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Curvy Expo, Mississauga May 14th, 2016 Discount tickets and Giveaways

Ever look through a magazine, love the look, but feel like, fashion does not cater to the majority of women who hunt for pieces in size 12  and up? Instead of accepting this long standing disassociation between fashion’s offerings and its unlimited market potential, Curvy Expo being held in Mississauga, Ontario, will take the mystery out of fuller figure shopping by hosting curvy-body conscious retailers, all under one roof.

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Meghan Bradley, a top 10 plus size Canadian model, spokesperson, and “fashion for all” advocate is the illustrious director. She is the brainchild behind Curvy Expo happening on May 14th, 2016, from 10:00am to 6:00pm, at the International Centre, Entrance 4, 6900 Airport Road, Mississauga. Her television appearances and interviews to promote this pride in being “the best you at any size” has stirred the media  and proud women to join in this movement towards a healthier, more positive outlook on one’s appearance and importance in society. A professional, fun, fashion forward image is what we all crave. We all want to project our best self, to reflect how good we feel on the inside.

To save money on your entrance fee ticket, go to Eventbrite.ca and find Curvy Expo. When you buy your ticket, type in ADDITC and receive $4.00 off the $27.00 ticket price at the door. There are some ticket giveaways and contests as well which you can follow on the facebook page aptly named, Curvy Expo.

For years, I have had the good fortune to be a plus size model myself and worked many times with Meghan who is a wonderful, enthusiastic, beauty whose success hinges on the fact that she radiates positivity and enjoys empowering women in every project she touches. My spellcheck reveals that positivity is not a word, but that is the only way I can truly describe her, other than someone who is down to earth, real, and a visionary when it comes to this brilliant idea of Curvy Expo. It is my privilege to be a part of this wonderful, evolving movement, so, come say hello to me and sign up for great giveaways at the Curvy Expo booth!

I have long craved fashion shows where you can actually buy what you just saw shown on the runway. The runway shows being held at 12:00 noon and 4:00pm are a great way to see many looks on body types that reflect our own. I have modeled in individual stores where appetizers and drinks were served, and customers were invited to a runway show and shopped immediately afterwards which is a wonderful, intimate, personalized shopping experience. But Curvy Expo is a fast track, short cut to all the fashion Meghan could muster under one roof, and believe me, an even more efficient way to shop.

Be sure to check out Dare Magazine https://issuu.com/daremagazinecanada/docs/dare_spring2016 which Meghan contributes to regularly and will be part of Curvy Expo. The articles and fashion shoots are very inspiring!

Retailers benefit because I personally love to mix and match from different stores, different designers, different price points, to make the look my own. As far as retailers are concerned, I believe this type of shopping experience where we all get together and celebrate our curves and discover ways to combine jewelry, makeup, undergarments, casual, formal, and every day pieces to express our relevance and presence in society is filling a much needed gap in the market.

Liis Windischmann, will also offer her expertise as a fellow plus size model and body love fan of every type of woman at 1:30pm. She too, is an inspiration and successful blogger with unique challenges that never get her down, they only push her to be even more amazing on her blog, Liis on Life. I am equally proud to have modeled with Meghan and Liis in catalogues, magazines and the runways for many of the retailers featured at Curvy Expo. You can say, it will be a bit of a reunion of a plus size movement we have moved with, became passionate about, and want to empower other women to follow suit.

I have had the privilege of modelling for several of the forward thinking retailers that will have clothes available to purchase at Curvy Expo, right on the spot. Pennington’s has been a great account over the years, always treating the customers to fashion shows, and hiring plus size models such as myself for major campaigns, posters, ads and changing with the times to embrace different styles. Two other major players I have modeled for are Addition-Elle and ToniPlus.

I remember a campaign I did where Pennington’s hired me for the whole day, which was a big deal in the plus size booking world at the time, and I had baked banana bread for the shoot. When they passed out menus to order lunch for everyone, I was amazed. It was a pleasure to work with the whole team. No shoot can be successful without a great hair and makeup artist, a fashion stylist, a vision for the shoot, an assistant photographer, great lighting, creative directors and a great rapport between model and photographer.

I loved what the makeup and hair artist, Paul Venoit, had created, when I looked in the mirror. I loved the tailored suits and casual jeans. The enthusiasm and the support from the team helped boost my confidence and ability to perform on camera. I felt like an actress, with a role, to show how the clothes made me feel, convey an air of friendly confidence, I felt empowered and I wanted to make the shoot worth the client’s while. When the posters came out in the store windows, they were larger than life, almost the entire height of the store window! The look was soft, romantic, with a muted, almost Monet background.

