One of our most requested QG WD Q&A interviews is here… our very own moment with the legendary curvy supermodel, Emme! Long known as the voice of the plus size community since her days as a top print and runway model, Emme has been incredibly busy changing the curvy world with her speaking engagements, books, TV appearances and her newest venture, Emme Nation. Take a moment and enjoy the insight and the wisdom from this amazing curvy female!
QG) How did you get your first modeling job?
EA) I read an article in an flight magazine about plus modeling and how the agency being highlighted had open calls. I was a marketing director for a real estate firm so I went during a lunch break, wore a black and white jump suit with a wide black patent leather belt, red lipstick, (still had my uni-brow) and slicked my hair back into a pony tail and off I went. I walked in and the agent (Susan Giorget, now uber-agent at Figure 8 Division at Images Management) said, ” Don’t move, let me take a Poloriod of you!” I began working part time till I went to Ford Models with the great booker Patty Sicular and eventually had to tell my boss at the real estate company that he needed a new marketing director!
QG) What are your favorite types of shoots and do you have any great memories on location? Prefer print to TV?
One of the best locations was off the coast of Africa with a German client. We all had been working together for years so it felt like a family vacation. I love to swim and this resort had pools at every turn. When I wasn’t shooting, I was swimming. We worked hard, ate well, and enjoyed the local wines quite a bit! I was always picking up shawls and fabrics from the places I went – probably my obsession with tunics probably started when I was young, living in the Arabian gulf where they were a staple in every woman’s wardrobe. I loved shooting in London’s very own, London Eye…the huge Farris wheel that truly is must-see on every travelers list. There were so many other trips, day in and outs in most of the islands in the Caribbean and late night pirate stories from our house hosts, in Barbados shooting at sunset, getting thrashed on the rocks in the Bahamas for a bathing suit shot that almost swept me out to sea, I loved Miami and still do to this day, wish I had invested in Ocean Drive in the early ’90′s before it was cleaned up and we had to kick needles and displace drunks from their sleeping spots to get a shot. I cherished my work in Sweden, Australia, Norway and good old Germany, earning my million mile frequent flyer mile status on at least two carriers, but whose counting!
Although I feel most comfortable on TV (I was an NBC reporter in Flagstaff AZ before I was a marketing director at the real estate firm), I enjoy the creative process that goes into a high profile shoot. Set creation, clothing selection, stellar hair, gorgeous makeup, music, healthy organic yet yummy food, breath taking locations, happy assistants and the coup de la resistance, the prolific photographer. When you walk onto a set with those perfect conditions in place, a flow takes over everyone, there is nothing like it. I walk away tired but refreshed with great shots for my book (and client) as the reward.
QG) We are all about the plus size community, but it would be a good idea to define what that is according to you. In your opinion, what does the industry describe it as, and how would you personally define it?
EA) The industry has used an old and over used term plus size that I have a difficult time embracing. It drips a negative and a “less than acceptable” feel to it. However when I have retail meetings, my presentation decks say plus size so the jargon is universally understandable and clear. Once I get my foot in the door, that’s when my work begins to reeducate and change the way we address the women’s lines in the store…very few retailers understand how poorly their size 14-24 customers have been treated. The lack of respect, compassion or inclusion to the fashion equation. The boutiques are on the other hand and pulling in some serious business. Not too long till the tipping point pushes this size demographic out and big box retailers left saying, “what happened to our curvy gals?”
Personally, I use the term curvy when describing a woman with curves. When I present a lecture, I use the term curvy or women’s since the other clearly divided departments in fashion are called junior and missy departments, respectively.
EA) Once I became a model, I became a social reformer almost by default. I saw how beauty truly was a naturally diverse phenomenon that was being manipulated for a select few to gain. As a reporter, I saw this disparity causing havoc not only in our children, but mothers and teenagers alike (including men). This false belief of exclusive beauty being sold to women is not a “plus size” issue, it’s a Woman’s issue! I am beyond blessed to share this simple truth with millions of people on live TV, printed media and during lectures each month. I could not have imagined this in my wildest dreams. Its funny to have people ask me where they know me and are convinced I was at their friend’s back yard bbq…preferring to say I just have one of those faces while their wife gives me a knowing smile or gives me a hug…Or stops me in customs to say their wife would like an autograph while checking my bags.
