Crushing Fashion Industry Labels: Interview with model Jennifer Atilemile
Photo courtesy of: Jennifer Atilemile
25-year-old Jennifer Atilemile is an Australian and French model.
Jennifer’s mother is Australian and her father is from a French island called Réunion which is rich in both African and Indian heritage, two heritages Jennifer identifies with. Jennifer has wanted to be a model ever since she was 15-years-old, “I just thought it looked so glamorous”. Around the second season of Australia’s Next Top Model, Jennifer decided to try out, “While I was waiting in line, I guess you could say I was scouted by a 'model feeder agency' ”. Jennifer did an 8-week course on ‘how to be a model’ which also taught the girls about what they should be eating, “which wasn’t much”. The 8-week course culminated in a runway show were agents attended, Jennifer was offered contracts by two agencies and both agencies told her they would need her to lose a minimum of two dress sizes before they could sign her, “I was a US 2-4 size at that time”. Jennifer’s mom wouldn’t let her sign the contracts, “a blessing in disguise in hindsight”. Jennifer proceeded to finish school and then went to college. It was in those years that Jennifer started to see curvier models in magazines like Cosmo and thought, “I could try and give this another shot”. She sent her photos to her current agency and she was sent a contract straightaway! Jennifer has now been modeling for almost two years bringing representation for mixed and plus size women.
We talked to Jennifer about crushing fashion industry labels one stride at a time.
What do you have to say to those brands or companies that do not sell or promote plus size clothes for diverse bodies or plus size models?
Jennifer: I think they're missing out on a lot of money! We want to buy their clothes, I think gone are the days that one certain body type ‘looks better’ in certain styles- body positivity is here to stay so brands really just need to get with the times!
What are steps you think need to be taken to normalize every type of diverse body in the fashion industry?
Jennifer: Brands and advertising agencies continuing to use models of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities. Like, that's what's normal day to day, why has it taken so long to reflect that in advertising. It sucks that so many people don't feel represented. I'm all for inclusion, it's time.
What are your thoughts on size categorization, do u think it's overall positive or negative?
Jennifer: I think it's a fine line between positive and negative. I think that there's a real danger with the industry labelling a size 10 (8 US) as plus, as the plus community no longer feel represented and I personally think that labelling someone who's not actually plus could have negative consequences for their own self image. It shouldn't, but it could. In an ideal world we are all models and I hope that one day it will be reflected that way.
How are the pressures between plus size modeling and “traditional” modeling different?
Jennifer: There's still a lot of pressures in both industries, mainly the maintenance of weight. But that just comes down to knowing your body and knowing what's best for it. I generally find I fluctuate a bit over winter, but that's normal, your body kind of prepares for hibernation! I wasn't in the ‘straight’ industry long enough to really be able to make a comparison on differences.
How do you see plus size modeling transforming the fashion industry in the future?
Jennifer: I think it will come down to it paving the way for diverse bodies in the fashion industry and advertising. It already is. It's fantastic.
What are some things that you practice (and you would advice others to do) to have a good relationship with your body?
Jennifer: Each morning I look at myself in the mirror and say ‘you got this, you're amazing, gorgeous, and you're going to kill today’. Positive reinforcement haha. I also try and make sure I exercise a little each day, even if it's walking 20 mins to work or something otherwise I'll get grumpy. Also, if you miss out on exercising, or have a little gourmandise (my French term for treat yo self), don't feel guilty.
Are there ever negative comments on your photos on social media? If so how do you recover from that, how do you stay as strong and as confident as you are?
Jennifer: Yeah, most of them are from men. It's really messed up. Sometimes it's sexual and sometimes they're just telling me I'm ugly because I obviously eat too much and nobody will love me. When guys send me sexual kinds of messages, it's gross and perverted. I've lost count at the number of dick pics I get sent. I'm not posting photos in my Lingerie for men. I'm posting it for me, and other women. I feel empowered and proud at the journey I'm on. As for the others, I know it's not true.. I've got an amazing partner and I'm happy.
How does it feel when you see pictures of your shoots, knowing that somewhere around the world you are empowering many women and normalizing the fashion industry?
Jennifer: It keeps me going when I'm having doubts about myself in the industry. The amount of messages and comments I get from women and girls is just amazing. It's important for me, it inspires me. And I thank everyone of them.
Video of rapid fire questions with Jennifer Atilemile coming soon!