Harper's Bazaar (USA)
Jill KORTLEVE On SHIFTING THE PARADIGM
In the beginning, she TRIED—and STRUGGLED— to play fashion’s ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL GAME. Instead, she has HELPED CHANGE IT.
My mom would always compare herself to random women walking by. Her generation was always on a diet. I was born in the ’90s in the Netherlands, and I considered the women I saw on TV and in magazines beautiful. There were shows on MTV like I Want a Famous Face, which was, by the way, the craziest. Everyone wanted to look like Britney Spears. The beauty standards then were skinny, white, and blond. No wonder I grew up with such a weird view on beauty.
Today, I find beauty in more unexpected places. I’ve never been much of a punk rocker, but I love the punk era. It was a time when people didn’t spend hours trying to look picture-perfect. It was rough around the edges. I don’t like things that are too perfect, clean, or groomed. I like when there’s a bit of something weird or different.
Beauty is also a feeling someone gives you. It’s how people carry themselves—more an attitude or a mindset than a physical thing. I started watching old Barbra Streisand movies recently. She’s so gorgeous, but she plays the ugly duckling in so many of her movies—like Funny Girl or The Mirror Has Two Faces, in which she plays the smart older sister who isn’t married.
When I started out as a straight-size model, which is considered a size 0 or 2, I was dieting 24/7. Food was the only thing I could think about. I wouldn’t even get dinner or drinks with my friends. My mental state couldn’t keep up with the beauty industry’s standards that I thought I had to follow to become successful. So I decided I wanted to become a curve model, one who is larger than straight size, and it opened up a whole new part of the industry that I didn’t even know about. In Europe, the curve industry wasn’t, and still isn’t, as big as it is in the States.
Now, my life is so different. I was never a successful model when I was trying to be thinner. Five years ago, living in Amsterdam, I had no idea that what I’m doing now, at this level, was even possible. I never knew you could be a successful model and also deviate from old standards.
Today, I enjoy everything more, and I’ll never diet again. I know how it made me feel when I was so restricted, and I don’t ever want to feel that way. I was physically and mentally exhausted and miserable. Who is telling us to diet? Why do we even do this to ourselves? Ultimately, modeling made me more confident. I feel stronger knowing that my body type is acceptable. Step by step, things are changing.