Charli Howard is a British model who raised major eyebrows when she confronted her former agency in a Facebook post that went viral. Dropped for being “too big” at a size 2, Howard went on to found the All Woman Project and become one of the first models to ever be signed to both the straight-size and plus-size boards at her agency. “When you surround yourself with agents who care about your well-being, their opinions don’t matter. I starved myself for over ten years, giving me irregular periods (if any), bad skin, a bad back, bleeding gums, hair loss etc, and I’m never going back to that place to meet somebody else’s ideas of perfection,” she said in a recent post on Instagram. We recently caught up with Howard to get the truth on what it’s really like to be considered a plus-size model at a size 6.
“I used to fight my natural curves with every ounce of my being. Models, as I knew them, did not have boobs or thighs. I thought fat was evil. I look back at that mentality now and wonder why I fought my shape for so long. If I’d known I could work and be this happy before, I would’ve laughed.
“It does feel odd, being a US size 6-8 and being considered a ‘curve’ model. I’m only curvaceous in modeling terms, not in the real world. I know I will never be plus-size as my bone structure is quite small. My only concern is that young girls might look at me and question their own sizes, thinking something like, ‘If Charli’s considered curvy at a size 6 or 8, then what does that make me?’ Fashion is not reflective of the real world, so I try to make it as relatable as possible with the All Woman Project that I co-founded.
My only concern is that young girls might look at me and question their own sizes. For example, “If Charli’s considered curvy at a size 6-8, then what does that make me?”
“I guess I became a plus-size model without realizing it. I began to be asked how it felt to have gone from being a straight-size model to a curve model, and my initial reaction was just, ‘Huh?’ I knew my measurements had gotten bigger and that I’d filled out, but I didn’t know that made me ‘curvy.’ I’m often too small for some clients, and then too big for others. I sit right in the middle of the conventional model categories. So instead of fighting it, I just do my own thing.
“Up until I moved to New York, I had no idea the plus-size industry really existed, or that you could make money from it. It sounds like a dream to most people–getting to eat, whilst still being able to model. And I’m living it!
“In my ignorance, I used to assume plus-size models were girls who couldn’t compete with us ‘straight-sized athletes’—the girls who starve themselves every day, almost competitively, as a step closer towards accomplishing their dreams—and in the UK, curve models are not taken seriously at all. But when I came to the United States, I was amazed by it. The industry turns over billions a year, and the women are just as beautiful and aspirational as ‘regular’ models–just more relatable to the consumer. I only wish more countries would realize how profitable and successful this side of the industry is.
“I’ve had comments saying curve modeling isn’t ‘real’ modeling, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Some people compare modeling to athletes, saying that if you can’t maintain the measurements, you’re not model-worthy. I just don’t understand why society has become fixated on thinness, and measures that as success. Beauty doesn’t come in one dress size.
Beauty doesn’t come in one dress size.
“When I tell people I’m a curve model, a few people seem shocked. I know that I’m not plus-size in real life, but I am as a model, and that has taken some getting used to. I still wish women weren’t divided into categories based on their body type and that they were all on a single board, just so fashion has to cater to every body shape.
“Becoming a curve model has allowed me to live again. I was trapped in a cycle of self-loathing and restricting. I was constantly miserable, with bad skin and a mood even worse. I’m happy being part of a team of people within fashion that want to see change happen. I truly believe that had I seen women of various sizes growing up in fashion and in magazines, I doubt I would have had half the body issues I did. Diversity is important not only for fashion, but for society and young girls, and so it’s my mission that they are represented, too.
“I remind myself daily that I am more than my measurements. I’m a good friend, a good sister, a good daughter. I love animals and I don’t set out to hurt people. Those parts of me are far more important than what I weigh. I genuinely believed weighing less would make me more likable, but once I stopped focusing on what others thought about me, I truly began to live life.”
As told to Christina Grasso