Beauty and the Muse

Archive for March 2014

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I met Ophilia at The Fuller Woman Expo in Toronto. She was one of the models in the fashion show. We connected on Facebook and became close. She is pleasant, eloquent, and a positive force in the plus size industry. Here is her story:

 

LV: What was fashion like for you growing up?

OA: Growing up fashion was fun, adventurous and funky that is until I gained weight in my early twenties. It challenged my fashion standards as I was left with untrendy, shapeless options. Fashion became boring, colorless and streamed lined duplicating the look of every other full figured woman.  I’m in total awe of just how much the plus size fashion industry has progressed in the last ten years. We have options, bold colors, clothing that actually fits my curves and more options to express individuality.

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LV: What was your inspiration for starting your organization? 

OA: Ophilia’s Kurves “It’s O.K. to be YOU” is a new organization geared towards the empowerment of woman. Though it’s in its early stages of development, my hope is that Ophilia’s Kurves will have an important place in the lives of women of all ages. I began this organization because I was bullied and made to feel less than. I vowed that I would help other women find their voice of confidence so that no one would ever have to feel what I felt. I’ve begun facilitating workshops one in particular entitled “P.A.C.E Yourself” which is an interactive session geared towards helping women learn how to walk with confidence and success not for the runway but for everyday life.

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LV: What magazines or campaigns have you been featured in? 

OA: Currently, I’ve been featured in Revista Belleza XL as a columnist entitled Kurvacious Canada. In the fall of 2013, I was featured in Canada’s only plus size magazine entitled Dare where I was deemed as “Fashions New Face”. In 2012, I was featured by Daily Venus Diva Magazine as model on the rise. I’ve been fortunate to partake in an ad campaign for Slice TV, SexyPlus Clothing which was featured in Lou Lou Magazine, Wal-Mart of Canada, Best for Brides and most recently I participated in a Positive Body Installation for Your Big Sister’s Closest promoting the message that “all bodies are good bodies”.

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LV: What fashion shows have you done, and/or plan on doing?

OA: What a tough question because I’ve been fortunate to participate in several fashion shows. With that said, my most memorable fashion shows would include; Pennington’s, African Canadian Bridal Show, Caribbean Plus fashion Week, The Fuller Woman Expo, and Toronto Naturals Hair and Beauty Show. On Monday March 24th 2014, I will model in Project Diversity Disrupt the Norm created by Kirthiga Rajanayagam and Helen Saygan. This unique show is geared towards shedding light on diversity within the modeling industry.

 

LV: What types of setbacks or obstacles have you faced as a plus size woman in the fashion industry?

OA: What a controversial question. The setbacks that I have found in the industry include size discrimination and bullying. As a size 18-20, I have found that designers are afraid to showcase a model past a size 16. In fact, I was told by a major Canadian boutique that I was too fat for the camera and that I should lose 10lbs. I’m very thankful to retailers such as SexyPlus Clothing and Pennington’s who’ve taken a stance against such discrimination and now showcase women who are a size 18 and 20.

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OA: I’ve noticed a lack of comradery amongst Canadian full figured models especially which is quiet disheartening. I can attest to that because I was bullied several years ago causing me to almost give up my dream as a full figured model. I’m a very spiritual individual, and I thank God every day for providing me with the strength to overcome the harsh words and actions of my bullies.  I am a firm believer that the spotlight is bright & large enough for us all to have a place under it. Fashion is about creativity, diversity and individuality therefore there is ample room for all of us to make our mark in this industry.

 

LV: What are some big projects you are working on currently?

OA: Right now, I’m working on a monthly article entitled Kurvacious Canada which is featured in Revista Belleza XL, The Fuller Woman Expo, Ophilia’s Kurves which will host an event geared towards young women in the fall of 2014 and I will be modeling for Project Diversity Disrupt the Norm Fashion Show Case geared towards shedding light on diversity within the model industry.

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LV: How would you describe your individual style?

OA: Conservative yet super sexy.

 

LV: What advice would you give other women who are in your position or want to get to your position?

OA: Go for it! Don’t overthink it! Never ask for approval, simply follow your heart! The fashion industry is very competitive and a lot of work however if you follow my personal mantra “hard does not mean impossible” you will do well.

 

LV: Leave us with an awesome quote.

OA: “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back”- Maya Angelou

 

 

Follow Plus Model Ophilia on Facebook and Twitter @ Ophilias Kurves

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The first photo I saw of Velvet D’ Amour was last summer when I searched for plus size models. Initially, I wrote a small post about Velvet just showcasing a few of her editorial shots. I sent it to her. She posted it on all of her media pages.

I was officially a blogger.

We played email tag for a few days, and then finally she called me all the way from Paris. We spoke for over an hour about fashion, life, traveling, and even Islam! She’s so down to earth, bodacious, and truly an honest soul.

Originally born in Rochester, New York, Velvet has graced the runways of Paris, strutting in Jean-Paul Gaultier‘s 2007 Spring/Summer collection and has been featured in French Vogue. Velvet was even in a French film, AVIDA, in 2006 that was selected to participate in Cannes International Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival. She is currently working on Vol-Up2, a voluptuous magazine that celebrates not just curvy bodies but all beautiful bodies.

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LV: What was fashion like for you growing up?

VDA: When I was growing up I was a fat kid. My mom took me to stores for husky children. My parents were much older, so when other kids wore Levis, I wore like nerdy clothes.

