Now Casting: Paloma Elesser


American model Paloma Elesser’s break out role was in Pat McGrath’s first eponymous makeup campaign. The legendary makeup guru found the 24-year-old while scrolling through Instagram and quickly tapped her to be one her new muses. Soon after, Paloma signed a contract with Muse Management in NYC and the chain was set in motion for more jobs to come rolling in. Yet being a model was never part of this Cali-girl’s original life plan. Growing up she felt “too fat, too short, and not black enough,” to be considered beautiful. Even now, she faces setbacks in certain fashion circles: “it’s why I always introduce myself as plus-size,” she explains “because it’s clear that I’m not going to fit into just anything.” We caught up with Paloma during a casting session at CR’s headquarters to talk body image, breaking stereotypes, and everything in-between:

What was your relationship with fashion growing up?
“I’ve never been thin, but I was always obsessed with fashion in an observant way. I would look at magazines and do what I could to apply what I saw to myself. My body was quite sexualized from a young age though, so I used to wear a lot big clothes to cover it up.”

How were you discovered?
“I got into modeling totally by accident. I moved to New York to study at the New School and was working on the side selling t-shirts in L.A. Then my friends Stevie Dance and Alex Olson sat me down and gave me a speech about how I should be following in the footsteps of Crystal Renn. At the time I didn’t know that plus size modeling was really a thing, but after I saw Renn’s Italian Vogue story with Steven Meisel, I was like ‘holy shit!.’ So I started slowly by posting more photos of myself on my Instagram account. Then about a year ago, I was ready to sign a modeling contract with Muse. It was the right pairing for me because I felt like they wanted me to remain myself and weren’t interested in shaping me into some standardized industry ideal.”

When did you get your first big break?
“I did a couple of things for Nylon magazine, but everything really changed when I started working with Pat McGrath. She’s such a powerful person in the fashion industry and people really respect her opinion, so when she gave me the seal of approval, others started to take me more seriously. Working on the campaign for her makeup launch was empowering because I felt like she was really celebrating the essence of who I am as a person.”

What is your favorite modeling career moment so far?
“Working with Pat has been huge for me and also the H&M campaign that came out recently. I didn’t know that it was going to be on TV, so I was really overwhelmed when I first saw it. I cried almost instantly and not for myself, but because it made me feel really great that every kind of woman was represented in it.”

Have you encountered any negativity in the fashion world?
“Yes, I have. Often in Paris I have to explain what plus size modeling is, which I find dehumanizing and humiliating. It’s not that I mind using the term, but it can make me feel less than when I see a question mark carved into someone’s forehead when I tell them that I’m a model. There’s still such a big separation between ’normal‘ and plus size modeling—just inherently because of how sample sizes are designed—but it’s not like I only wear specifically plus-size clothes.”

Is it important to you to be a role model for other women?
“The Internet has been the real force behind body acceptance, because we have all of these instant apps that allows us to share how we look and feel in real time. I’m lucky that I grew up with a family who always made me feel like I have something to offer, so if I can make other people feel the same through my work as a model and my social media posts, it’s a great thing.”

Do you wish that there were models like you when you were growing up?
“I hate to use this word, but it really would have been a game-changer for me if there were more models my size when I was a kid. I feel like I wouldn’t have felt so disconnected from a lot of what the media offered me. There still aren’t many plus size models in adverts, but I’m happy that some major companies are starting to include women from both ends of the spectrum.”

What’s your approach to health and beauty?
“I love working out at S10 Training with Joe Holder. He keeps me healthy and also acts as my therapist. For my beauty, I swear by Biologique Recherche. I used to just wash my face with a bar of soap, but now I’m very strict about skincare. I also start every day with hot water and lemon and make sure that I stay on top of my mental health by doing a lot of self check-ins throughout the day. I’m by no means perfect, but I’m working hard to maintain a balance.”

Do you have a social media strategy?
“I try to keep my Instagram account authentic to who I am, which sounds really stupid because it’s just an app. Work-wise it matters because people care about how many followers you have and from an artistic standpoint, I want my account to feel like me. I want people to be able to scroll through it and understand who I am and be able to see through all the external stuff to my real personality.”

What’s your life mantra?
“I’ve said this to myself a million times, but I still have to remind myself that there’s room for everybody. The fashion industry can be hard to navigate because it perpetuates the notion that somebody else is going to come and take what you have, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily true. It’s important to stay motivated, but living in fear of competition doesn’t help anyone. As a model, you face a lot of rejection if a client doesn’t like your look, so knowing that we all have something different to offer can be of great comfort.”

What are your career goals?
“Ultimately, I’d love to transition into being a TV presenter and be like Oprah. I’d also like to move into the plus size design clothing space because I think that there’s such a high demand. About 75% of my Instagram followers are women and I always gets comments from girls who look similar to me asking where they can find clothes. Not all plus size girls want to wear loose-fitting boho shirts and elastic band waists, so I’d like to be the person to help them dress how they want to.”

What’s next?
“I’m not entirely sure. I write creatively and I’d love to work up the courage to compile my favorite pieces into a book and publish it. Other than that, I’m just taking life as it comes.“


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