12 Plus-Size Models Who've Made History

Take a look at models making history by not being a size zero.

The Internet can't stop talking about Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue's first-ever plus-size model Robyn Lawley, and rightfully so. It's about time. Not only is Lawley's inclusion creating discourse about the screwed up standards of beauty in fashion and entertainment, which are so far removed from society, but it's also encouraging to see for women who don't fit the crushing supermodel stereotype.

Lawley isn't carrying the torch alone: here are 12 plus-size models who've made history. Side note: the next goal should be to get rid of the term "plus-size" altogether. Models are, by definition, models, not matter what size, shape, form.

Robyn Lawley

The 24-year-old Sydney-based model didn't just make history with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She's also the first plus-size model star in a Ralph Lauren campaign, cover Australian Cosmopolitan, and be shot for the Aussie version of Vogue and GQ.

Crystal Renn

A household name if your household is particularly trendy, Renn is famous for speaking out about the pressures of the modeling industry in her 2009 book Hungry. A woman who began as a straight-sized (sizes 0-4) model, Renn suffered from anorexia. After getting healthy, she reemerged a size 12 and rebranded her career. From there, she changed the tides of the industry. On top of being the first plus-size model to walk the runway for Chanel, she's hit the catwalk for Zac Posen, Vena Cava, and Jean Paul Gaultier, among others.

However, Renn, who's dropped a few sizes since then, is tired of the labels. "I don’t want terms like plus-size and straight-size, or even a clothing size—currently I’m an 8—to define if I’m beautiful or not," she recently told Glamour.

Ashley Graham

In addition to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue featuring its first plus-size model, it also ran its first plus-size ad: Ashley Graham's campaign SwimsuitsForAll. But Graham has always been challenging beauty standards. In 2010, a Lane Bryant lingerie ad featuring the model was banned from airing on ABC and FOX for being "too racy," so Graham and the clothing company challenged the networks, citing double-standards and discrimination considering they let Victoria's Secret ads run freely.

Tess Holliday

A size 22 and standing at 5'5", Holliday is touted as the first model of her size to land a major modeling contract, with UK-based MiLK Model Management. Speaking with Here and Now on why it took so long to sign a woman of her size, Holliday noted, "I think people weren’t listening to what consumers wanted. I think for a long time we’ve been saying that we want to see women that look like us in the media, and consumers for some reason seem to think that clothing looks better on smaller models. That’s what we’re buying, we’re buying an image, but in reality, I know that if I buy a pair of size 22 jeans, I’m still going to be a size 22."

Whitney Thompson

Welp, only took 10 seasons for a model who wasn't stick thin to win America's Next Top Model. Since claiming the title, Thompson has modeled for Forever 21, CoverGirl, Saks Fifth Avenue, and become an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association.

Katya Zharkova

Sarkhova got people talking when she starred in a 2012 PLUS Model Magazine editorial that featured her, a size 12, in a nude embrace with a skinny straight-size model. The difference was startling. The shots that ran of Sarkhova all featured statistics highlighting the differences between models and average consumers, including: "Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less."

Lizzie Miller

When a tiny insert photo of a nude, unretouched Lizzie Miller ran in Glamour's September 2009 issue, so many positive comments started rolling in that the magazine vowed to feature more women of different shapes and sizes. At the time, Miller was neither a celebrity nor a professional model.

Denise Bidot

Last fall, Bidot became the first ever plus-size Latina woman to walk at Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week. While opening the show for Chromat, she donned the cagey look above.


Let's just count the ways Emme's become a role model since the '90s: 1) She was the first plus-size model to appear on an Australian magazine cover (for New Woman in 1997) 2) She was Glamour's Woman of the Year in 1997 3) She's written three encouraging self-help books True Beauty—Positive Attitudes & Practical Tips from the World's Leading Plus Size Model, Life's Little Emergencies: Everyday Rescue for Beauty, Fashion, Relationships, and Life, and Morning Has Broken: A Couple's Journey Through Depression.

Most recently, she teamed with her alma mater Syracuse University to launch a design initiative that encourages students to create clothing for sizes 12 and up, called "Fashion Without Limits."

Sophie Dahl

Candice Huffine is often confused as the first plus-size model to be featured in the NSFW Pirelli calendar, but the truth is, it's Sophie Dahl. Dahl, who was a top model in the late '90s (around the time the photo above was taken), was photographed for the infamous calendar by Herb Ritts in 1999. She has since stopped modeling, slimmed down, and focused on her writing career.

Jennie Runk

Say hello to the first plus-size model to ever be featured in H&M's summer campaign. Appearing the the site's front page in 2013, Runk was simply stunning in swimwear. The American model wrote about her experiences in an op-ed piece for BBC that same year.

Natalie Laughlin

Around the time the picture above was taken in 1998, Laughlin became the first plus-size model to ever appear on a Times Square billboard. She repeated the honor for Liz Claiborne four more consecutive times. Now, Laughlin also works as an inspirational speaker.