June 10, 2023

I’ve all the time considered modeling as a glamorous career. I bear in mind flicking by way of Vogue magazines as a toddler and seeing the runway on the pages.

From then onwards, I grew to become interested in modeling. Once I was 15, Australia’s Subsequent High Mannequin was taking place, so I made a decision to line up within the chilly winter, in Melbourne. I waited in line for a very long time, however I believed I might give it a attempt.

I did not make it to the precise audition, however I used to be scouted in line by a modeling agent who signed me as much as do a modeling growth course.

Jennifer Atilémile in a photograph shoot as Sports activities Illustrated Swimsuit Rookie of 2023.

Later, two companies approached me to signal with them, however at the moment, I used to be coping with the early levels of disordered consuming. I used to be roughly 15 years outdated on the time. My former greatest good friend and I had a chaotic relationship. We’d eat within the park after which purge collectively. It began as one thing we solely did collectively, but it surely step by step seeped into my day by day life.

Wanting again, I had moments of realization the place I knew these harmful behaviors wanted to cease, and I managed to interrupt free from them. However even to at the present time, regardless of remedy and all, I imagine many ladies, as a consequence of societal magnificence requirements, battle with a way of not being ok, or the stress to look a sure approach.

After ending faculty, I attended faculty, and it was then that curve modeling started gaining traction. I had grown extra snug with my physique and embracing my womanhood, so I despatched modeling pictures of me to a former Australian company, and issues progressed from there.

Since then, it has been a snowball impact, main me to the place I’m right now. When you had instructed me six or seven years in the past that I’d be right here, I would not have believed it.

In Australia on the time, the type of gigs I had in thoughts simply did not exist, particularly as a result of I used to be labeled a curve mannequin. These fancy editorials I used to daydream about? No likelihood. As a substitute, I discovered myself doing catalog shoots with frumpy, mom-style garments; dishevelled, shapeless outfits that did nothing to flatter my physique form. It was a significant actuality examine that shattered any glamorous illusions I had as a child.

Rejection grew to become a norm on this trade, and it messed with my head large time. I developed a thick pores and skin to outlive. Typically, administrators would not even lookup at me in casting calls. There was a time, again in 2017, once I significantly thought of calling it quits.

I used to be signed with an company in London however hadn’t landed a single gig in 4 months. My checking account was working low, and I began doubting if this complete modeling dream was price it. I even considered packing my luggage and heading again house.

Then, out of the blue, got here a possibility that modified my life. I used to be provided a gig for a denim marketing campaign with Subsequent. After they talked about the speed, I used to be shocked. It was $9,974, compared to the odd $500 I might make for an entire day’s work.

This time, issues had been totally different. I may really afford an honest dinner. I used to be past ecstatic. It was a game-changer for me, a large shift in perspective. Certain, I’ve come to appreciate that after taxes and company charges, that $9,974 is extra like $4,500, however nonetheless, it was an entire lot greater than I used to be making earlier than.

My expertise of being signed with Victoria’s Secret was a good looking second of readability for me. At first, I declined the supply, uncertain if it was the appropriate determination as a result of backlash that Victoria’s Secret was going through.

However an agent referred to as me once more and mentioned: “Why are you saying no? It is a large alternative. It is advisable say sure. Do not let it slip away. That is your second. Seize it.”

I genuinely felt prefer it was meant to be, so I agreed to be signed with them. Wanting again, that have was a turning level in my profession. It set me on a unique trajectory, making ready me for my subsequent chapter as a Sports activities Illustrated Rookie in 2023.

It is heartwarming to lastly see somebody with a physique like mine and a pores and skin shade like mine, being represented. That type of suggestions retains me going, particularly on unhealthy days.

Being the primary mixed-race Australian curve mannequin to be signed to Victoria’s Secret was cool, however there’s the destructive facet of questioning why physique inclusivity took so lengthy. However I select to bypass that as a result of being the primary means I will not be the final. I’ve opened doorways for others who appear like me, difficult the way in which we understand girls and our bodies.

Jennifer Atilémile model swimsuit Sports Illustrated 2023
Jennifer Atilémile, pictured for Sports activities Illustrated, started modeling on the younger age of 15.

I am nonetheless advocating for physique inclusivity, which is why I seek advice from myself as a “mannequin” somewhat than a “curve” or “plus dimension” mannequin.

The time period “plus-sized” took place once I first began working as a mannequin. It was all the time used to explain any mannequin that was over a dimension 8. I by no means actually thought something of the time period as I simply considered it as one thing to explain my job.

However as I saved working, I spotted that it simply did not appear to be an correct phrase to explain what me and my friends really did.

I additionally assume these labels divide all of us as fashions as a result of curve is technically that in-between class describing fashions which can be dimension 8 to 14, and plus dimension is 16 and above. I imagine that each one of those phrases trigger extra division within the trade and cease the general purpose of true inclusivity and precise real acceptance of all our bodies.

To assist combat this, the principle factor that I do is I all the time discuss my expertise on set, and my buddies’ experiences that differ from mine. I additionally actually attempt to name out the tokenism that comes with manufacturers and designers eager to make cash off variety however not really caring about variety.

My hope is that the style trade’s trajectory towards inclusivity retains getting higher. I am displaying that physique variety and inclusivity are right here to remain.

I nonetheless do expertise these labels and phrases, however I rapidly clarify why I do not like them anymore in practically each interview. When somebody refers to me as a curve or plus-sized mannequin, I all the time say: “I am only a mannequin.”

As soon as we drop these labels, we are going to begin embracing individuals for who they really are somewhat than putting them in classes and othering individuals primarily based on how they give the impression of being. That approach each mannequin is represented, seen, and liked—that is what’s essential.

Jennifer Atilémile was Victoria’s Secret’s first Australian curve mannequin. She is now a Sports activities Illustrated Rookie of 2023. You’ll find out extra about her right here.

All views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal.

As instructed to Newsweek affiliate editor, Carine Harb.

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