HELLO BIG BOYS!

Plus-size fe­male mod­els are mak­ing a mint on the cat­walk. Now men want a slice of the pie too...

Scottish Daily Mail - - Inspire - by Lucy Holden

ACOUNCIL es­tate kid from Wales wakes up in a plush La ho­tel room and draws the blinds to stare at the Hol­ly­wood sign on the hills be­yond. He texts a pic­ture to his mum. He’s a long way from Pe­narth, the small town in the Vale of Glam­or­gan where he grew up.

‘I did have to pinch my­self,’ Brett Morse ad­mits. ‘My mum cries ev­ery time I win a cam­paign, so I al­ways text her be­cause I know what it means.’

The cam­paign isn’t po­lit­i­cal, but fash­ion­based — the rea­son Brett, 30, is in La is that he’s one of the most pop­u­lar new form of model in the world: the plus-size man.

The trend for plus-size fe­male mod­els — de­fined in the UK as any­thing above a size 8 — started with So­phie Dahl around 1995, with Crys­tal Renn mak­ing fur­ther in­roads around 2000, the same year su­per­stars such as ash­ley Gra­ham came on the scene.

The High Street and the high-end fol­lowed, with cam­paign af­ter cam­paign un­til it be­came the flavour of fash­ion it is today.

ash­ley, a pear-shaped UK 12 on top and 18 bot­tom, weighs around 14 stone and is now worth around $10 mil­lion (£15.5 mil­lion). amer­i­can model Tess Hol­l­i­day weighs 20 stone, wears a UK size 22 and is a mil­lion­aire, au­thor and celebrity with two mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram. The wins are big if you’re big enough.

Now men are tak­ing up the ba­ton. Brett, a 6ft 3in pro­fes­sional dis­cus player, who’s been Bri­tish cham­pion five times and com­peted in the Lon­don Olympics, is one of the hottest bookings a brand can get. He weighs 18.5 stone and found him­self the face of River Is­land — some­where he’d al­ways shopped — two weeks af­ter sign­ing to Bridge Mod­els in Jan­uary 2017. Since then he’s worked for Bur­ton, Levi’s and Ja­camo.

The other men in this new world — builders, gar­den­ers and teach­ers in their pre­vi­ous lives — have left £30,000 salaries to triple or quadru­ple their earn­ings, mak­ing up to £3,000 a day while cham­pi­oning male body pos­i­tiv­ity on lux­ury shoots around the world.

WITHIN the fash­ion in­dus­try as a whole, plus-size is boom­ing. The wom­enswear sec­tor is worth an an­nual £4.7 bil­lion in the UK and menswear £1.9bil­lion, and cru­cially both are grow­ing faster than the reg­u­lar-sized sec­tor.

‘When my agent called say­ing Gil­lette were con­sid­er­ing me for an amer­i­can ad­vert and the fee was £50,000 I al­most fainted,’ Brett tells me. ‘I grew up on a coun­cil es­tate, so hadn’t re­ally seen money be­fore, and sud­denly I was get­ting £7,500 for a few days’ work. My mates couldn’t be­lieve it.’

Un­for­tu­nately, the Gil­lette job didn’t come off, as he had to speak in an amer­i­can ac­cent in the ad. ‘I stud­ied YouTube videos, but I was ter­ri­ble,’ he squirms.

Most of the men in our ex­clu­sive photo shoot were body-shamed for be­ing over­weight as chil­dren, but now pull poses in front of the cam­era as though they al­ways have.

Ben Whit, 27, a 6ft 1in, 21stone, former land­scape gar­dener from Sur­rey, is her­alded as the first plus­size male model in the UK and, like the oth­ers, fell into it al­most by ac­ci­dent. His first shoot was paid for by an ex-girl­friend and he sent those photos to Bridge — the pre­mier plus-size agency in the UK — who were look­ing for a 2XL model (a UK size 44). His first cam­paign, for plus-size brand BadRhino, came out a month later.

Since then, Ben has been a body pos­i­tiv­ity coach for Chan­nel 4’s Naked Beach, a pro­gramme that takes body-in­se­cure con­tes­tants to Greece for six weeks and tries to build their con­fi­dence through var­i­ous strip-in­duc­ing tasks.

Ben and the other hosts were coated in body paint at 5am ev­ery morn­ing, then af­ter six weeks fi­nally left bare to show con­tes­tants all sizes and shapes are ac­cept­able. ‘Ev­ery one of us felt more con­fi­dent by the end,’ he says. ‘It did work.’

More re­cently, Ben — who has a rugged look, with nose pierc­ings, a big lum­ber­jack beard and mul­ti­ple tat­toos — has been in New York for Calvin Klein, who wanted to test plus-sized clothes. There’s no date for a cam­paign, but if they choose him to model he could be ‘a plus­size David Beck­ham,’ he reck­ons. ‘He’s got as many tat­toos as me.’

