Steff Ivory Conover (Ivory) is a mixed race Canadian born and raised in Toronto’ s east end. She graduated from Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts in 2006 with a Performing Arts degree, and has been pursuing a successful career as a singer, actor, dancer and model
Congratulations on all of your success as a Plus Size Model. How did you get started modeling?
I got started modelling in 2003 when I was tapped by the Bloor St BIA to model in their summer festival. It featured over 20 different retailers in a runway show that spanned 4 city blocks of Bloor St W between Bathurst St and Spadina Ave. I’ ll never forget just how exhilarating it felt to strut that runway for the first time – the ONLY plus model in the entire fashion show, and to have the entire crowd go WILD every time I hit the stage with a new look!
What has been your favorite experience thus far – the one you are most proud of?
I think my entire career as a working performer has made me proud to see how far I’ ve come – from winning Miss Canada Plus in 2007 to dancing in Caribana and the Pride parade for over a decade, to appearing on stages across North America and into the Caribbean and Europe, to numerous stints in television, radio and print media, and taking on new heights with the Succulent Six (a team of plus sized super SHEroes who embody body positivity). I cannot pinpoint just ONE thing but ALL things that have led me here. I’ ve had an incredibly storied career and I still feel like I’ m just getting started! I’ ve never backed down about just who I am – I am loud, proud and unapologetic as an advocate for the curvy revolution – and am so very blessed to be able to create as an artist, every day, in the skin I’m in, Just like any craft there is a learning curve.
How did you learn how to model – both print and runway if applicable?
As a model I learned quite early on that being on the runway is just like being onstage – when you turn the corner and hit the catwalk you’ ve got to be ON – and although you may stumble, never break character or let them see you sweat, but don’ t lose your sense of humour either! An entertainer is only as good as the crowd that’ s receiving them, so I try to connect when I can, without jeopardizing the clothing items I’ m showcasing. Modelling for print was a bit of a different learning curve for me – I spent hours in the mirror learning my angles, focusing on different faces and expressions that showed me in my best light. As I’ ve gotten older, I’ ve had to continue to hone my craft as my face and body changes, and reviewing the raw photos from a shoot, or shooting with a large mirror behind the photographer help me to tweak my poses even more and truly capture the best shot possible.
Did you have mentors or role models who helped and inspired you along the way?
My mother was a dancer, and an incredible performing artist, and she has absolutely inspired my every step as a performing artist. In terms of modelling, I’ ve always been a huge fan of Liis Windischmann, Velvet D’ Amour, Stacey McKenzie, and Emme and once I broke into the plus modelling scene I actually got a chance to meet some of them, which was a dream come true! Many of my fellow models here in Toronto have truly become lifelong friends and sisters to me; I’ ve looked to them from the very beginning as to how to continually set and then raise the bar, and without a doubt wouldn’ t be as far as I’ ve been my career without this amazing plus sized revolution spearheaded by the rich talent base of Toronto Plus Sized Models.
The Plus Size Industry has changed and continues to evolve – how do you think as a model you are able to help make an impact in how the world sees plus size women?
As a model I am given an opportunity to challenge the beauty “norms” that society likes to impose upon women. My platform gives me the exposure to inspire people to question the idea of one “right” body shape, and celebrate beauty at ANY size. I aim to help end weight discrimination, size bias and fat phobia by proving to the world that beauty and health truly exist at ANY size. Most of all, I want to help foster a world free from body policing, one shoot, one runway at a time.
You exude confidence with every step you take, were you always this confident? Tell us a little bit about the journey to confidence.
I was not always this confident at all. As a child I was constantly teased about my weight, by my peers in school, by teachers and coaches – family members even! All of that leads to very low self-esteem as a teenager, and led me to battle with depression and self-harm as young as 13 years old, and throughout my teenage years. I lost my self-worth, and in turn, allowed others to devalue, as I felt I wasn’ t worthy of their respect or love. This spiral was cyclical, and would lead me back into deeper bouts of self-harm, depression and bulimia. However, as I emerged from high school, and rediscovered my love of the performing arts in pursuing a College Degree at Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, I found comfort, grace and beauty in my body through dance, through movement and through acting. I also learned to put into action that ages -old adage “Fake it til you make it”– and I told myself I would never again let the bullies in the outside world win (no matter how badly I felt on the inside). Little by little, that false bravado, that overconfident persona I was putting on, became who I actually WAS – and I truly began to love and appreciate myself for all that I was – lumps, bumps, scars, flaws and all!
For our readers who are interested in starting a plus model career, what would you suggest are some top tips to get started?
I think the best way to begin your career as a plus sized model is to do your homework – study your angles, practice walking in heels on all kinds of terrain and MASTER your runway strut –then begin to build your portfolio through sites like Model Mayhem and other Social Media outlets in TFP shoots (Trade for Photo) – once your portfolio starts to build, you can start to seek out smaller retailers looking for models and climb from there, or head to the agencies to get them to do the legwork for you! I’ve had a very successful career as a self-represented model, and lots of success as a model signed to an agency – so don’ t get discouraged if you don’ t get represented right away – sometimes you’ve got to wait for an agency that’ s the perfect fit, and that doesn’t mean you have to stop modeling in the meantime!
As a model you’ve had the opportunity to wear a variety of different styles, but what would we catch you in on an ‘off duty’ day? What would you call your fashion sense and how has this evolved through your modelling career?
In an off duty day, you’ ll likely catch me in a pair of my favourite American-Apparel high waisted black tights, a great lingerie set from [Toronto Retailer] Broad Lingerie, paired with a nice top, bronze jewelry and some kickass black cowboy boots. It’ s my go-to uniform! I’ d call my fashion sense “edgy-dancer-chique”– because I am so active, I love to be in clothes that move with me – but I also like to be put together, so my clothes have to be able to go from a casting call, to a meeting, out for drinks with clients or backstage at a show at the blink of an eye (or rather, should I say, at the change of an eyeshadow? Hahaha)
What are you some of your favorite places to shop your style?
My favourite places to shop are American Apparel, Broad Lingerie, Lululemon, Sexy Plus Clothing, Hips & Curves, Torrid, Addition Elle, GS Loves Clothing, Hen Jewellery, Michael Kors and Amazon for all the crazy accessories in between!