MXM, which I love, one of many of the fashion lines you can find in Pennington’s, used to be considered the younger, edgier line of clothing, but many of us enjoy the edgy style, regardless of age. Thank you Pennington’s for having shopping carts which more retailers should provide so we can sling our coat and purse and pile a few things in, rather than getting frustrated trying to carry everything around the store. Now there are so many more celebrities coming up with their own lines of clothing under major Canadian retailers which I am really impressed with! Check out Melissa McCarthy’s line now at Pennington’s.

Addition-Elle will always hold a special place on my first modelling composite card and in my heart. I traveled to Montreal, a fashion mecca in itself, for several shoots for this plus size retail pioneer. It was probably the first time ever, that a plus size model was featured in a campaign with a male model. What a concept! A handsome french male model was handpicked for the shoot, and our pictures were published in newspapers, ensemble! Formidable, avant guarde, and ahead of its time.

On the other hand, so normal! It’s just that, pairing a plus size female model with a male model had never been done before, not to my knowledge anyway. I was nervous, and wanted to do my very best to represent plus size customers, that were having fun, looking good, and living life to their fullest. There was a romantic air about the photos, shot along an ornate staircase, in a theatre, and one shot, from a very high ladder, offering a bird’s eye view of the two of us. The architecture of Montreal’s buildings in the background really gave the pictures a European flare.

My work with Addition-Elle was dreamy, exciting, forward thinking and creative. I will tell you a little secret, the best part of these shoots is getting your hair and  makeup done. Once these artists reinvent you, the confidence just oozes out and boosts your ability to express a sense of fashion satisfaction that is hard to describe. You walk taller, no matter what your height, and there is something in the way that you move in front of the camera which translates into a very special feeling you get while wearing fabulous outfits.

ToniPlus was also an incredible experience where I had the chance to meet visionary Toni herself and also to work with triple threat makeup, hair and photographic artist Korby Banner. ToniPlus has always offered its customers a sophisticated, classic, tailored silhouette. The day shoot gave me some of the best editorial shots I ever showcased in my portfolio. I had just changed my hair to a bob, and my booker at the time failed to convey the message to refresh my highlights. Korby came to the rescue with his chocolate mouse and creative stylings. I felt like a million dollars after he had finished my makeup and hair.

The movie star lighting, the carefully chosen clothes were elegant and with Korby’s guidance my mood  was transformed to one of mystery. Korby said he picked me because of the way I moved during the audition, and I am so grateful for that. I certainly felt wonderful during the shoot, and the pictures turned out very artistic. I remember Liis buying a full length, chic, tailored black coat from ToniPlus for a meeting she had with executives in New York for a pilot show to mentor young modelling hopefuls learning the craft of runway. These pieces stand the test of time, so artfully tailored.

Although I have proudly worked as a plus size model in the Toronto area, Chicago and New York, I certainly am interested in each new collection and fresh new take Canada has to offer as a leader in the plus size fashion market.  I have had the benefit of shopping curvy in Europe, where some countries acknowledge the existence of women size 14 and up, while others are in the dark ages, unwilling to cater to a segment of the population which is more than just niche. Having asked women all over the world deserving of fashion selection in their size, I learned that some have adjusting sewing patterns to make the clothes themselves. Model or not, every woman can look their best by feeling their best, no matter what their size. I know very well that clothes that are a reflection of my personal taste and fit well can give me such a motivational boost and inspire me to enjoy every day.

I am a big fan of all sizes getting a variety of fashion to create a look that is unique. The only way to do this, is for plus size fashion to reflect a variety of designer duds, interesting and ethnic accessories and modern yet comfortable shoes. Kudos to Canada, ever the salad bowl, offering up the  freedom to choose from an ever widening selection of fashion for the majority. I am also excited to discover the newest and latest of retailers to see what interesting pieces I can add to my wardrobe. I am so grateful for these retail pioneers identifying a still not completely tapped market and catering to curvy women like myself. For more information, visit http://www.curvyexpo.com and check out their show guide for a list of sponsors, show times, special guests, and mingle with fashion bloggers and plus size models. Note to all the lovely ladies out there, you do not have to be a plus size model to accomplish the “look” of a model. Don’t let anything stop you from applying any tips and tricks of the trade right after the show.

