Plus size modeling is on the upswing as the fashion industry slowly comes to the realization that that average American woman is not stick thin. This trend made Liris Crosse one of the most sought-after African-American plus size models. Funny thing is when she entered the business she had no idea what plus size modeling was.
Hailing from Baltimore, Crosse fulfilled her childhood dream of modeling, spending a long portion of her 10-plus year career at Wilhelmina Models. She has modeled on the catwalk at the various Fashion Weeks and appeared in spreads for Essence, Glamour, Seventeen, YM, Girl, Honey, XXL, The Source, and Black Elegance magazines. She has appeared in campaigns for Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart, Pelle Pelle, Karl Kani and Davouchi. She has even done music videos with acts from 98 Degrees to Jennifer Lopez and Jay Z.
In television and film, she’s added commercials for Charles Schwab and Amtrak, appearances on MTV Jams and BET’s 106&Park, and The Best Man and John Singleton’s Baby Boy to her portfolio. And Liris’ starring role in the indie film Abidjan, which was shot in Africa, toured the film festival circuit and has garnered seven awards.
Now Crosse, 32, is also looking to develop her brand with a fashion line and TV show in the works. She has already created the Liris Crosse Life Of A Working Model BootCamp, which launched last year. She’s also gearing up for “Full Figured Fashion Week.”
MadameNoire: How did you get started as a plus size model?
Liris Crosse: Even as a young girl I knew I wanted to model. I would follow Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and I just knew that was what I wanted to be.
My my dad was running for Congress in Baltimore and a photographer came to our house to take his photo and he also took my photo and said I should model. I was hooked. I’d put my mom’s towel on my head and act like I was walking down the runway.
Then one day I heard about Model Search America on the radio and I went. I got four call backs from places like Seventeen magazine, Zoli Models, and Elite Models. But they all wanted me to lose weight. I was into sports and I was like lose weight where?! But I did lose weight and I went back to Model Search America again, but this time I only got one call back. This didn’t discourage me. In fact it made me want to try harder.
MN: So when did you’d decide to go pro?
LC: I was all set to go to college but I still had a major itch to model. So I went to my parents and asked them if I could move to New York and just try modeling for one year. When they saw how serious I was, they let me and I’ve never looked back.
I went to Wilhelmina Models and they send me to a division for 10-20 size models; they now call the department Curves. But I stayed with them for more than a decade. I am now signed to Dorothy Combs in the U.S. and Hughes Models in the UK…I would love to continue to develop my brand and branch off into other areas, fashion, film, anything that will complement my brand.
MN: What sort of things are you venturing into?
LC: I am developing my own online boutique, I have been acting in films and TV, and my model boot camp just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Through the boot camp I have been able to help a couple of hundred of women and some have signed on to agencies and have walked in runway shows. I am really proud of that.
I am also working on a TV project.I can’t say much only that it will be a great thing for curvy women everywhere.
MN: Do you think the fashion industry is becoming more accepting of curvy models?
LC: I think there has been a surge in the plus size model industry in the last couple of years. The new generation is not feeding into the stereotype that we all need to look one way. I think the younger generation is embracing diversity.
MN: What is next for you?
LC: I am gearing up for Fall Fashion Week. I am returning to the cat walk. The last time I walked was in 2013 and I am ready to KILL the runway again. I don’t know which designers I will be walking for, but I love Fashion Week. It’s like the Super Bowl for fashion!
MN: What will you tell others who might not make the cut but love the industry?
LC: I am an entrepreneur, so even though I model I am always thinking of other ways to build my brand. And I would tell others to think outside of the box as well. You may not model, but you can be a fashion blogger, a stylist, a makeup artist, photographer, a plus size advocate. It is an open arena, you just have to explore.