The Struggle Facing Plus-Size Models That Deserves More Attention

November 3rd 2016

Laura Donovan

Plus-size models bring much-needed body diversity and an important dose of reality to the fashion industry. After all, a recent study by Washington State University found that the average woman is a size 16, which is considered plus-size.

But unfortunately, plus-size models are often bullied on social media for their weight. Tess Holliday regularly tweets about the hateful messages she receives to make a point about the cruelty directed at women because of their body type. And fellow plus-size model Iskra Lawrence has also called out her detractors on Instagram for saying that she is "fat."

But plus-size models aren't solely bullied for being "fat". A few have recently been harassed for losing weight or appearing smaller than they previously did.

As Rosie Mercado told TMZ in a recent video interview, she endured harsh criticism for going from 410 pounds to 170 pounds. She lost the 240 pounds over the course of three years as a result of making healthy lifestyle changes and having medical procedures done.

"I think there's a group of people that resented that I was losing weight, because they thought that diet equaled a size zero," Mercado said, adding that losing weight enabled her go zip-lining, among other things. "I got hate mail. From fans that just hated, I mean, they told me to go jump off a bridge and kill myself for losing weight. Fat activists, they just hated the thought that I was really public about my weight loss and that I was losing weight." 


A photo posted by ROSIE | MERCADO (@rosiemercado) on

ATTN: reached out to Mercado for further comment and will update this piece if she responds.

Ashley Graham, who was Sports Illustrated's first ever size 16 cover model, faced similar criticism earlier this year when she posted the following image on Instagram. Many commenters said it was obvious that Graham had lost weight:

Some questioned whether her apparent weight change means she can still represent plus-size women:




Following the controversy, Graham set the record straight in a piece for Lenny Letter, saying she hasn't lost any weight and is actually heavier than she used to be. Graham added that even if she "did want to lose weight, it would be no one's decision but [her] own":

"To some I'm too curvy. To others I'm too tall, too busty, too loud, and, now, too small — too much, but at the same time not enough. When I post a photo from a 'good angle,' I receive criticism for looking smaller and selling out. When I post photos showing my cellulite, stretch marks, and rolls, I'm accused of promoting obesity. The cycle of body-shaming needs to end. I'm over it."

ATTN: reached out to Graham about her response and will update this story if she responds. 

Graham continued that the obsession around her weight sends a bad message to women everywhere that they will be shamed no matter their size:

"Body shaming isn't just telling the big girl to cover up. It's trying to shame me for working out. It's giving 'skinny' a negative connotation. It's wanting me to be plus size, or assuming I'm pregnant because of some belly bulge. What type of example are we setting for young girls and their self-esteem if grown adults are on Instagram calling other women 'cowards' for losing weight, or 'ugly' for being overweight?"