Archive for the Eating Disorders Category

A Special Message from Liz & Angela via Plus-Size Models Unite

Posted in Articles, Books, & Magazines, Beauty, Hair, & Make-up, Body Image, Confidence, Eating Disorders, Family & Friends, Media, Models, News, Parenting, Photographers, Plus-Size Modeling, Radio, Recipes & Food, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Sports, Trade Tips, Travel, TV, Unique Beauty, Work, Your Story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2011 by Liz

Liz Mangini & Angela Jones ~ Photographed by Lindsey Bowen

We would love to thank each and every one of you for supporting PSMU. We have really enjoyed being a part of such a positive site; sharing stories; and promoting healthy living, confidence, self-esteem, and self-love. Thank you to all of our contributors, models, agents, friends, mothers, writers, and our readers! We truly believe everyone can make a difference if we come together and let our voices be heard, as we have done at PSMU. We all need to be exposed to more healthy, happy, and positive ideas and role models. There are some extraordinary people out there doing amazing things and we need to hear more about them!

This will be our final post via Plus-Size Models Unite. We hope to see you at the new site that is coming soon!

Thank you!

Liz & Angela


Olivia Coyne Says, “Be kind to yourself – you only have one body, one life, and only the moment to live it.”

Posted in Articles, Books, & Magazines, Australia, Beauty, Hair, & Make-up, Body Image, Confidence, Designers, Eating Disorders, Family & Friends, Fashion, Fitness & Health, Funny Experiences, Hobbies, Inspiration, Media, Models, News, Parenting, Photographers, Plus-Size Modeling, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Trade Tips, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2011 by Liz

Photographed by Claudio Raschella

Olivia Coyne is a plus model from Australia who is signed with Bella Model Management.

How did your career start as a model?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been told I should be a model. I took it as a compliment and never thought anything much of it, “thank you…how kind…maybe one day.” It wasn’t until my boss, a woman whose opinion I value very highly, said to me that I should try out to be a plus-size model. I knew that there were plus-size models in the market, but I never knew how to tap into it. I called BELLA late one night after work and Chelsea answered. We spoke for ten minutes, I sent off a few pictures, went in for an interview, and it’s just been a rollercoaster ride since then. Yes, it would’ve been nice to have a ‘scouted’ story, walking down the street, someone saw me etc. – but I think my story is one of ambition and having a goal and doing something about it. I would still be walking up and down the street waiting for someone to see me – hello, see me!! Ha!

Have you always known you wanted to be a model?

The fashion and media industry is always something I’ve had an interest in–catwalks, magazines, clothes, shopping, trends, designers, and of course the models, did I mention magazines? I used to read Vogue every month religiously and the models were untouchable. They were the girls that didn’t exist in this world; they were from somewhere else. I idolized them and wanted to know all I could about their lives. I think it when I hit 14-15 years old and I realized I could never look like those girls. I didn’t have the frame for it, and once I researched it a bit, I didn’t really care too much for the unhealthy lifestyle. I had to keep reminding myself that the size 4-8 models are built that way – you cannot change your body type, but you can change your attitude. Knowing that there are other young girls out there, like I was, idolizing these models, scares me sometimes. I only hope young women understand that international catwalk models are from, another world, they are born with a frame and structure that can hold minimum body fat – it’s not normal. Yes, they make it work for them, but for the rest of the population, a healthy lifestyle should be the main aim of the game – physically and mentally.

What are your thoughts on the term ‘plus’ size model?

I think the market is calling us ‘plus-size’ because they’re still coming to terms with the fact that ‘plus-size’ models have made it onto the scene and we’re making a breakthrough. The industry has really embraced plus-size models and it has all happened so fast – the demand was there and the models were waiting! I think in time, the term will fade, just as the idea of being plus size will become the norm and accepted as regular. Plus size is only used in the industry because next to the Vodinova’s, Kerr’s, and Buchanan’s we are plus size – the industry will adapt in time. It’s a positive step and every client that uses and embraces plus-size models should be recognized as making a conscious effort to improve the standards of Australia’s media credibility.

Photographed by Claudio Raschella

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

When I was younger, I always knew I was different, taller, broader, and conscious of my demeanor; that I wasn’t like all the other girls. People, friends, and even strangers would comment on my physical appearance and the way I carried myself even before I opened my mouth or they knew my name. I just thought that this happened to everyone – apparently not. I knew that I could never be as thin as my friends or as skinny as the models on the catwalk, and that in itself took some time to develop – but still I beat myself up about it inside. I went through a period where I had a distorted view of what was right and wrong for my body. I would count calories and monitor my eating patterns and those of others. I was consumed by consumption. The light bulb moment for me, and I still have them, is seeing young women, thin young women who cannot exercise, have a fun night out, hold a conversation, or have no energy for life all because they are still obsessed by their eating habits and have no time to enjoy eating. The relationship I have with food is healthy and realistic. I view food as energy for living, one needs healthy nutritious food and often. Food is entertaining with friends, its long lunches, relaxing dinners, healthy lunches, and respecting food and nutrition.

What does being healthy mean to you?

Healthy means balance. Healthy means having a sustainable lifestyle and not living to excess – moderation is key. There’s not much to it really. Yes, it’s easy to stray off track every now and then, but that’s the whole idea of moderation and balance – off track, on track.

What are you currently dreaming of?

I dream of Sydney, I’ve dreamt of Sydney, I longed for Sydney – I love this city. I embrace this city with everything I have. I’m dreaming of New York though – I want to love that city. I want to live in New York – soak myself in New York and embrace and encourage New York – I want to love New York.

Photographed by Claudio Raschella

Where do you love to shop for clothes?

