Beauty

What It's Really Like Being A Mid-Size Model

American model Ciara Consiglio get’s candid about the label and her hopes for the industry.

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I come from a very small town and went to a Catholic school where nobody really felt comfortable expressing themselves because it was so cut and dry. I wanted to stand out. I went to New York for a class trip and bought a very deep purple lipstick from the M.A.C. store. I fell in love with beauty then and I knew that it was going to be a part of my life forever. I broke into modeling while freelancing in Pittsburgh for Rue 21 during my last year of college and I didn’t know if it was going to last. Then I got a call during the midst of COVID from my agency, and that’s how I segued into actually getting signed.

On the reality of working on set:

Being on set when they have my measurements and still don’t have clothes that fit really makes me feel othered, especially because it is something that can easily be prevented through preparation. Before a client even sees me they receive a package that states whether I’m willing to use heat on my hair or not. If I say yes, they use heat for the craziest things; taking a curler and going at my hair – completely dry – put heat on every one of my curls.

I think if there were more people aware of how to handle curly hair, or even coarser hair than mine, it would be a big benefit. I’ve heard horror stories of people’s hair getting ruined. There’s even people showing up on set and their makeup has flashbacks, so they have to go to the bathroom and fix it using their own products. It’s not right. It feels like we’re the issue because they’re not prepared, and I feel weird as a result. It should be a prerequisite to being on set: the awareness of who they’re booking and planning it out accordingly. There’s a change that needs to happen because sometimes we’re expected to do extra work beforehand and not get compensated. It would be amazing to show up as my authentic self in any space that I enter.

 

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On being labeled as a mid-size model:

It’s a little uncomfortable to be labeled, but I get it to an extent because how else do you differentiate the models? Yet, you can hear the backhandedness sometimes when people use those labels. So it’s like, are you actually trying to offend me and go into the “Oh, you’re a model?” vibe and question. I’m proud to be in the plus-size and midsize ranges because it’s so important for people like me to see themselves in campaigns and in stores. The best part of doing what I do is getting to show people that it is possible. A model is a model, and all these labels are a little bit corny, but I do understand it.

It’s a double-edged sword at time, the mid-size label. I definitely get work because of it, so it’d be naive of me not to acknowledge that. But at the same time, calling myself a mid-sized model puts me in a box: a mid-sized, freckled model category. Sometimes it feels like I can be the demographic filler. Like on a set, where you can see every “type” of person that they tried to book and the different categories they fill. When I see that, I think I wasn’t really chosen because of me, but because of the characteristics I’m filling.

On diversity and inclusion in the modeling industry:

I feel like when I first started out, like at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022, people were serious about being inclusive, and we were actually going in the right direction. They’re not just doing this for money and commercialized reasons. But this past year has debunked that for me, it feels like everybody’s reverting, and now we’re doing like soft girl era, and now they don’t want anybody bigger than a size eight. There are companies and clients in the industry in general that seem to be going back to “skinny is in” again and whitewashing things, and it feels like the industry wasn’t actually serious about diversity and inclusion in the first place.

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On hopes for the next generation of models:

I’m inspired by models like Paloma Elsesser and Precious Lee; seeing them do their thing gives me hope. I don’t really see myself in the high-fashion realm of things yet, but seeing them kill it shows me it’s possible one day. My hopes for the next generation of models are, honestly, to enter an industry where they fully feel comfortable and can actually do what they came to do. I feel like sometimes the uncomfortableness of certain sets can cause you not to perform at your best and give you anxiety. I hope that by the time the next group comes up in this industry, it will become a little bit more caring, and a safer and more comfortable space, so they don’t always have to fend for themselves; they’ll know they have people behind them.

For more candid model stories, check out our coverage of a Black models glam experience backstage during New York Fashion Week.

As told to Sha Spencer. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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Ciara Consiglio
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Sha Spencer
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