When I began my modeling career, I began to feel that every job I had before prepared me for the work before me. I knew I was in the midst of this simmering movement to stir the pot and point out some obvious stuff, use my voice, and shatter the myth and celebrate a woman’s body. Being a reporter prior to becoming a model quickly opened my eyes and ears to what was around me, enabling me to handle the challenges in a studio with a quirky photographer, wonky stylist and company not fully embracing “this new plus size inclusion in fashion!” I kept my reporters ears and eyes open and heard both sides from the beginning. At all the fashion shows women felt compelled to speak and share their stories which were very similar to my own, when it dawned on me: There was something bigger taking place here. A movement was underfoot but it took another decade to have it knock down the door as it has today.
I never know what I’ll be asked on live TV – on red carpets, world media and every day discussions, even with my 10 year old daughter. We all can be advocates in our own way, some louder, more visible than others but none the less important. Whatever you do choose, make sure you do your research, double check your sources and your good to go, no matter where you go to listen and share.
So yes, I am beyond grateful I have the Polish/German body I was given at birth and even happier I can say that wholeheartedly. I’ve been honored to represent the majority of American women and girls, my body provided me a career that continues to take to interesting places to share my mind, it lovingly carry me though cancer treatment, allowed me to give birth to my healthy daughter, provide me with a full athletic rowing scholarship to Syracuse University – basically graced me with the success I have been provided in my life time. I have NOTHING but praise at this point of my life for this bod!
QG) How have you stayed positive when faced with adversity or size discrimination?
EA) I have a motto: “Don’t take it personally.” Everyone has an opinion and are wrestling with doubting themselves, so how can they support you being totally “out” with our curves? If you accept your curves, you’re going against the grain of the thin is in society we live in. Its scarey to do that, to accept something different, risking what others may say. The cool thing is, once you cross the line and live more to the beat of your own drum, like attracts like. If you go into advocacy work to change people to think the way you do, you’re doomed. If on the other hand, if you feel you may burst if you cant express yourself or the thoughts that bubble up inside, then you’re on to something fulfilling.
EA)I am an athlete at my core so movement has been a necessary part of my life. Without some sort of “play” I get stagnant in my professional and personal life. It takes work to keep at my best personal self and every so often during the year, I veer out of line and I feel it. As a part of my commitment to my health, I just got my executive summary done with the fine group at The Executive Medicine of Texas. I got a chance to see what was really going on inside of me as a physical body. All my blood chemistry, body density, cardio fitness, everything was tested. The results were very helpful and supported that although I was larger than other models, didnt mean that I was unhealthy when I rated excellent with my physical condition. My doctor did note that I could help my heart beat less hard if I lost 25 pounds which I was thinking of doing anyway after seeing those 25 pounds creep up over the past 15 years. Still would put me at a comfortable weight that I was at the beginning of my career, which sounded good to me.
My personal best on any given day would include walking, spinning, yoga, hiking, biking, swimming, golf, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. I love food, eat well refuse to diet or maintain a dieting mentality but cut back in my portion size when I step out of my routine which I have to focus on better to get rid of the 25 pounds over a year’s time. Check out Emmenation.com/blog about my fun filled journey this summer into the fall and winter,
QG) Do you think the fashion industry as a whole is becoming more accepting of different types of bodies?
EA) Yes, I believe the industry is slowly changing. Or being forced to change for the better. Either way, fashion today represents more of the people they serve than ever before. Its about time. Social media has been the catalyst pushing the way we see ourselves and the world around us. In order to stay afloat, the more healthy, appropriate images of beauty we have reflected back at us, the longer the magazines stay in business. (Seventeen and Glamour editors in chief are do a great job showing healthy diverse images of women). The people are speaking and are now a considerable force in this whole conversation. Once again the acceptance of diverse images is not a “plus size” matter, it’s a deeply feminist issue, a women’s bone of contention.
QG) How do you feel about all the recent publicity around publications not using uber-skinny models and the other side of the conversation, that over 38% of Americans are obese? How do we find balance?
EA) To me, the issue of health has always been a personal matter. Although I condone super large carbonated drinks as unhealthy, do we need a law that just passed in NYC to support that? Why then aren’t there a law on the super large beer drinks sold at ball games where people drive away drunk? Will those vendors be fined as well? I feel there are a lot of politics around food, and lots of money made on the backs of millions of American men and women because we are allowing ourselves to do so. We are either not choosing healthy nutritious foods or are not able to buy healthy nutritious foods, are not moving out bodies regularly, and feel so defeated and depressed that we feel stuck. There has to be a shift in our hearts that we deserve better from ourselves and from those selling us substandard food, sharing restaurant portions, getting used to leaving food on the plate or asking for a take-home box. Small changes can make a really huge difference. Oh, yes, drink copious amounts of fresh water daily. I drink 110 ounces a day since my physical and I must say, my skin looks fresher and I feel less sluggish.
