A new generation of plus-size models is sending the message: Fat isn't just fun, it's sexy, too. Size matters.
In Reston, Virginia, big girls are singing. A choir of plus-size angels, sizes 10 and up, are belting out gospel songs with big-girl voices. Over 500 of them have gathered for a plus-size model showcase. If they're lucky they'll get invitations from modeling agencies that might well transform their lives. They could become real models. Just like thin girls.
The signing was not planned. These big girls didn't ask anybody's permission to come up onto the models' runway and sing their gospel songs. They simply charged the stage. And once they took possession of it they became immovable. Now a dozen of them are standing up there on the silly models' plan, belting out church songs. And the audience, some 500 big people, stand and clap and sing along.
"His eye is on the sparrow," they sing, "so I know He watches me." Plus people are dancing in the aisles. "We've come this far by faith," they wail. "Yes, we've come this far by faith. Oh, we've come this far by faith."
The showcase has turned into a revival meeting, and these big girls are preaching the gospel. Bit is good. Big is beautiful. Big is proud. Big is healthy. Big is happy just to b e here, to be included, finally to find a place in the big spotlight.
The model showcase was produced by an organization called New York Model Contracts, a company that up until this year trafficked only in standard-issue beanpole models.
In February its 12 full-time scouts, who visit 350 cities a year, started scouting for plus-size models, too. From a business standpoint, they had no choice. "This is dollar-driven," says Linda Bennett, founder and copresident of NYMC. "The buzz started two years ago. The top designers never went over size 10. Lix Claiborne was the first, starting with a line called Elisabeth in 1989. Then Donna Karan created a separate full-figure line. Lane Bryant did a lingerie show on the Web last February to rival Victoria's Secret. Everybody wanted to see full-figured women in lingerie."
Now there are more than 2,000 designers designing for full figures and between 300 and 400 full-time full-figured models working today. They are all trying to emulate the success of Emme, the first plus-size supermodel, who broke out in 1994 as one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People." (Now Emme gets paid around $20,000 a shoot and hosts Fashion Emergency of E! Entertainment Television.)
To that end, NYMC holds open calls in cities all over the country. They interview all comers, then invite some to a model showcase. Girls who accept the invitation pay a registration fee of about $450, plus the cost of transportation and two nights in a hotel. Unless they camp out, which some have done. What are plus scouts looking for? big girls with broad shoulders and wide hips who look like they work out, who are toned. Of course, they also look for bouncing hair, good skin, white teeth, and bright eyes. The perfect size: 14.
Source: Talk; May 1991; Aaron Latham