Victoria’s Secret’s First Australian Curve Model Explains Why “Plus Size” Is An Outdated Term

Should the term “plus size” be retired once and for all, and models of ALL sizes just be referred to as (wait for it…) models? Australian model Jennifer Atilémile thinks so, and isn’t afraid of sharing her opinions on where the fashion industry needs to progress.

Jennifer is certainly a barrier-breaker herself, but judging by her success, it’s clear that perhaps it is time to retire body segregation in the industry, and acknowledge that inclusive campaigns and marketing strategies should be the norm, not a one-off trend.

Jennifer Atilémile grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where she was the face of boutique and Australian retailer The Iconic. On her home turf, Jennifer has participated in the movement to make fashion more accessible for full-figured women. In early 2023, she was a panelist at the Forbes Australia Women’s Summit, where she spoke about the Power of Representation. This year, Sports Illustrated came calling and named Jennifer one of their Swimsuit Rookies.

Jennifer believes all women deserve to feel comfortable and confident about embracing their natural bodies. She hopes that one day, labels like “plus size” will become obsolete and bodies of all shapes and sizes will be accepted and celebrated. With this in mind, she continues to advocate for greater body diversity in fashion. Jennifer believes that the fashion industry has a responsibility to represent people of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. She sees herself as a role model for young girls who may feel excluded or marginalized by the industry, and she is committed to using her platform to promote greater inclusivity and representation. In 2020, Jennifer became Victoria’s Secret’s first Australian curve model, and has worked with major brands like Maybelline and Clarins.

It’s not just her beauty that makes her stand out, though, she is also a passionate advocate for social justice and actively supports causes related to gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability. Her commitment to making a positive impact on the world makes her an inspiration to many.

Her favorite thing to say is: “If you want to look at my body, you’re also going to listen to what I have to say.” We wanted to hear more on what Jennifer has to say about representation in the industry, so read on below to see what she said!

Where did your modeling career begin, and what was the industry like in Australia at the time?

My career began in Australia, around 7 years ago. I was kind of at a crossroad in my life and had also been accepted into my double master’s program around the same time as I was offered a modeling contract – so I decided to do both! At the time, the industry wasn’t really “cool”, the kinds of jobs I was getting were catalogues for plus size elderly women, but I was getting paid amounts a student had never seen before so I wasn’t complaining.

But that was it in terms of opportunities, all the clothing afforded to anyone over a size sixteen was frumpy and unfashionable and there really wasn’t much representation on our screens, or in the media we consumed either. 

Brands like Victoria’s Secret have significantly shifted their brand aesthetic to be more representative of a diverse range of women’s bodies. Becoming their first ever Australian curve model, what did this opportunity mean to you?

To be the first to do anything is an incredible achievement, and to me it marks the beginning of incredible change, of true representation and diversity – I was skeptical at first, because VS had its fair share of controversy, but I accepted the opportunity because to me it meant that I was opening doors for more people like me to sit at the table. At least that’s what I try to advocate for, unfortunately the industry seems to be stuck at tokenistic inclusion. 

Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue has broken barriers throughout the years when it comes to the models on their cover and in their pages. Being named as one of their rookies for 2023, what was that experience like for you?

I think I’m still in disbelief, it’s all been such a whirlwind. From shooting in January of 2023 to the launch in May, it has been such an amazing opportunity. The shoot was so empowering, and I really felt like I was the most authentic and strong version of myself in that issue. For me, being named a rookie was a monumental moment of my career, it really felt like everything I’d been championing for so long had been seen and heard by an iconic publication, and I’ve really been able to take my message to the world.

@jenniferatilemile I spoke at the Forbes Women’s Summit a couple of days ago, for the Power of Representation panel. When I speak about gender equality, I mean all women, but research shows that only a small fraction of women benefit from gender equality efforts. This is what I had to say when I was asked how do I keep going despite so much resistance to change.. #millenialtok #forbeswomen #genderequality ♬ original sound – jenniferatilemile

Can you tell us about working with MJ Day and how she has changed the brand overall?

MJ Day is like a ray of sunshine. There are people in this industry who have a vision for inclusivity, and genuinely want to create change, who led with love and kindness- MJ is one of them. 

You are not shy about sharing your perspective on changes needed in the industry, including your opinion on using the term plus size. Can you tell us more about this?

I think it’s an outdated term in the fashion space. It was an old industry term to describe any model over a size eight. The average woman in the US is a size 16-18. I think as the industry progresses so can labels. For some people, the term plus size is more than a label, it’s a community of people who have been excluded by fashion for decades. And it’s that community that’s given me the career I have today – I don’t want to take that away from people, I just want to be referred to as a model. 

You also wrote a powerful piece about the lack of diversity in a recent fashion week. Is the fashion industry paying lip service or is change really happening?

There’s a whole group of people that are campaigning for change, and they have been for over ten years. It was really encouraging before Covid to see how excited the industry was to celebrate change and take “risks” which ultimately led to the inclusion of more people.

However, something shifted culturally, and a lot of the progress we made has seemingly disappeared in the last few years, making a lot of us who have been advocating and campaigning for change really disappointed – bodies are not trends, and, frankly, not everybody is supposed to look the same. So, seeing the same body type on the runway again after so many years of progress is disappointing, and makes me worried for the younger generations.

@jenniferatilemile More bts of sports illustrated swimsuit – out next week!!! I am so excited!!! #siswimsuit #midsizetiktok #size12fashion #sportsillustratedswimsuit ♬ Just A Girl – No Doubt

I’m hoping the future of fashion will be led by individuality and unbiased algorithms. 

Being a role model to other girls and women is important to you. But who are some of your role models in the industry or people inspiring you right now?

Ashley Graham is my ultimate role model, but I also love Precious Lee, Paloma Elsesser and Alva Claire. As for fashion inspiration, my forever icon is Tracee Ellis Ross. 

You have already broken some major barriers, but what other major achievements are you looking ahead to in your career?

I’m hoping for a few more big fashion moments, and I’m sure they’re headed my way! I’m also beginning to work on my own skincare line, and I have plans to write a book, so watch this space!

The voice of a generation that is disrupting fashion norms, be sure to follow Jennifer on Instagram and TikTok to keep up with all her work!