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In January 2015, Tess Holliday became the first woman of her size (22) and height (5-ft., 5-in.) to land a contract with a top modeling agency. "It's something that I've wanted my whole life, so to even think that it's happened, it feels like an out-of-body experience," the 31-year-old told PEOPLE.
"When they try & steal your shine & you gotta remind them that it was never up for the taking," she wrote on Instagram in January.
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SHE DOESN'T CARE ABOUT YOUR STANDARDS
Holliday launched a worldwide movement – #effyourbeautystandards – that encourages women to challenge what society tells us about how our bodies should look. "The more or less you want to wear, you should be able to do it," she told PEOPLE. "I realized I wasn't the only person that had issues with my body and issues with the way society tries to place us in a box … but really, when I created the movement, it unified everything and made me feel like I wasn't so alone." (Unintended result: she gets stopped on the street all the time).
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HER MAIN MAN
Holliday's real name is Ryann Hoven. She started using the last name of her partner, Nick Holliday, in January 2015. Her man moved from Melbourne, Australia, to America to be with her.
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BULLIES BE WARNED
Growing up in Laurel, Mississippi, Holliday was the subject of constant scrutiny, especially about her body. "I was getting shoved into lockers," she told PEOPLE. Even modeling agencies were cruel: "They told me that I was too short and too big, and I would never model," she said of auditioning for gigs when she was 15.
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Holliday has an 11-year-old son named Rylee, whom she had when she was 20 and working at a Mississippi Walmart for $8.50 an hour. "I realized I needed to get the f--- out of Mississippi. I couldn't bring him up in that environment. Having him pushed me to fight for what I wanted even more," Holliday told BuzzFeed. When Riley was 1, she moved to Seattle, and in 2010, she moved to L.A. to live with her partner at the time, "have a family, and go to makeup school," she said. In June 2016, Holliday and husband Nick Holliday welcomed baby Bowie Juniper.
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BIGGER IS BEAUTIFUL
"I want to show people that it's OK to be in a bigger body, feel sexy and not feel ashamed," she told BuzzFeed. "Some people smoke pot to make them feel better. Some people drink a f---ing bottle of wine. Some people get a million cats. Who's to say which is more damaging?”
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WORKING OUT IS OK, TOO
Holliday loves her curves, but also values the importance of a good workout – however painful that workout may be. "#TreadmillsAreEvilBurritosAreBetter," she jokingly captioned an Instagram photo of her toiling away at the gym (and making an exceptionally goofy face).
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"Years ago we were really limited, but there are so many brands to shop for your body," Holliday told PEOPLE of the fashion options available to fuller-figure women. "I was limited to a couple stores before I started modeling, and I've learned to embrace my sexuality through clothing, which was previously frowned upon if you were plus sized."
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ONE GOOFY GIRL
"You can't see me I'm camouflage," the model captions this photo of her hiding out under a rack of T-shirts, two of her tattoos peaking out on her calves. (Miss Piggy, Marilyn Monroe and Mae West count among the several tats Holliday has on her body.)
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Holliday has opened up to her fans about the mental and physical challenges of motherhood. Back in February, she wrote on Instagram: "This is the reality of being a mom. I've been up since 3 am, & every time I get Bowie to sleep & try to lay him down, he wakes up. He is teething & has no clue I have to work today, & most days I can work 15 hour days, take care of both boys & put some lipstick on & deal with it. Most days I drink my coffee & smile at every little thing he does thinking it's the best thing in the world, but not today. I've been crying for nearly two hours, & I'm crying as I write this."
Two months before that, she shared a pair of selfies to jumpstart a conversation about post-birth bodies. "Each day feels like a battle to learn how to love my body postpartum," she wrote. "It's been 6 months, & my stomach is lower, my breasts are a different shape, new stretch marks & I feel like a stranger in my body more than ever. I wasn't anticipating this at all. I'm not used to looking in the mirror & feeling like I don't recognize myself, but sadly that's my reality some days. I debated on whether or not to post this, but I think it's important to be honest about what it's like to be a woman in the media, who recently had a baby & the pressure that's put on new moms to "lose the baby weight."
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