By Liana Jacob
MEET THE curvy model who dropped THREE DRESS SIZES at the cost of her plus size modelling career and her fanbase who preferred her ‘plumper’.
Model and entrepreneur, Lilli Luxe (28), from Ohio, USA, was scouted by a modelling agency while attending a fashion show in 2004 when she was just 14-years-old. At the time, she was a UK size 12 and looked mature for her age.
Since then she booked local modelling jobs, including modelling wedding dresses when she was 15-years-old. She continued modelling until she was 18 when she went to college. During her course, she began exploring the pinup genre after old Hollywood heroines like Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot inspired her.
In 2014, one of her fans suggested she moved into commercial plus size modelling and she was almost immediately signed by an agency that she sent her photos to. Her career soared, but despite this, she felt the conditions that came with the agency meant that they controlled her image. In 2016, the five-foot-eight model, who was 12st 12Ibs and a UK size 20, began feeling lethargic and her energy levels decreased due to her lifestyle. She took the risk of revamping her diet and exercise to become more toned which decreased her weight to 11st 5Ibs and a UK size 14.
Due to the strict size regulations her agency had, her career suffered after she lost the weight and she began to receive many negative comments from her social media fans who threatened to unfollow her, as they preferred her when she was bigger.
Despite these changes, Lilli does not regret her decision to become healthier as her energy levels have sky-rocketed and she feels more confident in her own skin.
“Around the age of fourteen, I was approached by some modelling scouts while attending a fashion show at a Macy’s department store,” Lilli said.
“I signed up for a modelling school Barbizon, and upon completion of that, I signed with a modelling agency, Pro Model & Talent Management in Akron, Ohio.
“At that time, I was a UK size twelve and looked pretty mature for my age, so they marketed me as a women’s model. I booked a few local jobs, including modelling wedding dresses when I was fifteen.
“I modelled up until I was eighteen, when I moved to Los Angeles to attend fashion school to study Visual Communications.
“I wasn’t doing any professional modelling there, but I began exploring the pinup genre for fun. I was really inspired by watching old Hollywood movies with Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot.
“I liked how good the old-fashioned dresses looked on my curvy body. I began styling myself more into 1950’s and 60s clothing and taking photos.
“I moved back to Ohio in 2011 after finishing fashion school. In 2012, I began posting my pinup themed photos on social media and created the pinup alter ego Lilli Luxe. It started as a hobby, but my pages quickly grew.
“In 2014, a fan suggested that I try moving into commercial plus size modelling; it turned out I had exactly the right size requirements and look – so I submitted my photos to a few agencies.
“One agency, Dorothy Combs Models, emailed me back within ten minutes and asked me to send more photos.
“Shortly after that, I signed a contract with them and began working. I was shocked by how expensive the start-up costs were for becoming a plus size model.
“I had to pay for top professional photographers myself; thousands of dollars, and self-funded trips to New York.
“I was working corporate jobs during this time as a Graphic Designer and taking modelling jobs on the weekend. I modelled for a few big American companies like TJ Maxx, Rue 21, and Secrets in Lace.
“I eventually found out that this work wasn’t worth it because the agency wanted a lot of control over my image and wanted me to get rid of my Lilli Luxe persona and be more girl next door.
“I understood that they needed to do this to make me more marketable to conservative clients, but I found it a bit stifling. I felt that I would be happier and more fulfilled going my own way and staying true to my style.
“So, I stopped modelling professionally and continued doing Lilli Luxe as a hobby. At this time, I also switched fields in my professional career.
“When I decided to go back to doing my own thing, my social media following skyrocketed — staying true to myself ended up being worth it.
“In 2016, I was a UK size twenty and felt like my energy levels were really low, so I decided to revamp my eating style and get a bit fitter.
“This was a risky decision because it meant that I would be too thin to be eligible for plus size modelling jobs and also upset my existing fans.”
Lilli says that her first step was documenting the food she ate daily to calculate how many calories she was consuming, which added to 3,500 a day which shocked her into changing her lifestyle.
She now cooks her meals which she prepares every Sunday to last her the rest of the week to avoid the temptation of picking up takeaways.
Since her new diet and going to the gym four times a week, overall she has received positive comments from her followers, although there are some who preferred her previous shape, that have turned their back on her.
“I got many messages from followers who told me they were ‘unfollowing’ because I was losing too much weight, and sure enough – the modelling jobs dried up,” Lilli said.
“I got messages from men that said, ‘I like you better thicker. Unfollowed’, ‘Why did you lose weight? You’re losing your curves’, and ‘I thought you liked being bigger, doesn’t this go against body positivity’.
“It didn’t seem like there was much room in the industry for medium sized girls like me. Ultimately, I felt good about my decision to lose weight because it was something I did entirely for myself and my health.
“What really inspired the change was how tired I felt every day; I wanted more energy, I felt so slow and off, not like myself.
“I had all these cool ambitions and things I wanted to do, but they just weren’t happening because I was so lethargic.
“Now I know this had a lot to do with what I was eating. I felt really inspired to educate myself to learn how to cook healthy food that was actually tasty, because all the ‘healthy’ food I had was pretty gross.
“Everyone I date loves my curves and I love my body. People say, ‘You have such lovely curves’, ‘Your body is perfect’, etc.
“When I first started losing weight it was a good way to find out who my true allies were. On social media, some men were very upset and unfollowed me because they liked me plumper.
“But other ones, the true fans, were very encouraging about my journey and my desire to improve myself. I am grateful for those ones.”