‘It doesn’t mean fat’: What it’s really like being a plus size model

She goes to the gym twice a week


In a world where thigh gaps and Cara Delevingne reign, it can be tricky being curvy – as plus size model Kelly Marie Edwards-Smith knows.

She’s desperately trying to alter the way young girls look at their bodies, fiercely maintaining it’s not size that matters, but being in proportion and staying “lean”.

Kelly, in her twenties, who has been modelling for a few years and is signed to agency RMG, first got involved when her friend asked her to model for her brand “Love ur Look”, after struggling to identify with the plus size models agencies were offering.

Kelly is a size 16

Kelly is a size 16

Kelly has also kept a blog for a couple of year

Kelly has also kept a blog for a couple of years

Kelly told The Tab: “My friend started a plus sized brand and she said I need some plus size girls to do some modelling. She looked at agency books and found a lot of plus size models with agencies are actually sizes 12 and 14 – not a true plus size model. Because I was a true plus size, being a size 16, she said I could model for her.

“I thought ‘why not?’ – I’d done some stuff when I was younger. She also had a woman with her who’d been modelling quite a few times who said I was a natural, so I went to a few confidence workshops and built it up from there. I found people started coming to me and asking me. They saw my pictures and asked if I’d like to model certain things.”

Kelly, who now lives in Finchley, London, puts a lot of work into keeping her fuller figure toned, emphasising the importance of staying in proportion.

She added: “You have to be in proportion, so your hip, waist and bust measurement. You can’t exactly be a 16 on top and 18 on bottom, you have to be a 16 all over. People think plus size models don’t have to work out, but they absolutely do. You’ve still got to stay toned and you have to be physically lean.

“I do burlesque dancing and hula hoop classes, so for me it’s twice a week minimum and then if i want to do any more I’ll maybe make a third or fourth trip. I do a few yoga poses to relax myself in the morning and release tension from my shoulders too. It’s not like I’ve got a huge jelly belly or anything like that. When I tense my thighs people say they’re like Serena Williams’. They are just a bit shocked because plus size doesn’t mean fat.”

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But while she stays fit, joking she could probably run for the bus quicker than most people, Kelly is a bit more relaxed about her diet. She religiously has lemon and hot water in the mornings – finding it helps keep her skin clear with all the make-up – but isn’t strict about how many calories she has.

She said: “I allow myself treats. I’d never starve myself because I just think there’s no point, you’ve got to nourish your body. It’s not like I can go crazy and eat lots of naughty treats because I can’t, otherwise I would put weight on. It’s about being comfortable and being healthy. You’ve got to have good energy especially being on your feet all the time.

“If you’re healthy and you work out and eat right, but allow yourself a treat, that’s fine. I don’t think anybody under-eating is a good idea at all because when you starve your body, you’re just starving it of nutrients and that can cause major health issues on a par with being overweight.”

As women in the UK get bigger in size, Kelly – who’s 5’6 – says plus size models like herself are becoming more acceptable and representative of what women look like.

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“The majority of our current female demographic are size 16, and naturally the plus size market is going to grow so to speak. It’s obviously going to start gaining more momentum because people are naturally becoming bigger and a lot of that is because of the acceptance of body shapes now.

“If you look a long time ago at pictures in galleries you see gorgeous voluptuous women. These women were very curvy: they weren’t slender, they didn’t work out, they didn’t have the media constantly down their neck to be a certain size. They were just healthy, proportionate women with natural shape and natural curves. My advice is looking lean with a bit of curve is much nicer than looking skinny.”