Brands are also latch­ing onto the ‘plus-size boys’ on In­sta­gram, where Ted Baker has used Ben to model un­der­wear to his 5,600 fans. ‘Six hun­dred pounds isn’t bad for 25 min­utes’ work,’ he says. Some posts are shot in his mum’s bed­room. It’s pos­si­ble to make £15,000 for a sin­gle post, if you have enough fol­low­ers.

The mod­els also do well on­line when it comes to the op­po­site (and same) sex. Ben met his cur­rent girl­friend on In­sta­gram af­ter she mes­saged say­ing she’d seen the BadRhino shoot, although he ‘thought it was a joke’. ‘I didn’t think that hap­pened to peo­ple in real life,’ he says.

‘Most of my fol­low­ers def­i­nitely came from mod­el­ling, not dis­cus,’ Brett says, in his lilt­ing Welsh ac­cent. ‘When my River Is­land cam­paign came out, I was wak­ing up with 5,000 likes on In­sta­gram pic­tures each morn­ing, and thou­sands of new fol­low­ers — I had to mes­sage one ask­ing what was hap­pen­ing and they told me I’d been in­cluded in a round-up of the best new plus-size male mod­els on Cos­mopoli­tan’s web­site.’

RaUL Sa­MUEL, 27, a former sci­ence tech­ni­cian at a Lon­don sec­ondary school, is also coy about his new-found at­ten­tion, but says his pop­u­lar­ity is ‘tes­ti­mony to the fact that peo­ple like all shapes’.

He was signed up af­ter ap­proach­ing his model agency about a blog called ‘big and tall style’ in 2017 and be­ing of­fered a fash­ion con­tract in­stead. Two weeks later he was on a bill­board for Boohoo Man in a Lon­don Tube sta­tion, which was ‘crazy’ — but the cur­rent de­mand for plus-size mod­els means ca­reers can take off at rocket speed.

at 6ft 1in and 19.6stone, Raul wears a 2XL or 3XL (UK size 46) size and has an un­de­ni­able paunch sit­ting down, but like the rest of our mod­els, doesn’t come across as hugely over­weight in per­son.

ac­cord­ing to clin­i­cal stan­dards, a plus-size model’s BMI would al­most al­ways class them as clin­i­cally obese — but then any­one en­joy­ing a cou­ple of bot­tles of wine a week would be clin­i­cally de­scribed as an al­co­holic.

Brett agrees: ‘Be­fore I got into this world I thought of plus-size as obese, but it doesn’t mean that. None of us is lean, but many of the guys don’t look that big.’

Raul is cur­rently one of the most booked mod­els on the scene. Most of the High Street has hired him: Nike, Levi’s, Next, aSOS, Moss Bros, Lyle and Scott, Deben­hams, Jack and Jones. He flies to La to shoot with Nike later this year, and has al­ready been to China, aus­tralia and all over Europe.

His huge suc­cess means he’s in the process of buy­ing two houses in Lon­don — one for his mum, ‘so she can re­tire’, and an­other for him­self. Yet mod­el­ling full-time was a hard de­ci­sion, as it meant leav­ing the boys he men­tored at the school where he worked.

‘I felt, af­ter the first year, that I could do more to em­power young men this way,’ he ex­plains.

‘It’s im­por­tant for them to see that there are peo­ple like them out there, and that they don’t need to

be ripped to be happy. When I was younger, there was no­body do­ing this and no one to look up to. That re­ally af­fects your men­tal­ity. Since I’ve started work­ing as a model, I get mes­sages say­ing thank you all the time.

‘Lots of guys tell me they’ve strug­gled, too, think­ing they’d never be seen as at­trac­tive. But be­cause I’ve done well they un­der­stand that not ev­ery­one likes that ripped look.’ He’s got 13,000 In­sta­gram fans for ev­i­dence.

Kelvin Davis, 32, a former art teacher from South Carolina and a mar­ried fa­ther-of-two, is an­other un­likely can­di­date for glo­be­trot­ting model. But with 97,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram and cam­paigns with Lush, Toy­ota and Gap, he’s one of the big­gest names in the plus-size world.

He trav­els so much for work that his eight-year-old daugh­ter thinks he’s a spy — but he still re­mem­bers the boy­ish in­se­cu­rity Raul talks about.

