Model Randi Graves Interview is Smart, Funny, Serious, and Insightful. Randi Says, “You CAN change your life in one second by changing your mind.”

Randi Graves is a plus model who is represented by Dorothy Combs Models, in Miami and several other agencies around the world. Lane Bryant is her oldest client of many. She was the tummy for the Lane Bryant Venezia Jean line and the face of their reversible fabrics. She has done shots with Walter Chin, Ellen von Unwerth, and many other well-known photographers. Randi has traveled the world. She is originally from Morristown, New Jersey and said that she is “beyond proud of that. I’m a cheeky Jerseyian.”

How did you get starting in the modeling industry?

On a dare, 13 1/2 years ago. It went like this…my husband said, “If you go to some agencies and see what they say, I’ll buy you dinner.” I said, “And drinks?” He said, “No. You drink too much.” I said. “Fine, but we’re drinking! First this bet, then my tongue piercing, and then dinner.” He said, “Deal.” And, that’s exactly what we did. Wilhelmina was the last agency we visited. We were at the front desk waiting for the receptionist to get off the phone so we could ask about open calls. Susan Georget, my agent for nearly a decade, came to the front desk for some reason. She gave me a stern gloss over. Asked me my size (I was size 10 at the time), wrote her name and number and a photographers name and number down (Michael Keele), told me to get some pictures taken, and to come back when I had done so.

My friend was elated. Me, sadly, all I could focus on was that she had written I was a size 12. LOL! Seriously. I had worked so hard to get into the size 10 jeans I was wearing. My muffin top and I were workin’ it. It wasn’t until one year later that I got those pictures taken and went back to Wilhelmina. They gave me a contract on the spot. I told them I wanted my aunt to look it over and left in a complete state of shock. Numb. You see, I had sat in the front area for nearly an hour as one person after the other was rejected. Some left crying. I had sweat all my makeup off and began to drip copious amounts of water from my under arms and chest. By the time they came for me to go to the back, I was ready for a shower and my great escape back to New Jersey. That moment, with the contract in my hand, has been and will remain to be one of the high points in my life. Someone besides my mother thought I was worthwhile and pretty. It was a nice ride.

Who is your role model or hero? Why?

Oprah Winfrey and Julia Sugarbaker (from Designing Women) are lovely role models to me, and I am my own personal hero. I do hope that doesn’t come across wrong. The hero part, not Oprah and Julia. Oprah is my role model because of her journey. Because of the vessel in which she has walked this earth and accomplished so very much. She’s not white or light, she’s not the stereotypical beauty queen; although, I do believe she once was a beauty queen (http://www.people.com/people/oprah_winfrey/biography), and our society caters to and favors the anti-Oprah vessel. She has crawled and struggled up hills and through valleys. Let no one stand in her way of what she knew she was worth, and she admitted her mistakes along the way. Julia Sugarbaker, oh man! What a spitfire. Controlled and respectful, always with a smile and the utmost lady of southern ladies. But, when the time was right and a verbal ass beating was required, she would let someone have it! LOL! Specifically, articulately, and often with, “Have a good day”. I admire that. Aspire to be that. But, through all my days, I have been the one who saved me. My faith and the life lessons I have learned have held me strong. The people I have met, loved, and loathed have schooled me well. But when it came down to picking myself up, pulling myself together, and getting ‘it’ (whatever ‘it’ may be) done; it was me that was there for me. I think a lot of women can relate to that. This isn’t me saying I’m so wonderful that I give no one credit for aiding me to being who I am today. No, that is not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that I count my blessings and thank all those of you who have helped me to help myself to be the woman I am today who is my own personal hero.

Do you feel that ‘plus’ modeling is helping to redefine beauty?

Redefine? No. Beauty truly, is in the eye of the beholder. Whoever he or she may be. What plus-size modeling or outsize modeling for our UK sisters has done is given the masses a window into other beholders. Our societies’ vision of what beauty is has always been oxymoronic at best. “Be healthy and stay fit” is what we are told and have been told. But, what we see on and in magazines are young girls, very different from women, who are anything but fit. They, as I once was, are consumed with eating disorders and phobias about food, nutrition, and diet. Museums around the world are filled with paintings and sculptures of voluptuous women with their broad hips and ever so slightly plump bellies; I call mine Sheila. These women with their round plump bottoms and thickened waists were adored– goddess-like. They were the definition of beauty. Someone’s definition of beauty. I personally hold that idea of beauty to be self-evident. As I feel others would agree with me. And others won’t…and don’t and that’s ok. It really is. For beauty is not merely defined by a look or a smile, or a firm breast, or an ass for that matter. Beauty is the essence of the vessel within the body and how another sees it and identifies with it. Full-figure models/plus-size models…we are simply saying to our sisters of the thicken thigh tribe, “I see you. And you are beautiful.”

Out of all of the places your career has taken you, which has been the most memorable and why?

Argentina for a Lane Bryant shoot with Mia Tyler, my dearest friend Phillipa Allam, and makeup done by Linda Hay who now works with Heidi Klum and Victoria’s Secret. We stayed at a private resort at the base of this massive mountain where you could ski right into the restaurant and hot tub area, which was just below the restaurant. On our days of shooting, we took a van to the second level of the mountain, and then we took snowmobiles to the top. Clouds were literally passing through us as we shot. It was magic.

