Body acceptance is a big issue, and Katie H. Wilcox is on the forefront with her mission to embrace all sizes and shapes. The model management owner and blogger spoke to FOX411 about some of the fashion industry size hurdles she has faced, and how she hopes her message will change the landscape of a skinny-obsessed society.
FOX411: You were once a plus-sized model but said you were pressured to be bigger than your natural weight. Explain what happened.
Katie H. Wilcox: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s so much of an agent saying, “You need to bigger" as much as it’s the industry just setting these standards and if you don’t meet them you have no opportunity. So for me coming in at a size 10, 12 as an athlete in high school saying, “It would be great if you were a size 14; you’ll work much more,” that’s where the opportunities are and you are persuaded to either gain weight or lose weight so that you can work as a model.
FOX411: What’s the worst thing someone from the modeling industry has to said to you about your body?
Wilcox: You know it’s funny because I went to a job once, and I was sitting there talking with the makeup artist and the stylist, you know, time was going by and go, “God, when is this model gonna get here? She’s so late.” And I was like, “Umm, I’m the model.” They were like, “Oh my God, we’re so sorry. We didn’t know we were shooting a plus girl today.” And so I think that’s just the perception is that, you know, is that if you’re not a straight size model you’re lesser... and I think that’s really the message it’s sending to girls and women in society that if you don’t meet this ideal than you’re somehow not equal or valued in society.
FOX411: But do you think that ideal of the 5-feet-10-inch frail runway model will ever change in the fashion industry because it’s been that way pretty much since the ‘50s and ‘60s?
Wilcox: I actually do think that’s going to change, and I do think a big part of that is because of social media, and I’ll tell you why because now the numbers comes from the people so you’re seeing a lot of celebrities become models having way bigger careers than the girls that have been working in the industry for a long time because they have the social media numbers, so I think when it comes to shifting the power and what becomes popular because I think high school is very similar to the fashion industry and what becomes popular, people jump on board. So I think it’s really putting the power in the hands of girls and women to say, “Hey, we want to see this,” and if you put the numbers there we’ll start to see the change happen in the industry.
FOX411: And you’ve taken the power by launching your own modeling company, “Natural Model Management,” I like the name. What is your goal with this agency and what kind of models fit the bill; is it all sizes, all ages…who can model for you?
Wilcox: It’s a difficult thing because I want all girls to have the experience I’ve had because when you get to be put in front of the camera and have your picture taken, and then you see yourself in a different light. You do feel beautiful and I think that’s something all girls deserve, but in the industry again they’re very strict standards on what they allow to have as, you know, height and size so for us we try to expand that more and we take girls that are what are anything larger than what a straight size model would be which is basically a size 6 to 16 and the height requirements have eased up a little bit. We have girls ranging from 5’8" to 6 feet tall so that’s what we do for natural, and our goal with that is to see a shift happen in the plus size industry which we’re seeing a lot of movement there but if we’re going to really see this body image change it’s going to have to happen on the straight size industry side of things where they’re going to have to start using more than a size 2 to see that hey, you can be more than a size 6 or 8 and wear the mainstream size of clothing.
FOX411: I know we’re always talking about curves and size and how big someone is but the fashion industry is also a little unfair to those who could be vertically challenged like you said 5’8" and over, what happened to the petite models or the beauty models or print models who are only like 5’6" or something like that because short people want to feel beautiful too, and represented.
Wilcox: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like a giant most of the time and the majority of the average height of women is 5’4" and so, you know, when they’re buying clothes I’m modeling they’re going to have to hem all their pants because they’re not going to fit them the same, and all the girls in my family are short and I love them just as much as anyone else, and I totally agree and I think that should open up, and I wouldn’t not buy something because someone has two inches on their hips larger or smaller than me, or maybe they’re an inch shorter or taller than me. That’s the stuff that really needs to start to see some flexibility and try some new things when it comes to these regulations.
FOX411: You also said on your site “Healthy is the New Skinny” that the media manipulates the idea of beauty, which you and I were just discussing but do you think that we’re getting to the point where everything will change?
Wilcox: Right. Well, what I’d like to point out is that I’ve worked with all different kinds of models and at the end of the day we’re all women. We’re all just the same kind of girl that took an opportunity and this isn’t about being thin or not being thin, this is about raising a generation of women to think that in order to have value you need to look one way, and when it comes to media manipulation they do that by only showing you one thing. So, if you are only exposed to one thing you start to believe subconsciously that’s your only option. What we’re doing is we’re working with girls to say, “Hey, we’re smarter than this." We’re waking up. We’re having the consciousness to say I’m thinking for myself and what you just said makes no sense. I know that I’m worthy of love. I need to be healthy, because our bodies are like the most valuable things we have and health is a huge part of loving and accepting yourself. So when it comes to the body image movement it’s very much let’s just say the words, “I love myself and prove to everyone how beautiful I am.” And I think it really needs to go deeper than that. We need to take one step further and say, “Wait, if I love myself how am I acting upon that each day? What am I doing to love myself? To honor my body and to take care of the vessel that I have.” And that’s what our goal is with “Healthy is the New Skinny.” We need to replace the goal of being skinny with the goal of being healthy, and that is one that every woman can be successful with.