Meet the Plus-Size Models Who Just Made New York Fashion Week History

(L-R) Frances Cordova and Victoria Lee on the runway Sept. 6, 2013. (Photo by Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images)

Eden Miller made history on Friday, with the first plus-size line at New York Fashion Week. After 60 years of catwalks in the country's fashion epicenter, it's about time. On Friday, Cabiria designer Eden Miller presented her plus-size Spring 2014 collection alongside five other handpicked designers as part of the Fashion Law Institute presentation at Lincoln Center. Miller told Fashionista that she wasn't necessarily chosen because she's a plus-size designer. “It just happened to be that they liked my stuff,” she said.

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The average American woman now wears a size 14, but attractive plus-size fashions and models who can wear them are still hard to find.  Some big, mainstream designers have claimed it's hard to find models to cast above a size 4, while some casting agents pass the blame back to designers, saying plus-size women simply won't fit into their always-tiny clothing samples.

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In fact, Miller swooped up some stunning plus-size models from agencies like MSA and Wilhelmina to wear her designs on the catwalk quite easily. We talked to two such models, Victoria Lee and Frances Cordova, to find out how their New York Fashion Week runway debut went and what it's really like to be plus-size in an industry dominated by size zeros.

Shine: You two just modeled the first plus-size line at NYFW. How did it feel entering the tents?
Victoria Lee: It was an out of body experience. Knowing that you are about to make history is amazing.
Frances
Cordova: Right before the beginning of the show someone reminded us that we were making history. That's when it actually hit me. The fact that we were the first plus size women at the MBFW tent show is so exciting. I'm hoping that more plus size designers will get the same opportunity sooner than later.

Shine: How do you think the show was received?
Frances: We got such great feedback afterwards that it's absolutely overwhelming.
Victoria:
Everyone was rooting for us. I think this isthe first of many shows to come.

Do you ever wish models could just be models at any size and didn't need labels?
Victoria: I definitely see it in the future.  Perhaps one day the industry will look at a model and just think "model."
Frances: Absolutely! Why not have all different sizes, ethnicities, and ages? I think it would be a great shift and slowly but surely it seems as though the industry is exploring different options.

(L-R) Victoria Lee (photo by Enrique Vega) and Frances Cordova (photo by Jessica Lavoie).
So today you're walking the runway at New York Fashion Week. But what was it like when you were just starting out as a plus-size model? 
Victoria: I got scouted in my hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. I was 17 and just beginning college. It was so unexpected for me. I modeled part time throughout college, but after gaining New York representation, I knew I could really go for it full time. I felt surprised but empowered. So I moved to NYC last year only a couple of days after graduation and never looked back.
Frances: The decision to be a plus-size model was determined by my size and I was and am absolutely comfortable with that. I've always been "bigger," my father is 6'6"! I've played sports all of my life so I considered being "bigger" a great thing especially on a basketball court or field. Honestly, as long as I'm healthy, my size will never be an issue.

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Shine: What was your big break? 
Victoria: Booking my first editorial in the same day I signed with an agency. It was an awesome feeling. I went to a two-day shoot the next day and booked more jobs that week. The ink wasn’t even dry on my contract yet. But that for me was a clear indication that I could and would be modeling.
Frances: Signing with Wilhelmina is my big break! I've learned so much in such a short amount of time that I feel like I'm ready to take on anything that's thrown my way.

Shine: Is there camaraderie amongst plus size models?
Victoria: My closest friends in NYC are mostly plus size models. We share similar experiences with respect to our careers and there is mutual respect and understanding.
Frances: Like any other job there's always that feeling of competition. I find that the girls I've run into are, for the most part, extremely friendly and helpful. The way I see it, no one can be me and vice versa so competition is irrelevant. It's about what a client needs at that particular point. Nothing personal.

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Shine: What have been some of your favorite modeling jobs?
Victoria: I loved the editorial I did with Paper Magazine. It was great because I was in full on wigs, intense colorful makeup right in the middle of NYC. We shot in Grand Central Station and other iconic NY places.
Frances: I love them all, from the traveling to the fake bellies on pregnancy shoots. However, something about live modeling gets my adrenaline going. I just finished a small fashion show with Clinton Kelly and I have so much energy it's ridiculous!

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Looks from the Fashion Law Institute Sept. 6 runway show. Photos by Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images.Shine: Some people say the supermodels of the '90s were "better" because they had curves. What is your opinion on "The Supers" versus models today?
Victoria: I love the '90s! I love love love Naomi Campbell, Claudia, Cindy, Linda, Christy, and Tyra. They were sultry and confident. I wouldn’t say better or worse. It was different—they are iconic. The modeling industry goes through phases and the uber-thin phase isn’t necessarily over, but the curvy model is getting the much-needed attention we deserve.
Frances: Honestly, I'm so over the curvy girls better than straight size girls debate or vice versa. Women are all so different that I'm happy to represent women of my size and ethnicity. I think we should all be represented--beauty is beauty.

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Shine: Do you stress about staying a certain size for work?
Victoria: Plus size models are required to be within certain measurements just like any other model. So working out and eating well is required. I'd rather eat more of what I enjoy and workout consistently than having a strict diet. I enjoy healthy foods, swimming, and hot yoga, so staying fit and healthy isn’t stressful for me.
Frances: Many people think that plus size models don't work out. Well, I'm a personal trainer and pride myself on setting a good example for my clients. It's all about living a balanced life. I workout, I love food…and repeat! Keeping in mind that overall health is the goal.

Shine: What would be your dream modeling job?
Victoria: My dream job is definitely a cosmetic and fragrance contract with a major brand.
Frances: I want a billboard in Times Square. GOAL!

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