In high-school we didn’t have uniforms, and I took a sewing class. So I made a lot of my pieces. I got into more angular, edgy looks, while my mom on the other hand liked Ralph Lauren, preppy and conservative. She wouldn’t allow me to leave the house wearing certain things, so I’d just sneak and change when I left. I think style is a personal thing, and while she wanted a certain look, I wanted to be sexy.

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LV: What about when you were in New York during college?

VDA: I was pretty much known for being the “Lady Gaga” on campus; this was before Lady Gaga was even out. I loved lace, leather, and super sexy stuff.

When I lived in New York it was great. They appreciated someone who was daring in fashion. Primarily we were just Club Kids, where the whole point was to dress as crazy as possible. Fashion played a large role in my life and from a photographic and modeling standpoint I was drawn into the whole world of fashion.

Fashion drew me in because I loved drama. I liked to be as bizarre as I wanted to be.

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LV: How did you get started earlier in your career?

VDA: During high-school people would always ask if I was a model. But on the other hand, I would go to Macy’s and things wouldn’t fit. So when I was 21, I got down to 140 pounds in order for a modeling agency to sign me. I did crazy diets and got to 117 pounds, and they still called me fat. Afterwards, I just started gaining and gaining. I did all the crash diets, and still gained.

After that I began to start a revolution. I would take high fashion concepts and use myself as the model.

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LV: When did you decide that you wanted to be a plus model?

VDA: I hadn’t really planned on becoming a plus model. I just saw a need. Every time there was a plus size shoot available no photographers wanted to do it. So I said, “I’m fat and it would be cool to shoot these models that no one else wanted to shoot.” I got to shoot a lot of well-known plus models at the time.

But I sent a picture to a new Parisian plus modeling agency, basically telling them that plus women felt more comfortable with a plus woman to shoot them. They told me to come in. When I went in they said that they wanted to sign me. I had killed myself to be signed with an agency before in my 20’s and now they wanted me. I was 38 and 300 pounds, the very last thing in my mind was modeling. I couldn’t believe it.

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LV: Amazing story, Velvet. Now let’s get into some of the films and television shows you’ve done.

VDA:  I did a film in 2006 called Avida. (Spoiler Alert: She does get butt naked in the movie!) The film made it to Cannes and The Tribeca Film Festival. I was like Ohmigod! when I found out.

I have been on a reality show called Celebrity Farm. They sent us to a nature reserve in South Africa. I got bit by a snake! And all you do is take care of animals like baby cheetahs and lions. It was an amazing experience. It was funny though because I don’t drink or smoke, and they wanted you to be dramatic, but that’s not my personality, so I was like I am going to bed y’all!

Brooke Burke from Dancing with the Stars visited. Bridgette Nelson was on the show too. I was dying to speak to her because she dated Sylvester Stallone. I didn’t win, but I stayed until the end of the show. I thought I was going to get kicked off in the first week.

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LV:  Sounds like a super experience. Now let’s talk about obstacles you’ve faced in your career.

VDA: Fitting into the clothes would be the main obstacle. In some ways, I don’t perceive it as an obstacle though. I see not fitting into clothes, in a weird way, as good because if I could fit into everything I would probably be homeless, I’d just buy it all. I can always fit into lingerie though; I have a massive amount of it. But, for me, it forces you to create a different kind of style, and it stops you from being materialistic too.

 

LV: What about your individual style as of today?

VDA: I love corsets custom-made by Underground Aristocracy. With all the responsibilities of the magazine, I have kind of stepped back from the whole fashion scene, but if I go somewhere I will buy clothes from ASOS.

 

LV: So what were your inspirations for starting a magazine? What’s your goals?

VDA: Vol-Up 2, which is a spin off from the French word Voluptoo, was inspired by my need as a photographer to be more edgy, more editorial when I shot. Some of the problems with the magazines at the time were that they never incorporated editorial shots for people who looked like me. The mainstream models were a lot younger, under 30, and proportionate. Women who were older, who looked like me had no place in fashion. I was one of the lucky ones to be chosen at my age and weight by wonderful people to be involved in mainstream high-end fashion.

Vol-Up 2 is a departure from the “norm” and it showcases all sizes of plus. What makes it more bizarre is that I will put a size zero agency model next to a lady who is plus-size and never modeled before in her life then I’ll place her next to a paraplegic who is next to a women who has suffered from cancer. I have a plethora of curves in my magazine, but it has an emphasis on plus-size because of the lack thereof in the industry. Many people are left behind in the fashion world. The way I showcase my images is a democratized way of showing fashion.

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(Photo: Velvet D’ Amour, Model: Liris Crosse)

LV: What would like to do next?

VDA: I would love to do an editorial for Muslim women. It’s nice to see that our audience is so wide, complete conservative people to older swingers.

LV: What advice would you give to others that would like to be in your position?

VDA: People are drawn to be being known, or wanting to be famous. They are not acting because they have the desire to act, but to be in the spotlight. There are people who want to model just to get that stamp of approval. People want to be accepted and loved, those attributes are highly valued. But at the same time, if you want to model and you get in front of the camera and you’re not posing, and you want to post the pictures ten minutes later just to put them on your FB page then I’m not sure what to tell you.

You have to have real passion behind whatever it is that you do. If you want to be a model, you have to invest in yourself, and know the industry.

The power of photography is strong, but helping others is stronger, getting out of yourself and getting away from self-absorption. I get so much more out of helping others. That is the true liberty of getting rid of that obsession.

The real beauty is in inspiring others.

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LV: Leave us with a quote:

VDA: “You’re only as happy as you let yourself be” -Abe Lincoln

Check out her websites to see her awesome collection of photos:

http://www.velvetography.com/

http://www.volup2.com/