I love Oxford St in Sydney – untapped treasures and local designers. Some of my favourite everyday day brands include Country Road, Sussans (this goes with that), Witchery, General Pants Co for something different and edgy, David Jones for the latest collections, Myer for the sales, and Cosmopolitan Shoes when I like to dream.

What is your go-to outfit?

Every day, anytime is jeans, flat shoes, singlet top and cardi, necklace, and scarf. Nighttime – invited out – nothing to wear is long black strapless dress, high heels, messy tousled hair, smoky eyes, sparkly earrings, and clutch. It’s all about working with what you have, confidence but not too much. You’re out to have a good time, day or night; you have to be comfortable in your own skin. You have to love yourself first before someone else can. Be confident and others will see that in you and respect you for it.

What is your fashion obsession?

Okay, here it is – my fashion obsessions – through and through, for a number of years now, I’m prepared to admit it, just between you and me – scarves and necklaces. I wear scarves around my neck, on my head, tied to a handbag, around my waist as a belt, around my wrist as a top over jeans or a kaftan on the beach– anywhere. Thick, woolly, loose, thin, patterned, plain, beaded, decorative, warm, short, homemade, knitted, long with tassels or fringes, or silk. If you have it–I want it, if I own it, I’ll wear it. Necklaces are a guilty and my not so private obsession. As with the scarves, wear them any which way or whatever, big, small, heavy or light, charmed or simple, multi stranded–accessories are made to be worn and adored.

What are your favorite beauty products or must-haves?

30+ SPF tinted sunscreen, Estee Lauder Double Wear eyeliner, Avon mascara, and pale lip balm. I’m into dark eyes and light lips at the moment, I’m tapping into a 60’s mod theme, trying to make it work for me! I hope it’s working for me. Ha.

Do you have a favorite skin care line?

I believe in switching skin care regimes and brands every few months. One must keep the skin guessing, it should not get too comfortable. Just as your life and routines change, so too should your skin care regime, but keeping a few reliable staple items. I’ve always used a Garnier deep pore face wash and Nivea Crème. I add in Garnier Caffeine Eye Roll On, L’Oreal Night Cream, and L’occitane hand cream. Always drink at least two liters of water a day – good skin comes from the inside out – but great products always help!

What is a quick beauty tip you would like to share with us?

Always wear sunscreen; it’s plain, simple and makes sense. Australia has such a harsh climate that we cannot afford not to wear sunscreen, at least 30+, and if it’s tinted, that’s another plus! Also, don’t ever forget to wash your make up off – panda eyes are never a good look, not matter how much fun the night before was!

Favorite nail color?

Dark red. It’s seductive at nighttime, and fresh and fun during the day. It goes with most items of clothing and jewelry sparkles 10 times as much against the dark hue.

Photographed by Claudio Raschella

Do you have a favorite workout?

My favourite workout routine is a run or walk – I have the route down pat!  I’m such a local, I love this city!

What are your favorite sites to visit online?, has great info, latest trends, great catwalk clips from around the globe, good tips, and up to date product releases – what better way to love a magazine than to love its online sister! I also love – 3 o’clock in the afternoon – quick, what’s for dinner!?

If I turned on your iPod, what would be playing? 

Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Miami Horror, the Bagraiders, Temper Trap, and Madeline Peyroux – nothing wrong with a bit of a mix!

If you had one piece of advice to give other girls your age, what would it be? 

Be kind to yourself – you only have one body, one life, and only the moment to live it. Respect your body for what it is. Don’t ever get hung up on what you’re not, what you don’t have, or where you’re not. Love your body and understand it. Respect your shape and make it work in your favour. Play around with shapes and styles, experiment with colours and looks – have fun with your look. Don’t be hung up on your appearance, there is more to a young woman than the way she looks. Personality and confidence is key and it’s something that people can sense. Others sense when you are not comfortable in your own skin and when you hide who you really are – be yourself and others can love you for it.

What do your friends think of your modeling career? 

My friends support my decision and are very excited in its developments – like most people they are astounded that as a size 12, is considered plus size. The term is not an accurate view of models in the industry today. 12 + is the average – it is about transforming the view of society to understanding that plus size is not plus size.

What is the best gift you’ve given to someone?

I think the best gifts are experiences. I’ve given concert tickets, centrepoint tower climbs, restaurant vouchers, and tours. The best presents are those you cannot buy yourself and when you share an experience with someone, the memories are endless.

Photographed by Claudio Raschella

What makes you uniquely beautiful?

My attitude. I am a very optimistic person and I like to see the best in everyone. I believe in living in the moment and making the most of every experience. Learn from people and learn from mistakes. I think my attitude for myself has developed immensely in the last few years. I’ve learnt to love who I am and recognize what I have to offer others. One’s attitude should be reflective of values and morals, a way of life.

What is your biggest accomplishment? 

Buying my apartment. It was such an adventure to get to where I am now. The saving, the paperwork, the solicitors, the real estate agents, the open houses, the schedules, and finally the settlement, it was almost like a part-time job – glad to be on the other side of it. I learnt a lot about the industry and a lot about myself. About what I value, the lifestyle I was after, and what I wanted from owning an apartment. My family was very supportive throughout the entire process; I couldn’t have done it without them.

What is the best thing your family does to support you?

The best thing my family has done for me is support me in my decisions and respect my opinions. I was never forced to do anything I didn’t believe in. Never underestimate the value of a steady support network – friends and family that are there for you, through it all. Those who support your values and share common morals. Being able to make your own decisions, your own mistakes, and learn from them is a big part of growing up. The key is growing old without growing old. Always maintain a sense of youth and ensure those around you respect you for it.

Who is your role model or hero? Why?

