By the time she was 12 years old, plus-size model Emma Sanders was already on a Weight Watchers program. At 15, she was on the cabbage soup diet. Her grandmother also had her run alongside a car instead of letting her sit inside it. It took some time, but her family finally realized that there was nothing wrong with Emma’s body. Her size and shape were just that way naturally. It was not the result of unhealthy, dangerous habits. It took a while longer for Emma to realize that her body was okay the way it was.
Like many plus-size women, she also experienced the torment of bullies who criticized her size. She tried unhealthy ways to lose weight. She was amazed to find that when she was a smaller size, people were nicer to her. Emma recalls those days, saying, “Something changed in me. I realized, ‘Wait, now you’re being nice to me? Just because I look different—I don’t want to be your friend in return. I don’t want you in my life.’”
Emma realized she didn’t want that kind of pressure in her life. She learned to stop obsessing about her weight like she used to. When she did that, she felt happier. She says, “And I think that was a big lesson: Eat healthy for your health and your body, and don’t do anything out of self-hate. When you let that go, the good things will come into your life.”
Emma is currently a plus-size model for the agency JAG. She has enjoyed some success with campaigns for Lane Bryant and ASOS. She has learned to love the curves that she once had been bullied for. She’s learned to view herself in a different manner. She remembers her mother gently encouraging her by saying, “When I would get upset after getting bullied at school for my size, my mom, who traveled a lot, would tell me she was in the Caribbean and her friend was quite heavy-set and would go to the market and they’d say, ‘Ooh she nice and fat.’ It was something nice, you know. That did eventually help me to realize there are so many different beauty standards around the world and they’re all great.”
She has also learned to love her body for what it can do. She loves the fun and confidence she exudes in hip-hop dancing, which is one of her hobbies. She’s good at dancing despite not having the classic dancer’s body type.
She has now stopped describing herself as plus size. She just says she’s a model. Now when agents scrutinize her, she does not get intimidated. She is happy with her body and they way it is. She is also more than happy to go into a debate of “what’s too skinny or what’s too fat.”
From being bullied, which can have serious effects on one’s confidence, to being proud of her body shape and size, Emma has gone a long way. It takes a strong character like her to battle through the stigma behind being a plus-size model and emerging a confident woman ready to take on the world.