Have you ever suffered from body image or self-esteem issues? If so, what advice would you give to young girls and women who are currently struggling?

Welcome to the club if you have or had an eating disorder or self-esteem issue. Unfortunately, it is quite common. Young girls and women have so much on our plates. We are mothers, sisters, friends, and lovers. We are workers, survivors, saviors, and nurturers. We are wives. AND we have to be thin?! Please! Minus being a mother (I am godmother to two lovely boys and one girl), I am all the above, including having dealt with body image issues. I still am. I’m not perfect. Not in mind or body. But what I would say to any young girl or woman who asked…It will be okay. You are perfect just the way you are. Perfectly flawed with a long road ahead of you to laugh away the silly B.S. of yesterday. For tomorrow, you will be stronger because you hopefully learned that you cannot live your life according to what others think of you. Because someone else’s thin, may not suit YOUR body’s structure of thin. That you are defined by what you think of yourself. Period. If you are angry with your thighs, your arms, or your waist…let it go. Replace that pain with love and say to yourself, “Self, I love you just the way you are. But we can be better” and then start from there. Because hating yourself keeps you in a bad place. Stuck. And that’s no good for anyone.

What kinds of pressures do you see the girls in your life facing these days? What can we, as mentors, do to better address these issues?

Well, first we can (and need to) accept the fact that we are ALL mentors. Whether you are on television or not. We are all in this together, regardless of your political affiliation or financial position in life. And, the pressures I see young girls experiencing today are HEAVY. “Am I the prettiest because I received more votes on FB, or whatever social network, than my friend?” … “Will I be more liked or loved if I perform the best sexual act at an orgy party?” …”Am I better than whomever because of my parents car(s), home, jobs, or lack thereof”….”Can I be famous if I do this one sex video, get paid, and parlay it into something else?” These are real issues affecting our girls today. It’s sad. Their hair, their face, their youth, the size of their skinny jeans, and the price on their designer bags are – according to the young – defining who they think they need to be or who they actually are. And, that is so far from the truth. How is it possible that MTV has a TV show about young men and women – and I use those terms loosely – who are in debt ranging in the $10,000’s when they don’t pay mortgages or taxes on  owned property? It’s insane! Whether an individual wants to admit it or not, women hold the power. We teach others how to see us and treat us.

Our young girls are more valuable than they know. They are mentors. Every young girl that crosses my path is in my life through means of direct communication or six degrees of separation. And, I want them to know this… You CAN change your life in one second by changing your mind. The physical act will be longer and more grueling, but to better yourself is worth the climb. Our young girls are faced with the pressures of being something they are not. And, that translates to them thinking they are not good enough. That is not okay. We, as adults, must take the time out of our day to listen, learn, and guide because we also have pressures and don’t always have the right answer and that is okay. As much as we can teach our young girls and boys, we can also get an education from them. So what do we do as mentors? We also learn to be students and move forward from there.

Who taught you about real beauty?

My mother, my aunt Gwen, and my momaran (my mother’s mom). My sisters, my friends, and those that were my enemies. Every broken soul I have ever met and all those tougher than nails broads. 🙂 The animals I have loved and kept and definitely my husband. The world I have experienced, really.

What do you wish you would have known at the age of 13?

Just because you are watching “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, Randi, does not mean you have to eat as if you are there. LOL! But, seriously, that I was worth more than I believed. I didn’t have knowledge of self, let alone esteem. I wish I had known that it would all work out so I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself, and I could have enjoyed the ride of youth a lot more.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

From my aunt Gwen. My mom’s youngest sister. She told me years ago that the worst thing anyone can ever say to you is no (and that ain’t so bad) and then turn their back on you. Because they are saying, you are not worthwhile, you hold no threat, and you are not my challenge. She said, double R, when they do that to you, take a deep breath, and show them what you are made of. Give them the element of surprise. For they will not see you coming. And, she was right because in life, which is competition, fortunately and unfortunately – the element of surprise is a lovely card to hold.

What is a fun fact about you?

At any given time, I bust out in song and love singing to my cat Shelby. Sometimes she bites me, other times she just gets kissingly close to my face and stares…How I love my furry babies.

What are some of your hobbies?

I love cooking. Adore it! It’s my way of saying, “I love you”. Writing, brainstorming, playing with my cats, reading, Bikram yoga, talking with people, analyzing people and their experiences, nutrition and how it affects the body, and taking care of my husband. Honestly.

Do you have a favorite beauty tip you can share with us?

I have tons! First and foremost, hydration. It will save your life and skin. Use a washcloth when cleaning your face. It’s the best inexpensive exfoliant you have in your house right now and it works wonders. Peroxide is wonderful for achy ears, throats, funky breathe, and whiter teeth. Adding baking soda to the latter as toothpaste is magic. And, having something or someone to love will make you a more beautiful person.

What beauty invention has made the greatest impact on your life?

Bumble and Bumble the curl conscious line. Sadly, I cannot live or work without it.

