyed today. Are you kidding me? The fact that you care about what I have to say, it amazes me. I’m honoured to talk to you.
HSG: Oh, please. You’re very kind.
LINDSEY: I am serious.
HSG: You’re so sweet. Thank you again, and good luck with everything. Goodbye now.
The recording for this, the second installment of our interview with Miss Garbelman, took over two hours, but we could have spoken with her for an entire afternoon. To meet Lindsey in person is to be distracted by her physical beauty, but to chat with her over the phone is to discover how perceptive, thoughtful, courageous, yet vulnerable she is. She combines self-confidence and resourcefulness with a sold core of traditional values, enabling her to confront the moral jungle that is New York City and to emerge with her integrity intact.
With her charming and vivacious personality, not to mention her extraordinary beauty and exceptional posing talent, Lindsey is surely a dream to have on set. Thanks to her adamantly pro-curvy beliefs, she is fully committed to the cause of size celebration, and advocates for it with every fibre of her being. We wish her ever-greater career success in the future and look forward to her every campaign, for she is a living embodiment of timeless beauty.
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 24, 2010.
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