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October 21, 2014

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Las Vegas-based Facebook page lets plus-size women ‘know that they’re beautiful’

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Plus-size model Robyn Lawley.

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Plus-size model Robyn Lawley.

As social media marketing manager for the Las Vegas-based talent jobs listing site Explore Talent, Sabrina DiResta handles her fair share of Facebook pages. So when she created the “Plus Size Modeling” page this summer to help expand Explore Talent’s demographics, she didn’t think much of it.

Today, the page has more than 153,000 “likes” and is the largest community page for plus-size models on Facebook. “Plus Size Modeling” has since taken on a life of its own, going beyond modeling and talent listings to serve as a broader online community supporting a positive self-image for women of all shapes and sizes.

I spoke with DiResta about Facebook.com/PlusSizeModeling’s growth, its effect and the evolving role of plus-size women in fashion and media.

How did the Facebook page get its start? What was the original idea behind it?

Explore Talent works with all different kinds of talent — adults, children, singers, dancers, models — but we’ve been focusing on the modeling aspect of it for a while, and we were thinking about what demographic of modeling we hadn’t reached out to yet. We realized that there wasn’t a big market for plus-size modeling. So we created a sister site to Explore Talent specifically for our plus-size models and an accompanying Facebook page. We didn’t really thinking anything was going to come about it from Facebook.

Slowly but surely, the page began attracting not only models but also bigger women in general who just need a place to go to know that they’re not alone. To know that there are other people like them who are struggling with their body image and are in need of motivation and inspiration. So instead of keeping it geared toward aspiring models, we turned it into headquarters for all plus-size women.

We do still help out women who are looking to become models, but we really just wanted to motivate women and let them know that they’re beautiful. To show them that even if you don’t want to become a model, it’s OK to love yourself.

What kind of effect has the page had so far? What kind of feedback have you received?

One story that sticks out for me is from a couple months ago, right when the page was picking up speed. I received a message from a 17-year-old girl who wrote me a really long message saying that she was thinking about committing suicide. Her parents would leave her notes all over the house telling her to exercise, that she needs to lose weight, that she’s never going to find a boyfriend if she doesn’t lose weight. She said her best friend stopped being friends with her because she was embarrassed to be seen with her.

It was really heartbreaking. I wrote her back a long message giving her advice about how to stay positive and love herself. She wrote back thanking me and saying how much the page’s support has helped, that she’s joined a swim team and goes jogging when she’s upset, but that her main goal isn’t to lose weight but to get to a point where she loves herself. She said that the Facebook page has helped her realize that she’s not alone and that she’s even made some friends in her city from the page.

That story forever sticks out in my head as something that keeps me going with the page because I’m sure there are other women out there who may not want to send a message or tell their story but who still come on the page to feel better about themselves. The fact that that girl reached out to us as opposed to anyone else really made me feel like I’m making a difference.

Where do you see the page headed? What are the goals for it?

We want to turn the plus-size modeling website we originally created into a site for all things plus size. We want to include workout tips and recipes and success stories from famous plus-size models. We want to take the plus-size [community] — or lack thereof — and shed some light on it. Times are changing, and size 2 women are not the only beautiful women on Earth.

What do you draw on for the page’s posts?

I’m not plus size, but I have had plenty of body issues in my life. I struggle daily, and so do many other women in my life — my mom, my friends — and I use those struggles whenever I’m posting. I know how it feels to have a guy criticize you or leave because of what you look like or don’t look like, or have friends who are prettier than you and make you feel like the outcast.

I don’t think you have to be a certain size to have body and self-esteem issues, so I take my own insecurities and use those in the posts, and I see a lot of people can relate to it. That’s another spin we’re trying to put on the page — that, yes, it is geared toward bigger women, but it’s also just geared toward anyone who just doesn’t love their self as much as they should. We want to help change everyone’s mind about how they feel about themselves.

Plus-size modeling has made its way into a lot of headlines recently with models like Robyn Lawley and a Vogue Italia cover featuring plus-size models. But do you think the industry is realistically on its way to changing its standards?

I think that at this point the modeling industry really has no choice but to adjust. Times are changing. People are realizing that with eating disorders becoming such a problem and underage girls not dressing their age becoming such a problem, “real” women — and I hate that term because all women are real — are making their way into the modeling industry because people want to see women who look like themselves in ads.

There are eight people on Earth who look like Victoria’s Secret models. And then there’s a billion of them who don’t. So why should these “models” who show off the clothes that we wear every day be the ones who are representing us? I know that New York Fashion Week had a plus-size show for the first time ever this year. American Apparel is adding bigger sizes to its inventory because not everyone is a size small … and they were getting complaints about it.

Karl Lagerfeld from Chanel made a comment about how plus-size women shouldn’t be on the runway, and he got a lot of heat for that. This year, he used plus-size models in his runway show at Fashion Week. If Karl Lagerfeld can do it, anyone can. Bigger doesn’t mean ugly. Robyn Lawley is stunning. People are opening their eyes more.

Plus-size women aren’t going anywhere, and the attitude that most plus-size women have — that they’re beautiful and fierce — is very powerful, and that’s really attractive, not just in a physical sense, but in every way. I think the industry is slowly but surely adjusting to the fact that curvy is in. Whether it’s making its comeback or making its debut, it’s definitely going to start becoming more and more popular as time goes by.

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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