Last week I wrote about the term ‘plus size’ being so misused and it got such a great feedback I think this post is the perfect follow-up to get an insight into the plus size modelling world.
I met Chelsea Bonner, owner and director of Bella Model Management , one of the world’s leading ‘plus model’ agencies, a few years ago when I worked as a Stills Producer. She is one of the most loveliest down to earth people I know, with such a passion for what she does it’s hard not to be inspired by her.
Chelsea generously gave up some of her precious time to answer a few of my questions.
Shereen: What drove you to start your own agency?
Chelsea: I was an agent for about 10 years before I opened BELLA, starting when I was 16 years old in my mums agency in Noosa and going on to work for agencies in Melbourne and Sydney. Most of that time I worked as a creative agent (That is representing photographers, hair and makeup artists and fashion stylists) and during that time I also modelled as a plus size. I started BELLA because my little sister became sick with anorexia/bulimia after trying desperately to fit into the traditional mould of what was considered attractive in all the magazines and fashion campaigns. Tall and stick thin. I felt that someone needed to step it up and really get behind the idea of using models who are closer to the actual size of women in our country which is around a size 14 average. My mission has always been to introduce a broader ideal of beauty than what is on offer to us as women. I feel that by targeting the types of publications and campaigns that women aspire too we can do far more for women’s self-esteem than we can in a class room. Women are highly visual and it’s a very direct way to communicate our message of health over dress size and exploring your individual beauty rather than trying to fit into one single dress size.
Shereen: Define Plus size?
Chelsea: I can’t really – it’s a term that means something different to everyone who hears it. In a purely retail sense of the word it means clothing that begins at a size 14 and goes up from there. In the modelling world it is a term people use to describe models who are size 10+ and personally some women embrace the term totally and others don’t want to be labelled at all. In terms of what I do I am a plus size model agent because I represent models sized 10 plus. But even this term is changing; a lot of people use the word curvy to describe what we do now.
Shereen: What term would you use to describe models who are above size 8 instead of ‘plus’, and do you think it will ever change?
Chelsea: When we are in the office we don’t refer to our models as anything other than models, I personally don’t like to label anyone so I try not to use any terms at all that categorise people. We are having a lot more discussion about the term and what it means recently, I have always used the term as a descriptive of the specialist nature of my business, but the industry itself is becoming divided on where it should apply and where it shouldn’t. Personally they can call it whatever they want, I really don’t mind, but to me my models are models, they would be models regardless of what size they were, they are not models just because they can wear a 14+ garment.
Shereen: I believe that the more the world is exposed to something the more ‘normal’ it becomes. In the 40’s, only curvy models were used for advertising, and that became what people were used to, and what was normal. Then in the 60’s and 70’s the skinny twiggy model became what was normal. Today the majority of the models are very skinny, and only a few of whom are curvy.
Do you think that if media portrays more of a mix of models on a more balanced ratio, the world will stop with the skinny and fat talk one day and the focus can move on to health, realistic beauty and loving yourself? Is that too utopian?
Chelsea: That’s the dream!!! That’s why I get out of bed every day; I think that once it’s not news anymore I can retire! I love that Cosmo put Robyn on the cover and just said supermodel – no reference to her size at all and that’s as it should be. I am seeing this more and more and I just love it.
Shereen: It’s women like you, making the changes and bringing awareness that are going to make life for my little daughter more wonderful. What would be one thing you could change right now that is necessary for all the little girls growing up today.
Chelsea: I wish I could take the words weight loss and diet out of every publication and TV screen in the world, I nearly cried in January when I walked into the newsagents and EVERY magazine cover on the shelf screamed ‘how to drop a dress size in 3 days and meet your man’ diets. It’s all angled towards the idea that you will be more loved, richer, and happier if you weigh less and THAT IS NOT TRUE I just cannot stand that lie or the people who perpetuate it. I really wish we could make sure our girls grow up only concerned about their health and judging their body’s for all the amazing things they are capable of doing.
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