Curve model and body positivity activist La’Shaunae Steward isn’t playing around when it comes to championing size diversity. In April, just ahead of the launch of her shoe collection with Jeffrey Campbell, Steward told Refinery29 that she won’t stop until women of all sizes appear in campaigns and on the catwalk.
“Representation is so important. So many models are glamazons who are 5’7” or taller,” she said at the time. “They have small waists and perfect thighs. [For plus-size models, they’re] a size 16 at the biggest. And these are the women ‘representing’ all fat women. I’m 5’3" and bigger, [and I] also deserve the spotlight!”
Now, she’s making good on her promise. Last week, Steward launched Inclus Models, a platform that wants to help unsigned models “who don’t start at 5’8” and don’t end at a size 18” get scouted by major agencies.
The move was inspired by Steward own experience being rejected by over 100 agencies. “I’m over a size 20 and I’m 5’3”, but I work harder than a lot of models,” she tells Refinery29. The problem, she says, is that models who are already signed don’t feel the need to champion diversity at their agencies. “They’re okay with how the world treats bigger people because they don’t have this issue,” Steward explains. “Hopefully agencies will see this and realise how much of a change signing bigger models could be to not only them, but to the fashion and modelling world.”
So far, she’s received more than 80 submissions. To be posted on Inclus’s Instagram account, Steward requires hopeful models to send in a photo of the person’s profile (shot from the waist up), as well as one full-body image in good lighting, along with their social media handle and dream agency. Current aspiring models include 23-year-old Khari, who says her “dream agency is any agency that will accept me in my purest form,” and 20-year-old Amaura, who would love to sign with “@noagency.nyc, @wespeakny, @jagmodels, and any agency willing to represent people who do not fit into society's conventional beauty standards”
Though no one has been scouted yet (the platform is only a week old), Steward notes that she has “hope for every single gender and person that gets posted because I see so much genuine beauty and potential in them all. I wanted to give aspiring models who have also been rejected or just scared to ever apply to model because they fear being told they’re too big or too short a platform to be included.”