Plus Size Model Monday Julie Willis
Congratulations on all of your success as a Plus Size Model. How did you get started modelling?
Thank you! I reached out to all the photographers in my city explaining that I needed to start my portfolio. One photographer responded and he actually wanted to build his portfolio as well. He did my shoot completely free and paid the make up artist for me because he believed in my goal to try modeling so I would not regret never going for it! I then printed my comp card and handed them out at the TCF Expo in Atlanta. A blogger Maui Bigelow, aka Phat Girl Fresh, posted about the event and a stylist needing a model in Atlanta a few weeks later saw my photos on her blog and asked her about me. I ended up modeling for the first time ever on two fashion segments on HLN recorded at the CNN center in Atlanta.
What has been your favourite experience thus far – the one you are proudest of?
I definitely have to say walking in my first fashion show ever, the Fashion Hub fashion show in New York City wearing swimwear by Bjuled Couture! I reached out to the designer after meeting her at the TCF expo and she confirmed she needed another girl for the show. I used all of my air miles to book a flight to New York the next week. I stayed on the futon in my friends’ apartment in Manhattan and I walked in the show flawlessly without a practice run, getting to see the runway path ahead of time, or a single walk lesson!
Just like any craft there is a learning curve – how did you learn how to model – both print and runway if applicable?
Honestly, I just found every single event I could participate in and drove 2.5 hours each way to Atlanta almost every single weekend in 2015 because there are no modeling gigs here in Greenville, SC. I walked in fashion shows, modeled for boutiques, did test shoots, networked, put myself out there for modeling contests and just tried everything. I reached out to models who knew what they were doing and absorbed as much information as possible.
Did you have mentors or role models who helped and inspired you along the way?
Ashley Graham is the one who originally inspired me to really truly accept my body which has completely transformed my life. I got to meet her trainer Morit Summers who is on the same wavelength with me about curvy women kicking butt in the gym. Christina Mendez has been extremely kind and generous with her advice and information. Meeting the models of Alda Women at the Komera 5k in New York this year really helped because they were all so nice and stayed after the race to talk to me and give me tips on how to get signed.
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?
I love the opportunities I get to really stand out in a crowded room or at an event and then when I get a compliment on my dress or outfit, to make sure I proudly announce the plus brand I am rocking. I find that women especially are surprised that I am so confident as a plus size woman. I want more women to see that it is truly okay to accept their bodies as they are and love themselves.
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 told I was fat in school from kindergarten onwards so I focused on academics to take the focus off of that. I graduated with a 4.3 weighted GPA! I first learned I needed to “suck it in” when I was about 9 years old. I am built exactly like my dad. He has always been extremely strong and called the Bison for his size. He has 13 5E wide feet and I wear a women´s 11 which I jokingly curse him for when amazing shoes are not offered in my size. I started working out because I hated my body and thought I had to weigh a certain amount to be happy. I lost over 60lbs in 2008 by eating 500 calories a day and doing hours of cardio to get to the magical number I thought would make me happy. I remember an apple being one of my meals and celery was all I would allow myself once I hit 500 calories for the day. I almost fell of the treadmill because I was about to pass out one day and realized how unhealthy this really was. I started focusing on my speed and performance at the gym instead of the number on the scale and have grown stronger and faster ever since. I found out I can squat 285lbs and I can max out the treadmill speed for sprints. What my body is capable of gives me an invincible, bad ass feeling that is extremely empowering.
For our readers who are interested in starting a plus model career, what would you suggest are some top tips to get started?
Reach out to local photographers, review their work, ask a lot of questions about their photo session packages ahead of time. Find a friend who knows Photoshop and have them use it to format your comp cards for you and then you can print them pretty much anywhere but Staples has really been the best for me so far. Buy a camera if you can save up for a DSLR and do your own test shoots to practice all the time instead of always having to pay hundreds per shoot. Be extremely consistent on social media.
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?
Well most off duty model days are in a cubicle for me and I keep business casual very simple with lots of black and white. My closet is jam packed with lots of amazing stuff that I don’t get to wear that often. When we do get to go out on date night or to an event, I love grabbing a statement piece and building around that. I love a unique jacket but the weather here is still too hot, hopefully I can break them out soon! I definitely have an inner hippy, I love Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix and modern day hippy Fiona Apple, and that comes out in some of my outfits. I feel sexiest in pieces that really emphasize my figure and there are some pieces I have worn for years. Super bright colors always catch my eye and I usually call those “Julie” pieces. I usually don’t wear a ton of jewellery but if I do, it´s something bold. I literally have my closet arranged in color order and it looks like a big rainbow I like to grab whatever piece really jumps out at me that day. Comfort and sexy typically equates to confidence for me so any fashion that accomplishes both is a must.
What are some of your favourite places to shop your style?
I do a lot of searching on Pinterest and Instagram for style inspo and I like to try to recreate looks or visions with my own flare. My city really has a pathetic range of options for plus sizes in store so 99% of my shopping is done online. Probably the top brands for me lately have been Torrid, Gstagelove, Target, and Charlotte Russe Plus.
What does life look like for you outside of the modelling world?
I work in I.T. sales in a cubicle setting. I live with my boyfriend and we work out a lot. He works two jobs but when we get time together we love to get outdoors, go to concerts, festivals; what we like to call “adventures”. I love decorating my planner and apartment. We get to Atlanta as often as possible to spend time with my boyfriend’s family. I usually get to go home to Massachusetts for Christmas. I love trying out new healthy recipes especially when a new season starts and throwing themed parties with signature drinks and games.
Thank you for taking a time to chat with us today! What is one message you would like to leave with our readers?
Find what way works for you, it doesn’t have to be picking up heavy weights, but find what activity empowers you and strengthens your inner Wonder Woman. Then tap into that as much as possible and make time for it, for you! This is the number one way I have come to love myself inside and out which has really changed my life far more than I ever expected. If you want any advice or need help with this, feel free to reach out to me.
Julie is originally from Western Massachusetts and moved down to South Carolina for college where she met the love of her life. They have been together 7 years and hope to get married soon. She speaks Spanish and is very passionate about sustainability. She has one younger sister and her whole family still lives up in Mass. She hopes to live closer to them and NY City in the near future.
Name: Julie Wills
Title: Plus Model
Facebook: Julie Wills