Home Fashionably Fit Sound Off: Models Hate Being Called “Plus-Sized”…Do You Hate It, Too?

Sound Off: Models Hate Being Called “Plus-Sized”…Do You Hate It, Too?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

There’s a slow trickle of plus-size industry models complaining about the term, with one even going as far as calling it “derogatory.”


Robin Lawley, seen above, lays it all on the line,

She’s the size 12 model who has become a byword for feminine curves but Robyn Lawley says she’s sick of being classed as ‘plus size’.

In an interview with Clique magazine, the 24-year-old Australian spoke of her bemusement that despite being the owner of a toned, healthy body, the fashion industry persists in considering her – and others like her – larger than normal.

‘People think plus-size models don’t exercise – we do!’ she said. ‘But it’s about health, not forcing my body to be something it’s not meant to be.’

6ft 2″ Lawley, who has appeared in campaigns for Ralph Lauren and has numerous Vogue covers under her belt, admits she once tried to slim down to satisfy the demands of mainstream modelling, but added that even though she was starving herself, achieving size zero proved impossible.

‘Even at my lightest, I just couldn’t get there,’ she explains. ‘I genuinely really tried. I was counting calories, I was taking diet pills, I was dabbling in starvation.’

She adds: ‘I thought you had to be skinny to be beautiful. And I thought I would never be beautiful at this size.’

Since giving calorie-counting the boot, Lawley has shot to fame and has followed in the stiletto-clad footsteps of fellow high-profile plus-size models, Crystal Renn and Sophie Dahl – both of whom are as much admired for their curves as they are for their beauty.


‘Fashion designers won’t go past a size two [UK size six], so there’s no size diversity – just none.

‘So there’s a whole no-man’s land of models who are in between the ‘straight size’ and the ‘plus-size’ and they are not working, yet they’ve got these amazing bodies that are completely in proportion.’

She also revealed that she would like to see the end of the term ‘plus-size’ altogether, arguing that as she isn’t a plus-size person, she shouldn’t be considered one.

‘I don’t think anyone should be called plus-size,’ she adds. ‘I think it’s derogatory to anyone – it’s a label.

‘I’m a model; I don’t think I need ‘plus-size’ in front of it.’ [source]

Candace Huffine chimes in,

“I get that that term is used to differentiate us as models, but we certainly don’t call the others ‘negative-sized!’ It’s just always been a term used to describe a larger woman, and I understand its existence, but I personally don’t use the term in my private life; I prefer curvy. As for which kind of model I am…both I guess; but really, who needs labels?” [source]

Whitney Thompson talks reality,

“My problem with the label ‘plus’ is that it’s not realistic.


The average American woman is a size 14, and ‘plus’ begins at size six.” [source]

and Marquita Pring highlights what I think the real problem is:

After eight years in the modeling industry, “plus-size” model Marquita Pring was recently dropped by her long-time agency, Ford Models, when they decided to close their plus-size division in order to focus solely on straight-size models (read: super tall and super thin). “All of a sudden [I] got this e-mail saying ‘You are no longer represented by Ford.’ Something about the new owner not being interested in the plus industry. It’s clearly not about money because we were the highest earning board [at Ford].”


Now Marquita is represented by IMG Models, one of the most powerful modeling agencies in the country, and is going on her first go-sees and castings for New York Fashion Week — something she was never encouraged to do at Ford. At IMG there is no distinction between straight-size and plus-size, which suits Marquita just fine. “I prefer ‘curvy’ honestly,” she says. “Plus-size feels outdated and no one thinks of it in a positive way. It’s always got this sort of stigma attached to it. I’d like to do away with that.”

Although Marquita has not yet booked any shows, she says the response from designers and casting agents has been overwhelmingly positive and she’s confident that good things are on the horizon. If not this season, then next. [source]

I think the problem with “plus-size” is the fact that it’s used as a way to separate, and combined with the way we equate “fat” with “unattractive,” it can be seen as a derogatory phrase.

That being said, I think Fluvia Lacerda’s words are pretty important, here, too:

“Skinny jeans, A-line dress etc., those are just words to describe something we all know what it is, but to describe it specifically. It gives the costumer a way of identifying what exactly is been sold or talked about.


“That’s how I feel about the whole ‘model’ or ‘plus-size model.’ Obviously, Prada won’t book me for a modeling job because it most likely won’t ever build a product to be sold for a woman my size, which is an 18. So, I work for a specific niche and I don’t get what’s wrong about that. I don’t get why people in the industry seem to be so offended about it or so desperate to be included in the just ‘model’ bag. Yes, I am a model. That’s how I pay my bills. But, I model clothes for women who have a hard time finding clothes in the average shop, and they usually go to the plus-size section or label. It’s simple; and to me, really no big deal. If you look at me obviously you will know I am plus-size. I don’t wear 10, 12, or 14. I wear 18, sometimes 20. So, that’s my body shape and the industry I work with, and the women who keep me employed are plus-size. I have zero problems with been called a plus-size model.”

