LA-based model Audrey Ritchie says, yes.
Spearheaded by Australian model Stefania Ferrario, the #DropThePlus movement is quickly gaining traction and is asking everyone to stop labelling models as plus-size.
“There’s nothing plus-size about us,” says Ritchie. “We’re just models because that’s what we do. People don’t post a photo of a straight-size model and then add a ‘straight-size model’ hashtag. I shouldn’t be defined by my size. I’m a woman.”
Ritchie began her modelling career just this year and is already making a name for herself. She’s appeared in several fashion magazines and has just landed a new gig modelling fall fashion for Canadian retailer Penningtons. Not bad for a newbie who’s never set foot on Canadian soil before. “I’m very blessed and fortunate that this is my job.”
But Richie didn’t always feel so fortunate. The 23-year old model, who’s a mixture of Puerto Rican, Mexican and African-American, shares that growing up in Los Angeles wasn’t always easy on her self-esteem. “I always knew that I was different looking,” she explains. “All the girls in Southern California didn’t have my curly hair. They had straight hair. Growing up, I wanted to have the California girl look: blond hair, blue eyes, thin, wearing tiny bikinis. I didn’t feel normal.”
Ritchie hit an all time low when she started battling her weight issues in sixth grade. “Once I hit puberty, my body completely changed. All the other girls didn’t have boobs and hips. I remember having breakdowns and asking ‘why don’t I look like them?!’ I thought that I was so fat and no one would ever want me. Now, when I see that young girl in photos, I think she was always average-size and normal.”
Despite her new self-confidence and modelling success, Ritchie admits that her issues with body image is on-going — especially when she’s competing with thinner models. “Straight-size fashion is always going to be the most popular,” she says. “Everyone wants to be the skinniest. When I look at girls in these high-end fashion magazines, I think ‘man, I wish I could look like that.’ EVERY GIRL says that. Every girl.” But Ritchie goes on to explain that there’s an interesting flip-side to that coin. “Sometimes there are naturally thin girls who wish that they had curves. So I think that there’s a cool balance happening. The generation that’s coming up needs to understand the positive aspects of both sides and being comfortable with who you are.”
According to Ritchie, one of the biggest misconceptions that people have of plus-size models is that they’re unhealthy. “We’re not,” she insists. “We don’t sit around and eat all day. Companies prefer to hire fit models now, which is basically a proportioned, hourglass figure. That’s not unhealthy.”
After the fashion industry’s new acceptance of diversity and the success of models like Ashley Graham and Chloe Marshall, Ritchie is very optimistic about her modelling future. She’s planning on relocating to London after she signs with a new agency, but first, she’ll have to make one small concession. “I’m a size 12 and in order to sign with this agency, I’ll have to go down to a size 10,” she says. “Losing two dress sizes is easy for me. Luckily, I can lose weight fast and fit into a size 10 without having a muffin top (laughs).”