Plus-Size Models Are Still Treated More Like Inconveniences

The discomfort falls on the model, then, who is forced to push past that awkward energy on set and perform their best, despite an ambiance that does not lend itself to that type of excellence. But if photographers, creative directors, and other industry professionals don’t do their due diligence beforehand to understand fatter and nonstandard confirming bodies, why is the fault never theirs? 

It’s a large part of the reason the same plus‑size models are used time and time again: photographers and designers become comfortable with one specific woman, knowing exactly how to maneuver her curves to best “flatter” the camera. And instead of pushing themselves to go further, to represent more women, to truly emphasize the importance of diversity, they stop there. They draw the line at the token curve girl.

For models like Okello, it feels like a never‑ending cycle. Instead of pushing to be a size six, models are pressured to be the size 14 version of the same Western beauty ideals that have been upheld for decades. It creates this secondary feeling of inadequacy, an eternal wondering of when you can finally be deemed acceptable. Okello adds, “With the very little representation that fat folks are getting, it’s still perpetuating the idea that there’s a right way to look.”

And the lengths the modeling industry will go to promote that ideal are beyond dangerous. Perhaps the most common method is through padding, the fashion world’s Build‑A‑Bear method at transforming curvy bodies into unattainable, manufactured vessels for public desire. When Hanna (a pseudonym), a now popular curve model, first entered the industry, she nearly fit the “perfect plus” ideal. The second that switched, however, and her figure began to deviate from that approved state, her agent introduced the topic of padding. Like a more glamorous version of a fat suit, padding allows models to fit into sample sizes that are bigger than their actual frames. It is often used to enhance certain body features, emphasizing the hourglass figure or Kardashian‑like butt and thighs. 

Despite trepidation, trusting that her agent knew best, Hanna eventually obliged and began padding. In her experience, however, like other models who requested to speak anonymously on the topic, the fault lies less in the hands of casting directors and more in those of agents who do their utmost to present clients they believe will be best marketable to brands. They push and push for their clients to fulfill a near‑impossible checklist of what it takes to be the perfect curve girl.

And any deviation is seen as a betrayal. Because at the end of the day, everything is about money. More bookings mean more money in the agents’ pockets. Brands now have infinite amounts of curve girls to choose from, but an agent only has so many on their roster to meet their personal financial quota. And that’s where the padding comes in. Too small for this brand? No worries, just pad up! Can’t fit the sample size? No problem, simply slip into this. Fool the women at home into believing you’re this beautiful when, in reality, none of it is real.