My Interview with Chelsea Bonner – ‘Plus size’ Modelling Agent

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.

 

Here are some of stunning models Chelsea represents. If you want to see more of this gorgeousness follow Bella Models on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it’s worth it trust me!

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Fiona Falkner – Bella model
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Robyn Lawley – Bella Model
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Georgina Burke – Bella Model
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Mercy – Bella Model

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PS. I would love you to come and join my Facebook family for a bit more of Starring Maya fun. Or if you're more of an Instagram person then right this way 🙂 See you around! xxx Shereen

What Does ‘Plus Size’ Mean to You?

You might be familiar with the term if you buy clothes that are size 16 or over, in some stores even size 12 is considered plus size. Crazy.

I’m not a fan of that word, it creates a divide and I think makes people who are in the plus size world feel excluded from the other side. It’s all just a bunch of numbers really.

Plus size in the modelling world refers to a model who is bigger than a size 10.

I first came across the term ‘plus’ size about 5 years ago when I used to book models for catalogue shoots. In my job I was required to book either ‘normal’ models or plus size models.

Not having met any ‘plus size’ models , I called an agency called Bella Model Management and asked to meet a few girls for a casting.

On the day, in walked the most gorgeous glamorous Amazonian women I’d seen. To be honest I was totally gobsmacked because back then I thought the term plus size was used to describe larger sized clothing and overweight women and men.

These women were by no standards overweight. Yes they were size 14 and 16, but they were over 6 feet tall, perfectly proportioned, flat abs, toned muscly arms and legs.

To me these were models. Yes they were taller and wore jeans in a 14, but they were models. Meaning their bodies were proportionate making clothes look great on and they took pride in their appearance and health by eating well and exercising.

What they didn’t do was starve themselves to be a size -0 to make designer’s clothing look a certain way in magazines. personally I prefer to see beautiful clothes by healthy models so that I can relate to some extent. Not that I’m healthy – far from it at the moment but at least healthy is something to aspire to, not skeleton skinny.

Not stick insect models with knobby knees (all I can picture right now is the Gruffalo) boney shoulders and a glazed hungry, about to faint look as they walk down the catwalk.

Now, that’s not to say that these ‘plus sized’ models were healthier than every single other model of the size 8/10 category.

I’ve also met many gorgeous size 8-10 models that were beautiful and intelligent and fun to be around but who didn’t need to starve themselves. Again their bodies were in perfect proportion which is what makes a great model for clothes.

My point I guess is, why can’t ALL models be called models. Not skinny. Not fat. Not plus size, not short or tall, just models. Or super models in some cases.

This is Robyn Lawley. size 14 and super tall. A Supermodel who has graced the cover of Vogue Italia as well as countless other magazines, been on the Ellen show, and travels the world for her work.

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Robym Lawley Lingere shoot – image via Instagram
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Robyn Lawley for an editorial – Image via her website

I don’t think the term plus size model quite cuts it when describing this glamazon. Check out more of her gorgeousness on Instagram or her website.

Oh, and just incase you needed anymore reason to be in awe, she also has a swimwear label that celebrates women.

Would be so great if the term plus size was wiped out and instead the media started calling all models supermodels.

What do you think though? I’d love to know your opinion too.

What size models do you prefer to see in magazines?

shereen xxx

 

 

PS. I would love you to come and join my Facebook family for a bit more of Starring Maya fun. Or if you're more of an Instagram person then right this way 🙂 See you around! xxx Shereen