Shop all in one spot for clothes and accessories and get makeup tips from Cityline guest makeup expert Tracy Peart slotting in at 10:30am, so come early! Two fashion shows at 12:00 noon and 4:00pm are not to be missed. Lynn Spence celebrity stylist,  and enthusiastic commentator will share the latest in fashion trends. Movers and shakers in the fashion industry can pay close attention to the buying power, the desire for great style and the beautiful women that will attend and shop with their mothers, daughters, sisters and friends at this history making event. Now let’s celebrate our curvy womanhood! YAAY!DSC02317

 

 

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Modelling Again, Never Say Never

Paula Erskine Rediscovers the Catwalk (third from the left)

Paula Erskine Rediscovers the Catwalk (third from the right)

The stars seemed to be aligned as door after door opened to bring me surprisingly back into the modelling arena again. Alexis Lagos, of http://www.lacedupimagery.com had bought me a ticket to a fashion show being held last fall in downtown Burlington. Earlier that day, I had visited the Burlington Arts Centre to assess the same room for a completely unrelated event. There, I spotted co-owner of Vogue models Sandie. I re-introduce myself, but because there were very few plus size models that they had employed, I was delighted that she remembered me. After telling her about my career as a flight attendant, she asked me, “Why don’t you come back?” Reluctantly, I said, I don’t have time. Don’t you have anyone? She said, “she has tattoos!” We both scoffed at this. When I was with agencies Sherrida (possibly the best agency I have ever worked for, and at the perfect time in my career) in Toronto and Ford, I also moonlighted with some runway shows for then solo owner and model/actor Mike from Vogue. We had seen each other in waiting rooms at other gigs and I gave him my comp card (a composite card with head shot, fashion shots, and measurements).

I didn’t know how I could fit it into my flying schedule again. My seniority has become quite good by now, and I can choose longer layovers overseas and gather some per diem (money assigned for meals, but with a little budgeting, can be saved for shopping or paying bills). Flying had become a far better way to make a living than waiting three months for a modelling paycheck, working a few times each season, and watching a check reduced to series of agency deductions and fees. And I say this of some of the agencies I worked for, which never stopped deducting for mysterious, automatic re-orders of my composite card for $99 a pop, mysterious, unproveable long distance calls for “potential clients” in other cities that I never worked for, courier charges of same composite card to unknown U.S. clients, and obligatory self-produced video shoots that such agencies claimed was for U.S. clients and deducted $150 from each model’s paycheck times over 100 models. Let’s all do the math on that one since it happened about 3 times a year up until the year Ford, there I said it, closed it’s doors in Toronto, forever.

I worked for the same 10 clients for two decades. It is justifiable if one’s composite card was actually updated and completely different from year to year, if not sooner. But over and over, said agency re-ordered the same $99 for 50 cards every 3 months, sent to the same 10 clients, who knew me well. I say that not because I was “the best” in any way. It is just that out of 8 plus size models in Toronto, about 3 or 4 of us managed to find time for modelling bookings around our other jobs for many years. We had a reputation for being professional, punctual, hair and makeup ready, available, friendly, likable, and most importantly, we fit the sample sizes.

There were about 4 main studios producing most of the flyers and catalogues. And hiring us, were the fashion stylists. They knew our measurements matched the sample sizes and as long as the clients were happy, we got hired. We built relationships with these stylists and photographers. I was always friendly with the assistant photographers, who, never forgot when you took the time to chat and crack jokes as the test polaroid developed, and later, the digital test shot, before the shoot got rolling. Assistant photographers became lead photographers with which the base of a friendly relationship had been formed. But I have gone off on a tangent here, only to explain a bit about the inevitability of leaving the modelling world simply because it did not pay the bills.

Cut to this time, last year…after a 5 year absence from the modelling world…

Upon attending the downtown fashion show as a spectator, I was warmly greeted by Mike, owner of Vogue. Actually, Sandie must have mentioned that she had seen me, because there were hundreds in attendance as Mike collected the tickets for prizes. We watched the runway show, with music pumping, and marvelling at the models in their towering heels navigating steps, levels, and runway. Alexis asked me, “do you miss it?” And I had to say, that yes, I missed that live feedback you get from a runway stage with music setting that upbeat, “come on, why don’t you shop?” mood.

