PLUS SIZE: It’s a term you either love or hate. On one side, you have those who believe it propagates unhealthy living or is denigrating; on the other, you have those who think it’s pretty much the only size that should exist.
Even those within the industry argue about its relevance. On the one hand, you have people like Melbourne model Stefania Ferrario, who posted a topless picture of herself captioned “I am a model FULL STOP. Unfortunately in the modelling industry if you’re above a US size 4 (Australian size 8) you are considered plus size, and so I’m often labelled a ‘plus size’ model. I do NOT find this empowering … Let’s have models of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities, and drop the misleading labels. I’m NOT proud to be called ‘plus’, but I AM proud to be called a ‘model’, that is my profession!
On the other hand, you have people like Laura Wells, who not only loves the term plus size, but credits her success to it.
“If I wasn’t called a ‘plus sized model’ I wouldn’t have a job. There wouldn’t be a spot for me in the industry,” Wells told news.com.au as she gets ready to board a flight from Sydney to Melbourne for a job.
“That title has empowered me, it has put me in magazines where people can see me, and that wouldn’t have happened if the industry had not created that category for people like me, people who are the average size 14. The industry is forging the way for new body shapes and ages and sizes. I get a lot of positive attention from women and men, saying how encouraged they are and how good it is to see me in campaigns or magazines. Without ‘plus size’ I wouldn’t be able to empower anyone because I wouldn’t be there in the first place.”
The problems begin, according to Wells, when people misinterpret plus size within fashion to be plus size in real life. A size 14 is plus size in the modelling industry because the person is between 3-6 sizes larger than an industry-standard model. In real life, this might be considered an average size, but in fashion, it’s just not.
“I’ve never had a problem with the terminology, because it’s an industry term. That’s what people have to understand,” Wells explains.
“For me, plus size has just been a job title. I’ve never thought of it as derogatory. What the fashion world deems as plus size is not what plus size is in reality. We know that, and it’s important others know that too.
f I stand next to a straight size model, you can see the difference. It’s obvious I’m larger than straight size models. Why say otherwise? The fact that we’re called plus size may be a point of concern to the outside world, but within the fashion world it is fine, and it’s actually empowering. We’re on the first stepping stone to having plenty of shoots with models of all different sizes.”
Ajay Rochester is a defiant opponent of plus size as a term, last month slamming The Upside for using Wells in its campaign,.
“How the f*** can this woman be considered plus size? Any idea the kind of damage you do to the minds of young girls by even using those words with a picture like this? Where is there PLUS of anything. Anything less of her and she’d be a MINUS something. Seriously this is so ridiculous and harmful! This is not empowering anyone,” she tweeted at the time.
But far from shy away from the criticism, Wells confronted it head on.
“Miss Ajay Rochester the campaign, nor I, are not bulls**t, and the fact you would put that out there is not exactly campaigning successfully or positively for body image diversity. It’s the first time a regular sized active wear brand had used a plus size model let alone anyone over a size 8AU. We need to stop shaming other people’s bodies, be happy that models like me are helping to change the tide of the industry,” she said.
“I’m in my seventh year of full time modelling and I’ve noticed a really big change in the industry,” Wells tells news.com.au. “In the last few years especially we’ve seen a lot more plus size models getting editorial work in European magazines, fashion campaigns, Sports Illustrated spreads … people are really relating to it and loving it, it’s refreshing to see different body shapes.”
“Look I think anyone with half a brain will see the plus size industry as common sense and a great reflection of society,” adds Jesse McNeely, fellow plus size model and fiance to Wells.