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I like to think of myself as the type of person who isn't easily blown away. Call me cynical, call me jaded - but you have to be a truly special person to really wow me. That said, I was a bit apprehensive when I initially sat down to meet Katie Halchishick, expecting to hear the usual spiel about the perils of the modeling industry. And let me be the first to say, I couldn't have been more wrong.
The former plus size model gives new meaning to the word empowering, almost moving me to tears with her message. If you thought "straight-size" models were the only ones who feel extreme pressure to look a certain way, you'd be dead wrong. Katie told me about her constant struggle with having to conform to "the plus size" standard, even if that meant fighting her body's naturally smaller frame.
But she's using her experiences to empower the next generation of models, creating an agency for middle-range (4-10) girls who don't fit in anywhere in the market. To take it even further, she and her boyfriend are promoting natural beauty for young girls with their Healthy is the New Skinny campaign. Read on to learn more about one of the most awe-inspiring people I've met in a long time.
Do Plus Sized Women Want To Be Segregated?
On her experience going into the modeling world:
Well, when I started, I played volleyball in high school so I was always a size 10/12, but solid - I was like a brick house. At a volleyball tournament in Seattle, they were like 'Oh, you should go to this open call for this modeling agency thing,' and I was like yeah right, they won't take me, I'm too fat to be a model. And then they were like, 'No, they have this thing for plus-sized modeling,' and I was like 'Did you just call me fat?'
So I went in and they're like 'Oh my god, you're perfect for this!' It was right when junior plus was kind of starting, and so I booked my first job off the Polaroids I took that day. At that point I was like 'What? If you're gonna pay me this much money, you can call me whatever you want! I don't care, sign me up let's do this!'
Then I started working more from there and then when I moved here to be with Wilhelmina, I went to School of Visual Arts for Painting and Drawing. They cut my hair off, which sucked… it was 'more New York,' whatever that means. And then everyone put extensions in my hair! When I went in, I wasn't working as much, so they were like, 'Oh you're just too exotic for the market, they want more ordinary, you're a little young, you're just too sexy.' All these things that were supposedly good things were now negative. So I'm too attractive, basically, for a model. It didn't make any sense. That was the excuse at the time, so I separated myself and focused on school. I didn't know a single person here, so the freshman 20 came quick.
On how she was unhappy modeling:
I went back in again - and before, they were like 'If you could gain a little weight,' and now I had gained weight so I went back and they were like, 'You look amazing!' I thought, 'Really? Cause I feel like s---.' After that, I booked Torrid and I started to work a lot more and I went from making $20,000 to making six figures. I had the success that I thought I wanted and was supposed to make me feel happy, but it didn't. It was conflicting.
The industry teaches you that if you have all these things, then you'll be important, you'll be happy, you'll be worth something. And when you get there, you're like 'why don't I feel that way on the inside?" That's why a lot of girls from all different sizes turn to other things to find happiness. I love to travel and all these amazing things that I learned, but I wasn't healthy and I didn't feel like I looked my best. I didn't feel I was getting paid because I looked amazing. I was getting paid now because I fit the "plus size" mold. I just want to be healthy, so I was just like, "f*ck it."
Vanity Sizing: Are You Being Lied To?
On meeting her boyfriend, who helped her get fit:
I was at my biggest when I met him and he was like, 'you're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen.' It was at LA Models party - He went with a good friend of ours, so we were there and I saw him walk in and I'm like 'wow that guy is really cute, so of course I don't look at him.' But he came right up to me and we started talking and just hit it off. He was a trainer, and I really wanted to get back into shape.
He taught me just basic nutritional info, which I was like, 'why didn't I know that!' And I thought, 'wait a minute… so we all take a home ec. class to learn how to make like cinnamon rolls and garlic bread, but why couldn't we use that time to learn how your body functions with weight. Instead of figuring it out in unhealthy ways, we could teach you how to be healthy, how calories work, and how your body functions when you don't feed it properly.
On crossing over to straight-sized modeling and how it messed up her body:
So over that amount of time, I lost 50 pounds and went from a size 14 to a 6, lost all my clients. So I was like, 'aw man, now I'm broke because I'm too small and I'm too big for straight size.' So with Ford Models in LA, they were like 'we think that you could cross over if you could just get your hips down two more inches.'
So I did the whole meal delivery thing and everything else got smaller, but they didn't budge and then it got scary because my boobs were disappearing. I started looking weird, and then people would be like, 'oh, you could just get those Brazilian b-cups, and I'm like, 'oh now I need fake boobs?' It consumes your life, and they suck you in with 'if you can just be this, then you'll get good work all the time.' You fall for it every single time -it's like, 'you got me again! How did you do that?'
In Her Skin: A Fashion Editorial
On how modeling isn't as glamorous as it sounds:
It's damaging to people who are in it whether or not they want to admit it. I love when we hear articles about models like, 'it's so fabulous! I just travel all the time! I work non-stop!' Ok, let me tell you the truth: you travel 24 hours by yourself, you're bored out of your fuc*ing mind, you're like literally so tired you want to cry, you're next to some smelly person.
On ideal sizing versus a body's natural tendencies:
We thought, 'why is it that you have to be extreme on both sides to work?' That's when we started developing Healthy is the New Skinny. Most women relate to the middle ground, - they don't want to be considered "plus-size" as a 15 year old, which is who we work with. None of them are like 'I wanna be plus-sized when I get older!'
On the start of Healthy is the New Skinny:
So when we went into schools, we found the number one wish for all teenage girls is to be thinner and that they'd be willing to take three to five years off their life to be their ideal size. There's no responsibility on any part for the images we put out there, but at the same time, it is affecting them. They're directly telling us it's from looking at all these images and thinking, 'I don't look anything like that,' when they don't realize that neither do those people.
On some of her models, and comments on how HNS is perceived: We [Natural Model Management] have a lot of girls in the in-between, ranging from 6 to 10. And we do have our plus girls, who are all more athletes. We have Kayla Humphries, who is Chris Humphries sister - she's stunning, but her family is huge. Her brother is like 7 feet tall, she's 5'11 and was an Olympic swimmer.
Take the Dove campaign for example - it's good except for the fact that real women don't wear granny panties and no makeup. There's a really big disconnect between the real woman and this ideal beauty. So we're trying to bring the glamour to health and bring it together. An 8 is really sexy - It's what guys tend to like. It's womanly, it's healthy, it's feminine, and your face looks better because you're not under or overweight. All these things are being ignored and it makes no sense, so that's kind of where we want to come from.
Italian Study Says Thinspiration From Skinny Models Is Good
On leading by example:
We're trying to do it by example because people don't understand what we're talking about when we say "healthy." So we're like, 'we'll show you.' When they see the girls, they're like 'damn,' that's not at all what I thought. When they think plus sized, they think big. They're like, 'this girl is not plus sized.' We have a lot of girls that crossed over from straight sized that are just like, 'I can't do it anymore.' It's great to have them involved with what we're doing.
On the dissent from the plus-size end:
We get haters from the plus sized side because they think we're anti-plus sized. People are crazy! For me to model for women who are like a size 16, 18 or 20 is not fair to them. But it's no different for a size 0 model to be doing that for me.
You kind of have to take away the weird animosity and focus together on this positive thing and that's kind of what we'd like to see happen - to bring a healthier image that is still beautiful, that has all the glamour and allure of the girls who are so thin, because that's really not what makes it glamorous. It's the photo as a whole.
Photos via Amodellife.com
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