'I'd always dreamed of being a plus-size model. Then I found out about "the rules".'

Listen to this story being read by Katie Stow, here.

Have you ever noticed how the faces of plus-size models never seem to have any fat? Or that they all seem to have flat, toned tummies while maintaining a perfect hourglass figure?

When I started plus-size modelling, I was living out my childhood dream.

It was amazing. It was exciting to be a part of the growing body positvity movement. 

At least, that was the case until I learned about the unwritten "rules" of plus-size modelling. It only takes  quick look at a few plus-size models to recognise a reoccurring pattern amongst them.

It's no secret that fashion models are held to an unattainable standard of beauty, but what about plus-size models? If anything, you'd expect plus-size models to be more diverse and inclusive. But can it really be inclusive when bigger bodies are only socially acceptable if they are one kind of body shape? Sadly, plus-size models are subjected to yet another unattainable beauty standard.

Watch: 57 per cent of girls compare themselves to other people on social media. Story continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

The fashion industry has been reluctant to change, but finally they are giving plus-size bodies a seat at the table. That being said, they are clearly only allowing the plus-size bodies that they approve of. Predominantly white, hourglass figure, no double chins.  

Even then, they are likely to be Photoshopped to meet this unrealistic standard. Although we are supposed to be happy that plus-size models are being used, it often has the opposite effect and makes us feel even worse. You can be fat, but only if you meet these requirements.

As one of the bigger models in Sydney, it can be difficult to comprehend. The fact that certain brands continue to promote their plus-size collections, which start at a size 16, with models who wear sizes 12 and 14, is frustrating. Brands are cashing in on the growing body-positive movement which only serves to highlight the reason why we desperately needed it in the first place.

When a size 12 model is placed next to a size 6, they will obviously appear to be larger, giving the impression that plus-size models are being used more and the brand is being inclusive. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing bigger bodies being used, but this isn't a real representation or realistic portrayal of plus-size bodies. Just setting up the unattainable beauty standard that a size 16 body could look like this size 12 model I am no math whiz, but that just doesn’t add up.

Image: Instagram @learningtolovesarah. 


After putting in a lot of effort over the course of many, many years, I finally reached a point where I could accept and even like my body at times. Then I started working as a plus-size model. I have lost count of how many hours I have spent googling liposuction in the hopes of getting rid of my double chin or making my waist smaller. Staring at myself in the mirror, trying to make myself fit into this cookie-cutter expectation of what my fat body "should" look like.

While I am aware that I have minimal fat on my face and that in pictures I can look smaller than my 16–18 size frame, these unsaid expectations have created new types of insecurities in myself. My negative self-talk is always wreaking havoc in my brain. I have a double chin, can you see it? How many layers of shapewear do I need to wear so that it seems as if I have a flat tummy? (It’s two in case you were wondering, but the struggle to wrestle them off in the bathroom is not worth it, trust me.) Why are plus-size models suddenly losing weight once they get more successful? Maybe if I lose weight, I’ll get more work? Am I even going to keep getting work looking like this?


Image: Instagram @learningtolovesarah. 


One of my TikTok videos recently went viral. It emphasises these unwritten standards for plus-size models. Although the majority of the feedback was positive, a few people made the comment that that's what models are supposed to be. Beautiful, skinny, and something we wish we could be. This just highlights the root of the problem. The internalised fatphobia that you can only be beautiful if you appear thin.

@learningtolovesarah Anyone notice this? #effyourbeautystandards #allbodiesaregoodbodies #plussizefashion #bopotiktok #bodypositivity ♬ CUFF IT - Beyoncé

"So Sarah, what are we meant to do?" I hear you say. "We can’t change years of glorifying underweight bodies and internalised fatphobia." You’re right, we can't, but here is what we can do to create real, ongoing change. We can normalise bodies at all stages of fatness and thinness as beautiful and worthy by including them in media and art. We can stop obsessing over the weight of celebrities because it keeps the weight of society on our shoulders. We can continue to advocate for real diversity, not just tokenism. We can demand more than this thin ideal. We can make space for bodies of all shapes, sizes, abilities, and interests. We don’t need to shrink ourselves to be beautiful. It is time for our culture to reshape its distorted and destructive ideal of beauty.

In a society where our value is determined so commonly by numbers on a scale, loving ourselves is one of the most revolutionary acts we can do. So let's start a revolution.

Follow Sarah on Instagram and TikTok to join the self-love revolution.

Feature Image: @learningtolovesarah.