Today I’m interviewing Jessica, a plus-size Instagram model. She has been posting full-body photos of herself since December of 2016. I approached Jessica to make a page about her work as a plus-size model which you can view here.
This interview with plus-size model Jessica is invaluable to plus-size women and aspiring plus-size models all over the world. It’s a great insight into how a woman goes about building her self-esteem and feeling comfortable in her skin. This interview also brings to light the drive behind the recent Instagram plus-size modeling phenomenon.
Coen: Hi Jessica, I’m really curious about your motivation for, experience with, and reactions to your work on your Instagram page. Please tell us a little bit about who you are and share anything you like about yourself!
Jessica: I’m so happy that you consider me and my work worthy of a page on your site, Coen. And thank you for offering me the platform to share my experiences.
First off, I am 26, a teacher, and I have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. I was born and raised in the same Florida county. I have a great family that loves and supports me, and we are all small town people at heart.
It might be hard to believe by looking at me now, but in my teens and pretty much up to my first full-body Instagram post, I was not interested in expressing myself through fashion or make-up, at all. Yet here I am.
Coen: Well, for me, that is indeed hard to believe, Jessica, and not because I don’t believe you. It’s because when I first saw you on Instagram, you looked like someone with high self-esteem, unafraid to show herself. Little did I realize you have walked the same path as so many people have. That is something I often forget when I look at women like you. To me, it seems you are born with that self-esteem. And, when I talk to other curves admiring guys it’s the same thing, they put women like you on pedestals. It’s just pretty hard for them to imagine you (women) ever having had low (or lower) self-esteem.
I want to talk more about the men who admire plus-size women and your experience with them later on. But first I’d like to ask you about your path from the past to where you are now.
Can you tell me what prompted you to post that first full-body photo of yours back in December of 2016?
Jessica: There were so many events that lead up to taking that photo. I had gotten out of an emotionally abusive relationship a few months prior. I had lost about 40 lbs and had taken some pain medicine for an injury I had sustained. Without going into detail, I’ll tell you that I was in a 5-year relationship that slowly destroyed who I was. It took away what little confidence I had. And it left me feeling like I would never find someone to love me as I was/am.
After leaving that relationship I finally started to focus on getting healthy. At the time of that photo, I had lost some weight and dared to wear heels out. Back then they were not a part of my daily outfits. So, feeling myself I looked at my reflection in the mirror. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t hate what I saw. I took the pics, quickly, before I changed my mind, and posted them shortly after, before I lost my courage.
That picture means a lot to me. It’s not my best selfie for sure but it represents the start of my journey to self-love. It was so well received on Instagram (100 or so likes was a lot to me at the time). My mind was blown. I realized I was not – and am not – the person my ex and so many others painted me to be.
Coen: I recognize a lot of what you wrote in my own life up until the present. Relationships seem to never be easy, unlike the rosy picture they paint in the movies. And, similarly, I posted my first YouTube video like you posted your photo, before losing the courage to do so. Now here we both are, all this time later, and many people follow our work. 🙂
I really admire people who dare to show character in the face of ridicule, either real, perceived, or feared.
Did you at all have any expectations as to how people were going to react to that photo? For example, did you think if those reactions would be positive or negative? And/or did you think that you would get questions that could make you feel uncomfortable?
Jessica: Relationships do seem to have the biggest impact on our confidence, good or bad.
I really didn’t have any expectations of people liking it or commenting. I was, of course, scared of a backlash. At the time a single negative comment would’ve destroyed what little courage I had. But, the opposite happened; nothing spectacular but I actually got likes, and maybe a few nice comments but nothing major.
And then slowly it built to what it is today. I have some great followers whom always make me feel so good about myself. And, it’s that kind of love that keeps me posting and helps me stay strong.
Coen: Yes, I recognize that. In the past, my self-esteem was based on how the women I dated saw and interacted with me.
I have received many letters from plus-size women over the years who talked about their self-esteem. The biggest self-esteem wreckers were from current or past boyfriends. Not just from the negative attention about them in the media and from society. It’s for that reason why I do what I do with Curvy Shrine. I wish those men would ditch the media’s and society’s view of larger bodies as being less beautiful. Those men should just focus on what they feel. I never understood how men think about this topic because women have a natural tendency to be soft and curvaceous. Men seem to listen to what the media and society think of them rather than their own feelings. It seems your boyfriend fell prey to that as well. Not to say all men like plus-size women, but in loving relationships weight gain or loss shouldn’t be a problem.
I think the people who comment positively on your photos on Instagram have discarded society’s standard of beauty.
Plus-size women modeling on Instagram has positive effects on their self-esteem, and it’s great you’re getting that benefit as well!
So let’s talk about those who comment on your photos and who make you feel good every time you post. Can you say if most of them are men or women? And can you say if you see any people in those comments with similar interests? For example, do you think that the men who comment love women with your body size and type? And do you think women who comment are looking to raise their own self-esteem because maybe they struggle with that? Feel free to add your own findings other than these two I mentioned by the way. Perhaps you see other things that stood out for you when reading their comments.
Jessica: I agree that people should like or love whomever they want without fear of being shamed for it. So many men have approached me in secret. They told me that they like my body type but they’ve never dated someone like me for that exact reason. It’s unfortunate because it puts myself and women like me in a ‘guilty pleasure’ type of category. I don’t want to be in that secret little box. I want everyone to see that love and self-love aren’t dependent on a size.