What do you think?

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Marisa April 1, 2014 - 11:31 AM

I’m really surprised no one has commented on this yet! I wear sizes 14-16 & the term plus-size doesn’t bother me, although I don’t use it in my every day life. I refer to myself as ‘thick’. My goal size is 10-12, but as a grown woman in my 40’s, I have no desire to be the size 7-8 I was in high school. I love my grown woman curves & so does my husband (he actually thinks I don’t need to lose weight but it’s not about him, lol, it’s about me being healthier!). I think whatever term we as individuals feel comfortable with, go with it.

AngO April 2, 2014 - 8:31 AM

The term “plus-size” does carry a certain connotatation with it. I don’t think it’s always negative. I think of it as a descriptor that should not apply to people but clothes. The models are models that showcase plus-size products.

KrysN April 2, 2014 - 9:02 AM

I think it’s misleading to call them ‘plus’ sized, so sure let’s give them another name or just call them models period. Most of those women are in the size range that we’d all like to be. Somewhere in the size 6 – 10 range. And to call them ‘plus’ sized tends to make people feel like this isn’t the ideal they should be searching for. It can only confuse things. Then you have people who are like well if a size 6 is plus sized, then what the heck should I call myself at a size 14 (which is average)? But, in general, I’m not a fan of the modeling industry and what it promotes.

Angela April 2, 2014 - 9:02 AM

I am not offended by the term plus size to define sizes 16 and above. However, clearly a woman who is 6′ 2″ and a size 12 is not overweight. In fact most people will probably perceive her to be very slim (probably not curvy). The whole industry is skewed to make women insecure. Insecure women spend more money obsessing about their weight and the clothes they think they need to disguise their “flaws”. Very sad.

C April 2, 2014 - 10:41 AM

I can see both sides of the coin on the term “plus-sized”. On the one hand it’s just a way of categorizing body shape. We categoruze alot of other things so why not this. On the other, it is suggesting that women with larger bodies are different.

One thing I think people should talk about more is the fact that some people just have larger frames than others. I mean, we all know that skeletons can be taller in some people, it makes sense that they can also be wider. I agree that most of the women above are very well toned, I wouldn’t say they are particulary “curvy” by my definition anyway, especially Robin Lawley. She does have a very lare ribcage though, and you can’t shrink that with a diet. Over and over again we here people say “there’s no such thing as big boned”. That’s a lie. A refuse to believe it. You can’t tell me that two women with equal body fat percentages, one being 5 foot and able to fit child’s clothing and the other being 6 foot and requiring size 12 shoes (that’s about a ten in men’s), have the same sized skeletons.

Dawn June 3, 2014 - 1:28 PM

I know part of the problem is those of us who are falling prey to the lie that ‘my weight determines my self worth’. I like that they started making jeans labeled “curvy” since I do not have the shape of a teen age boy. I work really hard at feeling good about myself. But… darn it, I don’t want to be called “plus-size”. I’m not happy about it but I’ll be honest: I wear jeans even when it’s hot out because I don’t want people to see my thighs. I don’t like feeling bad about myself when I see all the stick thin women in magazines or on TV. But I will admit it. I do. I do feel bad. I’m a smart woman, I know I should accept myself for who I am. Certainly a person’s value is not determined by what she looks like on the outside. And I think size 12 is NOT plus size anyhow. But it’s a battle to look at the images the media is constantly blasting at us. When I see a before and after photo in a magazine I always wish they would post her height. 145 looks a lot different on a 5 foot 10 woman. Last time I weighed 145 I was sick and people actually thought I was suffering from a terminal illness. The weird part is that I got this sense of accomplishment from being that thin. Today I accept that 145 is not a healthy weight for me. I’m not going to fit in a size 6 ever again. That’s OK. I’m 40 and I have 2 kids, and I hate shopping in a section of the store called “PLUS-SIZED”. I think I will get a sign to put on my mirror that says, “You are you and you look great.”

Amanda Ellis October 27, 2014 - 2:13 PM

I have an issue with being called “plus size”. Yes, I wear a size 20 but I am physically fit and in the best health of my life. I exercise 5-6 days per week. God made my body the way he did and I’m not ashamed of it, As long as I care for the gift he gave me. Why is my size “special”? Why do designers and retail companies feel that I need to shop in a different store than the woman that wears a size 6? Are they ashamed to design clothes for me or cut extra fabric to sew my size?

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