One month later, I got an email from Vogue. They had a job for me in January. They had gotten my email from the prize ballots. So I booked my days off from flying, and committed to two weekends of runway shows. Fridays were rehearsals and fittings for several retailers. I studied the choreography and lineup from a well organized sheet and made notes with a pen. It was a bit nerve wrecking. I was worried about walking in high heels and falling. I hadn’t walked in heels in 5 years because of foot issues, which have since subsided thanks to compression stockings and orthopedic shoes. I bought a metallic pair for a wedding that were suitable and perfect for the wedding themed shows. I had also picked up a patent nude pair of heels from Guess in The Bay on sale. After many years of modelling, one tends to buy shoes that one can invest in a model bag. This is always subtracted by how much the job is actually worth. I bought the shoes just months before knowing I would do the show. Yet how I buy shoes, always has that practical factor. Then, I invested in clear, industrial packing tape. And I packed those size 9 and 1/2s and taped my shoes in on the soles and back of the heel. I was apprehensive about tripping and/or stepping out of my shoes. The tape gave me confidence.

Bridal Hair Backview-Revisiting the Modelling Arena 2014

Bridal Hair Backview-Revisiting the Modelling Arena 2014

Saturday and Sunday of each weekend consisted of two shows in the afternoon. Hair and makeup was provided in the mid-morning and I couldn’t have been more delighted. One thing that I miss about modelling is getting my hair and makeup done. Lashes, pin curled up dos, air brushing foundation finishes were a highlight. The part I don’t miss is that the whole production took two entire weekends from morning to dinner time plus friday night to prepare. But in hindsight, I have no regrets. My outfits ranged from bride to bridesmaid to mother of the bride. I particularly fell in love with a teal gown from Mirella’s Boutique (Burlington) with encrusted jewels that flowed to the ground. I felt like I was in an haute couture gown built for me.

Feeling grateful for being given the opportunity to model the catwalk, I strutted, and gladly posed at the end of the runway to an appreciative audience. Here is what I didn’t expect. That after meditating for about 5 years now, I have in particular instances, felt absolutely blissful vibes in my meditation class, watching movies that appeal to my soul or spirit, and certain types of music written or played from the artist’s heart. It is like a rush or flow that feels like it is pouring out of me. And that is what happened on the stage those 4 days. Once my nerves subsided after the first show, I felt that rush inside that made me smile from the heart and soul. The music was helping me float down the stage. An electric violinist played Vivaldi on stage for the finale and I felt like this music was coursing through my veins. I was glowing from every nerve ending. It was so surprising for me to feel such joy while modelling. But I had got into the good habit of clearing my mind lately. I knew that meditation would help me to strut my stuff. I was so delighted that I was enjoying the whole process to such a heightened degree. I was beaming. Which for bridal wear, is probably a good thing.

I realized that I have always enjoyed the social aspect of building relationships in the modelling world. Modelling would not have been possible for me had I been anything less than a fairly proportioned, 5’9″, photogenic, comfortable in my skin, full figured model. A professional reputation, friendly personality and availability blessed me with longevity in the fashion industry. Upon revisiting the modelling catwalk, I was relieved that my taped feet did not fail me in my heels. The bonus of having gained some momentum spiritually, turned this privileged opportunity into an absolute pleasure to the core of my being.

Putting Self Respect on the Front Burner

 

Article by Paula Erskine
Photo of Paula Erskine by John Vanderschilden

Last summer,  I watched a reality modeling show in the England called something to the effect of “Models, Misfits and Mayhem.” Drama started to become a real creep show when two young teen-age, twin sisters got very upset at the prospect of wearing lingerie in a photo shoot. It was going to be a 40’s style calendar, but still the outfits left little to the imagination. The girls tried to refuse, but the head honchos running this modeling contest, (may the least dressed win?), were told that even though they were uncomfortable, they would not be able to refuse such a job.

They were told they were unrealistic, uncommitted and unprofessional. The twins decided to gracefully end their top model journey because they refused to participate in this photo shoot where they would be exposed. They were heavily criticized and cast out from the show. There was no attitude, but a quiet, firm no, delivered with grace to the judges. The girls were just so uncomfortable, and such innocents that they did not think it was worth winning the contest. Nobody, not one “mentor,” on the show recognized their innocence and nurtured it. They were only encouraged to “obey” this task.

Perhaps they looked like adults, and show co-ordinators wanted them to grow up fast and reveal themselves to break them in. The girls were upset and wanted nothing to do with exposing their bodies for the show or for fashion. Does everyone see what is wrong with this picture? What if this 14 year old was your daughter, your sister? Shouldn’t they be treated as such by all of society? Shouldn’t their innocence be protected and respected?

