Supermodel Emme Talks to Us About Models Today, Health, and Where to Shop

The world's first plus-sized supermodel talks shop about her thoughts on the modeling world, advice for our local designers, and her fashion event in Portland.

By Eden Dawn October 2, 2014

Photo courtesy of Charles Sykes/Rex USA

Few models will ever reach the illustrious ranking of Supermodel ala Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, or Cindy Crawford. But even fewer will reach the status of plus-sized Supermodel. For that category, Emme is the one. 

Named one of People magazines “Most Beautiful People of the Year” not once, but twice, the game-changing model has become a spokeswoman for the industry as well as encouraging discussions on body image and self-esteem issues (Keep up with all of it here). In October she came through town to combine all her loves into one event at Macy’s alongside SheSpeaks blogger Joyce Brewer (Founder and Editor of Mommy Talk Show). The two talked shop on how to pull the latest trends together, health tips, and fashion for all sizes and ages. We caught up with her to chat.


Eden Dawn: Have you ever been to Portland before and do you have any thoughts as to what our style is here?
Emme: Yes, I've been to Portland before... My fashion take of Portland was hip, unique, mixed with chance taking—your food, no matter where my host took me, was incredible (from what I remember BBQ was a hot item) and I had my first glass of Pinot Noir prior to the movie Sideways opening a week after my return to NYC! 

We have a robust independent fashion movement in town with many designers creating their own lines and lately a surge of them are expanding to include beyond size 12 lines to be all-inclusive. Do you have any advice for them?
Keep it up; you are absolutely supplying a HUGE demand. The more diverse fashion you can give them, the better! So many personalities have been fashion starved due to lack of understand how fashionable women 12+ are! Hats off to you since I know how hard being the first to enter an industry with guns blazing can be. The difference is, in 2014, social media and ecommerce is your best friend and ally to reaching your customer quickly and getting to know her. I am working with my alma mater, Syracuse University on Fashion Without Limits: Changing the Face of Fashion to make a long lasting, permanent change in how designers are taught to design clothes for women, all women. You have to stick your neck out, take a stand and help initiate change if that is what your heart calls you to do. I will wear new designers coming into 12+ who want to dress me anytime!

I’ve read in some of your other interviews you feel the public perception of plus-sized models is changing for the better. Is it empowering to feel you helped open the minds of the public? Who else would you credit for making big strides in the industry there?
Changing anything socially takes a village if not a movement. I can only say I might have got women thinking "Well, why not curvy fashion? Why not clothing for me?" The rest of the change taking place over the last 15 years is due to MODE Magazine knocking out of the park how gorgeous the top tier 12+ models (size 12, 14, & 16 at 5'9' and up) were in the '90's and early 2000 till it closed its doors...however, Glamour Magazine, Seventeen, Essence, and now slowly, Vogue is starting to include more models that reflect a more normalized shape and frame—models like Kate Dillon, Robyn Lawley, Ashley Graham, Denise Bidot, Candice Huffine, with great skin, toned fuller bodies, great powerful attitudes and confidence. Basically diverse in ethnicity, size, shape, and great role models for young girls for the next generation to come.

What do you think still needs to be done in the fashion world to continue the trend of body acceptance?
Social media is the game changer...The more the public continues to use their voice on all channels and offers a hand and RT's, Likes, and promotes good solid content, more women will be exposed to a more holistic way of thinking—abundantly instead of accepting less than, or not being taken seriously. If the bottom line is about money, companies need to make money to pay their bills, women need to try all the new lines coming out and give their honest feedback online and directly to the store. Get back into those dressing rooms and try on and purchase items you can't live with out. You'd be surprised who is in the plus game today. Calvin is hitting his dress business out of the park, Jessica Simpson has a junior cross over contemporary plus line that is absolutely on target and doing very well at Macy's. Michael Kors has been in the business of Plus for some time and now I can honestly say is giving what we've been asking for...his designers are listening to a younger customer wanting trend forward styling and details...NO MORE one style for all, thankfully those days are over...but we must continue to use our voices and get back into the stores to show your support to keep IT GOING.

