WHEN one pictures a model, they usually envision a tall and pencil slim beauty stylishly strutting up and down the runway.
Although women in the world come in all shapes and sizes, this is the image that has been cultivated across many beauty pageants and runway shows, with the result being that the slender built beauty is viewed across the globe as the ideal body type for the runway.
However, over the past few years, perceptions have begun to shift.
As people from around the world start to throw off long held standards of what beauty should be, the world of modelling is also tossing away some of the perceptions that denied certain kinds of women from basking in the glitz and glamour of the runway.
From village square where life moves at a snail pace to the fast-paced lifestyle on an ordinary African street, voluptuous, curvy women, are in abundance. Rather than settling for the card they were dealt and confining themselves to whatever corner of the continent they were born in, these women, like their slimmer counterparts, are also looking to take the world of modelling by storm.
One of these women is 31-year-old Stacey NJ, a Bulawayo-born, South Africa-based blogger turned model that discovered her calling in 2015.
Like other women her size, it has been a rough journey for Stacey, as she tries to take her rightful place among Africa’s elite in modelling while battling an industry prejudiced against women of her size.
“In Africa it is very challenging compared to Europe and America. There are still no major plus size retailers in the first place let alone to see fuller figured women doing runway shows for well known designers is still pretty much unheard of.
“It is strange that Africa which undeniably is home to the most curvaceous women in the world; would not actually promote an aesthetic of the majority. The majority of women in Africa would be categorised as ‘plus’ size. The modelling industry has a beauty ideal that seems to perpetuate societal obsessions with unattainable bodies,” said the beauty who attended Greenfield Primary School before progressing to Bulawayo Adventist High School for her secondary education.
Despite her single-minded desire to conquer the world of modelling in her own terms Stacey, who attended Essex Colchester Institute in the UK for her tertiary education before relocating to South Africa in 2012, believes that an agenda is still being pursued against women her size.
While there has been a slow acceptance of curvy women, the promised land has not yet been reached, and her crusade is to see all women, not just the curvy type, accepted for their defining physical features.
“Two people can weigh exactly the same in kilogrammes but may have completely opposing body shapes. Women are put under an enormous amount of pressure to be perfect.
“And it works both ways — I have seen a quote recently saying that ‘Real women have curves’ and I’m like nah that’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard. All women are real women. Why can’t we just be at the weight that we feel is best for us and are happy about? Can we just live?” she said.
She, however, acknowledges that the going is particularly tough for plus-size women when the big fashion brands come knocking with deals.
“A lot of plus size models have to push harder in terms of getting noticed or being part of a brand if they’re basically unknown. It definitely helps to know people who know people if you want to get yourself noticed. There will always be people who don’t like you or what you do, but you have to believe in yourself,” she said.
Stacey’s diverse range of role models illustrates the fact that she draws inspiration from women and models of all shapes and sizes.
“I was inspired by Naomi Campbell because she doesn’t age. Denise Bidot and Ashley Graham are my favourite plus size models right now. As a blogger I was inspired by Gabifresh and Nadia Aboulhousn. A couple of years ago social media wasn’t as big as it is now and now it gives everyone the platform to have a voice and be heard. Now with all these plus models, bloggers, body activists and magazines demanding more, we’re getting it,” she said.
Although she is not married and has no children, she said she believes in love as it is “the food of life”.