“Like Stars on Earth,” starring Aamir Khan, is an Indian movie that reveals how one teacher or mentor reflects the notion that all children should be nurtured and protected. (watch the trailer here “http://www.youtube.com/embed/DBg6HSMF9X8?rel=0“)

The quality of  innocence must be put on a pedestal. How many times have we learned wise words coming out of the mouths of children simply because they see the world unjaded, and without pretense? The twin girls of  “Models, Misfits and Mayhem” showed such gravity when finally deciding to leave the show quietly. They had their feet firmly planted even though everyone was telling them they were the ones that were wrong not to pose half-dressed. They knew they had a choice, and could not be manipulated.

This is how the media dictates that we must put self-respect on the back burner. From my personal experience as a plus size model, I can tell you that I was never given an ultimatum regarding the subject of lingerie modeling. Nobody told me I had to comply or lose my job. Models can set their own standards as actresses have always stipulated not to reveal too much of themselves onscreen. This is an accepted practice. Not everyone is suited for lingerie modeling because they do not fit the sample sizes or they don’t have the right proportions. I was lucky because when I chose to model lingerie, the plus size pieces were conservative and shot for conservative catalogues. I had trustworthy people around me. We knew we were paving out new territory and I had agreed to it before hand. I was very interested in pushing real size images into the media mainstream and was proud to be part of the changing face of fashion. I wanted women to know I was proud of my voluptuous figure and that they could buy these items in many stores. But I also had the choice to tell my agent what I would, and would not do. I have refused, for example, to model lingerie and bathing suits on television without a proper cover up. At the time, there were few, if any, media images featuring plus size models  because fashion for us was designated to “oversized” items that were boxy, girdles, or business suits. When you don’t see yourself represented in the media, you can’t sew with two left hands, and all around you are people size 12 and up, then something’s gotta give. So the success of the first bold full figure marketing campaigns had “average and up” size women breathing sighs of  relief.

An agent works for the model and makes a commission, not the other way around. Once the agent knows the model’s limits, they can work within it. To start, don’t showcase on your composite card (a model’s business card with sample photos) what you’re not willing to wear for a client. A model who is specializing in lingerie likely is providing her measurements, a professional sample photo and is only introduced via the agent to a trusted client. What you don’t pose in, won’t come back to haunt you.

If you are uncomfortable, you can protect yourself by not providing such a photo in the first place. Unease can signal a warning that it is going against your core beliefs on some level, so listen and heed your own principles. This is never a deal-breaker. There are plenty of other things to model fully clothed. If a model does not want to pose in fur, bathing suits, lingerie, audition for seedy ads or work out of the country, one can simply say no thank you from the get-go.

 So if anyone in this modern society does not support a young girl’s right not to expose herself, to listen to her gut extinct, to refuse what makes her queasy and what attacks his/her innocence, then one should question what is the basis for their morality? Is it what the media or colleagues tells us it is? Are we going to swing in any direction the wind blows us, or are we going to stand our ground and have some limits that protect us? Innocence exists to protect what is so special in every human being. And how young or old does that innocent have to be for us to see the point? I have witnessed innocence in my husband’s love for nature, a senior citizen’s fight to protect their independence, a rebelling teen-ager finding his/her way in the world or  a passenger conquering their fear of flying. It is the innocence that gives us the power of wisdom to make choices based on the  innate boundaries that protect us. Read more about the root energy centre’s qualities and the innate guru principle we have within us at www.free-meditation.ca.

What if she were 21,14, 10 or 4…would it be ok to pose half naked in suggestively sexual lingerie? Let’s face it, lingerie is linked to sex. When children pose in clothes created to arouse men it does not evolve mankind in any way and actually numbs us to what should be preserved. It is innately unnatural to sexualize children. And doesn’t the lingerie on an innocent child sexualize the child to the media and spoil our perception?

Modernity should not be confused with lack of personal boundaries. I applaud these young, innocent, 14 year old girls for sticking together and refusing, politely, to pose in sexy lingerie. They weighed the pros and cons and risked the loss of a major modeling contract offered through the TV show. A pat on the backs to their parents who instilled something that stuck. A bunch of circus agents and judges couldn’t lure, convince or destroy their principles. Dignity won.

Personality has everything to do with being a successful model, and these girls had a whole lot of good character. It is these twin girls that are the heroes, and this sham of a show, which encourages models who want to “make it big” to obey their every command for the sake of ratings. How was the balance of mentors represented? Nobody came forward to tell them they had a choice! There were no parental type figures or anyone who could provide another point of view. It is complete propaganda not to offer more than one point of view, or more than one way of presenting a story. This is the only way to start to know the unbiased truth. Tainted truth is harmful to our community and creates a false sense of what is nourishing for the soul and spirit.

