“We have to tokenize in order to normalize,” Elsesser, 25, tells Who What Wear. “The more that we do see one Asian model, one black model, one plus size model [in a shoot], it’s like people are dipping their toes, and the other foot goes in and then we’re neck deep and we just have to continue to do that until it’s just not a ‘thing.’ ”
“I didn’t even know plus-sized modeling was a thing,” Elsesser says. “Growing up, people would always say, ‘You have such a pretty face.’ It’s kind of backhanded. That’s the kind of things we have to stomach.”
But having a different body type than her “thin” classmates helped Elsesser form her body image from an early age.
“As much as I compared myself, it was quite early that I realized that I am different and there’s not much I can change about it. There’s just no other option,” Elsesser says.
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She moved from her hometown of Los Angeles to New York City for college, but took a break once her modeling career took off. Elsesser says she knew she made it when she scored a beauty contract.
“It’s the biggest honor as a model,” she says. “It means you’ve been able to solidify your place in the industry. And yet there’s so many plus sized models who’ve been around for 15 years who haven’t been afforded that opportunity.”
The problem, Elsesser says, is that curvy models still aren’t considered the beauty “ideal.”
“We’ve been told that the emblematic person to represents that ideal is somebody that we’re not — it’s someone we aspire to be.”
Her hope is that she becomes someone that other girls can identify with.
“I am trying to be the girl I didn’t have,” Elsesser says. “That’s important to me. I have to be conscious of that. In this weird, dark, small, very intimate way, there’s a girl out there who relies on me. And that’s super important to me and I don’t want to let her down.”