Ashley Graham, the industry’s most recognized plus-size model, already has a successor. Paloma Elsesser, a 28-year-old American who wears size 44, has been chosen by the magazine Vogue to illustrate its cover this January. A few days before it was the web models.com who named her best model of the year. Her physique, her skin and her tireless struggle to end the stereotypes of beauty that have permanently accompanied the fashion industry have made this promise of the catwalks one of the greatest representatives of aesthetic diversity.
Born on April 12, 1992, to an African-American mother and a Swiss-Chilean father, Paloma Elsesser grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood of Los Angeles. In 2010, she began her studies in Psychology and Literature at The New School in New York, surrounded by white students and from wealthy families. In 2015, an email turned her life upside down. It belonged to the American makeup artist Pat McGrath, a great friend of models like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell and considered one of the best in her sector. Pat had fallen in love with the images that Elsesser published on her Instagram and asked her to star in the campaign for her brand, Pat McGrath Labs. Before that, pushed by some friends, she had made her first steps in fashion to pay for her studies, but never he had made the industry one of his career goals.
“It was not tall enough or thin enough. I was a strange, chubby brunette girl from Los Angeles who was just trying to figure things out, ”she tells Elsesser to Vogue about its beginnings. The bet made by the makeup artist and now a great friend of hers was key for Elsesser to change her mind. “Seeing myself as this beautiful and glamorous creature was confirmation. There was something comforting about having a plus size black woman supporting me. I felt like they were looking at me ”, she explains now based in New York.
Together with Pat, she began going to fashion shows and meetings. The first few times, he says, he felt imposter syndrome, he felt like he was cheating someone out of being there, as if he didn’t deserve it. He cried and told his team that this was not his place. But thanks to her support and that of her family, one day she ended up believing it and felt that it was her turn to convince other women. “When a size 44 person like me says no to participate in a parade, they may not put anyone else [de talla] great at that show; therefore, that ‘sample’ no longer enters the publishing season. They don’t take pictures of other girls my size with looks other than lingerie or a jacket. My participation [en las campañas] It’s not just about me, ”he explains.
Since then, Paloma has not stopped working for firms such as Nike, Fenty Beauty, Rihanna’s cosmetics brand, or Glossier, for which she starred in a campaign in which she appeared totally naked. “What fills me the most about this is the social component. I like the idea of creating an open space for those who feel underrepresented in the media and in advertising, and inviting them to share it. I want to be able to feel proud, and take the defense of diversity to all areas that I can: from clothing to literature “, confesses who was also the cover of the magazine Smoda in September 2018.
In 2020 she took another step in her career and became one of the most important models on the runway. He made his debut at the Fendi fashion show in Milan and then those of McQueen or Lanvin would arrive. It was not his only major debut. 2020 also brought him his first cover of Vogue, the magazine that has once again chosen this model defender of diversity to launch this new year that promises to be a change of values. The fashion world returned to surrender to its feet on December 14 when, in a video published on its Instagram account, the top tearfully revealed to her family her cover for the US edition of the magazine Vogue, titled New Year, New World. Despite not yet reaching 400,000 followers, his moving video already has almost two million views, with sympathetic reactions and comments from thousands of celebrities.
The model was proud of her cover and did not leave aside the reflection and how much remains to be done in the industry. “Knowing that I starred in an American fashion cover as a plump, short, mixed-race woman who never imagined this would be her reality … Although my heart fills with gratitude, I am not satisfied. I urge fashion to never let go of this urge until you see bodies like mine stop being radical, different, weird. I want to see women with larger bodies, women with dark skin, disabled people and all identities that have been neglected in the media. I want this moment to offer a new year of possibilities and a life of hope, ”the model claimed in that same message, whose profile photo on Instagram is an image of the movement that fights against discrimination against blacks.
His impetus for this society to change and end all stereotypes crosses the borders of the world of the catwalk and Elsesser does not rule out that one of his next projects is to launch into the world of design. “When I see the clothing that is offered to society and I see the plus size clothing, do I feel validated and seen? No. We have to be incredibly resourceful because we can’t afford to walk into a store and choose what we like. I want to make clothes that are for us! ”, She assures excitedly Vogue.