Kit Steinkellner
August 27, 2015 8:02 am
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We love that the modeling industry has been so supportive and inclusive as of late with regards to plus-size models. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the industry is inclusive with regards to ALL sizes. In fact, as model Leah Kelley recently explained to People, when she started modeling at the age of 19, 5’11 and a size 8, she was told she would either have to lose weight to become a viable straight-size model or gain weight to become a working plus-size model. The modeling industry doesn’t look kindly at “in-betweenie” models, i.e. models that fall between the industry’s definition of straight-size and plus-size.

“I knew losing weight was not an option for my body shape,” Kelley, now 28, told People. “But if I gained weight, I was told I could travel the world – and I did.” By the time Kelley was 25, she had landed campaigns for Calvin Klein and Vogue Germany. At a size 16 and weighing in at 200 pounds, Kelley was a successful plus-size model.

Though this would have been a perfectly great weight for another person, Kelley’s body did not naturally want to be this size. She had to eat helpings of pasta and a quart of ice cream every day to maintain these proportions.

Struggling to be a size her body did not want to be took a toll on her health and eventually Kelley opted out. “I wanted to not be winded when I went up the subway stairs and feel like I was going to pass out. Even sitting up was hard,” she explained. “I didn’t want to sacrifice my health anymore for the chance to travel the world and make money.”

So Kelley returned to eating and exercising as she had before her transition into plus-size work, and she returned to a size 8, the size her body wanted to be. She now maintains the blog Thick and Toned, where she chronicles her journey in the fashion industry.

As much as we want fashion and modeling’s recent embrace of plus sizes to be a sign of inclusivity, stories like Kelley’s make us worry that, in fact, it’s possible the industry has simply found a new way to be exclusive. Body positivity means that all sizes are accepted and welcome. It’s about supporting whatever size a woman’s body naturally wants to be. To force models to lose or gain extreme amounts of weight is to completely miss the point. We need all types of models represented, and we need these industries to support all body types and all women.

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(Image via Instagram)