Every couple of years I read a story in a magazine or on a fashion website. The story goes like this:

So-and-so was a fashion model, and her career was going great, and then she started to put on weight, and her agency said "Oh, NO, So-and-so! You have to lose weight, or we can't send you on shoots anymore!" And So-and-so either a) tries to lose the weight and cannot, or b) is possessed of a rebellious streak and decides she doesn't want to lose the weight, and so she finds another Kinder, Gentler Modeling Agency where they are happy with her body just the way it is, and they name her a "Plus Sized Model" and send her on shoots for clothing for Big, Beautiful Women, and then she lives happily ever after, the end.

The only problem is that I swear I have read that same story about every two years all of my adult life, and every single time So-and-so is given a new name, and every single time, the author of the article writes it as if this is radical, new turf that has never been traveled before.

Last winter I read the book Hungry, the memoir of Crystal Renn, the latest So-and-so, and the whole time I was reading it, I was wracking my brain going "Where was the first time I read this? Who was the model the first time around?"

The first time, you see, is the one that makes the impression. The first time, I was younger, and I went "Oh, Plus Sized Models, you say?" and paid attention. And now, ever after, I read it and go "yeah, right: radical as ever, every single time it happens, over and over again." It happened most often during the Mode Magazine years, with Emme/Kate Dillon and all those other model defectors.

It bothered me that I couldn't find the original version, although I know she, too, surely isn't the "original", she was just her year's So-and-so, and the story's been retold ever since "Plus Sized" modeling began.

But at last, I have found my original:


From People Magazine archives, 1992.

Her name is Laina Pecora. Google shows me only modeling comp cards from 1982 and 1983. After that, she drifted back into obscurity--I can't even find a photo shoot of her, modeling fashion. Just this--this one article, filed in the endless databank of my brain, the one that set the standard for the plus-sized princess story.

Now, I want two more things: 1) pictures of Laina Pecora actually being a plus-sized model, and 2) So-and-so plus-sized hero stories from before Laina Pecora, going all the way back, to when it was called the "Chubby" division, etc.

From: [identity profile] daphnep.livejournal.com

Nice going! I'd found the travel bag reference and totally spaced the name change. I am impressed with your superior research skills.

(And it looks like, in many ways, the first plus-sized princess really did live happily ever after.)

From: [identity profile] low-delta.livejournal.com

The plus-sized model story I always remember is where the "regular" models thought she was one of the crew. When she corrected them, they were apologetic and then they all got along fabulously.

Made me think about how they treated the crew.

From: [identity profile] raydon-12.livejournal.com

I love your fashion discussions, they often make me think in other ways. After reading this I did a bit of surfing about the net. For women you have your "plus sizes", for guys we have our "big and tall". The more I look around and think about it the more annoyed I am. Most of the so called plus size models are too damn skinny, nowhere near what I would think of as a plus sized woman, and when I look through men's big and tall sections, you only ever see the tall, its like both are afraid to show a truly large, heavy set individual.

From: [identity profile] daphnep.livejournal.com

Hmm, maybe women should co-opt "big and tall" as a descriptor.

They don't show the "big", so that men who need to shop in their stores can just imagine that they are particularly strong and robust manly men.

I'm totally "big and tall". I'm strong and robust, anyway. That's it!


daphnep: (Default)

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