Now she’s just seen as beautiful.
“I was one of those girls who grew up being told, ‘Hey, you’ve got a cute face, but you have to lose weight.’ I’ve always dealt with that my whole life from family and friends,” says Monique, a native of Detroit, Mich.
Monique’s prettiness was never in dispute. In high school, she made the cheerleading squad, but was seen as “the thick one.”
“My mom actually put me in my first pageant when I was a junior in high school. I placed first runner-up. The girl who won, of course, was nice and slim.”
She went to college, established a career, married and had children, but her self-esteem took a hit.
The first photo shoot
“In 2015, I turned 35. ‘I thought, I’m losing myself. I’m living for other people.’ ”
So she decided to do a photo shoot. “Oh my gosh, this is so much fun,” she thought, and that put her back into her self-acceptance journey.
That photo shoot changed everything.
“So when I did that photo shoot, they said, ‘You did an awesome job. You’re a natural.’ ”
Skeptical that it might be a scam, she did her research. What if they said that to everyone in order to get them to sign up for services? Her husband was leery, too.
“I will hurt somebody if something funky goes on,” she thought. But when they said she was a natural, they were right.
“Never in a million years would I think that I would actually become a professional, accomplished plus-size model and influencer. I didn’t even know what an influencer was. I never even really knew there were plus-size models. I had no idea,” she says.
“So it really opened up my eyes that there’s a whole other life out here. That there’s an industry that I can flourish in. I let down my guard and took a chance on it.”
They taught her the ropes: How to pose, how to navigate the industry, everything.
“Ever since I linked up with them, it’s been like a whirlwind. It’s gone steadily forward. It definitely changed my life a lot. There are so many girls and women and men, too, who are influenced.”
Modeling is only one part of Monique’s life. She’s been a healthcare manager since 1999 and is married with two children. One is going off to college this August and the youngest is 13.
“I work for a healthcare company. Basically I’m an office manager in a corporate healthcare environment.” She keeps her two worlds separate.
“You have to. You don’t know who’s going to be jealous or who’s going to be understanding. I keep those things totally separate. My work is my work, and my personal life is personal and that’s that.”
Her co-workers do not even know she’s a model.
Picky about pictures
“I’m very, very picky. New models, they just want to model. You can’t necessarily do that if you have a corporate job and you want to stay there.”
But she never agrees to a photo that doesn’t meet her standards. If her employer ever saw any of her photos or perused her Instagram, Monique said, there’s nothing they can object to.
The Monique brand
“I’ve been in this industry for six years straight. I’m at the point now, I don’t know. I am Monique LLC. I’ve built a platform for myself. I can do multiple things with it. I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with my brand, my business.
“I really want to teach the younger generation and the younger models how to get into the business and what to do and what not to do. I want to give them guidance that I did not have when I did this. Social media guidance, the whole kit and caboodle. Like, think twice before taking nude pictures. So that’s kind of where I am now.”
Starting an online boutique or traveling and doing local pop-up shops with local influencers are two ideas she’s considering.
“So I’m right now trying to decide what direction I want to go in.”
It’s not all about the money for her.
“This is a business, but also, I like to have fun. I’m always making jokes, having fun, and being silly” — except when actually posing.
“My work ethic is what sells me. You have to have a little bit of both.”
Monique’s shopping hack
“I’m definitely looking for something that is stylish. Something that calls my name,” she says.
And she has a secret hack: She researches what other celebrities and influencers are wearing and then looks for a plus-size version.
She looks for inspiration from her favorite brands, taking advantage of their professional stylists.
“They paid the money for a stylist. They did all the work.”
“Life Styled Honors in Atlanta was a big event in April. I styled myself,” Monique says. A friend helped her. “I said, ‘I want to do something different.’”
Her friend recommended a Kim Kardashian look.
“She always wears big, elaborate dark sunglasses. I didn’t know that, because I’m not a huge Kim Kardashian fan.” But she did some googling, “and sure enough, she was in all black with these big black glasses.”
That worked for Monique. “I don’t want anything too revealing, but sexy. So I went to Fashion Nova, and I was like a big Kim Kardashian at that show.”
At one point, she needed something for a White Party. She decided to channel the late Aaliyah.
She explains her thought process: “OK, I can do this plus-size. Let me see what I can find at Pretty Little Thing and Lulus.”
“I channeled my ‘thick Aaliyah,’” even wearing an all-white bandana. Her hair was done underneath, she takes pains to point out, but still, she wore the bandana.
A complete, finished look — that’s part of Monique’s brand.
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