Lipstick or Lip gloss?

Lip gloss. Forever! Generally, any thick sticky brand will do, but I am loving my Chanel Brilliant Levres. It glosses so good. It’s a fantastic fire engine red in the tube, but if put on sparingly, just a bit to coat the lips; it’s the softest pink with magnificent shine. With a heavier hand, VaVaVoom. I am applying it as I think and type.

What is your go-to outfit?

Dresses, dresses, dresses. Even when I was a tomboy, fighting boys for all womankind, I did it in a dress. My closet is over flowing with dresses. Short ones, plunging ones, strap-less, long ones, maxis, and wrap dresses. I can’t get enough or have enough dresses. I think I have a problem.

Where do you love to shop for clothes?

I am a creature of habit, and adore Victoria’s Secret. I’d say 40% of my closet is Vicki S., 20% vintage and/or thrift, and the rest, well, the other places, lol!

What does being a good friend mean to you?

Showing up for your friends lives. That you don’t have to be everything to any one body and vice versa. That sometimes, a little white lie, is what you need to tell, and other times, the truth is the only gift you can give.

What makes you uniquely beautiful?

That I can and will, with my face beat, hair done, and dressed thoroughly to impress, have an in-depth conversation about bowel movements. Anywhere. Any time. What goes in must come out people, and if you are not having a poo at least once a day, something is wrong and we can talk about it. Seriously, call me. I will talk with you about it.

On your day off, what would your perfect day be like?

Getting my “to do” list done. I cannot rest in a messy house and chill out if I have things to do. All I think about is that I’m not doing my to do list.

Do you have a favorite book?

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and Heinerman’s Encyclopedia of Healing Juices by John Heinerman. The first, I read so many times my aunt forbade me to read her second copy that my heavy hands shredded, and the latter I refer to often. It is absolutely life changing to read and practice the benefits of juicing. God bless the parsnip.

Do you have a favorite karaoke song or favorite song of all time?

My favorite karaoke song is “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks and my favorite song of all time is “Stay Gold” by Stevie Wonder.

What does being healthy mean to you?

I love this question, because I have struggled so long with this body. To me, healthy is a sound mind, active body, and a soul at peace. A balanced diet with more live foods than dead and an active sex life that gives you enough pleasure to spread joy. Can I get an Amen!?!

*Thank you, Randi!

Tracie Stern and Randi Graves

We asked Randi’s long time friend and fellow model, Tracie Stern what she loves about Randi.

I’ve known Randi for years, our first shoot together we laughed so hard our client were getting mad at us. I think they stopped booking us together after that…

Randi has been in my life through love, loss, and life in general. She is the god mother to my boys, and she takes that roll very seriously, which is something I love about her….she doesn’t half ass anything.
Everyone should have a Randi in their lives. What I love about her is that she always keeps me in check like a true friend should. She never judges. She comments, she suggests, she challenges you, but she never judges. Plus, her life is like a soap opera so whenever I need a good laugh I call her because I know there is something going on in her life that beats whatever is going on in mine…and her storytelling abilities make even her serious problems come out funny. 🙂

**Thank you, Tracie!

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10 Responses to “Model Randi Graves Interview is Smart, Funny, Serious, and Insightful. Randi Says, “You CAN change your life in one second by changing your mind.””

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  2. This is NOT plus size Says:

    With all due respect – these women are stunning – Gorgeous – but they do absolutely NOTHING for plus size female CONSUMERS. Because they LOOK NOTHING like us!

    This goes beyond merely being taller or being blessed with great genes.

    They are NOT OUR SIZE. When they model so-called PLUS SIZE clothing – we can’t see what that looks like on us.

    This is why the word ‘real’ comes up so often. the industry needs to be for real! If I walked in their doors and said I wanted to be a plus size model – they’d REJECT me – because I don’t look like these women.

    Who are these models FOR anyway? Obviously not us – the plus size consumers.

  3. i really love it ,i always wanted to be a plus size model but dont have that chance yet

  4. loved this article. Randi is so intuned with self-esteem, fitness and taking care of yourself and your soul. It’s been a minute since we last saw each other but when we hung out she was a hoot

  5. Loved this article. She is open and honest about the body and how it works. And self eteem for young girls. I love Randi. Its been a while since we have seen each other but when we hung out and I ate tuna tartar for the first time, she opened my eyes to other types of foods. I cracked up when she couldn’t put gas in her car

  6. Great interview – remarkable young woman who will inspire others. I am impressed!!!

  7. Fantastic article ladies….I actually learned something about one of my best friends! I had a good chuckle too at her poo answer….that is my Randi….

  8. Jasmine E. Says:

    I absolutley loved reading this interview with Randi. I can honestly say that she has been one of my favorite plus size models since forever! Thanks so much Randi for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. You’re just as beautiful inside as you are out! THANK YOU!

    Jasmine E.
    Plus Model and Photographer
    http://www.plusmodeljasmine.carbonmade.com
    http://www.jasmineephotography.com

    • Márcia Saad Says:

      I am always impressed with the high level of American plus size models … working as a model in Brazil and today we fight for market growth here too. Congratulations! Brave!

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