Vintage Emme

It seems that models will always be judged for their sizes be it thin or curvy girls. Do you have an opinion on where the line is between having an open dialogue about health and sizes in the industry and minding our manners and not commenting on another person’s weight? It seems too little talk means nothing changes, but too much talk is just as damaging.
I couldn't agree with you more. Body bashing and body shaming needs to stop. Plain and simple. From school kids to the conference rooms of directors and executives in corporate America approving model images for billboards, ads in magazines, knowledge of what is "healthy or not" is lacking. Digital images found online of young impressionable models are down right scary and damaging for all women, including the model in the shot. I just don't get it.

What unnerves me, curvy models working the lion's share of the business available today and making easily 6 figures are size 12, 14, 16, usually 5'9" and are being called fat? Come on now! Thankfully, today millions of women shake their head at another's ignorance. To coin the phrase, "we've come a long way baby", couldn't be more true. Sadly there will always be the haters making comments anonymously but what they don't realize, they're the one's with a problem, not the model in the picture.

Above all eating disorders can be triggered by repeated ultra thin images of beauty and are no a laughing matter. (www.myneda.org) Taking responsibility for calling someone fat or anorexic is painful and can cause irreparable harm if the individual is genetically susceptible to an eating disorder. Tricky stuff but can be an issue of life or death (1 million men and 7-8 million women have eating disorders and ED's have the highest mortality rate of all mental health illnesses)

I'm constantly working on trying to stay healthy. My healthy will be different from the way you get your healthy on and so on. When I'm real with myself, I exercise 3-4x's a week, eat fresh and clean, sleep enough and keep stress at bay, then I am living well. Oppositely, if I live from the neck up, forget to move my body, I don't feel strong and healthy which negatively affects my normally strong and healthy thinking. Additionally, If I don't drink enough water, I become irritable and exist in a pool of negativity and ill health. Definitely not where I want to be, no matter what. I figured out being healthy takes work and not something I can take for granted. The best investment I can ever make is in my fitness, peace, and eating well, mindfully. There's always going to be someone thinner, larger, wealthier, poorer, taller, smaller - whatever, but when it comes to me, I'm in charge. So I like to hang with happy, active people because they keep me climbing mountains and continue being adventurous.

What’s your best dressing tip for gals who feel stuck in rut?
When I have time, I visit a department store, check out trends, look at the models in the posters promoting the lines to see what's going on in fashion. I look embellishments, colors, and styling - pick a trend, buy it and apply it to my wardrobe. I make it a habit not to go for the in-and-out fashion statement - did that for a few years and was left with pieces I never wore again - for a gal on a budget, no can do. For the day to day in the fall, I love wearing tunic sweaters or fur trimmed sweaters/moto jeans or thick leggings and a bootie. Plain face, red lip, pulled back hair, grab my clutch and go---oh and I don't leave home without my extra long shawl (I have black and off white).

Finally, we asked some of our readers what they would like to know from you and overwhelmingly they asked what brands you like to wear (particularly for undergarments!)?
Thankfully there are many more brands to choose from than when I first started out in 1990! Definitely more to wear that are on point with what's going on today...great dresses from smaller designers with boutique lines like Cabiria (the first full figured fashion line at NYC Mercedes Fashion Week). I have dresses, sweaters, layering pieces from Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Marina Rinaldi, and a few other smaller designer bespoke pieces I cherish. I just got MiracleBody jeans and love their fit. I'm a huge supporter of having clothing fit your lifestyle. I know the suit is in right now but it doesn't fit my lifestyle. I workout in the morning and want to do errands after, then get to my home office and get down to work. I shower then want to feel comfortable for any meetings I go on but want to have a personal statement made by what I choose to wear. I have a set of Amoena tanks that have this incredible shelf bras--- wear them everyday. But as far as shapewear, I go for soft and simple, nothing more than light support if needed (boy shorts and a one piece with space for my own demi bra (38DD). I like to have a nice and smooth line to my dressing, I am a lycra/spandex/elastine supporter. If garments don't have it, I don't buy it. Today most designers understand women (all women) need some give in their garments! I have cotton, crepe and nylon jersey knitwear pants, leggings, jackets, tanks, and skirts in black, dark navy and white. These are my roll -n-go pieces I travel with, shake out fast for off the flight meetings and I don't look like a wrinkled mess.

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