A number of women have emerged as champions of the body
positive, plus-size revolution that exploded in 2015 but Tess Holliday, a
supermodel who refuses to bow to the conventions perpetuated by the
fashion industry, has arguably become one of the most prominent of them
With an Instagram following of over one million and her gaze
staring out from billboards and campaigns, Holliday continues to take
the fashion world by storm, challenging some of its most ingrained
beliefs about size and appearance.
Holliday also signed with
London-based Milk Model Management, making history by becoming the first
woman of her size and height (UK size 26, 5’5) to be represented by a
This news was eyed with suspicion by outlets not yet familiar with
Holliday who believed the signing was merely a "gimmick”.
who predicted interest in her would quickly wane or believed she would
resort to losing weight to please casting agents failed to recognise the
five-year modelling career she already had under her belt, which
includes campaigns with Benefit Cosmetics and Yours Clothing.
Holliday continues to campaign for body positivity and diversity within the fashion industry with her effyourbeautystandards movement, which has grown substantially throughout last year.
It looks like 2016 is going to be even busier, with a fashion line, secret projects and now a baby on the way. The Independent
spoke to Holliday about what 2015 meant for women, the term plus size
and how social media is helping to change the face of fashion.
You have over one million followers on Instagram. We’ve
written dozens of stories about women being body shamed and abused on
Instagram, but it seems to have empowered you and driven your success.
What is your overall experience of Instagram, and social media in
Social media is a wonderful but very dangerous place. Yes, it has
changed my life for the better, but it has a lot of disadvantages that
come with it. You just have to remember that at the end of the day,
social media isn't real life and do things that make you happy. That’s
what I choose to do, people say horrible things about me online but
that's not my reality. I share parts of my life online, and appreciate
everything that places like Instagram and Depop have given me, as well as the people and opportunities it's brought into my life, but that's it.
You were one of the dozens of women targeted by ‘Project Harpoon’ on its Facebook page. What was your reaction after finding out you were one of the women?
To be honest, I thought it was laughable. Their "Photoshop” skills
were horrendously bad, I don't even know how anyone could have taken
them seriously. They should be ashamed for even thinking that was worth
sharing with the world.
Were you encouraged by the furious backlash against Project
Harpoon and the action taken to shut it down? Are attitudes towards
curvier women improving?
Look, I think the bottom line of what they were trying to do is
f**ked up. One 100 per cent. However, it was just executed so badly that
I just couldn't take them seriously. I think some of the women affected
by it were upset, and understandably but the rest of us didn't even bat
How do you feel about the term ‘plus-size’? The Drop the Plus
campaign and others have argued that it promotes body shaming while
others believe rejecting the term plus size promotes shame at being a
I think it's stupid. End of story.
You started #Effyourbeautystandards in 2013. Looking back
over the past two years, what do you think it has done and what are its
It's really changed the way that I view others and brought a
community into my life that I didn't even realise I needed. For me, the
biggest accomplishment was bringing a team on to help me further spread
the message, and just this month we celebrated one year of having them
as ambassadors of Eff Your Beauty Standards. They are men and women from
all around the world, all backgrounds, sharing what the movement means
to them. We have someone from the LBGT community, two mental health
counsellors, a plus size male fashion blogger and model, a plus size
model, someone with PCOS that calls herself "the bearded lady”, and a
plus size blogger. From South Carolina, to Canada, to Singapore, we are
spreading the message that beauty can be whatever you want it to.
You were announced as the first plus-size supermodel and in a
year have become globally famous. Do you feel a responsibility to
curvier women with this title?
I feel responsible to women everywhere, I didn't start my career to
just speak to plus-size women, although that was a massive part of it.
Women of all shapes and sizes have issues with their bodies and most are
too afraid to talk about it because the media has made us feel ashamed.
I hope through mine and other women’s work the next generation won't
suffer the way we have, and that the media will get it's s**t together.
Is it frustrating to still be modelling mostly for plus-size brands, and not more mainstream ones?
No. I was told my entire life that I would never be a model at all,
so to be flying around the world modelling for any brand is a dream come
Why did you decide to launch your own plus-size range?
It's something I was always interested in, but none of the companies
that approached me felt like a good fit until the most recent one. I
wanted to make sure that who ever I worked with had the ability to give
my fan base and plus women options that hasn't been available before.
I'm so tired of the same prints, styles, and lack of options. I felt now
was the time.
How does your line differ from other ranges?
My line doesn't have many prints or graphics. I wanted to keep it
more about the design and aesthetic of the clothing instead of slapping a
massive zebra print on a shirt and calling it a day. It's effortless
and still very chic, easy to wear.
What are mainstream brands lacking that your clothes offer?
A lot of mainstream brands are really doing it right, so I don't
necessarily think that my line is the be all and end all of plus size
fashion. However, I do feel that it will appeal to a larger audience of
women who feel they haven't been able to find pieces like mine in their
size before. For me, it’s great to have platforms like Depop that help
me reach out to a particular audience and connect with them about my
clothing and the kind of pieces they’re looking for.
Why do you think mainstream brands such as Victoria's Secret choose not to cater to plus size women?
It says a lot about their company and who they want their target
audience to be. They are saying that their aesthetic is sexy, and that
they are interested in catering to plus women. The thing is, plus women
have a lot of money to spend and will choose other brands that offer
those options in our sizes. My issue isn't that stores like VS don't
offer plus-size, it's that their brand potentially perpetuates unhealthy
body image to millions of young girls and women.. that there is only
one way to be sexy and that's not true.
Who are the plus-size women and/or men you look up to?
Miss Piggy, Beth Ditto, Bruce from Chubstr, Jes Baker, and seeing
actresses like Melissa McCarthy and Aidy Bryant. They do roles that
aren't about their size. It makes me feel like things are changing.
What are your plans for the future? Are there any other exciting projects in the pipeline?
Yes...so many amazing things are happening and it's only February. I can't share anything yet, but the best is yet to come!