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Model Behavior With Sharon Quinn: An Open Letter for the Plus Model of The New Millennium, 9/01/2009
sharon quinn
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.
 
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