Model Paloma Elsesser is doing things. Notice that period there. So says a string of recent modeling triumphs, her devoted 100k+ Instagram followers, a fan club that includes the likes of Rihanna, Pat McGrath and Stevie Dance and a contagiously empowering M.O.: Elsesser is challenging the industry to be more inclusive of diversity, including a body like hers. These past few months the West London-born, Los Angeles-raised PYT has solidified her muse status in a major way. Never mind a brilliant editorial track record, a walk down Eckhaus Latta‘s S/S runway, one of New York’s buzziest brands, the talking points here are those Fenty Beauty and Glossier “Body Hero” campaign bookings–meaning Paloma’s moment is now. From it-girl to everywhere, Paloma Elsesser talked to Models.com on how she got her start, being yourself, the plus-size experience and what needs to be the new normal.
Fact check Paloma
Hi, my name is Paloma Elsesser. I’m 25 years old. I was born in West London and grew up in Los Angeles…Mid-City to be exact. I moved to NYC for college in 2010 and fell in love. Before I began modeling I was in college, waitressing, writing, hustling. I began modeling pretty randomly. I never thought modeling was an option for me or was apart of my course. I met Stevie Dance who encouraged me to pursue modeling. I didn’t even know plus size modeling was a thing! She introduced me to agencies and I surrendered!
Do you have any stories of a serendipitous meeting that changed your career for good?
Obviously, meeting Pat was this surreal launch into a world that I thought I wasn’t even invited to. She showed me a love, adoration, and most of all understanding that at the time I needed. Her level of artistry and willingness to push boundaries has cemented her place in the industry as an icon; I am eternally grateful to be invited into her mastery and vision.
As a model what’s your least favorite thing to be asked? As a person?
Being asked “where I got my confidence” to me, is lazy journalism. With such a simple question it highlights the inherent issues in the conversation itself– that it’s so surprising I am “confident”. As if being kind to yourself or finding your worth separately of being thin is a brave act.
What about yourself do you think resonates positively with your industry admirers?
I find pride in being vulnerable and want my audience to know I am one of them, that they are a part of my story and my path. I maintain an authenticity in my daily life and I bring that to all of my affairs, including work. I learned at a young age how exhausting and degrading it is sacrificing your voice for the comfort of others. I believe as humans we crave intimacy, which is ultimately vulnerability and authenticity all mashed together. I want to be emotionally intimate with those I interact with. We have access to incredible platforms to invite our peers and admirers into the conversation. I’m also not afraid to be messy or goofy, I think people identify with that.
What has been the best experience(s) so far? Why? Ahem… Fenty …
Honestly, all of my experiences have been amazing. Even the uncomfortable ones. Being a part of the new narrative of fashion is a dream and being able to implement my voice into my job is more than I could ask for. Obviously, working with Rih was ICONIC. She’s so down to earth. I remember when I shot the campaign and I looked around and felt so proud, like what we were doing would reshape how people view beauty.
Can you go into a little detail on the experience of the “Body Hero” Glossier photoshoot? Did you have hesitations going in and what was the feeling coming out on the other side when it was released?
I was SO nervous. I cried! I had never done nude before and was pretty overwhelmed with the idea but I knew how important it was for women to see a body like mine in beauty advertising. I also wanted the viewer to know that I still struggle. I’m gonna get REAL cheesy here but I simply wanted women to know that confidence is a journey, not a destination. Glossier is an incredible brand whose core values I align with, I couldn’t have picked a better brand to do this with.
Do you feel your model-experience differs greatly, or is unique, being labeled plus-sized? Vice versa is there a feeling of solidarity in certain experiences amongst all or most models? Are there examples?
The only difference or constraint really are sample sizes. It’s hard not being able to wear the same designers as your counterparts. I love all of my fellow plus size girls, we’re all friends. It’s cool because I’ve had straight size girls really support me. Some don’t understand me, which is fine too. I am not responsible for eradicating someone’s fear fueled confusion.
What are you most optimistic about in the future of industry? And what role do you have in contributing to that?
The industry has changed so much and I feel like brands and designers are now politically responsible to include more women of color and diverse body types. I hope this becomes the new normal. I think my contribution is showing you can be stylish and fat. You can be happy and fat. You can be hardworking and fat. You can be beautiful and fat.