Photography by Stanley Desbas
When US-based fashion photographer Stanley Desbas (Dey-bah (read more about him here)) proposed a partnership with PLUMP, we were in shock. Why wouldn’t we be? He’s worked with the greats in the plus size modeling industry (Fluvia Lacerda, Anita Marshall, Laura Lee ring a bell?), and with an impressive portfolio like his, we said yes in a heartbeat. We had to.
Choosing our cover girl this month, Stanley spoke highly of Morgan Louise. After we saw her photos, she instantly took our breath away. The size 20 MSA Curve Model is making waves, and it’s only been less than a year since she decided to try out a career in modeling. We’re more than proud to have her as our first international plus size model on our cover, because not only is she the epitome of sheer beauty, she’s got the brains and character as well.
Growing up big, Morgan has had her fair share of pressures to be thin. “I think I started ‘dieting’—or at least having an unhealthy relationship with food—when I was in third or fourth grade. Throughout middle school and high school, I completely skipped lunch at school everyday, because I didn’t want anyone seeing me eat. In high school and throughout college, the dieting got increasingly intense as I got more desperate when everything I tried never worked for very long. By 2012 and 2013 (which was when I finally stopped dieting), I was seeing a doctor for diet pills and other invasive ‘treatments’ (involving needles, yikes!), paired with a 500-calorie-per-day diet.”
Fortunately, when she stepped into her 20s, she started realizing that she needed to avoid mainstream media for the sake of her own mental health, and Morgan began to create a culture of her own. “Now that I think back on all of that with a different mindset, it’s really upsetting to realize that societal pressures have made me do something so insane—and I know I’m not the only person who has been sucked into the diet industry lies and societal standards of beauty. At the same time though, it is really empowering to think that in just 3 years I went from extreme dieting to being absolutely comfortable being photographed in a bikini. It makes me feel like anything is possible!”
It’s been a long and hard battle to get to where she is now, body positive wise, but Morgan is honest to tell us that she isn’t immune to body image issues at all. She is, after all, still human. “I think we are so steeped in a culture that glorifies unrealistic ‘ideals’ that it’s almost impossible to not [sometimes] have negative thoughts about my cellulite or stretch marks or jiggly arms. I just remind myself that those first thoughts are what I have been taught to believe, and what I choose to think after that is who I truly am. Thankfully, I am past the point where body image issues hold me back from being myself and wearing or doing anything I want, but it took a lot of work to get here.”
Good thing hard work pays off. With Morgan’s new sense of confidence and self, she started thinking about modeling as a career. “I started noticing plus size models as a teenager, and over time, they helped me realize that you can be big and beautiful at the same time. Thankfully, the internet is so vast and social media gives you the ability to choose what you want to consume, so I began following blogs and other outlets that celebrated different types of beauty. I started to become familiar with all of the plus size models that inspired me to feel beautiful, but it was a while before I started to think that maybe that could actually be me helping other women feel empowered. Last fall, I realized that you never know what could happen until you try, so I reached out to a couple of photographer friends to see if they wanted to shoot, then other photographers saw those pictures and started reaching out to me. I loved collaborating with creative people and really had a blast in front of the camera, so I decided it would be worth taking the next step by sending those photos to some modeling agencies. Last March, I signed with MSA Curve.”
Thankfully, the internet is so vast and social media gives you the ability to choose what you want to consume, so I began following blogs and other outlets that celebrated different types of beauty. I started to become familiar with all of the plus size models that inspired me to feel beautiful, but it was a while before I started to think that maybe that could actually be me helping other women feel empowered.
Morgan definitely has a budding career in modeling, something she didn’t expect from graduating college with a major in Art History, a minor in Psychology and a certificate in museum studies, after changing her major from painting. When asked what her other passions are aside from being the subject of the camera, Morgan shares, “I remember being intrigued by art since I was very young; one of my earliest memories is being curious and asking questions about the Degas and Van Gogh prints my aunt had in her home. When I’m not working, I’m usually taking advantage of the endless museums and galleries in NYC. I also love when I get a chance to be creative and make things, especially in the kitchen; I love cooking and baking. Sometimes the most creative thing I get to do all day is my makeup, but I love it and consider it an art form in itself. Since I started modeling though, it has been such an unexpectedly creative outlet for me. I didn’t realize how similar it would be to other creative processes I’ve done in the past — from collecting inspiration and brainstorming concepts to collaborating with other artistic people. Other than art and modeling, my interests are super varied and casual because I’m curious about literally everything. I can easily get sucked into a Wikipedia black hole for hours. Aside from nerdy interests, my favorite things to do are travelling, camping, and attending music festivals with my friends.”
She may be officially part of the fashion industry now, but Morgan still believes there are some issues to be addressed. We asked about her take on fashion inequality regarding the plus size demographic, and she was passionate about the issue. “It makes me so upset when I see plus sizes being relegated to a small corner or sequestered in the basement of a store with a fraction of the selection as the straight sizes. In general, at major retailers that have a plus size section, you can’t find the same fashions and styles in the plus size section that you can find in the regular sizes; that’s definitely not equality. More recently it has been getting a little more hopeful with some brands starting to realize that lots of plus size women want to wear bikinis and crop tops and bodycon dresses too, because for so long it seemed like plus size designers thought we all wanted to wear ‘flattering’ oversized clothes to hide our bodies.” In terms of discrimination in the modeling world, Morgan also had a few things to say. “Of course. By definition, the modeling industry (even plus size) is focused on superficial things like size and body type. All designers’ and brands’ casting directors have an idea of the type of model they think would be perfect to promote their product, but lately things have been changing since social media has given consumers a platform to voice their opinions. Now plus size women are able to demand more inclusivity and diversity and I think brands are starting to take notice of that.”