My mother is my role model. Karen is supportive and strong. She is loving, caring, patient, and funny. My Mum has always been there for me–an ear to listen and advice for any occasion. Her sense of style, self-worth, and respect – I have learnt a lot and will continue to learn from her every day. We chat every other day and catch up on the happening of the week. Stories galore. She fills me in on the family life, and I update her on the adventures I have in Sydney.

Tell us a fun fact about you…

I’ve been skydiving in Prague. I have a tattoo of a star on my wrist that I got with my Mum. I lived overseas for four years when I was young; I went to American International Schools. Sometimes my American accent comes out when I’m telling a story or singing a song. If I ever meet an American, the accent comes out straight away – it’s tragic! I own my apartment, bought it 18 months ago; hello mortgage and principal & interest repayments! Is that fun ?

What are you excited about right now?

I am excited for Summer 2011! The word of the Summer is ‘balance’. Work hard, play hard, eat well, and sleep deeply (on Sunday nights!).

Thank you, Olivia!

It’s Plus-Size Models Unite’s 1-Year Anniversary Today ~ Plus Model Angela Jones’s Personal Story…

Posted in Beauty, Hair, & Make-up, Confidence, Eating Disorders, Family & Friends, Fitness & Health, Food, Parenting, Plus-Size Modeling, Recipes & Food, Self-Esteem, Your Story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2011 by Liz

One year ago today, Angela and I published our first piece for Plus-Size Models Unite. We have both put our heart and soul into creating this community for women of ALL sizes to share their personal stories; exchange ideas; discuss body image, self-esteem, confidence, fashion, beauty, health, and a plethora of other topics.

Plus-Size Models Unite embraces women of every shape, size, ethnicity, and age, which includes women who are short, tall, plus, thin, and every woman in between. We applaud diversity and support women to find the inner strength to accept, respect, and embrace their uniquely beautiful self. We encourage self-empowerment and confidence.

On our 1-year anniversary, we decided to re-publish our first piece, which is Angela’s personal story that we wrote together.

Thank you to all our readers and contributors who have made Plus-Size Models Unite what it is today. We appreciate your love and support!

I started an additional website for parents called; I’d love for you to visit us there or share the site with all the moms you know.

Thanks again,



Here is Angela’s story…

Photography by Marc von Borstel


Hello World,

I am Angela Jones. I am a mother, daughter, sister, wife, friend, and a plus-size model. I have not always felt great about my body, but I have gained strength, and learned to love myself – just the way I am.

My friend, Elizabeth, and I decided to start Plus-Size Models Unite to create an on-line community where women can share their personal stories; exchange ideas; discuss the plus-size modeling world; create a supportive and positive atmosphere; and promote self-acceptance, positive body image, and self-love – no matter what our size or shape.

Plus-Size Models Unite is for women who have struggled, do struggle, will struggle, or have attained self-acceptance, self-love, healthy living, and a positive body image. Our hope is that you will find comfort in reading the stories and advice other women share, and that you will contribute your stories, ideas, tips,  pictures, videos, and modeling experiences to help inspire other women along their journey.

My Story


When I was a little girl, I remember being referred to as sturdy, strong, bigger-built, and big-boned. I remember my grandparents commenting on my build, and other people commenting on the physical differences between my sister and me. I did not think about the comments or comparisons when I was a child. It did not faze me.

I was in fourth grade the first time someone made fun of me. One of the neighbor boys called me “fat,” and I honestly had no idea what he was talking about. However, after a few times, I started to realize that he was being mean, and I ran home crying to my mom. My mom was wonderful, supportive, and my greatest advocate. She called the boy’s mother, and the boy apologized. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of my trouble with body image.

In sixth grade, I started to become frustrated with my body. Our class had to “weigh-in” for P.E. It was the first time that I was embarrassed about how much I weighed. I couldn’t relate to any of the girls in my class. My classmates were sharing with each other how much they weighed, and I was horrified. My weight was up there with the boys’, and I was embarrassed. It was the first time, of many, that I lied about how much I weighed. I ate healthy food, exercised regularly, and took good care of my body. I was active in sports, and loved the feeling of being part of a team. I should have felt good about myself, but I did not.

Kids teased me and laughed at me because of my freckles, mole, and butt. My mother called my mole a “beauty mark.” I took pride in that, and I felt unique and special. On the bus, boys would tease me about having a “big butt.” I never had a comeback – I would just take it. I did not know what to do, and I was shocked that people could be so mean. It really hurt.

I had great family friends that attended both elementary and high school with me. They were boys around my age, and they stood up for me. They were respectful and always nice to everyone. I will never forget their kindness, and we are still friends today. Other kids were so mean. I knew a girl at school who was overweight. Kids called her “Heavy Evy,” and that made me furious. I remember watching her run into the bathroom crying. I knew how she felt.  To this day, I wish I would have followed her in there and given her a hug…I still feel bad about that.

In high school, I remember a girl calling me a “whale” and a teacher telling me that he “liked my butt.” I did not understand why people were making such inappropriate comments about my body.  I had many friends, and I was active in school activities and sports. It was all so confusing and made me feel self-conscious. I didn’t like to wear snug, tailored clothing or draw attention to myself. I was embarrassed. I tried to cover up my mole with foundation and thought about having it removed many times. I always felt like I never looked good enough.

Every morning, I became frustrated when trying to get ready for school. I searched for something to wear that seemed acceptable, and I would panic and sweat from anxiety. I would become so frustrated that I would throw a fit and yell at my mom. It was horrible. I did not feel pretty. In high school, I constantly asked my mom if I was fat.  She always told me “Angela, you are perfect just the way you are.”  I never believed her.