If you are grooming young girls to obey everything a client tells them to do, are you not setting them up to be manipulated, exposed and put the needs of others above their own sense of boundaries? There’s a reason for stage moms with a conscience. Someone has to represent vulnerable young people and give them an alternate point of view of the consequences. If we don’t protect the innocent then we are also predators with a perverse agenda. Money and fame may get the headlines, but are they society’s gurus? These girls should be celebrated for shining a light on their inner principles and proving their worth is not equated with following the crowd into the mud. Examples of such good character should be the norm and provide models for self-esteem, not fame and fortune.

I wonder how many other viewers saw the blatant disregard for the young teenagers’ welfare?  The girls could not be bought. And frankly, they could be offered a modeling contract anyway by a legitimate agency and have their lawyer advocate their terms. Or simply outline their preferences to their agent to avoid interviewing or accepting such jobs. Nurturing self-esteem of each individual influences our communities like an ever-widening ripple in the water.

Innate limitations exist within each of us to protect us from danger and keep the collective consciousness on the right track towards evolution (www.free-meditation.ca). Inner growth is the real success and the toolbox we need to cope with life’s challenges. These are not the limits associated with consumerism. If we compare ourselves to celebrities or our neighbor, we will never be satisfied. If marketing creates the need for us to have a Prada purse, then it continues to create new materialistic needs that have us shopping insatiably. These wise boundaries actually create a freedom to navigate through the muddy, marketing manipulations that are targeted to destroy our happiness. It is a protective parameter that maintains balance and inner peace.

What is free-thinking about spoon fed propaganda about how to judge, how to think, how to criticize? Is it not divisive to “judge” models, to find faults in them physically and have nice girls pitted against each other and encouraged to war with words? I have a friend who was offered a show and asked to be a bitch to young girls trying to model and she simply refused to do it. Not only has it been done, it is not the message she wanted to convey. She really wanted to be the role of a nurturing mentor.  She fulfils her desire to mentor with her co-ownership of  an agency and writing.

To paraphrase Maria Shriver on the Oprah show, it is the parent’s job (or mentor) to build up the self esteem of children as much as possible because society will do what they can to chip away at it. So let’s be the society that protects each other with the built in caring chip we have for a sibling or a child. Let’s recognize that the quality of innocence we are trying to defend may be hidden in an adult frame of any age. If we can’t have that angle reflected in the media right now, then let’s at least express another point of view that is rooted in common sense. Fully clothed, we can build on that little voice inside of us that has the right to go with our gut and stand up to this kind of media oppression. Today’s role models can influence the self-esteem of others by celebrating those that collectively put our own self respect back on the front burner, where it belongs.

Skiing The Slippery Modelling Slope

The truth is that I was pigeon-toed. To remedy my abnormality I was prescribed blue suede shoes with a leather strap attaching them at the back so my feet pointed outward. As I hopped around the house every evening and slept in them, my knees ached. I hated sleeping in them, as I could only sleep on my back, and longed to turn over. At some point every night, I kicked them off from agony. When my feet grew, toe holes were cut for me to poke through. Every time they got remotely comfortable, and I use that term loosely, the screws situated at each heel were tightened with precision. I was sure that I had never seen anyone walking like a duck in real life, so why was I doomed to sleep in these suede life-suckers?

To help me out, my parents enrolled me in Verna Williams school of modelling. Her studio was a mirrored runway in the basement that ended in a three way mirror. I was too young to make notes in my binder so Verna made notes of each pivot, with detailed instructions, hoping to improve my gait.

After dinner, my father would open the binder, and read out all the instructions as I walked balancing a book on my head from one end of our basement bungalow to another. One foot in front of the other (sans suedes), pivot, shoulders back, don’t drop the book, turn, walk, chin up, and pose. It felt dutiful and soldier-esque. I think that I have always been self conscious about my walk since I went from Pigeon-toed, to duck-toed, to book balancing, to hip slinging one foot right in front of the other.

