As the plus-size fashion industry continues to push forward and break down the barriers of representation, inclusion and visibility, many plus-size models are finally getting the recognition they deserve with various high-profile jobs and opportunities.
One such job is the opportunity to be a plus-size model for the new season of the long-running hit reality competition show Project Runway. Now in its record 16th season, the fashion design competition has finally decided to include models of various shapes and sizes, ranging from a size 2 to a 22. While cynics may see this as a small step that should have happened when the show first started back in 2004, the overall consensus so far has been positive, with many Project Runaway fans and those in the plus-size fashion industry rejoicing at the welcomed change.
We had the chance to catch up with two of this season’s plus-size models, Liris Crosse and Monique Robinson to ask them all about their experience on the show, their advice for aspiring plus-size models, fall fashion must-haves and more.
Hello Beautiful: How did you end up on this season of Project Runway?
Liris Crosse: My agent Fallon at IPM Models told me I was asked to come to the request testing! I was elated when she said the casting director was looking forward to having me come in again. I met him before when I worked on the Project Runway Season 14 designer finale for Ashley Nell Tipton. It was the first time they had a designer use plus models on the show and especially for the designer finale collection. I was the first and only African-American plus model used in that show. I remember talking to the casting director Paul after it and saying, “It would be so hot if they included plus models in the weekly designer challenges on the show.” He agreed but we both kind of walked away with a we shall see vibe. So, it’s crazy to see it come to fruition now! I definitely want to thank Ashley Nell Tipton for getting the ball rolling. I believe change starts with YOU & she used her power to do so at that time.
Monique Robinson: I booked Project Runway after I went to the casting via my modeling agency, Wilhelmina Models.
HB: Without giving too much away, what was the overall experience like on Project Runway as one of the first plus-size models to be on the show?
LC: It’s been a fun ride but also daring! I feel as a plus model and especially a Black model I always have to be on point & work ten times harder to prove why we are truly the same professionals. I know what we’re doing is groundbreaking, so I truly wanted to represent plus women & Black women in the best light possible. I also felt I needed to help educate some designers on what plus women want & our love for our bodies. I’m literally having the time of my life since runway is one of my favorite type of jobs to do & plus models are usually limited in the amount of shows we get. I love the crew, the judges, my fellow models & the designers! Life is good & Project Runway is great!
MR: Being one of the first plus-size models Project Runway feels amazing. To know that you’re a representation of the average woman in America is such an honor. The overall experience was a beautiful chaos. Literally what you see is what you get. Designers running all over the place trying to bring it all together in a day.
HB: What advice would you give future Project Runway contestants who have never designed for plus-size women, but will now have to since show requirements have changed?
LC: Start to practice NOW! Experiment on your friends & family members. Talk to women of all shapes and ask them about their clothing choices & what’s important to them when shopping for a garment. Expand your horizons & you’ll expand your profitability too!
MR: My advice for future designers on Project Runway would be to not over think it. As a plus-size woman I want fashionable clothes. I want the same designs but in my size. For me, I’m proud of my body and I don’t want to hide it under mumu-inspired garments.
HB: With so many recent strides made in the fashion industry as it relates to plus-size women and models, what barriers do you hope are the next to be broken?
LC: That plus models are used regularly in campaigns & runway shows. I don’t want us to be novelty items anymore. You use us for one show & then we don’t get another call for five years. NOPE we’re over that & so is the world!
MR: I think there is still a lot of work to be done within the fashion industry regarding size and the representation of not only different sizes, but different shapes, and colors. One of the most important things to me is to make sure I’m a representation of girls that look like me. I would love to see more women of color make strides within the industry and not just one or two. We don’t see multiple women of color in campaigns and that’s very heart breaking; because they’re out there. I would also like for there to be more discussion on women’s bodies and the acknowledgement that they also come in so many shapes. That’s something I don’t see people talk about much. You can put five different size 16 women in the same article clothing with different shapes, and that article of clothing is going to look completely different on all five women.
HB: Do you have any advice for all the aspiring plus-size models out there who are looking to mimic your success?
LC: My success has been a long road with many winding turns & hills but I kept pushing. You have to really want this, treat yourself like a brand & invest in yourself constantly. Also, get your network on & never stop learning!
MR: My advice for aspiring models looking to mimic my success is not to. Find out who you are and stick to that. Be yourself, stay true to yourself, believe in yourself, because if you spend all your time trying to mimic the success of others you’re going to miss out on what’s for you. Success varies from person to person and it should be defined by your own personal terms. And do your research. There’s so many types of models, figure out what you want to do, and figure out why you want to do it.
HB: As a model, what would be your dream job without size being a factor?
LC: To do a Balmain campaign with my model idol Naomi Campbell and to walk a runway show for Versace cause their clothes are so sexy!
MR: I would love to land a nationwide beauty campaign.
HB: It’s time to start preparing our fall wardrobes. Can you tell us your 5 must-have wardrobe staples for this fall?
LC: A great pair of over the knee boots, a vintage fur coat, a slinky velvet dress, dark denim bell bottom or boot cut jeans & a bold red wine lipstick!
MR: My five must have wardrobe staples would be fly leather coat, a slap cap (because I can be cute in beanie while protecting my hair), some cute booties, scarfs to match every outfit, and oversized sweaters (which I’m most excited about.)
HB: Aside from Project Runway, tell us what you have coming up as we close out 2017 and go into 2018?
LC: Well I’m currently in campaigns for Kleinfeld Bridal (Say Yes To The Dress) & Rafaella by Perry Ellis. My book “Make The World Your Runway” is available for preorder at LirisC.com as I’m finishing it up. I currently have a cameo in Netflix’s Defenders on episode 4 dressing Sigourney Weaver. I recently shot a major internet commercial for a popular brand that I’m sure will go viral! I’ll be starting my Life Of A Working Model BootCamp tour back up this fall in a new way, so I can continue to educate the next generation of models with quality knowledge. I also have Life Of A Working Model BootCamp merchandise on sale at LirisC.com. I have loads of speaking engagements coming as well, as I spoke recently at Princeton University for At The Well Conference. Wow that was a mouthful, but you can always find out what’s new & book me on my site! See me in a city near you soon!
MR: I’m participating in the International Fuller Woman’s Expo, which is October 6-8th, in Detroit. Everything else I have to keep under wraps. But look for me there’s more!