Interview by: Amanda BoucherAmanda: A lot of times when plus size women see a beautiful, successful, plus size model, such as yourself, the first thing they want to know is…how can I do that? How did you get started in plus size modeling?
Velvet: Excellent observation, I do indeed get that question a lot.
My modeling was in fact very personal, I was annoyed by the lack of inclusion throughout media of positive portrayals of women my size. IF there was any imagery at all, it seemed either to be utterly devoid of sexuality or downright pornographic.
Thus I asked friends to shoot me and I emulated images which thin models took, only using my very voluptuous form.
When I realized France was opening its first plus size model agency I sent them my work as a photographer and added a photo of myself, (thinking they might like to use a fellow plus size woman as a photographer to their plus size models), instead they asked me to sign on as a model with the agency, and all those photos my friends had shot, ended up formulating my initial portfolio. Voila!
A: After talking to several of your fans, it seems that you are most known for your walk down the runway at the Jean Paul Gaultier fashion show in Paris, where you were featured as the only plus size model. How did you get picked to be a model in his show?
V: I had modeled the previous season for John Galliano's runway show and was sent on a go-see for Jean Paul Gauthier's 30 year retrospective. In fact, he had used plus size models way back in the day, thus he was casting similar types for the retrospective.
I was sent, along as was two other models from my agency, who had much more conventional plus size proportions, (thus dispelling the theory that he was seeking out "the fattest model he could find" as has been purported in some forum).
My book is very strong, and it highlights the fact that I genuinely like myself and am unabashed about celebrating my curves. It is easy to see that my modeling is very much about making a statement that I believe in, and that is, that you do not need to conform to accepted conventions of beauty in order to be, and feel attractive. I felt this resonated strongly with Jean Paul and thus he decided to highlight me in the actual collection, versus the retrospective. The rest is history :o)
A: The show seemed to receive a lot of media buzz…mostly good, but some bad. When you see or hear the negative things that people have to say about you, how do you deal with it?
V: The reality is that by virtue of the near total exclusion of women my size in any media outlet, there are going to be people who automatically react with derision, or perceive my inclusion as some kind of bad joke, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Why? Well, take films like Norbit, for instance, which had ads blatantly demeaning fat women as "BIG MISTAKES", when in fact, were any other race, religion or lifestyle choice, to be characterized in such a blatantly prejudicial fashion, an almighty outcry would be heard, yet it's still a-ok to marry fat, with being a joke.
Thus I was under no illusions that all the media buzz would be positive, since some people can have difficulty accepting change.
Personally, I don't see it as particularly revolutionary that creative icons like Galliano and Gauthier would be unbiased enough to find beauty in me, and that's not meant to sound arrogant, its just, these are visionaries and as such they are very open-minded.
So, people are welcome to their opinions, and they have the right to think what they like, but certainly when it is brought directly to my attention that blatant untruths are being stated in my name, if I have the time, I will address it , and if I don't, I will laugh it off since so much of what is said is born of obvious envy.
The more you put yourself out there, the more you have to be prepared for critique, both of a constructive, as well as a disparaging nature. The amount of positive feedback I have received has far outweighed any negativity, and I believe in what I do otherwise I wouldn't do it. Conviction is key.
A: What kind of prejudices have you had to face, if any, in the modeling world because of your size? How have your experiences been with the runway models you have worked with and other plus size models?
V: I don't feel any particular prejudices to be honest, the people who choose to use me do so because they feel I have something to contribute, so they tend to be excited to work with me since my body is so out of the ordinary.
Working with other runway models has been fantastic, I have, again, only received positive feedback from my thinner counterparts. On the few occasions I have worked with other plus models, I have enjoyed myself, its always good fun!
A: Watching the clip of you walking down the runway in lingerie, I can tell that you are very confident and comfortable with your body. You worked it! What do you like most about your body?
V: Thank you! What I love most about my body is its sculptural quality, I have very feminine curves and I love to exaggerate my pronounced hip to waist ratio.
A: A lot of plus size women have major body issues and low self esteem because of their weight. Do you have any advice for these women? Any tips on how to love your body and be more confident?
V: I think a lot of women in general can suffer with negative body issues, never mind just the plus size ones, we as Women are corrupted on a daily basis with screamingly inaccessible beauty ideals and that subconscious barrage of messages we receive that stipulates that so few of us live up to that ideal, most certainly effects us. So I start with the notion that its absolutely normal to have to work, for most of us, to come to love and revel in ourselves.
Photography is a wonderful tool towards better accepting yourself, have your friends shoot you and be bold, then look at you and appreciate that there is, and there will only ever be one of you, and you deserve to be celebrated!