In my still pre-teen years, I hit one more modelling school aptly name X-Plosion. By this time, I had full on braces, this time, on my teeth. I learned to swing my hips to “Boogie Woogie Woogie Woogie Dancing Shoes…Keep me dancing all night…” It was a little fast tempo but it was funky. Ever since then, I cannot walk in any mall or lobby or plane without timing each step to the beat of the music. I also learned to count my poses from head to toe and sway side to side to hit all the possible photographic angles. I have no idea what my brace face was doing. I was too busy counting the poses, all 25 of them. You know, showcase the earrings, point at the necklace daintily, the fingers through the hair move, the flip your collar up move. This was followed by the touch the buttons move, cross the arms, cross one arm, hand on the hip, on both hips, on no hips, hands folded, hands behind the back move. Next was the look at your watch move, or look in the distance with a salute move. All the while shifting my weight on the left leg, then the right, like I was skiing a slippery modelling slope. I have to say, it helped me out of some pose blocks when I started my plus size modelling career at 19.

Feet and teeth braces off, I answered an ad in the paper for models size 12 and up. I thought, oh great, I think I can do that. My dad took some good  photos of me in exaggerated leaning poses with way too much makeup and hairspray and I brought them in to my interview with an agency in Toronto. They arranged my first photo shoot at my expense. I paid $600 for yet another course. Professional makeup, lighting, photography and some gentle direction landed me some surprisingly decent photos.

The first “go see” I had was Sears Catalogue. I lied as per agency instructions and told them I was 23 instead of 20. I had my first, awkward photo shoot. I brought my neutral shoes and hose in a grocery bag. I smiled big for that camera.  I threw my head back with imagined confidence and chutzpa. I stood far and wide with hands boldly on my hips. I had to do my own hair and makeup (way too much teasing and poof from hair spray, but it was the 90’s after all).

The next week, the entire photo crew walked into Swiss Chalet restaurant while I was waitressing. There I was in my puffy swiss blouse, red-bibbed apron, spice nylons and white deck shoes. I took great pains to avoid their section at all costs, hiding my face, slipping off to the kitchen, back towards them at all times. They greeted me on the way out at the cashier bar, by name. I was mortified. But then, they smiled warmly and said, “By the way, Sears like you.” My face was flushed with embarrassment. Later I learned that most models do have jobs outside of modelling, often in the restaurant business and I did not have to pretend that I am making ends meet simply from my illustrious modelling career, and particularly, after one photo shoot with Sears Department Stores.

But every time I hear the Michael Bolton sing “put on my blue suede shoes and I…I boarded the plane….” I think of how far I’ve come. From wearing torturous blue-suede shoes with horrible screws to keep my knees from venturing inward…to walking the basement balancing a book on my head…to starting a plus size modelling career at 19 in Toronto… segwaying into an airline career 8 years later, where I board a plane numerous times per month. I am not sure they correct “pigeon toed” children the same way these days. I have often seen models on the red carpet posing as such to show off their figures. But in my song, the blue suede shoes are a bittersweet memory. And if that is what it took to get me from there to here, then, I am very grateful for walking that path. For that is what it took for me to get from there, to here.

Caught on Jazz You Tube Video-A Blast From My Past

I appear halfway through this Jazz video by John Stetch filmed in Halton hills. I was wondering where I put that darn vcr tape and when am I going to convert it for old time’s sake, when I thought, “hey, maybe it’s on you tube.” I was hired through a friend and it was a great opportunity to for a few minutes of fame. We did a few fun projects together in film! This was filmed in 1995. The wardrobe? It was a Tristan black dress in a stretchy, cottony, jersey material that has a simple ribbon crossover detail at the front that I cannot bring myself to give away. The dress is in almost perfect condition until now, no pilling, and I wore it upteen times! I was teased for wearing it almost every week! But nothing compared to that dress. Black tall boots were my trademark. I still like how boots can give a feminine shape some edge. Blast from the past. Very glad someone uploaded the video to you tube and that I found it after all these years. Shortly after the video was shot, John Stetch the Jazz pianist went on to play in New York.

Updating Portfolio on Miami Beach

I travelled with my friend Liis to Miami where we had pre-booked two different photographers for a two day photo shoot blitz to update our portfolios. It was great to finally get more outdoor shots in my portfolio. Most of my photographs had been in-studio with no natural lighting or setting. This trip was also a chance to bond with Liis, as we truly have always been two women who loved to exchange ideas and get inspired by each other and the world around us. This day felt very inspiring for me. I had shopped the day before in The Gap and found some very pastel and summery clothing that I would not normally find in Toronto at the time. I liked how Gap had created a palette to suit the pastels of Miami’s architecture.

