Inga Eiriksdottir, 30, felt devastated at age 22 when she had to transition from being a «straight-size» model to a plus-size model.
Despite dieting and giving up tennis — which added frowned-upon muscle to her frame — the Greenwich Village beauty’s healthy weight gain sent her from a size 2 to a size 6, leaving her unmarketable as a conventional model.
But after eight years with a successful plus-size career, now as a size 10, Eiriksdottir’s transition has proved to be a godsend — as high-paying and high-profile jobs typically reserved for models who wear a size 2 or smaller are increasingly going to fuller-figured models, insiders said.
In recent months, agencies have begun removing the label «plus-size» from their models and have pushed them for castings in runway shows as well as major fashion editorials and advertising campaigns.
«I have literally gone on more castings in five months then in the last 10 years of my career,» said Ashley Graham, 26, of Brooklyn, who has been dubbed a plus-size supermodel.
Graham, Eiriksdottir and the other top plus-size models founded the group ALDA (which means «wave» in Icelandic) in June 2013 to promote size diversity in modeling.
This year Graham, a size 16, graced the cover of Elle Quebec’s June issue. She was hand-picked by Carine Roitfeld, the global fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar, for a fashion editorial in the magazine and has four more editorials on the way.
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Instagram/JulieHenderson32Since co-founding ALDA and moving to IMG Models, plus-size model Julie Henderson said she feels anything is now possible, including booking mainstream fashion editorials and campaigns.
Julie Henderson, another ALDA model, has also booked an «editorial in a major fashion magazine,» but was not permitted to name it.
«I have gotten a whole new realm of ‘everything is possible,'» Henderson said.
A plus-size model from Muse Management recently booked «a major global campaign,» that will launch in three months, according to Becca Thorpe, who runs the plus-size division at the agency. She declined to give further details.
«There will come a time when we won’t be talking about plus-size verses straight-size, older verses younger,» Thorpe said.
ALDA was formed after Ford Models in New York dissolved its plus-size division last summer, leaving Graham, Henderson, Marquita Pring, Danielle Redman and Eiriksdottir without representation. ALDA also has plans to promote a healthy self-esteem in girls everywhere through workshops, lectures and events, starting with a fundraiser on Thursday night in Chelsea for Rwandan charity Komera.
Inga Eiriksdottir started out as a straight-size model, but at 22 years old she switched to being a plus-size model.
The women formed ALDA and then approached IMG Models — which reps straight-size supermodels Gisele Bundchen and Karlie Kloss — as a group and signed with the agency in January.
They said they saw IMG’s lack of traditional experience with plus-size models — who are generally size 10 and larger — as a plus. The agency had no specific plus-size division and only one plus-size model at the time they joined.
«I just wanted to be considered a model, and I didn’t want to be labeled,» said Pring, who has been a «curvy girl» model since she was 15. «I don’t see myself any differently from the other girls whether skinny or plus.»
Demand for clothing size 14 and up increased 7 percent in the past 12 months, totaling $17.6 billion in sales, according to David Riley from market researchers comapny the NPD Group.
ALDA’s goal is to land their models in a mainstream fashion or beauty campaign with companies like L’Oreal or Pantene, a coveted position that has not yet been held by a plus-size model.
«Why don’t we have curvy girls in the hair campaigns — it’s about the hair?» said New York-based Redman. She also wants to see plus-size models in Sports Illustrated.
Insiders say they’re already starting to chip away at another hurdle for plus-size models: the runways at New York Fashion Week.
Many people consider Ashley Graham a supermodel to the plus-size community.
One of IMG’s first moves after signing the five ALDA members was to submit them along with straight-size models for February’s Fashion Week.
The unprecedented move grabbed headlines and caught designers and casting directors off guard, according to models and fashion insiders. Still, none of the plus-size models were cast for the runways, despite big name designers such as Michael Kors and Calvin Klein having plus-size lines in stores.
But as agencies push their plus-size models for jobs normally reserved for straight-size girls, fashion designers will be pressured to use them, according to Catherine Schuller, a former plus-size model who now runs fashion events that promote diversity.
Runways shows and editorial shoots typically rely on sample clothing, which comes from designers in a size 0 or size 2.
But as the models start reflecting normal sizes, designers will have to start making samples to fit their curvy frames, Schuller said.
«I am just waiting for a designer to have the balls to do that,» she said.