Now onto more personal matters, let’s get up close with Morgan!
Who’s your inspiration when it comes to modeling?
My biggest inspiration is women in general. I’m constantly inspired and motivated by how strong, capable, and beautiful women are in so many different ways, so my biggest hope is that I can help pay that forward to other women.
Share with us your beauty regimen.
How much time do you have? Haha! I love trying out new products and treatments but I do have my tried and true favorites. Most importantly, wearing sunscreen daily and staying hydrated! I use either an oil cleanser or micellar water to cleanse and remove makeup, a chemical exfoliator with beta hydroxy acid, and then rotate between new moisturizers I’m trying and my favorite retinol moisturizer every other day. I also love trying out different sheet masks, my favorite one right now has hyaluronic acid. Organic coconut oil is a favorite must-have beauty product too, because you can use it for practically everything—moisturizing skin and hair, removing makeup, shaving cream, you name it.
What’s your workout routine?
Yeah, I like circuit training because it’s fast paced and you switch it up often so it never gets boring, plus you get both cardio and strength training in one intense but time efficient workout. To be honest though, in the past month since I moved to NYC I’ve been in the gym a lot less as I’m transitioning to such a different lifestyle where I’m walking EVERYWHERE instead of driving like I used to. I’ve made sort of a game out of checking my Health app on my smartphone to compete with myself for how many miles I walk and flights of stairs I climb every day.
What do you tell people who say that plus size models are unhealthy and promote obesity?
Are you kidding me?! For one, weight and BMI are not accurate indicators of health — lots of researchers and doctors are finally admitting this. Personally, I believe you can be healthy at any size, just like you can be unhealthy at any size. Plus, mental health is a huge part of overall health and has effects on your physical health, so I think body acceptance and self love is a major key in that overall picture.
Top 3 things you’re sick of hearing as a plus size woman
❤ That you should dress in ways that flatter your body type. I think we should stop making rules for women and start empowering them to wear and do whatever they love and feel good about!
❤ “You have such a beautiful face, you’d be such a knockout if you lost weight”, “You’re the first big girl I’ve ever been attracted to” and other backhanded compliments. If you have to point out how my body is not in line with your beauty ideals, then that is not a compliment, just stop!
❤ “Real women have curves.” I cannot roll my eyes hard enough at this. Last time I checked there was no right or wrong way to be a woman.
Top 5 must have clothes of every plus size fashionista
Honestly I don’t consider myself much of a fashionista, and I think women should wear whatever makes them feel good, but for me, my 5 must haves are:
❤ A great fitting pair of jeans
❤ My favorite black v-neck tee (I stock up and have several at a time)
❤ A bra that is comfortable and fits well — preferably with matching panties because that always makes me feel extra good, even if I’m the only one who sees it 🙂
❤ A little black dress
❤ A (relatively) comfortable pair of simple black heels that match everything
Favorite thing to do for leisure:
Watch a sunset
Favorite outfit for lazy days:
When it’s cold out, my Hello Kitty onesie pajamas or leggings and a t-shirt. If it’s hot, my undies or my birthday suit. 🙂
Especially since moving to NYC, I’d have to say pizza. The pizza is just excellent here, and even better cold from the fridge for breakfast the next morning.
Thievery Corporation, Drake, Neil Young, Beyonce, Alina Baraz & Galimatias, Serge Gainsbourg, Bonobo, FKA Twigs, Parliament Funkadelic, Nicki Minaj, Pretty Lights, Massive Attack, Outkast, Portishead, Morrissey, Beats Antique, The Black Keys, SBTRKT, The Weeknd, Dr. Dre, The Doors, DJ Shadow, Purity Ring…Too many!
My favorite color in general is teal, but my favorite color to wear is black.
Favorite TV shows:
Broad City, Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, Lost and X-Files (original, not the revival)
Favorite outfit to feel sexy:
The same as my favorite outfit for lazy days, haha! It’s always fun to dress up in a fitted LBD and heels and red lipstick, but I can feel just as sexy in a pair of leggings and a tee. Sexy is an attitude and a state of mind!
Ultimate man crush:
If you weren’t into modeling, what would your career be?
Who knows! Probably working in an art museum or maybe I would have started a bakery or a food truck.
What’s your mantra for when you’re not feeling very good about yourself?
I try to remember that I’m the one in control of how I feel about myself, that I don’t owe anyone else anything, and that all I can do is my best.
How do you deal with negativity?
There are occasional internet trolls who leave rude comments but most of them just hate seeing a carefree fat girl who feels beautiful and loves herself because they still buy into the unattainable mainstream beauty standards and hate themselves because of it. Once you realize that, you can only pity them because they’re still imprisoned by those pressures. ♚
Follow Morgan Louise on Instagram @moloweez.