If youre not following LaShaunae Steward, AKA luhshawnay, on Instagram, its time to fix that.
The model and designer is someone everyone needs to be watching, whether for fashion inspiration, body positivity, or for the motivation you need to be a general boss.
At 22, LaShaunae, from Charleston, South Carolina, has already modelled for Jeffrey Campbell (with whom she also launched a capsule collection of shoes), Whatever 21, and Universal Standard – an impressive feat considering she doesnt fit the standard size expected in the fashion industry.
After years of fighting for inclusion in the world of fashion and beauty, LaShaunae launched Inclus Models, a platform thats designed exclusively for models who dont fit the norms of the industry, whether theyre under 58″ tall or larger than a size 18.
Basically, shes a force of nature.
The models career started not through being scouted in an airport or having famous parents, but thanks to trolls.
A stranger made a fat-shaming meme using one of LaShaunaes photos, which drew people to her social media. Within a few weeks, shed racked up tens of thousands of followers, and gained an army of fans for the way she spun online nastiness into something positive.
She began to post more photos of herself, alongside updating her stories with messages of body positivity and recaps of her day. Now, she has more than 91,000 followers on the platform.
I joined Instagram in 2012 which was my freshman year of high school, LaShaunae tells Metro.co.uk. I was bullied a lot so social media was my escape.
I would post selfies and stuff on my Instagram but they would be photos of me hidden and covered, because the kids I went to school with always picked on me for the photos Id post.
Leaving high school gave me the freedom to broadcast who I am on a more personal level and showcase me and my style more.
I posted a ton of cute looks on to my Instagram and girls would tell me: “you should definitely model so we could see representation of darker and bigger girls who arent smaller than a size 18!”.
The more i thought about it, the more I wanted to do it until it full on became my dream.
Seeing the vital need for greater representation of bodies who are bigger than the industrys definitions of plus-size, LaShaunae chose to become more vocal on social media, ignoring the trolls and rejection that came her way to speak up.
She received a lot of negative responses to her work.
Its very hard when you are vocal and visibly bigger than most models, LaShaunae says. People discredit me all the time. Every day Im rejected
Im a short fat black girl whos vocal about everything and a lot of people cant stand it. But its not for anyone to stand – its my voice and I refuse to ever be silenced.
But the positive reaction to her photos, and the cries for more women that looked like her to be included, kept LaShaunae going. Her confidence grew and soon she was getting attention.
Theres still a long way to go and far more work needed to be done.
LaShaunae still isnt represented by an agency, and while shes been featured in campaigns, getting booked remains a rarity.
She tells us: I still dont actually feel accepted.
I feel like people love using me in their mood boards or “inclusive” campaigns but wont actually book me for other things to showcase who I am… or to pay me fairly.
I would like to actually see me and other models over a size 18 being in shoots and magazines and campaigns, and not just for shock value and likes.
Im always contemplating quitting but I know I could never because winners dont quit.
For now, shell continue to hustle. Shell continue to fight to be included and valued by an industry that has turned her down over and over again.
Through Instagram, shes able to reach people who are desperate to see bodies like hers and show them that size is no barrier to taking joy in fashion.
I used to hide, she says. If I wore cropped tops to school, Id always have a flannel [shirt] tied around my waist to hide everything.
If I were in public, I wouldnt leave the car and I would have rather sat in a car in 90 degree weather instead of facing the public.
I used to be terrified of how much fatphobes theRead More – Source