‘In the U.S, there’s a sec­tion in clothes shops for boys big­ger than a child’s size, but too small for men’s, called Husky,’ he ex­plains. ‘When I was about 11, this girl I had a crush on said she liked my jeans and I told her they were from the Husky sec­tion. She said: “You mean the fat-boy sec­tion?” She said I was still cute but fat and I never for­got that.’ Af­ter a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence as an adult in 2013, when a sales at­ten­dant in a clothes shop sug­gested he was too big to shop there, he set up a blog, No­to­ri­ously Dap­per, to help big­ger men dress.

‘It felt ma­li­cious to be bodyshamed as an adult and I re­alised there wasn’t re­ally an­other man I felt I could talk to about it, other than my fa­ther, so I de­cided to set up some­thing where I could,’ he ex­plains.

Its suc­cess led to a three-book deal, with No­to­ri­ously Dap­per: How To Be A Mod­ern Gen­tle­man With Man­ners, Style And Body Con­fi­dence re­leased in 2017.

Ne­mar Parch­ment, 26, a 6ft 2in Lon­don Col­lege of Fash­ion grad­u­ate who wears a 2XL, is an­other mil­len­nial at the van­guard of plus-size fash­ion. Af­ter be­ing ap­proached by two other agen­cies, he signed to IMG in 2017, and quickly won cam­paigns with Boohoo and Nike. ‘At the be­gin­ning I was of­ten the only plus-size model on a photo shoot, and on top of that of­ten the only black model. De­spite book­ing me they of­ten had clothes that didn’t fit, make-up that couldn’t tone my skin, and no one ap­pro­pri­ate who knew how to do my hair. ‘That doesn’t hap­pen so much any more. I’m just back from a shoot in San Fran­cisco for Old Navy and it was su­per pro­fes­sional. The fash­ion world is chang­ing and I’m in­ter­ested in the way that changes how peo­ple see big­ger peo­ple, gay peo­ple, black peo­ple, all of it.’ The plus-size world is not without con­tro­versy. There has been a back­lash, with some ex­perts — and plenty of on­line trolls — ques­tion­ing the wis­dom of pro­mot­ing over­weight bod­ies as fash­ion­able or de­sir­able when there are associated health risks.

YeT many plus-size male mod­els have sporty back­grounds. ‘I get quite of­fended when peo­ple say we must be su­per un­healthy,’ says Brett.

‘I’m an ath­lete, Olympian, qual­i­fied per­sonal trainer and nu­tri­tion­ist. I trained twice a day, ev­ery day, for about 13 years and I still go to the gym a lot, though not so much, be­cause I need to keep my weight up for mod­el­ling work now! But I’m still very fit.’

Raul was a teenage star at Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur foot­ball club, and still plays rugby semi-pro­fes­sion­ally for Lon­don Sko­lars.

When they say they un­der­stand the in­se­cu­ri­ties of young men today, they’re not kid­ding. Most have had at least a pass­ing brush with men­tal health is­sues.

Dur­ing a shoot for Bur­ton last year, Brett woke on the stu­dio floor, hav­ing blacked out in a panic at­tack. He got them sev­eral times a week for months, and some­times didn’t leave the house for weeks. Ben had a pe­riod of bad de­pres­sion in his early 20s, linked to his fa­ther dy­ing when he was a child, and had to over­come a lot of anx­i­ety on set.

Raul ad­mits he was lost, too, af­ter fin­ish­ing univer­sity, and look­ing for role mod­els that didn’t seem to be out there: ‘That had a big ef­fect on my men­tal­ity, I went through quite a bad patch.’

Cameron Greaves — the new­est boy on the block, and youngest, at 21 — has a dif­fer­ent dilemma.

The former child model, whose clients then in­cluded Nin­tendo Wii and now Jack and Jones and Ralph Lau­ren for ASOS, was told he had too much body fat for ‘straight’ adult mod­el­ling. But now, 6ft 4in, 18stone, with a 48in chest and a 38in waist, he’s ac­cused of not be­ing ‘plus-size enough’ for larger fash­ion shoots.

‘I’m al­most too small to be a plus-size model and I need to be big­ger if I want to get more work, but I’m work­ing out a bal­ance be­tween get­ting the jobs and be­ing a size I’m happy with,’ says the part-time dec­o­ra­tor and ware­house worker, who lives in Sur­rey. ‘I don’t watch what I eat for that rea­son, be­cause it’s em­bar­rass­ing to be on a shoot and the clothes be too big.’

Last year Brett had the same prob­lem af­ter los­ing weight and ‘had to sit in McDon­ald’s for two weeks try­ing to put it back on,’ he ad­mits. It’s not a diet tra­di­tion­ally associated with mod­el­ling, but then these men are trans­form­ing how the fash­ion world works.

NE­MAR Nike BRETT Levi’s KELVIN Gap

RAUL Next CAMERON Ralph Lau­ren for ASOS BEN Ted Baker

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