Paulina Vega, a former Miss Universe, says she was categorized as “plus size” by her modeling agency in 2016 after she gained slightly over two pounds. The 26-year-old, who won the crown in 2014, explained the experience in a blog post published on Wednesday.
“In my agency in New York I was cataloged as ‘plus size’ model, what in Spanish means ‘extra size’ or ‘big size’ (for uploading 1 kilo!),” Vega posted to Instagram, captioning a photo of the fit model in a bathing suit.
“From skinny to curvy,” Vega started off the personal blog post. “Some time ago I had a very particular experience that made me wonder: is this what I want for myself?”
“What I’m going to tell you happened a year and a half after finishing my reign as Miss Universe,” she explained. “At that time I traveled a lot and slept more in an airplane than in my own home. I was trying out opportunities in the United States and had been hired by a modeling agency in Miami, an agency that soon after I wanted to add to their selection of models in New York. Happily, I signed with the agency.”
“I felt healthy and happy with my body. It took about three months and I went back to the agency. Apparently, it had gone up a kilo,” Vega said. “At the meeting they told me that they no longer considered me a model of a catwalk and editorial, that I was no longer among the ‘skinny’ and would be classified as a ‘plus size’ model.”
The model said she had no problem being labeled “curvy,” but was shocked over the “plus size” terminology, especially since she was in “perfect health.”
“Under what standards is it plus size? And who decides those standards?” she asked.
The 26-year-old noted that she has “spent so many years of criticism, so many opinions about my physique, my personality, my mentality and even my attitude, that it did not touch those nerves. But if it made me think, is this what I want for myself?”
After winning the crown, Vega said she was able to explore and grow as a person and mildly escaped such fierce criticism over her body. But being told she was “plus size” by her agency was a shock back to only being judged by her “appearance,” which Vega said was “ridiculous.”
So she decided to change those with whom she chose to work.
“Modeling is part of who I am. I love my job and I appreciate everything that has brought my life,” she said. “Therefore, since I lived this experience I have committed to collaborate only with brands that align with my values and that do not require me to maintain absurd measures. Thus, I have managed to create a balance in my career that makes me feel full.”
The model later added that “physical beauty can not be everything, it can not be the focus of your work, your priority, in everything you think and where you direct all your energy. It is not healthy.”
“When I’m 60 years old I’m going to look very different from what I am now and if I just concentrate on that, what will become of me when that beauty disappears?” she asked. “In addition, I have learned that paying TOTAL attention to how you look takes away time that you must be investing in your dreams, passions, in being better. It takes time away from what lasts forever: your essence and who you are.”
And Vega is hopeful for change in the industry at large. “The good thing is that things, although slowly, are changing in fashion,” she wrote. “Each time there is more presence of different bodies in the media and more and more space to see beauty in all kinds of measures, colors and ethnicities. I just hope that as a society we continue to question the brands, media and industry that continue to idealize bodies that are not real or necessarily more beautiful than others.”
“Today I live according to my standards of beauty and health, and now I feel in the right place,” added Vega.