I continued to struggle with body image, even though I had my mom as a solid role model. She treated her body with respect, took good care of herself, and was never controlling about what we ate. As time went by, I went through many different eating habits. I would only eat a potato with mustard or cabbage with mustard. I would eat only salads and no carbohydrates. The only condiments I used were mustard, ketchup, and salsa. I never starved myself, but if I started feeling hungry, I would preoccupy my mind with a bike ride, walk, or run.

My bout with bulimia started right after I graduated from high school. I moved to Hawaii to attend college. I was living by myself in a dorm room, I did not know many people, and I was lonely. I met some girls, and I immediately noticed how skinny they both looked. I wondered how they stayed so slim. I soon found out. They would eat tubs of ice cream and then throw up.

I had never heard of such a thing, and I was disgusted. I went home alone, and started picking myself apart. I stood in front of the mirror grabbing my fat, thinking that I would feel so much better if I could only make “it” go away. The first time I made myself throw up I was in my dorm, and I threw up in a grocery sack. I didn’t binge and purge. I would eat healthy and purge. My problems with body image intensified, and I began throwing up in the bathroom at work. A co-worker caught me purging once. She was very kind and offered her support.  I told her I was fine and it wouldn’t happen again.  Shortly after that, I moved back home…to be with my family.

I started receiving positive reinforcement regarding how “good I looked.” I was always confused by the compliments because I felt like I was dying on the inside. I put on a happy face, and said I looked “good” because of healthy diet and exercise. I was running religiously. I ran a marathon, several half-marathons, and worked out constantly. I eventually ruined my teeth from all the acid that I produced while throwing up, and I have two fake molars now because of my bout with bulimia.

I moved to Beverly Hills to become a nanny. For the first few months in California, I did not purge. I didn’t know anyone there, and I became lonely again. I didn’t feel like I fit in and the purging started. My frame was the smallest it has ever been. A woman, who I worked for as a nanny, called my mom to express her concerns. My mom had already suspected something was wrong.

When I moved back home, I confessed to my mom, and she was heart-broken. I continued abusing my body up until the day I met my husband.  The timing was good, and I was ready to make a positive change. I promised him and myself that I would never abuse my body again, and I have kept that promise. I have thought about doing it, but I have kept my promise. I had my priorities wrong, but I am not ashamed of what I went through.

Photographed by Lindsey Bowen

After having children, I developed a deeper respect and appreciation for my body. I realized a woman’s body is amazing and capable of creating wondrous miracles.  I have a daughter now who is looking up to me as her role model. I am teaching my children to respect and love their bodies.

I pretended for a long time that the unhealthy part of my past never existed, but I am hoping this experience helps bring me closure, and will help other girls and women, who may be going through a similar experience. We want Plus-Size Models Unite to be a great place for women to inspire each other.

The days that I deal with body image issues are far from over, I do have those days where I wake up and feel blah, or wish a shirt wasn’t so tight or jeans weren’t so snug, but I deal with those feelings differently now and I acknowledge the fact that it is completely normal to feel this way and it isn’t the end of the world!  I realize now that is not a priority for me, my priority now is my health, my happiness and my family.   I have a family who needs me, a husband who loves and respects me and kids who adore me, they need me and I LOVE me.  I love me for who I am, I love my mole on my face, I love my butt, these physical features make me unique and different.  I have learned the importance of being healthy and living a healthy and active lifestyle.  I want to set a good example to our kids show them how to respect our bodies and take great care of them.  After all, they are the only ones we’ve got!

This blog has helped me grow so much as a woman, wife, mother, and friend.  I have also come to realize something else very important and that is having a passion.  For me, sharing this story and hopefully helping others who may be struggling with body image issues or an eating disorder is my passion.  I felt so alone during my darkest time and I want everyone to know that they are not alone, it will be okay, and it is possible to heal and make it through tough times.  Having a passion, helps us feel alive, gives us something to look forward to and work towards. A few months ago, I spoke to Placer High School in Sacramento, California, with the Healthy is the New Skinny team for our Perfectly UnPerfected project.  I shared my story along with my very inspirational team.  Those students needed us, they needed to hear our stories.  Kids today are wanting to see healthy, vibrant, and happy role models.  I am still on a high from our trip to Placer High.  There is no amount of money that could ever come close to the fulfillment I receive daily from being a wife, mother, and living with my passion.

*To view Elizabeth’s parenting blog, visit Please share the link with all your friends!

**Also, please pick up the April issue of Redbook magazine. Elizabeth talks about the long-term negative effects of dieting. The April issue will be on newsstands in the next couple of days, if it isn’t already there!

Thank you!

Hot Topic: Body Image, Self-Esteem, and the Media by Liz Mangini

Posted in Body Image, Confidence, Eating Disorders, Media, Plus-Size Modeling, Self-Esteem with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2011 by Liz


Filippi Hamilton on the catwalk on the left and photoshopped on the right.

I read the recent Glamour magazine article, “Shocking Body-Image News: 97% of Women Will Be Cruel to Their Bodies Today” and it made me think of my daughters and all the young boys and girls, teens, and women who have or will struggle with self-esteem and body image issues at some point in their lives.

The Glamour magazine article said, “On average, women have 13 negative body thoughts daily—nearly one for every waking hour. And a disturbing number of women confess to having 35, 50, or even 100 hateful thoughts about their own shapes each day.” The article went on to say, “In a University of Central Florida study of three- to six-year-old girls, nearly half were already worried about being fat—and roughly a third said they wanted to change something about their body.”

