When it comes to famous plus size models, you’ve probably heard of Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday. But there are so many other plus size models making waves in 2021.
With inclusivity moving to the forefront of the fashion industry, plus size models have never been in greater demand. From Palomar Elesser to Nyome Nicholas-Williams, Denise Bidot to Jada Sezer, a new host of curvy women have taken the fashion spotlight, landing global campaigns, scoring huge social media followings and challenging narrow beauty standards along the way. Not just women, the male plus size market is booming too, and it’s making for a more inclusive, representative industry.
Finally, it feels as though the world of fashion is waking up to the fact that those over a size 14 deserve to look stylish too. The last few years have seen a sharp rise in the best plus size clothing brands offering covetable wardrobe pieces, from the best plus size leggings, to wow-factor dresses, on-trend tailoring and brilliant jeans for curvy women. And the shapewear industry has finally caught up too, with more labels than ever selling plus size shapewear. With many straight-sized brands extending their size offerings too, there’s undoubtedly a positive shift happening. And while there’s still a way to go until the fashion industry is a truly inclusive place, more plus size brands, coupled with greater representation of plus size models on the runways and in magazines, can only be a good thing.
But when it comes to knowing exactly what is plus sized, the lines are a little hazy. Parameters differ from market to market, but in the US, a plus-size model is anyone above a dress size 12. Considering the average dress size in both the US and UK is a size 16, it’s no small wonder we’re desperate to see more relatable bodies.
But being a plus-size model isn’t always straightforward. When the famous plus size model Iskra Lawrence started her career in her teens, she was initially rejected by agencies because she was considered too big for a straight-size model, but not big enough for a plus model.
Fortunately, that didn’t stop her from forging a successful career, and along with the roster of plus size models below, being an inspiring role model for hundreds of curvy women and plus size men.
THE 21 MOST FAMOUS PLUS-SIZE MODELS IN THE WORLD
Perhaps the most famous plus size model in the world right now, Ashley Graham has achieved international success since beginning her modeling career at the age of 12 in 2001.
The size 16 supermodel has appeared on the covers of American Vogue, Vogue Arabia, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Glamour, walked the runway for Dolce and Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, and Fendi, and fronted campaigns for Revlon and St Tropez.
A passionate advocate for body positivity, Ashley often challenges the industry in which she works in. In 2015 she hosted a TED Talk called Plus size? More like my size, where she called out outdated beauty conventions, and regularly shares celebratory un-retouched images of herself to her 13 million Instagram followers.
At just 15, Tess Holliday had an interest in plus size modelling and auditioned at a casting call in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time, Tess was a US size 16 (UK 18/20) and 5 foot 3 inches tall. She was told she would be lucky to do print adverts or catalogue work because she was ‘too short and big’.
Despite the early setback, Tess rose to fame in 2013 after starting the body-positive social media movement #effyourbeautystandards—an Instagram hashtag that gets used thousands of times each day.
Having already appeared in several ‘fat-shion’ blogs promoting plus sized style, in 2014 Tess quit her day job at a dentist’s office to pursue modelling and influencing full time. The same year she starred in the viral #everyBODYisflawless video, which featured an array of plus sized models and influencers lip-syncing along to Beyoncé’s hit song Flawless.
Since rising to prominence, Tess has covered Cosmopolitan UK and starred in a H&M campaign, as well as featured in the glossy pages of Marie Claire, Vogue Italia, and Nylon magazines.
Rising to fame in 2020 after an Instagram policy meant her photos were censored, Nyome Nicholas-Williams is famous around the world for her movement #IWantToSeeNyome.
After posting a gorgeous nude photograph of herself with her arm covering her bare breast on Instagram, Nyome, who has worked on campaigns for Adidas, Boots and Dove, had her image removed from her account for apparently violating the social media platform’s nudity policy.
Outraged, the model took to Instagram, “Millions of pictures of very naked, skinny white women can be found on Instagram every day,” said Nyome. “But a fat black woman celebrating her body is banned? It was shocking to me. I feel like I’m being silenced.”
