Michelle Williamson is one of New Zealand’s leading plus-size models, but doesn’t like to use the term to describe herself.
“I prefer to say I’m ‘real-size’ rather than sample-size like most models,” says the Aucklander, who is 178cm (5ft 10in) and has a size 12 bust, size 10 waist and size 14 hips.
“I’m the same size as a lot of New Zealand women and the clothes I model are what a lot of them can wear.”
Michelle (23) would love to see more plus-size models on the pages of magazines and gracing the catwalk.
“The fashion industry needs to focus on women of all sizes – the more we see real-size models, the more readily it will become accepted. It’s good for making women feel that they don’t have to try to be very thin.
“This is starting to happen, but it’s going to take a long time for bigger models to become the norm.”
Michelle has been modelling for three years, after being spotted by an agent from Auckland’s Monarch Models at a car launch.
“When she asked me if I had thought about modelling it was a bit surreal – it wasn’t something I had contemplated. But then I thought, ‘I might as well try.’”
Michelle, who works full-time in student welfare and is a ballet teacher, only models part-time and has appeared in bridal magazines and often works at wedding shows. She has modelled for New Zealand plus-size clothing company The Carpenter’s Daughter, online clothing companies, runway shows and appeared on TVNZ’s Good Morning offering fashion advice to curvy women.
Michelle maintains her weight for her work – if she dropped dress sizes she would be too small for plus-size modelling yet too big for other jobs.
“I’m happy with the size I am,” she asserts. “I don’t exercise every day but if I feel I need to work out I will.”
The demand for plus-size models is growing, according to Amanda Bransgrove, a director of Monarch Models.
“It is a small market in New Zealand but there are always people looking for larger models. Good ones can be hard to find,” says Amanda.
Like other models, curvy models are required to be between 175cm (5ft 9in) and 182cm (6ft) – and most of Amanda’s clients seek women who are a true size 14. Occasionally there are requests for fuller-figured ladies – she was once asked for a size 20-22.
“Unfortunately, a lot of women who could make good models don’t consider it because they think they’re too big,” says Amanda.
“Sometimes they don’t have a lot of confidence.
But more people want models of all different shapes and sizes. The reality is that women today are an average size 14, so why shouldn’t there be more models who are the same?”
With a successful career in regular modelling, Amanda once worked as a plus-size model herself.
“Twenty years ago I was flown to New York to be a plus-size model for Ford because I had an athletic build. But I wasn’t quite big enough and they had to pad me out with saddle bags filled with calico to make me look bigger.”
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