"Being a 'plus-size' model in South Africa is definitely not a lucrative career"


Curve is the new 'plus-size' modelling category now adopted by modelling agencies, both locally and internationally. 

READ MORE: "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a mirror, wishing size 14 jeans were what they're supposed to be"

But how well is this category performing in South Africa, how much are models making and is there a demand for curvy models? 

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem comparable to the likes of big time curvy model Ashley Graham, who earned a cool R73 million last year.

I asked a few South African models working in the curve section of modelling for some insight with regards to their position in the world of fashion:

Charnelle Paulse is one of South Africa's top curvy models. She is a regular face on Superbalist.https://superbalist.com/browse/women/plus-size

"The plus-size industry is growing rapidly in this time and age right now. Opportunities are rife and around everywhere. Brands are changing their typical 'model' looks to a more 'realistic' look; and this is where plus-size models can make the most of getting in the industry," she says. 

Donné Le Grange, the director of ICE Genetics concurs, saying "The South African curve market is growing in leaps and bounds, with more and more fashion, beauty and advertising clients becoming more body inclusive in their campaigns.

"South African curve models like Marciel Hopkins are booking international jobs and being flown all over the world to shoot catalogues and campaigns, making as much if not more money than some mainstream models. It’s really exciting times!

WATCH: Burberry burns merchandise worth over R1.55 billion to protect its brand 

"As the agency with the leading curve board in South Africa, we are proud to say that our curve models and working and thriving!" 

Can one sustain a career in South Africa as a curvy model, or should this be a side hustle?

"It could be lucrative, yes, but not for everyone. One needs to be truly passionate about it and work hard towards building your brand and working hard to whatever you goal is and eventually the money will come in. It's not a get rich quick situation, " she adds.

Donné notes that it could definitely be lucrative, but bookings are never guaranteed, and sometimes not regular enough for models to sustain themselves on modelling alone. She says "most do have a supplementary form of income. This applies to all models, however, not just curve models."

Image: Supplied

Yet, opportunities for South African models are still predominantly overseas, and with international companies, brands and designers. 

Fani Segerman of locally based modelling agency, The Fantastic Agency says “I represent a number of 'plus-size' models and the opportunities for them are extremely limited. There are still strict measurement requirements for these models, so they are also policed according to their weight and height. Very few brands will use plus size models, unless they are a plus size brand in general."

One of my new body scribbles

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Jo'burg-based fashionista and curvy model, Yoliswa Mqoco says “Being a plus-size model in South Africa is definitely not a lucrative career as mainstream media/publications/fashion houses are still generally, very exclusionary and embrace plus-size women in periods and definitely not in a consistent manner.

"Plus-size brands also use the same models over and over again, and are not big on different selections. If that’s what you want to do it as a career try doing it as something on the side as it’s absolutely unsustainable."

smaak the photographer, tbqh.?? ________ ??: @meegymaxx

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Fees vary from job to job, there isn't a fixed rate that differs for 'normal' and 'plus size' models

Fani from The Fantastic Agency modelling agency says that modelling fees always vary. It is not about curvy vs. 'normal, there is no fixed rates as it's often negotiated.

A woman with curves, Lala Tsabalala, adds to this, saying "I know a few working models, plus-size and the more "typical model size" and most of them share the same opinion, which is being a model in SA is not easy. Opportunities don't come as often as one would like them too. I think it's even harder for plus-size models because we have limited brands, publications and platforms that embrace us let alone want to work with us."

Fani adds, however, that she feels so many incredible models, with so much potential are being overlooked by the industry, because they are curvy. Many brands don't even consider curvy women like Lala, who says "I hope I'm wrong and a plus size model will step forward and correct me but I don't think being a plus size model in SA is a sustainable career.

"Most of the women I know either have 9 to 5 jobs or other businesses because they wouldn't survive otherwise. There are too many variables that come into play like the few brands that actually cater to plus size, how much you get paid, when you get paid, how often you get booked etc."

Here's hoping more local designers, big retailers and other brands start featuring curvy models, providing a platform, not only for Curve modelling, but for diversifying the industry as a whole. 

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