The issue was publically escalated when the photographer of the portrait, Alex Cameron, and the British activist Gina Martin (who campaigned to make upskirting illegal) came out in support of Nyome. Following this, in October 2020 Instagram agreed to change its policies surrounding nudity—promising to stop censoring fat bodies and Black bodies. Nyome’s photo was also reinstated on her account. Nyome, Alex and Gina are still working hard to eliminate the censoring of plus size Black women.
Iskra is a British model who is best known for being the global face of lingerie brand Aerie. With millions of followers on Instagram, and a loyal following of young women who thrive on her positive outlook and promotion of self-love, Iskra is one of the most famous, and much-loved models in the world.
She made her catwalk debut in 2016 when she walked the runway for New York-based label Chromat, and has fronted campaigns for luxury plus size fashion brand Marina Rinaldi, and American Eagle Outfitters. The latter of which used unretouched images of the model wearing its The New American Jean.
Iskra is an inspiring brand ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and the creator of the NEDA Inspires Award. In February 2017 she presented AT TEDX talk called Ending the pursuit of perfection at the University of Nevada.
Paloma Elsesser shot to fame after being discovered by internationally renowned make-up artist Pat McGrath, who chose the plus size model as the face of her beauty line launch.
Paloma has since become an outspoken advocate for inclusion within the fashion industry, using her 400 thousand-strong Instagram following to challenge traditional beauty standards. As well as fronting campaigns for Coach, Glossier, and Nike, she has walked for designers including Fendi and Salvatore Ferragamo. Most recently she was cast as one of the new faces of Victoria’s Secrets #TheVSCollective, and is advocating for the brand to extend its sizing up to a 5XL.
Born in Miami, Denise Bidot was inspired to step into the world of modeling by her Puerto Rican mother. However, where her mom struggled to reach success due to her curvy figure, Denise has become one of the most famous plus sized models in the world, starring in campaigns for the likes of Forever21, Levi’s and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty.
At 18, Denise moved to California to pursue a career in acting, however, whilst working as a make-up artist, Denise was approached by a photographer who convinced her to get into modeling. In 2014, Denise became the first-ever plus size model to walk for two straight-sized brands during New York Fashion Week.
Barbie Linhares Ferreira
Born in the New York borough of Queens, Barbie Ferreira began her modelling career when she was a teen by sending photos of herself to an American Apparel open casting call.
Barbie has since worked with some of the biggest brands in the business, including Aerie, Adidas, ASOS, Forever21, Missguided, and Target. She has also cultivated a successful acting career, starring in hit shows Divorce and Euphoria. In 2016, following un-retouched images from her campaign for Aerie lingerie going viral, Time Magazine named her among its 30 Most Influential Teens.
Australian body positive activist and curve model, Kate Wasley got her big break when she landed a coveted spot in the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. She’s since modelled for brands including Frank Body and ASOS, and was the first ever curve model to team up with Australian straight-size activewear brand Lorna Jane, who expanded into plus-size clothing, extending their gym-ready range up to size XL.
Kate also the co-founded of Any Body Co, an initiative supporting body positivity.
Plus size model and influencer Darnel Ghramm is best known for his #WeAreBigAndTall project which, in 2018, saw him and a group of fellow plus-size male models recreate A$AP Rocky’s famous Calvin Klein campaign. Garnering headlines across the world, the celebratory images aimed to break boundaries and promote body positivity among men.
“We EXIST and we are constituted by many different things. Whether big, tall or simply fall outside of the world’s standards, we are ALL handsome and worthy, FACT!”, Darnel wrote on his Instagram page.
Although she’s known for being the daughter of Baywatch heartthrob David Hasselhoff—and rose to fame in the reality show The Hasselhoffs—Hayley has also made a name for herself in the world of modeling.
Starting her career in 2007 when she was just 14, Hayley has walked the runway during British Plus Size Fashion Week and modeled for popular plus sized brand Torrid. In April 2021, Hayley became the first-ever plus-size model to pose for the cover of the German edition of Playboy.
Jada Sezar made a name for herself recreating plus sized versions of Vogue-style fashion shoots and sharing them with her social media following in a bid to increase the presence of plus sized women and men within the fashion editorials.
After her images went viral, she was invited to model for plus sized brand Evans in London Fashion Week’s first-ever plus-size show and has since worked with brands including L’Oreal, Elomi Lingerie, Simply Be, and Marks & Spencer.
