ELLE Spain Cover Model Tara Lynn: “It’s Hard to Make Clothes Look Great on Big Women” Read more: Tara Lynn Interview - Tara Lynn Plus-Size Model - ELLE Follow us: @ElleMagazine on Twitter | ellemagazine on Facebook Visit us at ELLE.com
There are many reasons to admire Tara Lynn: The plus-size model, who covers this month’s issue of ELLE Spain, has not only helped redefine the industry’s standards of beauty, but encouraged women of all sizes to embrace their natural shape, too.
But make no mistake: Lynn knows better than anyone that it’s easier said than done. She’s very candid about the challenges that came with growing up as a size 14/16 and admits that it wasn’t until college that she grew to accept her body. With a newfound appreciation for her voluptuous frame, she then mustered up the courage to walk into a modeling agency—a move that would not only change her life as she knew it, but also launch a movement.
Since she made her foray into the modeling world, the all-American beauty has starred in numerous controversial editorials, covered ELLE France, which deemed her “The Body,” fronted H&M’s “Big Is Beautiful” campaign, and worked with storied fashion photographers such as Patrick Demarchelier and Steven Meisel.
Behind-the-scenes, Lynn holds a degree in linguistics (she speaks French and Spanish) and is a classically trained singer who admires the work of 19th century French composers like Debussy and Fauré. In addition to belting out tunes, she spends her free time reading, writing, painting, and hanging with pals such as fellow plus-size model Robyn Lawley—who, for the record, makes a killer gluten-free French onion soup.
ELLE.com caught up with Lynn on the heels of her big cover to talk about how she got her start, body diversity in the fashion industry, and why she takes no issue with being called plus-size.
Congratulations on your ELLE Spain cover! What was your experience on set?
It was great! Xavi Gordo was the photographer. Some of the poses were held for quite a long period, so it was a bit of a workout. But I could really see that he knew how to flatter [my] proportions. It was a really cool and different experience to work with him.
The images came out beautifully! How did you make your foray into the modeling industry?
It was kind of a last minute idea—it was just a moment of wanting to take a risk. I was at university and just wanted to pay my tuition. I realized I couldn’t work and study full time. So, I quit my job at a bank and walked into a modeling agency thinking it would give me a lot of freedom if they said yes. They did, which surprised me. For two years I just worked out of Seattle but didn’t have any New York representation. I finished my course of study and then went to New York.
Did people tell you that you should model growing up?
Pretty often. Starting in my teens, people would say things like that. I was never skinny, so I always thought that if I was going to model, I’d have to lose a lot of weight. I knew at some point in my late teens that plus-size modeling existed
. Based on societal pressures, you think when you’re in your teens that by next summer you’re going to be able to wear a size 4 or 6, or fit into that bikini you thought would look pretty if you lost 50 pounds. It just didn’t occur to me as something that was realistic. You don’t want to invest in your size-14 body when you feel bad about it as a teen.
Was becoming confident in your body a progression?
There was certainly a natural progression that happened over time. As you become an adult, you realize that you don’t have to fit in with your peers. You don’t have to look and think like everyone else. Though there certainly was a point at which I realized I was really unhappy in my body and that I had to take control. It was maybe a couple of years after going through that, during college, when I took some weight off and felt strong, beautiful, and in control. I had enough courage to walk into an agency and realize that this body that’s a size 12/14 is a good body, it’s my own, and I feel good about it.
Are there specific women who have inspired you to embrace your curves?
You know, this is such an old idea, but for me it was definitely Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez
. Obviously, they still have pretty idyllic bodies, but it still represented something different that I was trying to wrap my head around. They were outside of the norm, received criticism early on, and just faced it with…fierceness [laughs]
There is just no other way to say it!
Right? And there’s also Christina Hendricks
, Scarlett Johansson, and Salma Hayek. Men aren’t [only] naming the skin-and-bones girls [as hot]—not that there’s anything wrong with super skinny girls, they’re beautiful too—but it’s funny to sort of see that shift.
Totally! You, as well as other high profile plus-size models, have helped bring body diversity to the industry. But do you think there still needs to be more?
I don’t know about bringing it to the industry, like the fashion industry. I mean it’s hard—and I’m just going to make this confession—it is hard to make clothes look great on big women. The more fat there is on a body, the more variation there is in the shape of that body. And so it makes perfect sense that people are using a standard, clothes-hanger skinny body for it. But in terms of the way we represent beauty: If we’re going to be selling perfume or makeup, I think it’s a great thing for [people] to see diversity in advertising and not have to feel like they need to fit a mold.
Since you began your modeling career, do you feel that the industry has gradually embraced plus-size more?
I’m not sure. I think I’ve been lucky enough to be in a bubble. You know, nobody is mean to the curvy girl—at least, not to my face. So, it’s hard for to me to see how much change there’s been in terms of how people treat me. But yeah, there definitely has to have been change in acceptance of plus-size models or curvier models being seen as legitimate models and even fashion icons, like Crystal Renn for example
. We’re getting covers and great editorials and amazing photographers wanting to shoot with us: it’s not just PR stunts. They’re excited to see what we do and capture our bodies.
Speaking of the term “plus-size”: Do you take any issue with it?
I don’t. Humans come in everything from a double zero, and even smaller, up to like a size 28. If you make a coat in all of those sizes, you can’t put them all on the same rack at a store. Nobody’s going to be able to find their size. So it makes perfect sense to me to sell half the size in one section and half of the sizes in another. I would love to see better fashion for people my size and above, but it doesn’t offend me at all.
What do you think of the stand your good friend Robyn Lawley is taking against the “thigh gap” trend?
I love Robyn—she’s a good friend of mine. I understand that she’s been treated badly because she kind of reads as a standard size model, but she’s 6’ 3” and fits more like a size 12. And yeah, people are pro lots of strange things. I know skinny women that don’t have a thigh gap and I know bigger girls, like Robyn, who aren’t super skinny but do have one. It’s a really weird way to dichotomize human beings.
When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?
Oh gosh, well I read and write a lot. I’ve picked up painting recently. Also, I sing. I just run around the world singing like a crazy lunatic. I love French art music like Debussy and Fauré. I do love opera and to go see it. I also love indie rock and underground hip hop.
Are you thinking about pursuing a singing career?
I don’t know—it’s too personal to me. I don’t love the idea of singing specifically for an audience, or having to cater to that audience. I wouldn’t want my singing to be ruled artistically by an income.
Oh, for sure!
Ideally, where would you like to see yourself five years from now. How will your career have evolved?
Five years from now…oh my gosh, I think you’re going to have to wait and see. I think that I’ll definitely still be modeling. It’s a fun trajectory, and I’d like to see where it goes. But I’d also love to see my other interests rounded out a bit more, so that I can also feel fulfilled in other ways. I will say, that I really look forward to the day that someone puts a plus-size model on the cover of a mainstream American magazine.