QG) What’s your response to people who argue that fashion’s idea of plus-size is not the “true” reality of being plus size?
EA) Being a high end plus size model takes a lot of work, life balance juggling and total commitment to being a consistent true body size. I believe with the strides we have made in the fashion industry over the last two decades, we should be delirious to see these gorgeous 5’10 or 5’11, healthy size 14′s, 16′s, and 18′s, women supporting themselves and shining their beauty back at us as models of health. It’s a damn great day for women!
QG) We think fashion and curves are a natural; what do you think needs to change to make this a reality?
EA) Use Our voices more. Use it or loose it.
QG) Please tell our readers about EmmeNation – how did this get start?
EA) After I got through my cancer treatment in October 2007 I knew my life had to be lived differently but I didnt quite know how much so. I never meditated, did yoga or went slowly in any part of my daily routine so trying these things felt completely foreign to me at first. I felt I understood the concept of a body+mind+spirit connection, but I was forced to slow down and face myself in a very deep and sometimes difficult space to learn what that important connection meaningfully meant to me . I am still trudging along on that never ending lesson journey. When I think I get the hang of one lesson and another more challenging, pops up, I do my best to not take things personally, which I must admit is very very hard for me to do. I’m learning to count my blessings and the art of moving along.
Eventually through, these Eastern modalities grew to be an integral part of my life today. I basically learned through others teaching me, showing me the most basic things, like how to breathe, really breathe and not react to everything around me.
After a few years digging into to all of this, I felt I had found a key to a new room in my heart, with a door that only stayed open when I committed to living in the present moment. Only then did I get the chance for a brief few suspended moments , leading to minutes then to hours if I was lucky to feel such peace and release from the stress we all manage to manage.
One experience lead to another where I found I was not the teacher or leader but a beginning student and i wanted to share at EmmeNation not only what I was experiencing but the rich journey and personal life stories other Moms, sisters, aunts, women had to offer. Thus, EmmeNation is a meaningful community with plans to be a multimedia National Mall tour, EmmeNation Whole You cruises, and EmmeNation Whole You Girl Friend Adventure Weekends featuring like minded women and experts from various back grounds leading us to the path of self acceptance, personal best goals, and seekers of fun.
QG) What goals have you set for the future of EmmeNation?
EA) I see EmmeNation as resource for women looking to increase one’s self acceptance and body image to feel whole, leading whole lives and expressing fully their place, thoughts and feelings in the world around them.
If any one would like to submit their YouTube video or blog regarding their journey, I would love to have you “like” EmmeNation’s facebook page and post your video on EmmeNation’s channel on YouTube and send your blog to: email@example.com with photos and links backing up your blog.
QG) What advice on acceptance do you have for plus size women out there reading this interview?
EA) If you feel change knocking on your door, don’t let fear push it away. Open the door and welcome it in. The earth will not eat you up and spit you out by trying something new or unfamiliar. You know what you know and saying you dont have time, is a cop out. State to those around you what you need and map out a plan for yourself. Ask moms in your neighborhood to come together for a walking group, do pot luck, schedule date nights with significant others and your kids, say more positive than negatives things to yourself. Stop the body bashing! Why not? Reevaluate who you hang with. If you are low and not happy, first ask what YOU can do about it and take one step toward that change. Share your journey on EmmeNation! The community would love to share the ups and downs with you. (please send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org)
I kid you, not drinking a good amount of water could lift your mood. Have a tall glass of fresh water in your hand when you rise, before you eat, while you walk , in the car, before you sleep…I believe water deficiency is a huge cause for feeling low. Especially if you’re drinking coffee or highly stressed in your life, double up on your water consumption.
QG) We ask everyone, “If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what would your life be like?”
EA) Such a funny question because I dont know what it would be like since I AM doing what I love to be doing! However, I would have been either a social worker, a philosophy teacher, an athletic coach or professional athlete of some kind…surfing, biking, out in nature… anything in or on water or in the snow!
Thank was just the best! Thank you to Emme for taking the time from her incredibly busy schedule to impart her wisdom with our Queen Grace Weekly Dish readers. To find out more about Emme, her plans, her events, and everything on EmmeNation, go to her website at; http://www.emmenation.com.