Model Behavior With Sharon Quinn: An Open Letter for the Plus Model of The New Millennium, 9/01/2009
Meet Sharon Quinn
As many of you may or may not know, I have been on a self-imposed
hiatus since the beginning of spring. I have been using the down
time to try to refocus and regroup my energies after the death of my
father earlier this year. This has left me with quite a bit of
free time over the summer and I have used the opportunity to check out
and participate in a variety of fashion shows and events geared towards
the plus sized woman. I will be honest (lol...as always), this has
been an eye opening experience for me as well as a heartbreaking one
and I will tell you exactly why.
When I decided to toss my hat into the world of plus sized modeling
back in the early eighties, it was still very much a novelty.
Seventh Avenue didn't want our images in their stores or under their
tents but even back then they knew they couldn't continue to ignore the
fact that the majority of the fashion buying public was being
unrepresented and woefully underserved. A woman named Mary Duffy
saw the opportunity to fill a need in the market and Big
Beauties/Little Women, New York City's first modeling agency
exclusively for plus and petite sizes and was born.
I can still recall these days vividly, at the time, I believe there
were only two major agencies for plus sizes back then, Big Beauties
& Pat Swift's Plus Models. It was a lot harder to get signed
with an agency back then; the requirements were a whole lot stricter.
You couldn't be any larger than a 14 and even at that size you might be
asked to lose some weight. Clients preferred to hire a smaller
model and "pad" her up rather than take a chance on a fuller bodied
model. Agents could be brutal with their critiques back then and
they demanded that you maintain your weight or risk being
dropped. I have seen agents take one look at aspiring models and
their pictures and tell them point blank to go home because they would
never, ever work in this business. There was no tact, compassion,
kindness or sympathy they gave it to you straight no chaser.
And they most certainly did not care about what you thought or your
self-esteem. They (the agents) were only interested in how much
revenue you could generate for their business, and it's pretty much the
same deal now.
If you were unable to secure a contract with a major agency by going in
the office to an open call, you either went to the "cattle calls" that
a modeling school like a John Casablancas or John Robert Powers
sponsored for the agencies. Or you tried to get your "hustle" on
via the underground or local network.
They (the schools) would place these ads in the local papers looking
for plus sized women (no exp necessary) who dreamed of being
models. Believe me when I tell you that, women of all sizes,
shapes and colors lined up around the block for these open
calls. Usually the head of the modeling agency or one of
the higher ups would attend these castings and after the agent saw you,
they'd give you a card with the letter A, B or C on it. If you
got an A, this meant the agent was VERY interested in your "look" and
wanted you to come into the office for a chat. If you got a B or
C that meant the agency wasn't interested in you but the school would
try to persuade you to sign up for one of their various classes for
"training", which was often costly and the skills you obtained were
pretty much useless on Seventh Avenue. Plus modeling was very new
back then and a whole lot of folks got ripped off. You had to be
smart and listen to your instincts or you could be taken for thousands
of dollars and stuck with a portfolio of useless pictures and skills
that you had to "unlearn" if you were going to work in the mainstream.