I’m a journalist by trade, but nowadays, I spend much of my time working as a “plus size” model. I fell into plus sized modeling after I was rejected by some of the biggest and most well known Chilean modeling agencies for one big reason: my size. I’m size 38-40 (US size 6) and I realized that if i wanted to be a model, I’d have to fight an unwinnable war between their expectations and my sanity.
I got into the modeling world in high school because in my naivete, I thought that it would be one of the most entertaining jobs I could have. At worst, it would be an awesome hobby. But I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
In 2009, at the age of 15, I applied to Elite Model Look a contest run by Chile’s Elite Model Agency. I’m 1.73m (5’7”), and probably weighed 55-60 kilos (121-131 lbs) at the time. Here’s a photo of me from that summer when a friend and I went to Maitencillo, a Chilean beach town, to scout for new talent.
I was terrified of rejection, of the judging gaze in each new booker’s eyes, and of the other models, photographers and producers involved in a filthy system that depended on everyone’s complicity
During the year I worked at Elite Model, I only got offered one job. Maria de los Ángeles Paúl, the agency’s director, met with me and told me she thought I could get more work and offered to help. She sent me to a “nutritionist” which ended up being an “aesthetic doctor”. I’m like most women and didn’t say no to the idea of losing a few of pounds, so I agreed to go to the doctor that the agency recommended. My mom came with me and we found out that we’d get a discount since we were referred by Elite Model. He gave me some pills to lose weight, which, combined with my eager attitude and girly wish to belong in the fashion world, had their desired effect.
After the first month, I lost 10 kilos (22 lbs), getting down to 49 kilos (108lbs). I felt like a sexy bombshell, ready to take on the world. I was really proud of my accomplishment and set up a meeting with María de Los Ángeles and Felipe, my booker at the time. When I walked into the room María de los angeles said, “Wow, you look amazing! But you still have a couple of more to lose…”. That was their response to all my hard work, my sunken cheeks and my empty stomach. I felt so naive!
As soon as I left the office, I knew I wouldn’t work as a model ever again. Looking back, I know it took me too long, but I realized that I was going crazy at way too young of an age. I understood that I wasn’t the problem, they were. Many young girls and women were bowing to the pressure to achieve a false body.
When I left Elite, another agency, Rebel (WLM), contacted me immediately. I refused. I was terrified of rejection, of the judging gaze in each new booker’s eyes, and of the other models, photographers and producers involved in a filthy system that depended on everyone’s complicity.
It took seven long years before women like Myla Dalbesio, Ashley Graham, Robyn Lawley and Iskra Lawrence succeeded, through a combination of talent, luck and perseverance, in expanding modelings horizons, to take full advantage of the market that’s relatable to real woman. They’ve been involved in hundreds of campaigns for international brands that have managed to craft their brand to appreciate a woman’s body as it is, understanding that cellulite and stretch marks come included in the pack.
Chile’s been a bit slower to adapt than rest of the world. Although we’re moving more slowly, we are moving in the right direction. This year, WLM contacted to work with them as the agency’s first plus size model. So far, I’ve done two campaigns with two different brands. I love modeling, especially if I can be me. But I still have trouble with the message we’re sending to young women: that a body like mine is considered large, plus size, XL, whatever. It pains me to see little girls who believe it.
I work as a model whenever I can, but I don’t consider myself a model, or plus size. It’s shocking to think about how much brands influence a woman’s image, how we feel about ourselves. I hope my story will serve to clarify the extreme craziness that exists in the “fashion world“, and how we shouldn’t take the system that sells us the image of perfection so seriously. It’s ok to promote what you want to sell, but equally important is to remember that fashion is really all a fantasy.
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