This blog is the re-transcription of an interview conducted last February with Raphaella Carmen, one of the few French plus size model in the industry. In this interview, Raphaella discusses body positivity, plus size modelling and why we should all love our bodies, no matter how they look.
What is a Plus Size Model?
A plus size model is a model that is bigger than the sample size.
What are the main concepts behind the Plus size movement?
The apparently ridiculous idea that women are allowed to be beautiful and not thin, that we can feel comfortable in our body and yet not be a size 6.
Why is this movement needed?
I think we’ve reached a point in society where women want to define themselves and not be told what they should be, what they should look like, how they should talk and walk…. Women have now decided to take control of their own lives and body, they demand equal pay, equal rights and they also want the ability not to have their bodies shamed by society because they do not look like Victoria’s Secret models.
Young girls who watch TV, browse the Internet and read fashion magazines also need to know that they are beautiful even though they don’t look like the tall, thin girls they see in the media.
What are the misconceptions people usually have on the Plus size movement and Plus size model?
People tend to think that plus size models are just lazy fatties, potato couching all day whilst eating chips and chocolate. They don’t realise that plus size models go to the gym too, exercise and eat healthy. There’s no calories counting and exercise is not a punishment because you’ve eaten pasta the day before. It’s about listening to your body.
In what aspect are Plus Size models treated differently than mainstream models?
Plus size models come in many different shapes and sizes. Straight size models have a limit on measurements.
Society seems to admire straight size models, and look negatively upon plus size models.
Nike has recently launched a plus size collection; every girl who struggles to fit into sportwear was delighted. A friend on Facebook saw the ad and commented that nowadays there were fat models everywhere.
The usual conception of models is that the “tyranny of beauty standards” pressures them. What is your experience of it as a Plus Size model?
I wouldn’t know the pressures straight size models experience. Most clients, bookers, fellow models I’ve encountered have been perfectly nice; there has been no bitchiness whatsoever. I have been told in the past that I was too small, that I didn’t look plus size enough, as much from customers on websites than by clients. But my agent has never asked me to gained/loose weight. She’s like a mom always telling I’m beautiful so I just don’t believe her anymore!
Apart from that, all models are expected to look their best, therefore looking after our teeth, hair and skin is essential, no matter our size.
Is there any Plus Size male model?
YES! You can find male plus size models at IMG, Bridge Models, Curve Model Management and a few more agencies I believe.
Have you got any comments on the TED Talk (one of the most popular): “Looks aren’t everything, believe me I’m a Model”
I loved it but I kinda prefer Ashley Graham’s TED talk. There used to be this misconception that models were dumb but with social media it has evolved slightly. I think perhaps because plus size models have to work twice as hard to be noticed and get work, people don’t have this specific misconception about us as easily.
Do Plus Size models experience more body shamming than mainstream models?
I believe so. Whilst thin shaming does exist, fat shaming is more widely spread and a bit more violent. There are also a lot of people out there that seem to think it is ok to pin one body type against another. It doesn’t work this way. There is no right type of body.
How would you define body shaming?
Insulting, putting down one person because of the way their body looks.
How would you define body positivism?
It’s the appreciation that there are different types of body. No one has the right to decide another person’s body is gross, disgusting or just not right.
What are the main problems regarding women’s perceptions of their body in our societies?
The media. Seeing heavily retouched pictures of models, with the same body types would lead any woman to think her body is not right if it doesn’t look similar.
From you experience as a model in France and the UK, does this perception of women’s body vary from a culture to another?
British men are more respectful of women on the streets. I’ve dressed however I wanted in England and I’ve never had guys trying to grab my ass, whistling or insulting me (“slut”, “you’re showing your legs/tits/ass”, etc). If you try to wear short denim shorts in France you’re in for a treat! I feel like some French men on the streets are more ok to disrespect women.
How do you perceive your body? What kind of comments and attitudes shaped your attitudes toward it?
I was a skinny outgoing tomboyish little kid up until age 9. Then I hit puberty, my hips and boobs literally exploded, I had stretchmarks. I looked like a 14 years old teenager. I started getting sexual looks and comments and very unwanted attention from older boys and grown men. At age 10 I was almost sexually assaulted. My father started following me to and from piano lessons and sports classes to make sure no one would try and assault me again; as for my mom, she had to set a few boys at school straight about groping and sexual comments.
Because I was still a little girl at age 9, it all felt strange, bothersome and embarrassing. I was not happy with this body which was causing people to look at me, say filthy things and try to hurt me.
I only started embracing my body after I moved to London and saw other girls literally kneeing and slapping guys who would try and touch them or say disrespectful things to them. I started being less afraid of my body and would wear pretty dresses and heels. Once I overcame my fears I started loving myself more and more.
What are the most common comments made on your look?
I often get told that I have beautiful eyes or simply that I am beautiful. In the industry I also hear that I am all boobs on legs. I still haven’t figured if that’s a compliment though but it does make me laugh: it’s funny cause it’s true…
Has someone ever commented on your weight?
Only my ex actually…. and one man on social media asked me to loose 2 kilos so I could reach perfection so I forgave him! No one I have met in real life has ever made negative comments on my weight or my body as a whole.
Any last comments on women and their bodies?
You only have one body so take care of it and appreciate it. If you were to spend half the energy you spend hating yourself and trying to loose weight actually loving yourself and being unapologetically you and happy you’d be amazed at the difference in your life and self. Our bodies respond to love. Be also mindful that your little girl, little sister or cousin is watching you and learning from you. You are a little girl’s role model; don’t teach her to hate herself.
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