Hardy Girls Healthy Women Talks About Wilhelmina Model Sage Salzer, Societal Challenges, & Empowering Girls and Women

Photographed by Rick Day

At age 14, Sage Salzer, a California native, sent in her photo to a modeling competition. Winning a contract with a top modeling agency put Sage on what would become an increasingly narrow road as she struggled with unrealistic expectations of the industry. Now, twenty years later, Sage, a member of Hardy Girls Healthy Women’s (HGHW) National Advisory Board, is a successful plus-size model. We chatted with Sage about her journey and how she managed to put herself on a path that fits her stride much more naturally.

Sage modeled for a year after her win until she was 15 years old, but “from the very start, there was pressure to lose weight — the year was defined by dieting.” Sage’s early career had promise, but, in a business where success often comes at the price of happiness, a struggle with what was ultimately diagnosed as anorexia led Sage to make an exit. “I was really turned off by the fashion industry and felt like there really wasn’t a place for me there,” she told us.

“For over a decade, I spent a lot of time preoccupied, thinking that my weight was the problem. When I stopped fighting myself and got to a place where I was embracing myself, everything changed — that was the tipping point.” A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Sage has been modeling off and on her whole life. Returning full-time to the profession has been rewarding for Sage on many levels, having found homes in the plus-size divisions of top modeling agencies all over the world: “It was so nice to finally fall into something that embraced me as much as I did it.” Sage’s modeling career is also a platform from which she hopes to mentor girls in the same position that she once was. And “hopefully,” says Sage, “the inclusion of more real-sized women in mainstream media (she cites Crystal Renn, America Ferrera, and Gabourey Sidibe as current fabulous examples) will continue to grow.”

Though Sage supports the increase of sample sizes, which are currently a size 0 and judged for their “hanger appeal” as opposed to the way that they fit on a real woman’s body, and hopes to see modeling embrace the full range of sizes (instead of the dichotomy between increasingly tiny “straight-size” and “plus-size” models), Sage asserts that “it’s not [solely] the fashion industry’s fault.” Citing problematic advertising and the importance of teaching media literacy in schools as other important factors, Sage notes that, “In the 60s, people admired Einstein and people who were making valuable contributions to society, and now we have actors who are our American royalty. Something is definitely wrong, and that’s why HGHW is so important.”

Hardy Girls Healthy Women sees the problems that girls face as reflective of broader societal challenges, making their work and mission distinct amid the many organizations that cater to women and girls. Rather than blame or try to “fix” girls, HGHW seeks to transform the culture by providing workshops and resources on media literacy and offering two curricula for adults working with girls. These strength-based curriculaFrom Adversaries to Allies and Becoming a Muse: A Facilitator’s Guide — were created to help adults develop hardiness zones — areas where girls and youth can thrive — in their own community.  This is achieved, in part, by fostering thoughtful criticism skills among girls living in a media-saturated world, an aspect that first attracted Sage to the organization.

As a constant proponent of healthy body image, Sage is a fabulous role model who continues to practice her ideals through service at HGHW and by spearheading a new campaign, Curves for Change. (Plus-Size Models Unite will be featuring Curves for Change and Wilhelmina model Julie Hendersom in the coming weeks.)

For more words of wisdom from Sage, be sure to check out her Facebook page, where she regularly posts awesome, informative content that calls conventional beauty standards into question.

*We want to thank Hearty Girls Healthy Women and Sage Salzer for creating positive programs and experiences for girls and women. Hardy Girls Healthy Women (HGHW) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the health and well-being of girls and women. Their vision is that all girls and women experience equality, independence, and safety in their everyday lives. Their mission is to create opportunities, develop programs, and provide services that empower girls and women. Check out Hardy Girls Healthy Women on their website at http://www.hghw.org

**Do you know someone or an organization that is helping enhance the self-esteem and confidence of girls and women? We’d love to know more! What support do you think girls and women need? How do you think the current atmosphere of the media world is helping or hindering the self-esteem of girls and women? How has the media affected you?


10 Responses to “Hardy Girls Healthy Women Talks About Wilhelmina Model Sage Salzer, Societal Challenges, & Empowering Girls and Women”

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    Hardy Girls Healthy Women Talks About Wilhelmina Model Sage Salzer, Societal Challenges, & Empowering Girls and Women | Plus-Size Models Unite

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    Hardy Girls Healthy Women Talks About Wilhelmina Model Sage Salzer, Societal Challenges, & Empowering Girls and Women | Plus-Size Models Unite

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  5. Media….it’s a bit of an oxymoron if you think about it…our news programs and periodicals are supposed to report the news but most often they are responsible for making it.
    If everyone would stop making such a big deal about plus sizes and straight sizes and actually take a good look at society they would realize that women do come in all shapes and sizes. However whenever a plus is put in a commercial or walks down the runway during a straight size fashion show all hell breaks loose. What are people so afraid of? Better question is, what are fellow designers and design houses afraid of? Maybe if the airwaves and cable boxes were filled to the brim with the average female size that they may be out of work? Is this just a big conspiracy? Lol….it’s possible…..

  6. This is so relatable having experienced anorexia myself but now dreaming of becoming a plus size model I even have a blog about it lol.

    Sage is so beautiful and yet another great role model for girls out there 🙂

  7. it is sage to say YES 🙂 !!!!

  8. Yeah, it’s good, very useful, thanks 🙂

  9. I first became a fan of Sage Salzer when she was dancing around in a red dress in all of those Slim Fast commercials. I loved her TJ Maxx commercial at Christmas and the Kellogg’s ad, but it would be the best to see her in the Lane Bryant ads again. I wish more models would also be someone you could look up to like Sage. She’s always involved with really spectacular stuff like the Hardy Girls Healthy Women.

  10. This is a great article and Sage is doing wonderful work promoting positive messages for girls. I hope you all will check out the great work Hardy Girls Healthy Women are doing.

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