Tess Holliday is 5’5”, weighs 260 pounds, and wears a size 22. She’s also a plus-size model breaking brand new ground.
Holliday, whose real name is Tess Munster, recently landed a contract with MiLk Model Management, making her the first model of her size and height to be brought onto a major agency. “I’m the first plus size model EVER (I die) my size & height to be signed to a major agency!” she wrote in a Facebook post.
“I think we’re the only agency with a model of her size. She is by far the largest model I have in the [Curves] division,” Anna Shillinglaw, the owner and director of the U.K-based agency, told the Daily News.
You have your traditional models, the Karlie Klosses and Cara Delevingnes of the world who walk the runways in Paris and are held to very specific standards. And you have the “plus size models” who’ve earned unusual (and awesome) attention lately. Women like Denise Bidot, Candice Huffine, and Robin Lawley who are really just normal sized women. They grace the pages of high-fashion magazines and occasionally score major fashion and beauty contracts; their waists are small, faces thin (and beautiful), are 5’8” or taller, and range in sizes from eight to 16. But Holliday, as Shillinglaw notes, is actually obese, which could make her coming onto the scene a game-changer. It’s one thing for Vogue to take a size 8 woman bra shopping, or Calvin Klein to cast a size 10 woman in their underwear campaign, but a size 22? Fashion doesn’t even design for women over a size 12, let alone cast them in campaigns. Perhaps even talking about women like Holliday will inspire designers to think outside the box and consider just how many women they’re excluding by designing within such a small size bubble.
"Our community is progressing and moving in the right direction — no longer does one body type dictate what every curvy woman looks like," ALDA, a group of women aiming to represent beauty overall, tells Yahoo Style. ”Curvy women have been asking for more realistic models for quite some time, and agencies are taking notice and will continue to help break down barriers in the industry. Soon we’ll see more diversity on the runways and in the magazines, and 2015 will be the best year yet for curvy women in fashion.”
Holliday’s signing is especially significant because of the 29-year-old’s social media presence. She started the body acceptance hashtag #EffYourBeautyStandards, which has turned into a movement encouraging everyone, regardless of size or perceived imperfections, to love themselves. “I dream of the day we stop judging a person’s talent based on their size. Thanks for paving the way,” Jenna Armstrong wrote in regards to Holliday’s announcement. Another example of the hashtag’s inspiration is @lifeofjennibeck: “’You’re so beautiful despite your weight,’ no I’m just beautiful!” Holliday also has over half a million followers on Facebook and almost 350,000 on Instagram, the ideal platform to spread her message and one that will only grow as her career takes off.
Of course, Holliday put it best herself in regards to how momentous her accomplishment is: “My success is proof that change is here for all of us!”