Chinese-American Plus Size Model Catie Li Breaking Boundaries & Being The Fashion Role Model She Never Saw Growing Up

Catie Li photographed by Alice Le. Art Director: Ami Jenner, HMU: Carolina Yasukawa, Wardrobe: Lindsay Briatico.

Catie Li is a real life girl boss! As a multi-talented model, content creator and businesswoman, Catie is changing the industry through her body positive messages and embracing her mixed-race identity. As both a business-savvy entrepreneur and successful Chinese-American plus-size model, she began her career as a model after finishing college at UCSB with intentions of it being nothing more than a side hustle. Shortly after graduating, Catie moved to LA to pursue PR in music and TV programming, but ultimately decided to pursue her true life passion for modeling full-time.

Now she resides in LA with her fiancé Carlos and creates fashion, beauty, fitness, and lifestyle content for her dedicated followers on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. On these platforms, Catie shares her influential fashion and travel tips, while also creating styling videos that promote confidence and inclusivity of all body types.

Through her modeling career, Catie hopes to inspire body positivity and encourages women to feel confident in their own skin no matter their size or ethnicity. Her radiant message and talent have landed her partnerships with global brands such as Athleta, Amazon Fashion, and Supergoop. 

Catie Li photographed by Alice Le. Art Director: Ami Jenner, HMU: Carolina Yasukawa, Wardrobe: Lindsay Briatico.

Catie began 2022 with exciting news with the release of her collection with The Drop from Amazon Fashion released on January 11th, 2022, which features timeless wardrobe essentials that are meant to be worn by women of all ages, shapes and sizes.

More recently, Catie was featured in Women’s Health’s annual Naked Issue, out May 2022, alongside 6 other women who are creating a space for all women to feel confident in their body types. 

Additionally, she will be wedding her fiancé this December and will be intertwining their two cultures – Pilipino and Chinese – within the ceremony. Catie has been openly sharing her struggle on social media as a Bride-to-be in finding the perfect dress for her wedding, Bridal Shower, Bachelorette and more as there are still so many limited options available for “Plus Size” women (noting that the average American woman is a size 12-14)!

We also couldn’t get enough of her Coachella outfits and candid commentary about her experience being at the festival for the first time. Read on below to see what Catie told us about posing nude for Women’s Health, what frustrates her most about plus size fashion today, and how she became her own fashion role model after never seeing others like her growing up.

Catie Li photographed by Alice Le. Art Director: Ami Jenner, HMU: Carolina Yasukawa, Wardrobe: Lindsay Briatico.

Can you tell us how your modeling career began, and what your experience was like breaking into an industry that has traditionally been body exclusive?

My modeling career began about 9 years ago when I was buying a sofa off of Craigslist. The girl who was selling it was a plus size model moving to NY and long story short, she gave me pointers on how to start! It was really a surreal moment. When entering the industry, the idea of “plus size” representation was getting some buzz, along with some type of representation. My career started off very well because my look came off as ambiguous. 

As a plus-size, mixed-race model and influencer, you are empowering so many followers with your messages and visibility! Why is this important to you?

What is important to me is representation and honesty. No matter what size or race you are, you should feel represented in this world. The honesty comes in, but I am not sugar coating anything that I am posting. I try to be as authentic and true to myself as I can, meaning honest hauls, how I feel in the current moment, and sharing stories that I hope others can relate on. 

Who were your fashion and style role models growing up? And what did you feel was missing in terms of representation in the media you consumed?

I really didn’t have one style icon growing up. Since I was in the start of the rise of plus representation, there was really no one prior to me to look up to. I really just observed trends and try to be creative on how I can apply them to myself. 

I still think we have a major issue in representation. I don’t think the fashion industry has really made it their mission to include representation as much as they can. Often you only see 1-2 of the same plus girls on the runway and a little bit of diversity. They think by sprinkling in a few diverse models, it checks a box and they probably won’t get called out for it. But we as a community should demand more diversity and representation. 

Although it’s been a few weeks, we can’t NOT mention your FIRE Coachella outfits! You were also very candid about your experience at the festival. What annoyed you the most about it all?

Thank you! What annoyed me is that I don’t think some people were being authentic to how they truly felt about the festival. With social media it can sometimes be about people showing off and making it look like they are having the greatest time of their life vs. actually telling it how it is. Don’t get me wrong, I know some people had a great time, but it would be nice to see people tell it how it is. Since this was my first time, I had expectations and now moving forward I know what to expect and how I would approach it, if I decided to go again next year. 

What have been your fave campaigns that you’ve been featured in?

One of my favorite campaigns will be the Women’s Health naked issue, just because it was probably the most vulnerable I have ever felt as a model/human. Knowing the impact it can make on one individual person is what makes it my favorite, as well as overcoming the challenge of being “naked” for everyone to see. Tastefully of course.  

@officialcatieli I mean we need less talk about how they are supporting the movement and more action at this point! #plussizefashion #plussize ♬ original sound – Catherine Li

Why do you think it has taken so long for so many brands to recognize the importance of body diversity and racial diversity?

I think the only reason why a lot of brands have made changes is due to the demand, not because they wanted to, which is odd to me as this is a billion-dollar business, and the dollar value of people of color is just as valuable. 

In preparation for your wedding later this year you’ve been openly sharing your struggles to find the perfect outfit. What is your biggest frustration with plus size fashion overall, and what do you hope to see change?

There is no plus size wedding fashion that goes beyond wedding dresses in my opinion. Even for wedding dresses we are very limited on current trending styles. It is extremely frustrating! I would love for brands to make things for bridal events in plus! We want to look cute and trendy too! 

@officialcatieli Links in bio! #bridal #plussizebride ♬ about damn time x promiscuous – Adam Wright

It’s quite bizarre that the average American woman is a size 12-14, yet major brands still use much smaller “sample” sizes as the ideal body shape. Can you talk about the damaging ideas that this can perpetuate among women?

I mean, when brands do not use body/race diversity it sends the message to the consumer that they need to be small and white or just white. This contributes to negatives of diet culture that we currently have all related to currently or at some point of our life. It makes girls/women feel less than and not empowered. That is why representation is so important on all fronts. 

You are going to be featured in Women’s Health annual naked issue. What does it mean to be included in this issue?

This issue is super important to me, as I hope to be a representation for someone that can relate to me in some way- skin tone, body shape, ethnic background, etc. It is really to inspire and validate women that relate to me that we are worthy in this industry and in society. 

If someone is just discovering your Social media accounts today for the first time, what do you hope they will love most about you and your content?

I hope that they love the honesty I share and gather inspiration from it! 

Be sure to follow our fave new girlcrush Catie Li on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube!

Catie Li photographed by Alice Le. Art Director: Ami Jenner, HMU: Carolina Yasukawa, Wardrobe: Lindsay Briatico.

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