These are very disturbing statistics. More than ever before, the body hatred epidemic is beginning at a younger age. How can we stop this? A few ways we can help break the cycle are by loving and accepting our bodies the way they are, setting a good example for our children by not talking negatively about our bodies, not buying into the false imagery the media is selling, giving kids the tools they need to build their self-esteem and confidence, and having conversations with our kids about the reality of the artificial images and messages they are exposed to. I also think we should have more diversity in the media. The recent rise of plus models have helped expand the idea of beauty and acceptance, but I wish those women were used alongside straight models with more regularity. I also hope to see more un-manipulated pictures of men and women of varying shapes, sizes, ethnicities, physical abilities, and ages, which includes people who are short, tall, plus, thin, and every woman in between. Is that too much to ask?

We live in a society where the media, magazines, and some celebrities are sending unhealthy unrealistic messages about the definition of beauty. We see pictures in magazines of unattainable beauty—it’s not attainable because it’s fake. Sometimes the models in the pictures are airbrushed and computer enhanced to the point of absurdity (as seen above). Women, girls, boys, and men are being sucked into illusionary expectations of beauty and the effects of that can be very damaging psychologically and physically. The effects of the unrelenting images and messages can lead to low self-esteem, body image issues, eating disorders, unhealthy living, and in some cases death. No, I’m not being overly dramatic.

According to the Department of Health, “It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men. Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight.” A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that, “5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years, and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover”. This is reality. Women and men are dying to be “beautiful”.

I recently heard Oprah interview Janet Jackson about her new book called, “True You”. Janet talks about going through a phase in her life when she hated her body so much that she would literally bang her head against the wall out of frustration. When Oprah asked when Janet thought her body hatred started, Janet said it started as a child. She said that her brothers would tease her, not realizing what a profound negative affect it was having on her psyche. She has struggled for years to recover. Everyone has their own potential trigger, whether it’s teasing from peers or family, images in magazines or shows, peer pressure, or a parent who spoke negatively about their own body in front of their kids or who didn’t treat their bodies with respect. Unfortunately, this is the story of many men and women both famous and not.

We should encourage and empower boys, girls, women, and men to break the cycle of negativity and self-hate and to love and embrace their bodies as they naturally are. It took me a long time, but once I decided to embrace my body as it is, my confidence has soared! I feel more empowered now and have such great respect for what my body is capable of doing.

With so many people struggling to love themselves, it makes me think something needs to radically change. How can we put a stop to this? Who defines beauty? What drives the media? How do you define beauty?

I define beauty as the inner light that shines through your eyes, smile, laugh, words, actions, and touch. The light that is lit by love, kindness, patience, joy, intelligence, hope, strength, a warm heart, and confidence in your unbound uniqueness.

Here is the Today Show interview with model Filippa Hamilton:

Here is the full Glamour magazine article.


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

Posted in Articles, Books, & Magazines, Beauty, Hair, & Make-up, Body Image, Confidence, Eating Disorders, Entertainment, Family & Friends, Fashion, Fitness & Health, Food, Funny Experiences, Hobbies, Inspiration, Media, Models, New Jersey, Photographers, Plus-Size Modeling, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Trade Tips, Travel, Unique Beauty with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by Liz

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 (, 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!

Life Doesn’t Start After Losing the Last Five or Ten Pounds. Live Your Best Life Now! Guest Post by Erin Henry.

Posted in Articles, Books, & Magazines, Beauty, Hair, & Make-up, Body Image, Confidence, Eating Disorders, Fitness & Health, Inspiration, Media, My Story, Plus-Size Modeling, Self-Esteem, Unique Beauty, Your Story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2010 by Liz

Photographed by Karine Basilio

I am so excited to be a contributor to such a positive website. When I first looked at Plus-Size Models Unite, I was inspired by the amazing women featured, but also really struck by the support these women were offering to one another regarding healthy body image and self-acceptance. Having had so many struggles with these issues myself; it feels good to know I wasn’t alone. I’m excited to be a part of this movement to help women love themselves inside and out!

I’m happy to say I’ve come full circle in my journey of learning to love my body, but it wasn’t easy. There were many years of self-loathing, criticizing, and thinking that if I could only lose two more pounds my life would miraculously change overnight and all of my wildest dreams would come true. I thought being very thin was the key to happiness. Well, what I can tell you is that your life can most definitely change overnight, but losing that last two pounds that you are convinced is weighing you down has nothing to do with it. It is important to be at a healthy and comfortable weight for YOU, but we are all different and that’s the beauty in us all.

It’s easy to be caught up in insecurity about your tummy roll or fuller hips, especially when I recently saw a top fashion magazine now claiming a size 4 to be curvy and there seems to be an endless stream of Victoria’s Secret catalogs in my mailbox every day. Who is signing us all up to receive these? Who looks like that? Well surely, if you look like that you must have a perfect life in every regard right? Do I have to be that skinny to love myself? Does this sound familiar to anyone? I did a lot of this type of thinking for a lot of years! Here is my story, and how I turned it all around.

Photographed by Alexander Neumann

I grew up in a suburb of Portland, Oregon. It was beautiful. Green, clean, and full of fun outdoor activities. I spent my free time camping, skiing, and hiking. When I got to high school, I was on a highly competitive volleyball team and the sport was a huge part of my life. We did a lot of training, and I loved that I had an athletic body and my mother had taught me how to eat well to support my endurance. I thought I looked pretty good and was a happy and healthy young woman.

People had suggested for years that I try modeling so one summer when I was fifteen; I finally decided to give it a go by sending some pictures to agencies. I was immediately accepted by some big names and I thought it would be a good way to save some money until I went off to college. I was always very tomboyish and, up until then, had never really thought about having a delicate frame or a tiny waist. The first time I went to the agency that I decided on and the measuring tape came out, somehow I knew I was in trouble. Sure enough, according to the agent I had some extra inches lurking around my 5’11” figure. But, the promise of big money and travel if I lost the inches was enough to put me on the first diet I could find. That was the first time I remember thinking…If I could just lose five pounds….

