When Alex LaRosa started modeling in 2009, she quickly realized that she was “on the larger end of working models who were booking jobs.” And the realization frustrated her.
“I represented a customer base that was not being represented in fashion” — and though LaRosa was working, she knew her size and shape was a rarity in modeling, despite its being anything but in the real world.
Sept. 6-8, LaRosa will join other plus-size influencers and celebrities at theCURVYcon to talk about body positivity and size diversity in the fashion industry. The event will be live-streamed by Yahoo Lifestyle (bookmark this link to watch it!).
About a year ago, LaRosa started speaking out about exactly that, utilizing the hashtag #VisiblyPlusSize to call out that there was nothing shameful — or unusual — about her body. “I am a plus-size model and influencer, but at the end of the day, I’m also a plus-size woman who needs to buy clothes,” LaRosa says. And #VisibilyPlusSize is a reflection of her frustration with an industry that seems to not want her as a consumer too.
“When I am shopping on sites and can’t visualize what this clothing will look like on me because the models don’t have rolls or carry their weight like I do, it’s hard,” she says. Which is exactly why she says that brands need to realize that they need more visibly plus-size models shown wearing their clothes and on their e-commerce sites so that more people can envision what the clothes will look like on them — and want to buy them.
“I also think about race and ethnicity and about women getting to see images of themselves in the media that contributes to feelings of belonging and normalcy. That’s so important to the mental health of so many young people,” she says. “#VisiblyPlusSize was born out of my being a customer and wanting to see how clothes would fit on my body, but it’s also wanting to feel like I fit in as a person in this industry. Every time I see a brand using models bigger than a size 16, it feels like a celebration.”
One brand LaRosa is quick to love on is Eloquii, for the way “they listen to their customers and expanded their models.” But that’s not all. “I have never before seen a brand create different fits of clothing for different bodies. They have different fits for different plus-size women based on where they carry weight, and that is so crazy and cool and top of the charts for me.”
LaRosa also emphasizes the role that fashion can play in helping people feel seen and heard. She says one of the defining moments of her life was seeing Torrid’s e-commerce site and “the first time I saw a brand online I could fit into that had girls looking fly. I was on their site and just blown away by seeing plus-size models being in their jeans and T-shirts and smiling. I hadn’t seen that kind of comfort in someone with a fatter body, ever. Even though I know now that they were modeling and probably felt insecure themselves, it translated into this message to me of, ‘Wow — wait. They look happy. Maybe girls can feel secure in their bodies. And maybe I should model too.’”
And LaRosa wants everyone to be able to feel good about their own bodies — and while shopping to clothe those bodies too.
“As an influencer, I now have a platform to share messages about body positivity and showing how I love my body and how I go through the process of discovering my own body. It’s not like one day you just wake up and love your body,” she says.
LaRosa emphasizes that “if you’re ever going to be talking about self-love, you have to talk about this whole industry that exists to teach women and men to not love their bodies. The first thing I always try to remember and tell other people is that it’s not your fault that you don’t love your body. There are so many industries out there that are designed to make you not love your body, to want to be smaller, to fit into a standard that’s not realistic. That’s a tool I use myself when I’m not feeling my best, remembering that society is designed to tell me that I’m not living up beauty standards.”
But for LaRosa, the buck absolutely doesn’t stop there.
“You can challenge all of that — your body is amazing, because you are in it. You have existed in that body since day one and that’s pretty incredible.”
LaRosa says she also encourages other women, especially plus-size women, to be aware that “your community really impacts how you look at your body and other people’s bodies. If you are around other women and people who are going through the process of trying to love themselves and their bodies, it’s so much easier for you to do that as well.”
That said, it’s also important to be easy on yourself.
“On your bad days,” LaRosa says, “Practice forgiveness with yourself and know it’s not your fault that you feel this way. And on your good days? Go out and celebrate and help other women.”
Today, though, LaRosa is going to keep on talking and using her platform to insist that fashion become a place where more women can feel seen.
“I really, honestly don’t understand how some brands are only using models who are a 14. I logistically understand the process of a sample being made in one size and then the model wears the sample, but if the brands spent a little more money upfront to get samples in multiple sizes, then you could actually show diversity. I get that business is business and brands don’t want to waste money, but this isn’t a waste of money. If brands made the effort and had samples in different sizes so they could work with models in different sizes, customers would eat that up. Customers want that and need that. They would make their money back tenfold.”
Because, LaRosa says, the power of fashion is not to be undersold.
“Fashion is self-expression and self-expression is not feeling limited,” LaRosa stresses. “There are smaller girls who don’t find the clothes they like because they just don’t like what’s trendy. But plus-size girls can’t find clothes because brands literally aren’t making clothes for them. You feel excluded and like you can’t fit in. Having access to good clothes allows you to freely express yourself. It allows you to be on-trend, and trends are just a way to make you feel like you belong to something.”
And also, she adds: All women deserve clothes that literally fit, and comfortably so.
“Having clothes that fit you well and let you exist and go through life without that being an issue is everything. You should be able to live your life without ill-fitting clothes that make you feel like your physical clothing is distracting you from your life. I am a size 20, so I have a lot more access to clothing than a girl who’s a size 26. But being able to have access is something you practically need in your day-to-day life. And you’re not going to be effective and productive and carefree without clothes that fit. To do that, you need to not be worried about feeling uncomfortable in the clothes that exist for you.”
Read more about theCURVYcon 2018:
- Size did not ‘dictate their accomplishments’: Why Gabourey Sidibe and WWE’s Nia Jax will headline theCURVYCon
- Venus Williams expands fashion label into plus-size: ‘Representation matters’