What Do Plus Size Modeling Agencies Look For?

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Plus Size modeling has been on the rise in recent years. One of the factors that have made this possible is the increasing embrace of body positivity campaigns which has caused several top-tier fashion houses, brands, and modeling agencies to begin to scout for plus size models. So what do plus-size modeling agencies look for? Stick around to know the answers and more.

Plus size modeling agencies are particularly keen on natural beauty and dress size. You simply have to be gorgeous – lovely hair, skin, nails and be a dress size 12 and above.

A Trip Down Memory Lane…

Until recently, becoming a plus-size model was one of the hardest things to do. You simply did not fit in with the status quo of fashion and beauty ideals. Frankly, you were not what a majority of modeling agencies were looking for and they made sure to let you know exactly that. Previously, you could not simply walk into a modeling agency, contact them or link your portfolio unless you were certain that they were scouting for plus size frames. These opportunities were very limited.

Even if you landed a job with a plus-size modeling agency there was not enough work and exposure you could be treated to, to groom and nurture your modeling career. You could only model for limited clothing lines or very few runway shows if any, and if you are very lucky you could land the magazine cover of a recognized publication. However, this was the exception rather than the rule. The plus-size modeling industry was not as stable, mature, and even lucrative as it is today.

Getting your foot in the door, wasn’t half as dramatic as it was staying in the modeling industry and certainly not as hectic as rising to prominence. With a lot of body shaming and the negative societal attitudes towards thick women, you can only imagine the gruesome horrors that plus-size women were exposed to as they modeled alongside their thin counterparts. The constant glares, side chatters, and teasing laughter when you walked onto the set. The constant reminders by the photographer, your boss, and colleagues that you were ‘fat.’

Let’s not forget, the constant badgering that you should drop ‘a few pounds’ which was a kinder way of saying you should drop all the weight and become a possible size 4! The modeling industry was unrelenting to maintain and promote its notions of beauty – even if it cost you your health and self-esteem. Several plus-size models equated their jobs to a battlefield that one could only survive if they developed a thick skin and a deaf ear to all the criticisms and comparisons to thinner-bodied women.

Other Silhouettes

Thin and tall- was the order of the day, actually the century. Only girls who wore a size 0 to 4 were cast as models and stood a chance to have a vibrant career. They were the acceptable norm – the standard against which every figure and silhouette was compared to. The thin arms, the thin straight legs, the chiseled jaw bone, and flat cheeks, the toned flat stomach, and slightly wide hips were what was celebrated.

As time passed, and there became a mild of tolerance that indeed a plus-size clientele existed, fashion houses and modeling agencies alike did not hesitate to cast their stick-thin models as plus-size models. These heinous acts became quite popular. Size 0 models were dressed in bulky apparel to give the impression of a plus-size woman. Some had the audacity of overstating the actual dress sizes of their models so that they were classified as plus size.

The open bias towards plus-size women was perpetrated even on other smaller-sized women who had overly voluptuous hips or busts. Anything ‘big’ was considered reprehensible in the modeling industry. It was frowned upon and openly condemned thus very few plus-size models had a worthwhile career. There was hardly any talk of plus-size models on a global industrial scale until the surge of body positivism movements in recent years.

Essentially, what was plus size then is not what plus-size means and stands for now and we have models such as Ashley Graham and various other vocal plus size models, feminists, and stakeholders to thank for this.

The New Era of Plus Size Modelling

Today, there are more opportunities than ever for plus-size models looking to make it big in their modeling careers. Numerous modeling career paths are open to plus-size models such as runway shows, commercials, and ads, magazine editorials, and catalogs, just to name a few.  Several exclusive and non-exclusive plus-size modeling agencies have been established which look to harness and exploit the multi-billion plus-size fashion industry.

With the multiplicity of opportunities and equally rising competition in the industry, here’s what you should know about what plus-size modeling agencies look for.

1.    Unique Modelling Portfolio

A modeling portfolio is made up of different types of pictures that show off your body features. As with any model, your physical beauty, curves, and unique features are what will make you stand out from the crowd and please agencies. Taking pics that effortlessly highlight your eyes, your waist-to-hip proportions, your hair, and your legs, from various angles, is essential.

How to Come up with a Stunning Modeling Portfolio

Your portfolio should be crafted to leave a lasting impression in the eyes of these professionals. Bear in mind, most of these people have been in the industry long enough and are acquainted with seeing and working with beautiful people. They kind of have seen it all, which makes it paramount for you to be thoughtful and meticulous with every detail of your portfolio to wow them.

Here are a few tips on the same.