I did lose the five pounds, but then of course I thought if I could lose more weight my career and life would be even better. So, I did…and nothing changed besides the fact that I was able to model for some catalogs and my mind was constantly consumed with thoughts of food. I never use to think about food unless I was hungry, then I’d eat whatever sounded good, and the thought would go away until my next meal. When you diet to extremes like I had begun doing, you’re never really satiated so you think about food nonstop. It became a distraction from what should normally be on a teenage girls mind. It was somewhere my mind would wander more and more. If I were tired of thinking about my friends, schoolwork, sports, or my family; then I would just find a new diet to think about and follow. Diets became a distraction from whatever was really going on in my life. Even the things that were exciting and fun. I had a wonderful high school experience and a lot to be grateful for, but my mind was starting to become focused on food deprivation more and more. That was no way to live.

Photographed by Becca Thorpe

I was definitely thin at this point, but the parts of my body that had recently been pointed out to me as fat still seemed fat to me. There were always the same spots I picked on and would resort to complaining about when I was having a bad day. In fact, I would turn to these “flaws” even when I was having a great day and they would bring me down. I am now convinced this is something women do to themselves as some form of unnecessary self-torture. Some way to keep ourselves down at a certain level because we think we aren’t worthy of feeling like more. I think we have all done this to ourselves at some point. And trust me, even the girl or woman that we look at and think have a perfect figure has had negative thoughts like these.

When I was eighteen, I left college to pursue modeling full-time in Paris. I was a girl they said had so much potential, and I should have been thrilled but I don’t remember this as a particularly happy time of my life because I felt that everything was riding on whether or not I could be skinny. I was getting a great response from clients and I just couldn’t walk away. Sure enough, I was instructed to lose more weight once I arrived in Paris. Surely, this was the last time and then life would most definitely be fabulous! And, fabulous in Paris nonetheless! It all sounded so glamorous. The problem was dieting alone wasn’t going to do it, so I went to some extreme measures in an attempt to shave that last bit of weight off.

It still wouldn’t budge, so I was shipped off to Germany with the other “overweight” girls and told to work on it while I modeled for unglamorous catalogs for a while. I felt like I had won a consolation prize but I wanted to be the best. I recently came across some photos of me at this time, and I was thin and beautiful but in every picture I looked absolutely empty and terrified. I had dug myself into a very deep hole.

Photographed by Fiorenzo Borghi

I was homesick living overseas so eventually I moved to New York where I had a career as a catalog and commercial model, and I never made it back to Paris, but I also never stopped trying to get into that perfect sample size they had given me the measurements for because that had become my ideal of perfection. In New York, I was allowed to be a bit bigger but not much and my weight was a continual struggle. I missed out on so much happiness because I was always torturing myself for not being thin enough. I avoided social events involving food and was at the gym more than I care to remember. I finally lost that weight and right when I thought the true rewards for my efforts were right around the corner, I ended up in the hospital for five days. I came close to kidney failure but the doctors dismissed me after rehydrating me and temporarily patching me up.

Over the next few years, I was in the hospital four more times with the same issue when finally a doctor came to me and asked me if I wanted to live a long time, because the path I was on wasn’t going to get me there. All of the dieting and over exercising was taking a dangerous toll on my body. Finally, someone stepped in and realized all of the destructive things I had been doing to mold myself into that perfect ideal of thinness I had formed in my head. This was my wake up call. The quest for my perfect figure, which I believed would lead me to true happiness, actually landed me in the hospital five times close to kidney failure. Hmm… Something definitely wasn’t working here. I was unhappy, unfulfilled, unhealthy, and all this for what? So, I made a decision.

Photographed by Becca Thorpe

I chose life. I knew I needed to take some time off from measuring tapes and sample sizes so I left New York, quit modeling for a few years, and started to remember all the things I used to love before I got lost down that road of self-torture. I traveled, went on dates, laughed, tried different careers, built meaningful relationships, played volleyball again…and I ate all of the things I had deprived myself of for so long. And it was fun! I felt alive again. I learned that being who you are doesn’t have to be a struggle, even though so often we make it one.

I did go through a period of time where I started to seriously overindulge, but I think it was my body’s way of making up for lost time. And lost dessert! After a few months of eating recklessly, my body began to tell me what it needed. Maybe one day it needed some dark leafy greens because it craved iron or calcium, and maybe another day it absolutely needed a piece of salmon to boost my healthy fat intake. Once I really started to listen to my body’s cravings and learned to give it the nourishment it yearned for, I truly began to live a healthy life again. Not only was I physically healthier, but on a personal level I was healthier as well. When you don’t have to spend every waking moment thinking about dieting and your next meal, you have the opportunity to think about your life and how you want to live it.

A few years later, I found out I could have a career as a healthy shaped model. It was actually in demand! I moved back to New York, started my modeling career again, and enrolled in school to learn about holistic health and nutrition. From there, I have taken numerous courses in holistic healing such as herbal medicine and breathwork. The thing I treasure most about my education is that I continued to learn that there’s so much more to being a healthy person than just what you eat. While proper nutrition is very important, the day-to-day thoughts and feelings we have are important as well. It was difficult for me at the beginning, but I learned to feel my thoughts and feelings and sit with them instead of trying to distract myself with the thought of another diet or starvation plan. Maybe my body is not perfect, but by learning to find things about it that is beautiful every day was what changed my life overnight.

Photographed by Fiorenzo Borghi

We all have so many things that make us beautiful and that we can be grateful for. Our thoughts and feelings affect every cell of our body. So true health for me meant learning to think positively more than negatively. Learning to really feel things like love, compassion, forgiveness, hope, and joy have been one of the greatest blessings of this whole journey.