Here I wore a sweater that I purchased in a department store in Poland when I was there on layover as a flight attendant. The brand name was Wallis which I now know can be found in stores across the United Kingdom. Wallis is still one of my favourite brands that carries larger sizes and doesn’t compromise style and detail. When it came to buying clothes to feature in my portfolio, I considered the clothes an investment in my wardrobe. This sweater was not cheap, but in this case, I got what I paid for. I wore it for about 10 years and always enjoyed it. I gave it to my mother in law when she visited from Russia and it was well received. It was just the right shade of taupy beige and I always wore a matching beige bra or camisole underneath to keep the lines clean. My mother instilled in me since my childhood that linen pants always look rich and have a fine quality. Plus they feel cool in the summer and look classy. I think they look very summery in this photo.

Liis and I, shooting the breeze

Liis and I, shooting the breeze

I was pleasantly surprised when I got the photos back and had lots of shots to choose from. I did not employ a stylist. I had done a major shopping spree in Scotland during a layover and had alot of good pieces to choose from. I have learned no stylist had more access to a wider variety of clothes as myself. I have made some mistakes, but when I learned to trust myself and get creative, I am my own best stylist. Plus I am not alone on set or on the beach. The photographer, makeup artist, and my colleague all put their creative input into the look. Clean and simple. Accessories are the first thing that date any photo, so I kept it clean.

Paula and Liis pose off in Miami after dark

Paula and Liis pose off in Miami after dark

It was getting late on the beach, but a very pregnant, scandinavian photographer was robustly taking photos and made me feel so good. Liis and I took turns as we changed outfits and had our makeup and hair touched up. The bonus was that the photographer had worked with plus size models before. So she had experience and knew how to make  voluptuous women look wunderbar in a photo and feel great! A successful photo shoot includes excellent hair and makeup, great lighting, chemistry with the photographer, lots of laughs, a great wardrobe and a bit of magic. We loved her zest for life and enthusiasm. We have always loved women who empowered each other. Together, we can all move mountains!

Modelling Bridal Wear for Curvy Women

Modelling Bridal Wear for Curvy Women

This photo shoot was featured in Wedding Bells Magazine in 1992. I was living and working in Chicago for the summer when I was hired for this job in Toronto. The day before, I made the mistake of walking all day long (about 8 hours) in the sun along the lakeshore just enjoying the exercise and typical friendliness of Chicago residents. I got quite red all over which was a big mistake on my part. I took the train from Chicago to Toronto in time for the shoot. I arrived at the shoot but was quite red to which the makeup artist responded that it is almost impossible to disguise a burn (it was mostly my shoulders and chest). The makeup artist was also a brilliant hairstylist but his name escapes me. He did his best, and the sepia coloured film certainly helped disguise the burn, and perhaps create a dreamy mood.

When I saw the backdrop that had been setup for the shoot I was really inspired. It looked like a painted theatre backstage with an antique wood ladder, some large coils of rope, and some movie star lights in the background. The photographer was very in tune with me and established a rapport with me onset. I felt like a princess after the hair and makeup was done. Although this was considered to be an editorial shoot for Wedding Bells Magazine, it did not typically pay alot (about $250 for the day, less 20% agency commission, less the train fare from Chicago to Toronto). The trade off is beautiful photos for my portfolio that I did not have to pay a top makeup and hair artist, and top photographer to make me look as I did. The exposure to many more clients was great for me.

Several years later, I worked with a makeup artist, Paul Venoit, for Pennington’s who had known and worked with me for about 10 years by then. He was shocked to see these photos in my portfolio. He said, “That’s you?! I didn’t recognize you! Do you know how many women walked into my salon with this page torn out of the magazine saying, I want my hair just like this?” Here is Paul in Playa Del Carmen Mexico, where we were meant to meet again. After 18 years of bumping into each other, he definately recognized me that time. You can also find him on past episodes of “Look Like A Star.” They take an “ordinary” girl, and I use this term loosely, who resembles a celebrity and make her over for a red carpet photo shoot in studio. Proudly Canadian show, I must say. My bathing suit is from Marks And Spencer bought in England with a matching robe.

Celebrity Makeup Artist Paul Venoit and former Plus Size model Paula Erskine in Playa Del Carmen circa 2008. It's a small world after all. This picture taken following our humble beginnings working for catalogues, magazines, and major clients together in Toronto, Canada.

Celebrity Makeup Artist Paul Venoit and former Plus Size model Paula Erskine in Playa Del Carmen circa 2008. It’s a small world after all. This picture taken following our humble beginnings working for catalogues, magazines, and major clients together in Toronto, Canada.