  •  An assortment of various types of shots – Take full-length shots, mid-length as well as headshots. This enables agencies to see you from all angles.
  • Use both basic and sophisticated poses – this will require a bit of rehearsal but it is worthwhile. Remember your pics should look effortless and graceful. You can also throw in some of your unique poses to stand out from the rest.
  • Take numerous pics– invest in a professional photographer who fully understands what you are looking to do. Have him or her take several pics for each set to help you choose the best of each.
  • Keep your portfolio short and precise – do not overwhelm the readers with tons of photos, most likely they won’t look through all of them. Pick the ones that really portray what you want to convey and use those alone. Having too many photos may give the impression that you are indecisive. This is not something you would want your potential employer to think of you.
  • Mind your facial expressions– let them resonate with the outfit and theme of the particular pose. Be expressive.
  • Lighting– opt for natural lighting than artificial lighting.
  • Keep makeup minimal – especially if you are at entry-level. This allows the agency to see your natural beauty and features. Wearing too much makeup may give the impression you are trying to hide something.
  • Be proud of your blemishes – whether it’s numerous freckles on your face or a couple of fat rolls on your back, don’t be shy to flaunt them. Several plus-size modeling agencies look for ‘realistic’ plus-size silhouettes which closely mirror the bodies of the average plus-size woman and you dear are just perfect.
  • Dress up and also dress down– especially for entry-level plus-size models, it is better to capitalize on casual wear, as the agency’s primary interest is to see you for who you are and assess your beauty. They won’t be too pleased if you are dressed up in all your photos. Also remember to incorporate some variation of dressing such as bikinis and lingerie, especially if you’re eyeing to model in such.
  • Build your portfolio progressively– add to or replace your photos with new and recent ones which showcase the recent work you have embarked on.

Aside from the photos, you should also attach any other required document/detail as indicated on the agency’s website such as contacts, address, age, and previous professional modeling experience (if any).

2.    Your Body Measurements

This refers to your height, dress size, shoe size and bust, waist, and hip measurements. Make sure, to be honest, as some casting calls will have staff measure you to verify if what you stated is true.

Generally, agencies will pick models that help meet their specific casting objectives. This may have some agencies select only tall plus size models only, or accommodate both tall and shorter ladies.  Your dress size is also of great importance to help the agency to ascertain whether you can model the available sizes they produce their garments in. In such cases, they usually have sample sizes on deck for you to try on.

3.    Your Shape

Plus Size agencies will consider whether you look curvy and shapeful. Of course, this is rather a subjective criterion as what may look curvy to one person may not be curvy for another. However, based on a general assessment of the current famous plus-size models, the following is more true than not. Plus-size models have:

  • Visibly toned muscles
  • Minimal cellulite
  • Minimal arm or back fat
  • Hourglass shape

It’s not in all instances that visible cellulite or fat rolls can be remedied by a pose or a professional photo editor. You also have to closely resemble these body specifications. This is true for some of the agencies but not all. As a tip, do inquire about the health or body specifications an agency needs beforehand and see whether you match the same.

There has been substantial debate on the need for these health and body specifications. Some consider it a resemblance to the archaic notions of beauty, others view it as unrealistic as only a minority of plus-size women have visibly toned muscles and minimal cellulite. Regardless, this shows that the fight towards full-body inclusivity is far from over as such criteria operate to exclude from representation the majority of plus-size women silhouettes.

4.    Your Story

Bear in mind that it is not just your beauty that will get you through the door but the authenticity of your story and how well you tell it. What are you passionate about? What are your career goals? Why modeling? Etcetera.

This gives meaning and understanding to your persona, especially if your story, goals, and ambitions align with those of the agency. Do not fabricate or exaggerate anything to win the empathy or allegiance of your potential employer. Be honest, and be yourself. You will be amazed at what you will be able to achieve with these two values.

5.    Personal Hygiene and Grooming

As a model, you should always look in tip-top shape wherever you are. Your clothes should be nicely ironed and not wrinkled. Your nails manicured, your skin tone supple, lush, and healthy, your lips well moisturized and your hair well-kept.

Anything to the contrary may cost you your dream job. If you are attending an open call cast by an agency, attend to the details of your outfit and your overall presentation. Advisedly, come up with a self-care routine that you do regularly to ensure that everything remains prim and proper, whether it’s for a modeling cast or just a night out with friends. This will be a worthwhile and fun habit to develop before and also after you are enlisted.

6.    Your Technique and Skill Level

Especially when it comes to posing or runway work, you should be able to display great technique with how you hold yourself up, strut, and pose. It is, therefore, advisable for you to invest in a personal coach to help you get these down with finesse and precision.

Modeling agencies will be looking for something to work with and it will be crucial to show that you are personally invested in your professional development.


There is an increasing demand for plus size models and an increasing number of exclusive and non-exclusive plus-size modeling agencies. The industry will soon become very competitive and therefore there is a need to separate yourself from the rest of the crowd. Hopefully, this piece will help you do just that! With seasoned insights on how to build a captivating modeling portfolio, grooming, and developing your modeling skillset, you are well on your way to having a great lasting impression in your dream plus size modeling agencies.

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