The Autumn/Winter20 fashion season saw just 46 plus-size models cast in New York, London, Milan, and Paris – a lower number than in recent years. But are old habits overtaking what makes good business sense?
Research shows the plus-size market is fast growing and increasingly competitive, with some plus-size marketing campaigns generating four times as many sales than campaigns with slimmer models. The rising popularity of plus-size models on social media is also highlighting demand among consumers for faces, images, bodies, and stories they can genuinely relate to.
Bo Tallentyre is a plus-size model on a mission to normalise different bodies. In this interview, she openly shares the ups and downs of her career, her advice to other aspiring models, and her message to the media about the importance of embracing every body and every person.
- How have your personal experiences impacted your approach and interest in being a plus-size model?
I will be honest, it’s hard to be a plus size model given all of the bullying and past trauma in relation to being plus size. It’s hard to be in the public eye and have people criticise you on your weight and how I’m unhealthy (even though I’m not).
My past experiences really did hinder my interest in being a plus size model and being in the industry, purely because it’s a nasty place to be sometimes. People think they can judge every single aspect of your life, just because you put yourself out there.
I wouldn’t quit being a plus size model though. The message I’m spreading and the movement I’m a part of is so much bigger than my personal experiences. It’s about combatting ALL plus size and marginalised people’s personal experiences and challenging the status quo.
- What do you most and least enjoy about being a model?
The thing I least love about being a model is definitely the fact that people comment on things that they have no idea about. Like my weight and my health. It’s incredibly hard to change people’s perspectives on health and plus size people when they just don’t want to listen to a single thing you have to say… it’s definitely not fun to be constantly ridiculed and harassed because of my size.
But my favourite thing, oh my goodness, it’s definitely the community. There are so many wonderful and brilliant minds in the plus size/body acceptance/diverse model industry. I have met some truly empowering and authentic people. The love we all share for each other, even if we hardly know each other, it’s beautiful and so raw. We are all fighting for the same thing and we do it together, we hype each other up and it’s so inspiring to be a part of. It truly makes me happy.
- For other aspiring models reading this interview, what are the biggest watch-outs they should be aware of before joining the industry?
My advice is to watch out for nasty people. There will be a lot. People will fight against you and try to tear you down, but it’s so important to remember that they’re uneducated or purely just taking their own trauma out on you. Being a plus size model, or any model, also comes with being objectified sexually. It’s gross. Don’t take these comments to heart; block and delete.
Other than that, watch out for people who try to change you. Don’t change or limit yourself for anyone. Be yourself, your true, authentic self. It’s the best version of you, and the version that will always succeed.
- What actions have you taken in the past to counter bullying or bullies’ behaviour that have worked to have a constructive and positive impact? How can others replicate this?
I believe the most impactful thing I have done to combat bullying so far has been to educate and speak the truth, always. I’m not shy about talking about my life or my experiences and I’m definitely not afraid to tell people how it is.
Educating people rather than attacking people, or trying to make them feel bad, always has a greater impact than telling them off for bullying. If you take the time to really dig deep and allow other people to understand, the chances of their perspective changing is larger than it is if you were to attack them for attacking you.
Kindness and understanding always prevails. Some people are just stuck in that mindset that everything has to be a certain way, and a little bit of education and kindness can go a long way into changing someone’s mindset. Whether they take your words and think about them, is up to the individual, but it feels so good to know you have at least tried to change the negative ideals of society.
- Why is diversity of size in the modelling industry important to you?
Diversity in the modelling industry is one of the most important things to me, and to a lot of other people. I can remember being younger, maybe just before my teen years and looking at magazines; all of the models would be thin, white and absolutely beautiful. They were filled with girls and boys who all looked the exact same. None of them looked like me… they didn’t look like my friend who was in a wheelchair and they didn’t look like my darker skinned friends.
Why? Because society has a label for perfect and it’s thin, white and able bodied. I hate it.
Seeing different bodies and different people in the media and in the modelling industry allows people to see themselves represented. I definitely didn’t identify with any of the people I saw in magazines, and a lot of the time, I still don’t. I can guarantee that I’m not the only one that feels that way, too.
It would have changed my mindset and my confidence at a much earlier age if I saw someone who was plus size in a magazine or in the media in general. It would have allowed me to be a happier child, happy with myself and happy with the way I looked instead of hating myself and beating myself up because I didn’t look like the girls everyone looked up to.
The media needs to start embracing and normalising different bodies. Things like chub, crooked smiles, curly and wild hair… dark skin, every skin in between, people with disabilities, everything that is different to the norm. Every size. Every body. Every person should be represented. It will change so many people’s lives.
About the expert
Bo Tallentyre is a fierce and empowering plus size model and activist, based in Melbourne, Australia. Bo uses her past experiences and life knowledge to help educate and change the way the world thinks about diverse and different people. She is so passionate about challenging the status quo and breaking the stigma surrounding larger people that she flipped her life around and jumped head first into being a plus size model on Instagram, working with brands to normalise and celebrate all bodies and all people. You can always find her speaking her own truth and standing out by being her unapologetic self.
Image description: Headshot from the chest up of a women with long, curly brown hair, with a few strands falling in front of her left shoulder. Her left hand is tucking her hair behind her left ear. She wears a v-neck white t-shirt, small yellow dangling earrings and a nose ring. She has blue eyes.