Rejected model finally makes it onto the catwalk as "super plus size"

Velvet D'Amour, a New York native now based in Paris, tried to make it as a model when she was 21 years old but was deemed 'too fat' by agents at a petite 117lbs. But the five-foot-eight-inch blonde went on to get her big break in French Vogue and on the catwalk for John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier, aged 38, weighing 300lbs and a size 26.
Natural beauty: Velvet D'Amour photographed as a student weighing 117lbs - model agencies turned her away because she was 'too fat'
Velvet D'Amour on the catwalk for Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris Fashion Week in October 2006
D'Amour, 46, launched her diversity-focused women's publication, Vol Up 2, in February last year in a bid to encourage women to embrace their 'imperfections' and be proud of their bodies. It features plus-size as well as mainstream models. Through working in fashion - as a model, photographer and now magazine editor - D’Amour has many thoughts on the status of modeling and the changes she would like to see happen. She told
The women we hold as icons of beauty are not happy. And if they’re not happy, who is happy. All the images that are out in the media [are] the same - the 16-year old white girl who is totally emaciated.
Making a stand: Velvet D'Amour is paving the way in the world of plus-size modeling at size 26
'Older women are excluded . . . Different ethnicities are never shown.' She moved to Manhattan to study at the School of Visual Arts. With a great bone structure, slender figure and long curly hair, people would often mistake her for a model. IMG models showed interest in her - the same agency representing Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum, and Alek Wek - but D'Amour says she couldn't lose enough weight to be on their books. At the time she tipped the scales at a light 140lbs.
'At the time everyone was completely coked up and maybe 99lbs,' she added. 'So I went down to 117 and they said I was still too fat.'
Feeling rejected, she went on to focus on photography, spending a year studying in Italy under American photographer James White before returning to New York.
Keeping toned: While she refuses to obsess over dieting, D'Amour enjoys to swim regularly
D'Amour says when her weight shot up she felt ashamed about her body. But the more she worked with 'perfect-looking unhappy' models the more she came to terms with her larger frame. 'I started out photographing models and that's actually where my size acceptance came into play. I was shooting models and I was not feeling good about my body and I was shooting women who were the ideal of beauty. And I was thinking, "They're not happy with themselves". And that was a huge revelation. It was highly ironic that I was getting signed at 300 lbs!I considered it a personal victory for all the struggles that I went through to accept my body. That here I was with these ideals of feminine beauty and they hated their bodies. Now if these women who are the ideals of feminine beauty of our society hate their bodies, then what exactly is going on?' When the first French plus-size modleing agency opened in Paris, Agence Plus, D’Amour approached them about being a photographer. 'I showed them my [work] so they’d get a feel for my talent, but I also included photos of myself so they could see I was a plus-size woman, and they said, "Well, we want to sign YOU."
Courtsey of Velvet D'Amour
She made headlines after appearing as a plus-size model in Jean-Paul Gaultier's Paris Fashion Week show in October 2006. She also made a catwalk appearance in John Galliano's runway presentation entitled 'Everybody is Beautiful' the same season, scoring her a spot in French Vogue shot by photographer Nick Knight. A keen performer, the same year she landed the lead role in Avida, a French dark comedy, and later participated in the third season of France's popular reality TV show, Celebrity Farm. Critics have accused D'Amour of 'promoting obesity' but she insists she is healthy and has no high blood pressure or cholesterol problems. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she says she does not abuse drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.
She concludes on her blog: '
"For those who spend their nights up wringing their hands together, sick with worry over my health, there are so many examples of unhealthy models and celebrities. Sadly some aren’t just unhealthy, but actually dead, and yet none are banned from the media. So many women suffer from poor body image, wake each day to loathe their image in the mirror, do you sincerely believe that by pretending fat people don’t exist somehow changes this phenomenon for the better?! We do exist, we always have and we always will, there will always be a fatty somewhere in this vast world. If there is any shred of sincerity in your feigned concern over a fat person’s health, then instead of mocking us when we do get to the gym, or track, or waddle our way into a pool, take a second to encourage someone to better health.
'At the end of the day, the true beauty we will all be left with isn’t cloaked in Dior or Lanvin, it’s the simple acts of kindness which have made a difference in the lives of others, which no cellulite or wrinkle can ever erase.'  
To me it seems there is a lot at play here. While I want to applaud her for being comfortable in her own skin, I worry that she is portraying an equally unhealthy message as her emaciated counter-parts. It is not healthy to be anorexic, bulimic, underweight or to be doing drugs - that goes without saying. Even though D'Amour insists she is healthy and has no high blood pressure or cholesterol problems - that doesn't make her healthy either. There is endless controversy around the 'real' women behind heavily retouched images, but there is no lack of photoshopping going on in these images either, and it is definitely not to make her seem impossibly thin. One thing I believe we can all agree upon is we will never have an ideal role model of health and fitness in the limelight - largely because we will work tirelessly to find any possible flaws. But moreover, the entire movement for the fashion industry to stray away from unrealistic body types on the slim end is to discourage unhealthy behaviour. Promoting obesity, not size acceptance, promotes unhealthy behaviour as well - just on the other end of the spectrum. Stay healthy with a balanced LIFESTYLE. That's what BodyRock is all about and we're here to help. Bring your training and results to the next level by enjoying the right foods with us and see what a difference eating to support your fitness goals can achieve. Click here to check out our nutrition guide and get the results you WANT and DESERVE.

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