Although we have a lot thank it-model of the moment Ashley Graham and her work for, we also have a lot thank the plus size models who killed it before her. Although Graham was discovered at age 12 in 2000, her modeling career really kicked off when she was profiled for Vogue in 2007. The face of plus size modeling seems to be ever-changing, but with Graham arguably at the current helm, it's important to look back at all the models who helped pave the way for those like her.
Some of these models contributed to the plus size community in active ways, while others helped simply by existing and being visible when we needed diversity the most. As plus size modeling becomes more prevalent in the industry and body positivity continues to be a topic of mainstream conversation, their talents and contributions deserve to be represented, acknowledged, and appreciated. Just because some of these models weren't around at the time of social media and listicles doesn't mean that they don't deserve recognition on both fronts.
The evolution of the Internet has helped remove the stigma surrounding plus size people massively, so it's only right to use it to pay homage to those who also helped spark change through their modeling careers. These women deserve their spot in the Internet's limelight. In looking back at their work, we can applaud the women who helped make Ashley Graham's rise to fame so possible.
1. Toccara Jones
Although Whitney Thompson was the first plus size model to win the show, Toccara Jones was actually the first plus size model to compete on America's Next Top Model in 2004, helping pave the way for Thompson's success as well as her own.
Emme is often referred to as the world's first plus size supermodel, rising to mainstream fame in the '90s. These days, she's back in the fashion world with her "Fashion Without Limits" program that encourages fashion design students to create clothing sizes 12 and up.
3. Sophie Dahl
Now well known for her work as a celebrity chef, Sophie Dahl was a curvy dream working the runway for brands like Versace, Alexander McQueen, and DKNY in the late '90s. Most impressively, Dahl is the inspiration for Sophie in her granddad Roald Dahl's book The Big Friendly Giant .
4. Saffi Karina
Saffi Karina is a successful British plus size model who literally helps other plus size models through her body confidence masterclasses and intensive curvy model workshop The Curve Project London.
5. Crystal Renn
Crystal Renn famously suffered from anorexia to fulfill her modeling dreams, but after recovery she returned to the industry as a plus size model. Hers is a truly inspirational story, and she's even written her memoirs for others to learn more from her experiences.
6. Velvet D'Amour
Velvet D'amour is everything. She scored the title role in dark comedy Avida in 2006 and continued to model for fashion powerhouses John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier in 2007. Today, D'Amour is still fighting the body positive fight with her size inclusive magazine Volup2 .
7. Chelsea Bonner
Chelsea Bonner was a plus size model before plus size modeling really existed, and she's now the owner and director of Bella Models Management — an agency seeking to introduce a "more holistic and healthy approach to model representation."
8. Angellika Morton
In 1997, Angellika Morton also transitioned from straight size modeling to plus size modeling. Like most of the women on this list, she still speaks out for plus size models through her independent work.
Many of these models still actively work to break boundaries in the industry today, while others have moved on to careers connected to the activism behind plus size modeling and body positivity, while a few have left it all behind entirely. No matter their decisions, their efforts for inclusivity truly deserve their own spot in the limelight.