Robyn Lawley is 6'2" and a size 12. It's easy to say that Lawley isn't built like a typical model (plus size or otherwise), but in an industry where the lines between plus, straight, curve, and everything in between have become blurred — and often controversially so — we're slowly moving towards an age where there is no "typical" model's body. But for Lawley, who in 2015 was the first plus size model named Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition's Rookie Of The Year, fitting into a certain mold of what it means to be a model who isn't straight size can be frustrating.
Yes, Lawley is a "plus size" model, according to technical industry standards. But she's also a feminist, a mother, a designer, a photographer — a human being who doesn't know how to be any other size than what she is. In anticipation of SI's 2017 Swimsuit Edition (which marks her third time in the issue), Lawley tells me that she's often tired of the "but you're not curvy enough" conversation. "It’s mindf*cking," Lawley says.
"When my Sport’s Illustrated cover came out...I was nine months pregnant. I was sitting in this interview and people were like, 'you’re not plus-sized.' I was so pregnant and I was so tired of this stupid mindgame that I have to be a part of — and I get it the same time," Lawley says.
Lawley's SI cover came out in February 2015, the same month she gave birth to her daughter, Ripley. Lawley later learned that she was pregnant during the shoot, but she was unquestionably with child while doing press after the launch. The exhaustion of, you know, being super pregnant was only made worse when so many readers were "outraged" that she was being lauded as the plus size representation we've all been waiting for.
According to standard US sizing, Lawley is not plus size — adding to the confusion of it all. And Lawley, as a designer herself, fully knows that those conflicting labels can make things confusing for everyone.
"Why can’t we just see different bodies? And I’m a designer too, I can make a sample size of whatever sample I want and I think people don’t realize that," Lawley says. "It is an unfortunate thing when everyone’s like, you have to be this size and seeing all these models down the runway."
Lawley is deeply aware of the issue of calling her plus size in the same breath as calling a 5'0" size 12 woman plus size. It can be dangerous to say it's the same, or to say definitively "this is what plus size looks like," which is why Lawley is self-aware enough to not define herself that way at all.
"I’m a big feminist so I want to be there for my fellow ladies...I think I’ve been very vocal about the tag 'plus-size.' It’s clothes over size 14, and it’s not even including a 12," Lawley says.
When I ask her what she would define herself as — plus size, curve model, non-straight size — Lawley simply shrugs. Like all of us, Lawley is just existing in her body. And, sure, her body is a large part of her of career, but the fact of the matter is that Lawley is comfortable in her own skin, and supportive of other women feeling exactly the same way. And she knows that size never has to play a part in that, on the runway or otherwise.
"All bodies should be represented," Lawley says. "It’s still going to look great going down the runway. That has been proven."
This article has been updated from its original version.