Thursday, April 3, 2008

So Esteem Interview: The Fabulous Velvet D’Amour

I am reposting this from Velvet’s blog for those who are not suscribed...

The death of size zero?

Successful plus size model Velvet D’Amour gives her thoughts on the modelling industry

Are we about to see a change in the way we view body image in the UK?

With plus size pop stars, a size 16 beauty queen and the first magazine solely for plus size ladies, could 2008 see the death of size zero?

Plus model Velvet D’Amour hit the headlines when she strutted down the runway at Jean Paul Gaultier’s showcase in Paris.

So Esteem magazine caught up with her and found out her thoughts on the plus size modelling industry and her plans for 2008.

1) Is Velvet your real or stage name?
Velvet is my nickname. It came along ages ago, long before I entered the world of modelling. I was volunteering on a Safe Sex hot line for people with HIV and AIDS when some of the other volunteers started calling me ’Velvet’ because they seemed to think my voice was well suited to more sexy telephone work.

2) Which city do you live in?
As a matter of fact, I’ve just celebrated 13 years of living in Paris, France. Wow, that went fast! I do get to New York and London often, but my base is indeed France.

3) How did you get into plus size modelling?
I found out that France was opening its first plus size model agency, Agence Plus. I decided to show them my work as a photographer so that I might support the new venture. When sending some of my photography I also attached a photo of myself
stating that I too was a plus size woman. The agent called and asked that I sign on as a specialty model, which I did willingly, though I can’t say that at age 38 I had any expectation of much to be honest.

Back in the mid 80s, I tried to model (not plus), but even after starving myself to sign with the agency that had shown interest (IMG), I was still considered too fat at 117lbs (8st 3lbs). Ironically, I have experienced greater success age 38 and 300lbs (21st) than I did at age 18 and 117lbs!

4) Which country do you get most of your work in?
I would say France, as I am based here but the USA has been good to me as well. But France is the country that was willing to look outside the box and take a risk on me, particularly John Galliano who was the first to use me on the runway, bless him! I doubt that Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein would pop me on an American runway, whereas Galliano and Gauthier were happy to have me. Once successful designers like these have taken the risk of incorporating you in their shows, then of course everyone else suddenly deems you worthy.

5) What do you think of the whole ’size zero’ skinny debate?
I think it’s rather laughable when I step off the runway or do interviews for TV, I am always asked about the skinny model ban. I do not agree with banning skinny models or otherwise. I am not about getting rid of thin models, what I am about is diversifying our notion of beauty so that it is more inclusive because I feel at present there are so many people who suffer due to an unattainable beauty ideal.

Often, people will attempt to state that skinny models somehow make the clothes ’look’ better and that is why they are used. I personally think that’s baloney! And even if it weren’t, the hard cold reality is that the body shapes of the people who are actually wearing the clothes are far more varied.

I welcome a size zero model, next to a size 50 model, next to a 90-year-old model, next to an African model etc because this indeed encompasses who we are all over the planet.

6) Tell us of your experience modelling for Jean Paul Gaultier in Paris?
Modelling for Jean Paul was an amazing experience! I have fond memories of watching CNN’s STYLE WITH ELSA KLENCH when I was a teenager and Jean Paul was my absolute favourite! Jean Paul is also just such a nice person! He insisted I lunch
with him and he took me down the runway previous to the show and directed me in precisely what he wanted me to do. It was a blast!

7) Did you experience any problems or comments from the other models at the show?
Not at all, though it seems a common notion that I might, as I am always asked this question. On the contrary, it was lots of fun! I mean these girls are like 17, and I was 39 and 300 lbs.

8) What advice would you give other aspiring plus size models?
Well, I would give the same advice to all, and that is to learn to love yourself and appreciate all that makes you unique, and then celebrate it! That is what my photography is all about, revel in who you are, as there will never be another YOU! The photos in my modelling portfolio were all designed by me, and I think they played a major role in the jobs I have acquired to date.

What resonates most with those who choose to work with me is that they appreciate my ability to take risks with fashion, and to celebrate who I am, versus hide it or conform - that is refreshing and it definitely makes me stand out.

In my opinion, the ’plus’ industry is fraught with staid, outdated imagery when compared to what we see in the average, high end editorial magazines. My book is full of the celebration of flesh (in a tasteful manner) . As BBC reporter Patrick Cox said, "In the US you rarely see plus-size models exposing that much of themselves, that’s one way in which France may be ahead of the United States in terms of size acceptance. Velvet is able to present herself as a sexual being."

So to sum up, if you are true to yourself, you can’t go wrong.

9) What projects do you have coming up in 2008?

I’m most excited about the next French movie I will be acting in. We shoot this spring. I get to play a double personality and it’s all in French. I have also been working on a really cool website that will show not just me, but loads of fabulous curvy ladies in a
tasteful manner, as well as allow me to answer the thousands of questions which are sent my way. Hopefully I can have a Model contest where I will fly the winner to Paris to stay with me and we will do a fun fashion shoot!

Now I am off to Milano to model. I am super excited to get in front of the camera and represent! Plus let’s face it, you can’t beat Italy. Having lived there for a year way back when I can attest to the friendly nature of the people, the natural beauty of the country, the succulence of the food, and not forgetting the men, mamma mia!

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