Firstly, yes, most of my followers are men. They more than likely found me through one of the shout-out pages that I am featured on. A huge shout out to all of them for helping me on my way!
As for my comments, there is a mixed theme of lust and appreciation. On one hand, there are the followers that have been with me for a long time. They actually take the time to read my little captions and respond based on that. Then there are the more casual followers. They skip my caption and leave me hearts and a “Love your thighs”, or some kind of similar comment. I delete those as quickly as possible because it is so inappropriate it makes me blush haha. My favorites are for sure the ones that are a full thought. They show love to me as a person as opposed to one particular body part. Regardless, I am incredibly glad that people take the time to like and sometimes comment on my posts. It is such a booster and makes my days better.
I would love to have more women that come and make comments regarding my outfits or makeup. I always try to appeal to that crowd, it is my goal to represent women that are my size. And, more specifically, to represent women who have my shape and aren’t shown in fashion magazines like typical hourglass women. The plus-size movement has already made so much progress but it is still not all-inclusive.
Coen: Well some people would argue that any attention is good attention because it means you’re making waves! It’s unfortunate that some of the male comments seem a bit too much. But then again, for some of them, it is the only way they know how to compliment a woman. Being the visual creatures that we are, men focus more on what they see, as opposed to what lies beneath. But I can definitely understand that you want to keep the comment section clean and friendly to all audiences.
To me, it looks like you have an hourglass shape. Obviously, you see it differently because you said that unlike hourglass shapes, your shape isn’t shown in fashion magazines. So how do you see your shape?
Jessica: There are many women in the media who have varying hourglass shapes. They have a full bust and round hips with a little waist. I do not have that. I dress to mimic that shape but even then my tummy sticks out farther than theirs. And my rear is not as round. I have love handles that they don’t have. And, because of that, these clothes that were designed for their shape don’t fit mine. Honestly, a lot of clothes in my size are boxy and unflattering. It’s very hard to find something that fits comfortably and compliments my body.
I want women like me who don’t fit into that category to feel strong. I want them to see that it’s possible to take that shirt, which is a bit tight around the tummy, and tuck it into a cute skirt that flares out and hides your flaws. Pair it with some strappy heels and you have an outfit!
Like I said the plus-size movement has come a long way but it is still not all-inclusive. Someday it will be. Women with tummies like mine will be in the same lingerie catalog as those hourglass shapes.
Coen: Wait, you don’t have an hourglass shape? I’m really shocked! That just goes to show how impressive it is what you do. You started off with that one full-body photo for reasons which may not even be aligned with your current reasons. You’re like that caterpillar that turns into a butterfly! 🙂
That said, I am saddened to hear that you would hide your “flaws”, and see them as such. But of course, I am biased because to me they aren’t flaws at all!
I’d like to point something out to you that until now I have only briefly touched upon in my videos. (I will be discussing this also in more detail on this website in future articles.) Your body is, as my homepage says it best “the embodiment of curves found in nature”. And, I’d like to show you what I mean with that statement with one of your photos, below.
Look at this photo of you:
I know you’ve probably seen it a thousand times, which makes sense considering that you’re the one who took it!But let me ask you something. What do you see?
Jessica: This is a great dress and it’s one of the first I found that is flattering to my body. That dress came about at a time when I was really starting to embrace my body and me in general. I was still nervous to go in public and draw attention to all that thigh. But, I was just confident enough to wear it to work. I love my co-workers, they are very supportive of me and my personal growth.
What I see is a woman who has come so far in her journey to self-love. My tummy is present, and my hair is a mess. Also, my makeup wasn’t great but I was – and am – realizing that all of that are parts of me. My makeup game has improved, my hair will never change (and that’s ok) and my tummy is just a tummy. It doesn’t make me fat or flawed, it’s just part of me and that’s so ok!
So what I see is a woman in progress. I’ve come so far and I know I’ll keep growing.
Coen: OK. That is a beautiful way to look at it. I wanted to direct your attention to something specific about that photo though. So, here is what I see.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the four elements (or five according to some literature): Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Here are some illustrations I’ve made for them:
Now, when you have another look at your photo, do you see what I see?
Please look again:
Now you see? 😉
This is how I look at women, and especially at plus-size women because their curves are more pronounced. And this is why I think your figure is not just ‘accepted’, but why it’s ABSOLUTELY STUNNING!
Jessica: Haha! Wow, I’ve never seen or heard that before. But that’s a cool and unique way to look at it.
Coen: Alright, well I’m glad you like it. I want to wrap up the interview but I have one last question.
Now that you’ve seen what kind of positive reactions you get, are you better equipped against negative ones as well?
Jessica: I think no matter how positive and sure of yourself you are, sometimes certain things really get to you. I’ve been so lucky in that the comments on my posts have always been flattering, sometimes overly so, and supportive. Even though I’m not at 100% yet, I know I’m stronger. And, I have a better understanding of why people do what they do. So yeah, I think I am better equipped to handle that kind of stuff now. And it is hugely thanks to the positivity I receive on IG.
Coen: That’s amazing! Building your self-esteem is really an ongoing journey and judging from this interview it sounds like you’re mastering that art!
Jessica, I want to thank you very much for doing this interview with me! And I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
Last updated: March 23, 2018
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