The best way I know how to describe holistic healing is that it is health based on the “whole” person. You are what you eat, but you are also what you think, feel, dream, do, and love. I am continuing to learn about mind/body healing because not only do I want to help others learn to love and honor their body; I want them to learn to nourish it inside and out. After all, we only get one.

*Thank you, Erin!

**We will be reading much more from Erin in the future and we are looking forward to it!

To view Erin’s first piece for the Huffington Post visit~

Sierra Lisa Speaks Her Truth! She’s an Amazing Woman! We Are giving Away Ten Free DVD’s to the First Ten People Who Email Us. See Details at the Bottom of this Post!

Posted in Art, Body Image, Celebrity, Confidence, Eating Disorders, Entertainment, Events, Family & Friends, Fashion, Fitness & Health, Food, Hobbies, Inspiration, Media, Movies, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Trade Tips, TV, Your Story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2010 by Liz

Sierra is a dedicated and passionate filmmaker. Her goal is to make films that influence people to reflect on different aspects of life, question the status quo, and become independent thinkers. She has directed several films in high school that showcased at the Moondance Festival. One of them, The Ice Cream, won Best Short Film award, and a third place ROP award in Film Production. At California State University, Northridge; she produced, directed, wrote, edited, and worked on several short films including STARving, which was one of the five projects to be funded by the school’s film program her senior year.

Sierra has worked in the entertainment business since she was sixteen. Included among her many clients are San Diego Chargers owner, Alex Spanos and renowned singer, Gloria Loring. Currently, she works with Leeza Gibbons as the producer for the radio show Hollywood Confidential as well as Leeza’s in-house video and audio editor.

Have you ever struggled with self-esteem or body image issues in the past? If so, how did you reach the point of accepting and loving yourself and your body as it is.

It is estimated that 8 million people in the United States are suffering from an eating disorder and, much too recently, I was one of them. In high school, I would rather have died than admit I had the problem, but now having surmounted bulimia, this experience most significantly impacted my life. Training to be an actress at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), the pressure to be thin engulfed me and I began believing that any harm I endured was a worthy sacrifice for my art. My bulimia began with frightening ease and quickly spiraled into a compulsive nightmare. It is due to the help of a teacher named Kim Wield that I was able to triumph. My evolution from nonchalantly beginning bulimia, uncontrollably continuing in it, and ultimately overcoming the fight has dramatically shaped my views on life.

Sitting down for rehearsal of a female dance number, I listened to my perfectly toned choreography teacher suggest that we start eating healthier foods while avoiding crash diets. In practically the same breath, she ended her pep talk by saying she did not want to see any flab on the stage and she followed with a laugh so sharp it pervaded my very being. I looked down at my 16-year-old body, quickly compared myself to the other girls (each of whom was making her own comparison), and came to the conclusion that I was the fattest girl in the room. I frantically started on a 500 calorie diet in hopes of dropping the flab by opening night, which was a mere eight weeks away. When I failed to lose the expected weight by the second week, I broke the diet in a bingeing frenzy and decided to voluntarily vomit for the first time.

Throwing up my food was scarily simple and, since I had binged on candy, it did not taste as bad as I thought it would. It started as a way to “cancel out” the fact that I broke my diet, but soon I realized I could eat anything I wanted as long as I purged after every meal. I continued this pattern for nearly two years, alienating myself from everything and, being that I was lying to everyone that I loved, my relationships began to disintegrate. I strove to be perfect only to find that I was falling short in every aspect of life, including my own happiness. It was when I started thinking about cutting open my thighs to perform amateur liposuction that I realized I needed serious help. As I searched for peer advice to no avail, I stumbled across a woman who would change my life forever.

One day in her acting class, Kim Wield openly shared her fight with bulimia and I developed a trust in her that was only possible because we shared a similar experience. During a one-on-one evaluation with Kim, I divulged that I was bulimic and could not stop. In the cold, sterile classroom, she looked at me with warm honesty and said, “Sierra, listen to me. You are beautiful.” I shrugged her off, but she continued, “Sierra, you are beautiful.” I felt uncomfortable as she saw through my disguise and she persisted until I started to cry. In that moment, I had the epiphany that I really was beautiful and decided that I was going to change the way society evaluates beauty.

My attempt to obey a demand to be thin, my struggle with an overwhelming disorder, and my recognition of beauty has significantly changed how I see the world. I am committed to creating a more positive perception of beauty in our culture because every person should know his or her own beauty. I feel it my duty to share my story in hopes that people, young girls in particular, will learn from it. Film is a way to recognize the beauty in our everyday surroundings and, more importantly, in ourselves. Through my films, I want to change the idea of beauty, so that I can contribute to a societal epiphany like the one Kim helped me achieve. Beauty, as it is presently defined, is too narrow-minded and I want to assist in shaping a more diverse meaning.

What advice would you give to girls and women who are struggling with self-esteem, confidence, or body image?

I would say to any girl who struggles with her body image that she is beautiful. No matter what anyone says, you are beautiful. On the days I can’t see my own beauty or I’m freaking out about my jeans not fitting, I try to find at least one thing I believe to be beautiful about myself. Some days I only find one thing, but usually I can build on that one identification to find maybe two or three or more. If I can’t find a single quality I like that day, I’ll try to think of any positive comments I have received and focus on that positivity.

Sierra instructs.

What inspired you to write and direct STARving?

