by Jade Wong
Velvet d’Amour works “both in front and behind the lens” and is one of the biggest acts of the Plus Size modeling scene.
She is really involved in changing society’s vision of beauty standards. To that end, she created VOL•UP•2, the magazine that empowers the beauty lying in diversity.
Back in 2009, she shared her experience about the Paris runway for John Galliano‘s and Jean Paul Gaultier‘s spring collections. 6 years later, we asked her a few questions to know more about the evolution of her career and her opinion on the Plus size debate. We also gave our opinion on the current situation: HERE.
- One of the questions everyone was asking you after the Galliano and Gauthier runway was: Would you do runway again? Did you finally?
I was offered numerous other runway appearances, etc. but my intention was to infiltrate high fashion so my preference was to stick to minimal appearances of the highest caliber, versus creating a career in runway. I knew that by working for the very best of the best there would be the kind of major media exposure which would challenge society’s idea of Beauty and I consider myself more of an artist then a model, so that was my plan and I felt incredibly fortunate to have set it into action. I did get asked to take the runway a second time for John Galliano, but I was in NYC as the film I had the lead in, AVIDA, ended up making it into the Tribeca Film Contest. I was SO BUMMED that the two coincided.
- Apart from the runways, what other great opportunity did you get?
Well, in order to score the gigs themselves I had signed with my agent Sylvie Fabregon at AGENCE PLUS and WANTED model agencies, both a division of CONTREBAND here in Paris back in 2006. So I want to thank her for taking the risk of signing me as I was obviously not typical of the average model getting signed at the time, or even now 9 years later.
After Galliano’s runway appearance, I was one of the selected models from the show to model for Nick Knight in French VOGUE which led to appearing in several videos on his SHOWSTUDIO site. I became a CURVY ICON for Italian VOGUE. I appeared on numerous TV programs like ET!, INSIDE EDITION. Monique decided to bring her, FAT CHANCE plus size TV modeling contest to Paris after seeing me on Gaultier’s runway. I was flown to countries like Japan and China to appear on TV programs there. I was photographed backstage at Galliano’s show by my idol Ellen Von Unwerth and that ended up in a EGOISTE editorial. I was able to model for some very strong editorial photographers and even won the 2014 International Festival of Fashion Photography in Cannes contest with the shot Saima Altunkaya shot of me from the LOfficiel (Ukraine) editorial I modeled for. Numerous interviews worldwide, and am often asked to judge pageants or attend runway shows and events.
Click here to read the interview Velvet made about our vision on the Plus size debate.
“Last week I received an email asking me to audition for Tom Ford’s latest film”
I was asked to appear in a French reality TV program, called CELEBRITY FARM and the year I partook it actually took place in the bush of South Africa so I was able to care for animals like baby lions, cheetah, giraffe, baby crocodiles and even got bit by a snake,lol. I somehow managed to stay in 9 of the 10 weeks and as such I raised 56,000 euros for my chosen charity SOS ENFANTS DISPARU which helps missing and exploited children. Last week I received an email asking me to audition for Tom Ford’s latest film so it has been a huge gift that keeps on giving.
- Can you tell me more about Volup2? How did you decide to celebrate women’s beauty through your magazine?
I decided to create my own magazine on a whim really as I knew nothing of making a magazine but I did know that there was an extreme lack of editorial/edgy flavor within the very conservative plus size industry and I wanted to make a magazine that was GENUINELY diverse. Even within the plus industry itself there was always a cookie cutter image of a tall, white, young, abled, size 12/14 model and never any genuinely fat women (besides myself) or women with say, an apple shaped figure, or shorter women. So I knew what was missing and that not only plus size models are left out of fashion on a regular basis, but also differently abled models and older models, there is a lack of ethnic diversity, transgender models etc but I didn’t want to exclude size 0 mainstream models either because my message in a nutshell is DIVERSITY.
As I started out not as a model but as a photographer, I knew that I could use my own photography to get it going and I love shooting so it has been a great experience and has been much more popular then I had ever envisioned especially considered I have yet to invest in any publicity as yet. Our next issue we will get our first press release out. I have been very fortunate that VOLUP2 had been so popular as it has developed from a photo only magazine to including articles and having very popular well known models like Fluvia Lacerda and Hayley Hasselhoff etc looking to be a part.
We are the only fashion magazine in existence that sports genuine diversity in our models and I feel very proud to be making the change that I want to see.
- There is a recurrent debate about the limit between skinny shaming and genuine acceptance of women curves. What is your opinion about it?
I experienced that first hand when I did the runway shows, Every person who interviewed me would ask me how the thin models felt and how they treated me and shouldn’t models be this or that. Having started out testing a lot of agency models when I lived in NYC and Italy I wasn’t in any way intimidated by their beauty and I knew that they very often suffered the same bullying I did as a child only theirs was based on their height and their extremely thin bodies. I think people perceive working high end agency models as having it all made, when in fact they too were very often seen as ‘freaks’ in their youth and thus they tend to be really cool with me. If you hate on someone because they are ‘too thin’ then it is the same EXACT thing as hating on someone who is ‘too fat’. But what it really comes down to is pitting one woman against the next. Rarely in media is there that same tendency to pit one type of male against the next. There is room for everyone and we don’t need to pit any body type against another.
- Some girls are rejected by traditional models who think they’re not slim enough and by plus size models who think they are not big enough. Do you also have some words for these girls out there, stuck in the middle, only rejected for the word “plus”?
There is actually a movement now for such women, they are deemed INBETWEENIES and Edith Dohmen started her blog STYLE HAS NO SIZE dedicated to these women. I think if you speak of women who want to model, you don’t really need to seek acceptance as much as you need to differentiate yourself from the rest.
- What future do you see for the whole modeling world?
I’m hoping that we start to represent the plethora of humanity in the modeling world, that fashion represents Diversity without losing its magical creative sense. The more we integrate a slice of ‘everyone’ within fashion and media in general, the easier it will be for people to accept and love themselves, which will in turn allow for less self obsession and give people the freedom to work on projects of great meaning.
“I’m hoping […] that fashion represents Diversity without losing its magical creative sense”
People often perceive modeling and fashion as frivolous but it has great potential to affect the world at large because imagery is omnipotent and our sense of selves is quite intrinsically entwined as one cannot escape from the messages media sends out, so the more we get the message that there is only one desirable type of beauty and that message is sent to us several zillion times a day on TV, magazines, billboards, computer pop ups, and that one form of beauty is utterly unattainable, even if you are young and super tall and super thin and white and abled you can’t walk down the street photoshopping yourself – so while there will always be an element of aspiration within beauty, we can do ourselves a favor by offering a variety of more attainable beauty iconography within modern media.
- What should curvy aspiring models know before starting their career?
I think its important to understand what you seek from modeling. Do you want pretty pictures for Facebook or do you want to bring clothes to life? Do you want to be a muse or do you want to pick up some money doing fit work? There is no wrong or right, I just believe there will be less disappointment if you know what you really want out of your modeling career.
“You don’t really need to seek acceptance as much as you need to differentiate yourself from the rest”