Tess Holliday is used to having lots of online admirers – she has more than 700,000 Instagram followers and 900,000 Facebook fans – but one of her fans actually ended up becoming her fiancé.
The plus size model, 29, first encountered her husband-to-be, Nick Holliday, when he reached out to her on Tumblr.
“He messaged me in 2012 and he said, ‘I love how you inspire other women,’ ” she tells PEOPLE. “I just remember thinking how cute he was, so we started talking and it quickly turned into a relationship.”
Nick says he was initially attracted to his future wife by her beauty, but he was really drawn in by her personal message – that everyone is beautiful no matter their size.
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“She has an old Hollywood face, and I think that’s something that’s quite rare now, and something that I was taken by,” he says. “But once I started following her Tumblr, I realized what she was doing. I messaged her with no subtext and no expectations of a reply.”
Tess – who began using Nick’s last name professionally in January – says she bonded with the Australian publicist over shared interests, including vintage fashion and feminism. After nine months of talking online, Nick came to visit her in Los Angeles.
“I already knew I wanted to marry him before I met him,” she says. “He appreciated me in a way that no one else had. I think being a feminist himself, he understood what it was like to really appreciate a woman’s body – not in a sexual way, but in that every person is beautiful the way that they are.”
Three years after they started talking, Nick moved to L.A. permanently and now works as her manager.
“He’s worked in entertainment, so he gets that side of industry, and he also has my best interests in mind,” Tess says of why their business relationship works. “He knows me better than everybody.”
Tess isn’t the only fan of Nick’s: Her 9-year-old son Rylee has given him his stamp of approval as well.
“They love each other,” Tess says. “They’re like best friends. They both love comic books and Star Wars and Legos, and they love to read. They have a lot in common and they’re both very hard-headed.”
The Hollidays plan to tie the knot in the fall of this year, in a ceremony that Tess promises will be “pretty over-the-top.”
“He pushes me to be a better person, and he believes in me and saw potential in me when other people didn’t,” she says of her future spouse. “I feel safe with him.”
For more of our interview with Holliday, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now