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Tess Holliday: Model To Watch

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Lasell chapter.

If you are looking for a strong, independent woman to look up to, this might be her. Tess Holliday, age 32, is an American plus-size model trying to end body-shaming across the globe. The model has started the campaign #effyourbeautystandards, a campaign boasting body positivity. The model also recently released a book titled The Not So Subtle Art of Being a Fat Girl. In this book, Holliday shares her personal story offering inspiration and tips for anyone struggling with body image. The book also helps the readers learn to accept who they are and embrace their power and beauty.  

Born Ryann Maegan Hoven in Laurel, Miss., Holliday did not have an easy upbringing. Holliday’s mother left her father at a young age and moved around a lot; Holliday stated to have moved 40 times before the age of 10. In June of 1995, Holliday’s mother was shot in the head twice by her fiance, leaving her paralyzed and disabled. Holliday and her family then moved back to Mississippi to live in her grandparent’s home while her mother recovered. Holliday was often bullied throughout middle school and high school for her weight, pale skin, and for having a paralyzed mother. She was also bullied for living in a trailer in her grandparent’s backyard. At the age of 17, Holliday dropped out of high school on the first day of junior year after receiving death threats and earned her GED instead. After getting her GED, Holliday moved to Seattle and worked as a makeup artist, hairstylist, and creative director for fashion shows.

Holliday went to her first audition at the age of 15. Holliday was 5’3 and a size 16. Although she was at a casting call for plus-size models, Holliday was told that she would be lucky if she ever got a call back because she was too short and too big.

At the age of 20, Holliday moved back to Mississippi and gave birth to her first son, Rilee. After Hurricane Katrina, Holliday returned to Seattle before moving to Los Angeles in 2010. She gained confidence while living in Los Angeles and became a professional model, working for Torrid, while being a receptionist at a dentist office. In June of 2011, A&E offered Holliday a lead role for the television series Heavy. Holliday then started to get featured on fashion blogs and has shot a campaign with Benefit Cosmetics, worked with David LaChapelle, and was featured in Vogue Italia and Nylon Magazine. Holliday posed naked for the first time in 2012, something she found very empowering.

Finally, in 2014, Holliday quit her job as a receptionist to model full time. That year, Holliday was featured in a body positive video called “#everyBODYisflawless”. In January of 2015, Holliday was signed to Milk Model Management, becoming the first model of her height and weight to be signed to a mainstream modeling agency. Holliday is above a size 20. That March, Holliday became the first model above a size 18 to model for Monif Clarke’s clothing line modeling swimsuits for their new line of swimsuits size 14-24. She has starred in H&M’s sustainable fashion campaign. That May, Holliday was featured on the cover of People.

Since being signed to Milk, Holliday’s career has grown dramatically. She is the face of many plus-size campaigns and has collaborated with brands to release capsule-collections. Though Holliday’s mother is supportive of her modeling career, her father criticizes her. Her father did not believe she would be able to make it as a model because of her weight. Holliday severed ties with her father and has not spoken to him since 2013.   

Holliday describes herself as a “body-positive activist”. Holliday embraces the word ‘fat’ and advocates men and women should be able to eat as they want without being socially ostracized. Holliday started the #effyourbeautystandards movement on Instagram in 2013, a movement that shows women they do not have to be a certain size to love their body (big or small) and that their size should not indicate their fashion choices. In 2014, Holliday went on television to spread her message, being interviewed by Meredith Vieira and Channel 4 News. She also appeared in a documentary about changing beauty standards and the evolving plus-size fashion.  In 2015, Holliday hired six specialists to help her get her message out and her campaign grew more followers.

In 2012, Holliday met her now-husband, Nick Holliday, on Tumblr. In July 5, 2014, Tess and Nick got engaged and wed on the same date one year later. The two welcomed their first child together, Bowie (named after David Bowie) in June of 2016. Holliday lives with her husband, her two sons, and her mother. She is 5’5 and 280 pounds, has numerous tattoos all over her body, including depictions of Hello Kitty, Miss Piggy, Marilyn Monroe, and Dolly Parton, and additionally, Holliday has her septum pierced.

Despite her weight, Holliday works out with a personal trainer four times a week. Holliday does not diet, she does not believe it gives better results than exercise. Critics of Holliday say that she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, but she always claps back, stating she works out and is perfectly healthy and just wants people to feel comfortable in their own skin.  

Holliday has gone through so much in her life so far and her battle is truly inspirational. Not only is she a strong woman, but she is a also a great activist for women of all sizes. If interested, check out her personal social media accounts and her #effyourbeautystandards instagram page (@effyourbeautystandards).

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Kyle Mahoney

Lasell '18

Kyle Mahoney is a recent Lasell College graduate. Kyle majored in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations, with a minor in Business. Kyle has written for Her Campus Lasell for three years, as well with completing an internship with HCHQ Spring semester of 2018.