This film is based on my experience as an actress in an arts high school where the pressure to be thin caused some girls to exercise instead of eat at lunch and commonly develop eating disorders. Having surmounted bulimia myself, I now strive to illustrate the unhealthy consequences of accepting our society’s absurdly oppressive standard of beauty and hope to help shape a healthier, more balanced, cultural viewpoint. While it is well-known that eating disorders can be directly linked to the pressure exerted by our media culture’s increasingly unrealistic standards of beauty, STARving highlights the profound impact, both negative and positive, that teachers, parents, and peers have on young women. Awareness is pivotal in shifting the tide of this unhealthy societal epidemic and my goal with STARving was to raise a consciousness regarding how our actions, even when seemingly small, can greatly affect those around us. STARving strives to raise awareness about the power that we, as everyday individuals, parents, teachers and peers, have to promote healthy attitudes, thus protecting young people from these dangerous beliefs and destructive behaviors.

How has the film been received? How do you feel about your movie being shown at the Cannes Film Festival?

It has been wonderfully received so far and I would love more people to see it. Having it screen in Cannes was very exciting! I’m also so proud that it was selected for one of the most recognized female film festivals La Femme Film Festival among other festivals. What’s most exciting about these opportunities is they help get STARving seen. My hope is that the people who see the film will use it as a starting point to help open the doors of communication regarding body image and ultimately begin a new era of acceptance within our culture.

When did you become interested in film/cinematography?

I’ve loved film ever since I was a child! As far back as I can recall, I have always wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry in some way. Whether I’m an actor, editor, director, set designer or PA; it doesn’t matter the title; just that I’m fulfilled by working with people who are forwarding a positive message through film.

You have worked with Leeza Gibbons since 2005. What do you love most about her?

What I love most about Leeza is that she is so positive and funny. She does everything in her power to uplift the people around her. Whether it is through her charity work or just by saying something supportive, Leeza takes the time to care.

Sierra with actors.

What fascinates you most about people?

The ability we have as individuals to make a difference, positive or negative, throughout life. Causality is probably the most amazing factor I can identify in what makes me who I am today. I’m endlessly fascinated with how people make decisions and how those choices can affect the future. My dad always used to say, “No shame, blame, or regret” and I still use that phrase as a reminder to find the positive in every experience I face. I wouldn’t be the person I am without all the events that have shaped me.

What do you love about yourself and why?

I love the curve of my body and how soft my skin feels because it makes me feel feminine. I love that I can easily see the beauty in others, and I’m not shy to give honest compliments because I know that by saying one positive phrase I can improve a person’s day. I love that I’m so positive and laugh at the simplest things because it makes me feel good. I love that I have solid viewpoints and the intelligence to make a sound argument because I refuse to question my integrity. I love my face because it’s so expressive and how my eyes light up when I smile. I love that I snort sometimes when I laugh really hard and that my friends make a game of seeing who can get me to snort the most. I love that I am constantly trying to improve my life and the lives of those around me. Most of all, I love that I can learn from my mistakes and become stronger despite difficult experiences.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Love yourself as you are right now, because this moment is all that matters.

You are a busy lady! What advice would you give to a college student trying to balance work, school, and personal time?

Time management! I keep a calendar, and I’m an avid supporter of to-do lists.

What are some of your hobbies?

Karaoke! Directing, acting, modeling, photography, dancing like no one is watching, game nights hiking, taking spa days, travelling, camping, and passionate conversation about anything and everything. I also enjoy critically analyzing films with my friends because it helps me grow as an artist.

Who inspires you?

The people who inspire me are those who can find beauty in others, those who are proud of their body despite any outside influence, those who are gracefully opinionated, and anyone who is passionate about creating a better world.

Who do you consider a role model or hero? Why?

Kathryn Bigelow is a major role model for me because she defies the status quo and gender expectations normally expected of women. She has a specific point of view and strong artistic integrity. In terms of broadening the status quo of beauty, Margaret Cho was the first celebrity that ever made me feel like I had a voice in the media as I deeply related to how she felt about her body and the overwhelming pressure to be thin in Hollywood. I also dearly admire Savannah Dooley and Shonda Rhimes for choosing plus-size actors to play normal roles, because it is disturbingly common to see plus-size people ridiculed on television. I applaud them and similar individuals who have become a driving force in stopping that type of hatred.

What are your favorite beauty must-haves?

Sheer Cover, liquid eyeliner, and mascara are my beauty must haves.

Where do you like to shop?

I really love thrift shops, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, and Express for my clothes shopping, but everything else I find on eBay.

Sierra explains shot.

Please tell us what you think of ABC Family show HUGE?

I LOVE HUGE! Savannah is a great friend of mine and I remember when she was telling me about pitching the show after passionately discussing our own struggles with body image. I’m so proud of her and the HUGE team for creating such a unique show. They are absolutely helping push the societal pendulum in a healthier, more accepting direction. Finally, I’m seeing plus-size people on television who are portrayed as human instead of the limited typecasting that is common in the business. Hopefully, this will be the beginning to seeing much more diversity in common television shows.

Do you feel plus-size modeling is helping redefine beauty?

Absolutely! When mass media features only a limited type of beauty, those who don’t fit into those confines often feel like they have no voice or are unworthy in some way. With plus-size modeling, people who previously had no voice begin to feel accepted and that acceptance yields more understanding, which then creates less hatred.

What are you excited about right now?

I’m excited about everything happening in my life right now and the positive people who surround me!

What are your goals for the future?

I would love to have a hand in creating a more diverse and accepting culture. I want to become a director and create art that helps forward a culture wherein the “plus-size” label is no longer needed. I want to travel and experience other cultures. Ultimately, my greatest goal in life is to leave this world in a much better condition than it was when I came into it and in whatever capacity I am able to do so, I’ll make that effort.

*Thank you for everything, Sierra!

** The first ten people to email Angela at, will receive a free copy of the film STARving.