Jada is an ambassador for UN Women UK and the YoungMinds mental health charity and is a champion of the Women’s Equality Party #NoSizeFitsAll initiative, which calls for greater body diversity within the fashion industry.
British model Felicity Hayward got her big break while out partying in an East London pub. Dancing to Diana Ross, Felicity was scouted to model for a photographer and the shoot was then published in Ponystep Magazine in 2012.
Soon after the magazine feature, Felicity was signed to agency Storm Management where she’s worked with brands including Mac Cosmetics and L’Oreal, and was appointed as the first curve ambassador for ASOS in 2014.
The size 20 model also founded SelfLoveBringsBeauty, an online body acceptance movement, wellness and fashion line.
After gaining eight stone and struggling with mental health, Yorkshire-born Ben James, began advocating for male body positivity on social media, where he’s garnered a following of over 200 thousand.
Outspoken against unrealistic beauty standards, in 2019 he took part in an advert for clothing brand Simply Be, which critiqued Love Island for its lack of body diversity. The campaign used a line up of curve and disabled models to recreated the British TV show’s classic opening image.
One of the most famous British plus size male models, Ben has work for the likes of Burton, Ted Baker, and ASOS.
Best known for being an inclusivity advocate, Sonny Turner is one of the most popular plus size models of the moment—especially on Instagram, where she inspires her 281thousand-strong following with her body-positive messages.
She has fronted major campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic and partnered with brands including Adidas, Marc Jacobs, H&M, and Tommy Hilfiger.
Starting her modeling career at just 15 years-old, Hunter started out as a straight-size model, before switching to plus size aged 19, when she could no longer maintain the size 0 standard set by her agency.
In 2017, she became the largest model (a US size 16) to appear in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She has also launched a popular size-inclusive range of clothing with teleshopping channel QVC.
As well as being a well-known plus size model, Nadia Aboulhosn is also a popular fashion blogger and designer.
The Lebanese American model got her first break when she was tapped for a curve feature for Seventeen Magazine, and since then she’s gone on to win American Apparel’s model search, model for Addition Elle’s lingerie campaign and become the face of boohoo.com.
Her capsule collection of boots for wider calves sold out twice over when it was launched in 2019.
Former fashion editor Gabi Gregg (aka Gabi Fresh) rose to fame in 2012 after a blog post showing her wearing a bikini with the caption #fatkini went viral. The buzz landed her a swimwear collaboration with Swimsuits For All—a partnership that proved so popular it still continues to this day.
Her eye for style has seen her garner a social media following of over 800 thousand, who tune in for her plus size outfit inspiration. Gabi also designs a line of plus size lingerie with Playful Promises.
Signed to IMG Models, plus size model Precious Lee uses her high public profile to fiercely campaign for race and size diversity across fashion, TV and film.
Born and raised in Atlanta, she was the first Black curve model to appear inside American Vogue, and one of the first plus size models to walk for Moschino for its Fall/Winter 21/22 collection during Milan Fashion Week. Most recently she made history as the first African American curve model to walk in Versace’s spring 2021 show.
Know to her social media following as CurvyCampbell, plus size model Olivia Campbell, is well-loved for her message of body acceptance and self-love.
Having publicly spoken out about the fattest and racist attitudes she’s faced in the industry, she uses her platform to campaign for greater inclusivity and diversity and challenge societal beauty norms.
When Steven Green (aka Steven G) was contacted by Rihanna’s team on Instagram and asked to star in the singer’s Savage X Fenty Show Vol 2, the plus-size model thought it was a joke. However, his underwear-clad appearance broke the internet as fans applauded seeing plus size male representation. An overnight success story, Steven quickly became one of the most sought-after male plus size models working for big-name brands such as ASOS.
A former teen beauty queen, Candice Huffine signed her first modelling contract in 2000 at the age of 15, when the limited plus size fashion offering meant there were scant opportunities for a model over a size 14. However, in the twenty years since, she has forged an enviable career and furthered the plus-size fashion offering, becoming a leader of the inclusive fashion movement.
Gracing the pages of glossy high-end magazines from Vogue to Glamour, she has also walked the runway for designers including Prabal Gurung and Christian Siriano. In 2015 she became the first plus size woman to be featured in the Pirelli Calendar.