A: How do you feel about the Size Acceptance movement? Do you think that plus size women are accurately portrayed in the media? In your ideal world, how would plus size women be represented?
V: I feel proud to be an active member of the Size Acceptance movement and I respect the great amount of work that associations like NAAFA put forth to assist our community.
I don't think that plus size women ARE portrayed in the media. Look at the amount of fat people that you see on the street, then look at the amount you see on TV, in magazines, or in movies and you see proportionally we are simply hidden from view.
In an ideal world, we wouldn't need to differentiate to the extent of referring to ourselves as Plus since people of all shapes and sizes would be celebrated for who they are versus categorized.
A: The average plus size model is very toned, size 10-16, and outside of the modeling world would be considered a "skinny" person. Plus size clothing companies sell sizes 14-28 but always tend to use models that are too small to fit into the clothes they sell OR only use models on the lower end of the sizes in their line. How do you feel about this advertising technique and how it affects the plus size shopper?
V: I think that like every biz they are driven by profit, if tomorrow using 800 lbs women to sell their wares would raise their profits, then that is what we would see. So there is an element of self loathing on behalf of plus size buyers who prefer seeing something closer to what is dictated as the ideal, then something more akin to their reality. By virtue of increasing our self esteem, we are thus better able to see ourselves for what we are, and we would no longer necessitate the use of models that are illusory. I think ideally it would be great to see gorgeous size 10's to size 5X etc who are short, or tall, and not all blond and white and young, but a cross section, diversity!!! It is up to us in the end to force a change, there was a time when only thin models were used to model our plus clothes, but enough voices of dissent led to the introduction of those plus models we do see today, so if we want further change then we need to be the impetus to that revolution through our actions, and our currency.
A: Do you have any advice for your fans that are aspiring to be plus size models?
V: Yes, do not let others skepticism effect you, believe in yourself, celebrate yourself, and be cognoscente of the reality that life is short and you need to make the most out of what you are gifted with.
A: Buxom Talent celebrates not only plus size models, but plus size women who are talented in several different areas such as singers, actors, comedians, artists, and photographers. Do you have any other talents or passions besides modeling?
V: Certainly, I perceive myself as more artist then model, with the emphasis of my work being infiltrating media to help change preconceived notions.
The first community to embrace my curves was in fact contemporary dance, I began performing with Lionel Hoche's MEME BANJO and then went on to work with the choreographer Cyrill Davy in his company C YOSHI M. Thereafter I scored the lead role in the Cannes/Tribeca nominated French film AVIDA, (which also includes me singing), and it was after that, that I gained notoriety via the runway.
I am a very passionate photographer, some of which can be seen on my My Space.
I love to travel the world and plan to continue doing so!
A: What kind of impact do you wish to have on the female plus size community, through your modeling or other endeavors?
V: In fact, my actions are very personal, borne from an innate repugnance against the exclusionary practices of modern media which drive people to loathe, versus love themselves. So I can't profess that I set out with the intent to create an impact specific to anything other then my own private revolution, but I certainly am honored should my personal journey in any way positively effect others.
A: Where can we see some more of your past work? What other shows have you done or magazines have you been in? Do you have any new projects coming up that you can tell us about?
V: I hope to open a website that will include both past and present work.
As to print, French Vogue, Standard, LE MONDE, Liberation, Neohead, Quem, Cleo etc.
If you didn't catch the E! News piece on me recently, then you may not know to go buy the August/September issue of BUST magazine!!!
I was just included in a Mademoiselle Agnes production which Olivier Nicklaus put together, a documentary called NUE with personalities such as Amanda Lempore, and Catherine Millet, which airs on Canal Plus here in France this July.
I am thrilled to have participated in MONIQUE'S FAT CHANCE, which you should soon see on the Oxygen network.
My latest project is a French film where I shall play the role of a double personality, as well as submitting my recent contemporary dance video to international film festivals and planning my 2008 calendar.
A: What are your goals for the future? Where would you like to see your career headed?
V: My goal tends to be to live each day to the fullest.
This career really is born more of personal passion, then any preordained motives, so I can only hope that my convictions and their ensuing actions maintain some level of positive impact.
A: Having had a chance to take a look at our website, and learn a little more about Buxom Talent…what do you think about us?
V: I think its terrific to see a group of women unite with no greater goal then to create a positive, community showcasing plus size women's beauty and talent. I like the idea of having the monthly editorial as well, great thought!
In looking at who you are interested in shooting, I note you specify Straight Plus and Specialty Plus, and that under those definitions Specialty Plus goes only up to a size 24, which means that someone my size would in fact be excluded, so clearly I think that you miss out on a bevy of beauties if indeed I didn't misread those FAQ's.