Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Legends Of The Catwalk - In­ter­views by Anna Byrne Pho­tog­ra­phy by Sam Rut­tyn

beauty is fi­nally ex­pand­ing. In ap­pear­ing on Cos­mopoli­tan Aus­tralia’s cover in 2000, Natalie Wake­l­ing made his­tory as the first plus-size model to do so.

Yet de­spite her suc­cess both here and in the US, Wake­l­ing be­lieves the industry still has a way to go. “The day I buy a magazine with a curvy model on the cover and don’t hear about it in the news the next day, I’ll know we have fi­nally achieved a sense of calm within the curvy space and gen­eral com­mu­nity,” she says.

Perth-born So­phie Shep­pard agrees. She worked in­ter­na­tion­ally for more than six years, grac­ing mag­a­zines in­clud­ing Vogue Italia, be­fore mov­ing home, and dis­likes the “plus-size” tag.

“I do the same job, with the same pho­tog­ra­phers, the same mag­a­zines, the same agents, and the same set­backs and tri­umphs as the rest of the mod­el­ling industry,” she says. “Plus-size doesn’t trans­late to real life.”

An­other Vogue Italia habitué is Robyn Law­ley, our most recog­nis­able curvy ex­port. She was also Ralph Lauren’s first plus-size cam­paign model and has ap­peared in Sports Il­lus­trated. Her take fo­cuses on the pos­i­tive. “I’ve been so im­pressed by the growth and change within the me­dia. I never thought I’d book Sports Il­lus­trated, that just seemed so out of reach,” she says.

Chelsea Bon­ner is help­ing shape that change – as a for­mer curvy model her­self, she now owns Bella Man­age­ment, which rep­re­sents the coun­try’s top plus-size mod­els.

“I hope to con­tinue to push the bound­aries for di­ver­sity,” she says. “My hope is that it be­comes a to­tally nor­mal and ac­cepted part of the fashion industry that needs no ex­pla­na­tion or dis­cus­sion.”

Jes­sica Van­der Leahy founded Project WOMANKIND, a move­ment that en­cour­ages pos­i­tive body im­age. “It would be nice to see mod­el­ling con­tracts be ex­tended to the curvy model com­mu­nity, with­out it feel­ing like a pub­lic­ity stunt or to­kenism,” she says. “Within the next decade, I would like the mod­el­ling industry to have a dif­fer­ent land­scape and see di­ver­sity ev­ery­where, from size and age to race and gen­der. I think it will get there; so­cial me­dia has handed power to the peo­ple and what peo­ple want is to be rep­re­sented, not ex­cluded.”

New York-based Ljubenka Milunovic, who has ap­peared in cam­paigns for Levi’s, Tommy Hil­figer, Macy’s, Bloom­ing­dale’s and Victoria’s Se­cret, is equally op­ti­mistic.

“I’m proud to have been part of the process that paved the way for plus-size mod­els; when I started in the industry 25 years ago, plus-size was ta­boo.”

That stigma, it seems, is fi­nally be­ing bro­ken down.

Natalie Wake­l­ing, 36 Chelsea Bon­ner, 42 Ljubenka Milunovic, 45 Robyn Law­ley, 27 Jes­sica Van­der Leahy, 28

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