Plus-Size Models Wear Body Padding To Please Certain Clients, And Other Modeling Non-Secrets

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Marquita Pring is a model we've had an eye on for a while now — since her stunning turn in V's "Size Issue," (shown above at right) to be precise. In a new interview, she talks about how she got her job, a mysterious casting she had with Marc Jacobs, and why she (still) wishes she could just do away with the "plus-size" label. Pring's been working consistently and well lately: she chased that V story with a runway appearance for Jean-Paul Gaultier, a Levi's campaign (above at left), and this June was shot by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia.

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Pring was not, however, featured on the cover of that issue of Vogue (click to enlarge), as Women's Wear Daily's article claims. Four plus-size models were featured in the cover story — Candice Huffine, Tara Lynn, Robyn Lawley, and Pring — but only the first three made the cover itself. Presumably, Meisel shot some cover tries that included Pring (it's normal to shoot a couple different options for a fashion cover) but, for whatever reason, ultimately settled on a shot without her. At the time the issue was published, that struck me as strange and unfortunate — this is absolutely no slur on Lawley, Huffine, and Lynn, it's just that it seems odd to use only three out of four cover-story models for the cover, especially given Pring's work in that editorial was so strong. Nobody ought to go through life under the illusion that fashion is a meritocracy, but dammit, I couldn't help but feel that Pring really deserved a place on that cover. Maybe Meisel and Franca Sozzani will give Pring a cover of her own. The odds are long, however: the June issue was the first time since April, 2000, that Vogue Italia gave its cover to a plus-size model.

It turns out that Pring almost missed the Vogue shoot entirely. She says,

I went to Cape Town to visit some friends and we decided to go on a four-day road trip hiking in the mountains, so I couldn't check my e-mail. Then on the last day, my friend charged his phone and got a text message from a 917 number. And I was like, 917? Oh god, that must be either from my mother or my agency. I need to get to a phone. So I call and it was my booker...they told me that Steven Meisel wanted me for Italian Vogue and that they'd been trying to find me for the past four days and I had to get on the absolute next flight back to New York or else I was going to miss it.

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Here's one of Pring's shots from that editorial. (Click to enlarge.) Mysteriously, Marc Jacobs turned up at the Vogue Italia shoot for a private casting with Pring, Huffine, Lynn, and Lawley. Nothing came of it.

We showed up the first day, did hair and makeup, and the next thing we know, everyone on set is getting frantic. The producer kept coming in and was like, "Marc's almost here, Marc's almost here. We got to get the girls ready. Get them robes. Get them shoes, oh my god." No one was saying his last name so I was like, "Is this an editor I've never heard of or something?" We get shuffled out into the hall and have to stand in a line outside this room and be really quiet. Finally, I ask one of the people working on the shoot, "Who are we meeting?" And he's like, "You're about to go in for a surprise casting with Marc Jacobs."

What was he casting?
They were super secretive about the whole thing. They just said he wanted to see us. I really have no idea what it was for; it was completely under wraps. To this day, I just wonder and wonder and wonder.


But the funniest part of the interview is definitely this next exchange. Apparently, Women's Wear Daily's writer had never considered that plus-size models, who may work one day for editorial clients that want them as a 12-14 and the next for catalog clients that want a girl who can look like a 20, regularly need to wear customized body padding to do certain jobs:

There is sort of an ideal body type for the non-plus-size girls. Does the same go for your market?
Every client is different. You get a wide range. Some people like you much smaller, size 10, size 8. Some people would prefer a 14 or 16. So for me, I'm right in the middle at a sort of small 14, high 12. So I pad sometimes since I've got clients who would prefer a solid 14 or 16.

You pad? What does that mean?
Literally. I don't know if we should reveal this secret! They're pieces of foam. So I just lay them flat on each hip underneath [hosiery]. They're like a solid inch and a half thick.

Like football pads for your hips?
Yeah, to make you seem all around wider. I mean, from the side you look kind of weird - and it feels weird. Like every now and then my arm gets caught on it and I'm like, wait, this isn't me. But it's better for me because I can still be healthy and work out and have the body I want. It's a little bit of model magic.


Plus-size models are in a difficult position precisely because they are expected to represent such a wide size range. Padding is just one solution. (It's camera trickery on about the same level as putting a board down on the beach and sprinkling sand over it so the model's stiletto heels don't sink.) Some plus-size models also use food tricks to temporarily meet certain clients' requirements — like eating salt to retain water weight just long enough to get measured, get confirmed, and do the shoot. Kind of like how some straight-size models go on restrictive diets (or are told by their agents to eat "cotton balls dipped in juice") to get their measurements down in time for runway casting season. Fashion clients feel entitled to a model whose body fits their preconceived notions to a T, whatever those notions are, and that's one thing that doesn't change from the straight- to the plus-size side of the industry.

Model Call: Marquita Pring [WWD]

Earlier: Five Plus-Size Models To Watch


Claire Roux

Eating cotton balls dipped in juice just sounds so remarkably unpleasant that I feel all yucky thinking about it.