This year I was lucky enough to interview the amazing Darrianne Donnelly whom inspired me with the dream that anything is possible no matter who you are or what size you are. She has tackled the modelling world with I guess criticism but always had the courage of her convictions to carry her to where she is now. Darrianne has worked with clients such as Avon, Commonwealth Bank, Special K, Big W, Myer, Mysize, Maggie T, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Today Tonight, and Australian Women’s Weekly. All featuring plus size models.
Darrianne only too well knows what it was like growing up being a plus size child, being told that she has such a pretty face if only she would lose some weight. We have all heard that one right? Despite this Darrianne worked in this Industry for over 10 years before staring BGM Models. Since then she has not looked back.
Darrianne suggested that I check out an article about Symantha Perkins, I am sure you will all think of her as a role model as I did. She is also at BGM. It’s not just about fashion but feeling great within and letting you shine and show the world that you don’t have to be wafer thin to succeed. I guess that is what this interview was all about for me, successful women that are plus size.
I hope that the interviews I have prepared below will inspire you all to follow your dreams and never give up on what you want out of life. You can be successful and plus size and to shine as the goddesses you are!
I thoroughly enjoyed doing this interview because I wanted to capture the things that people may not know about the modelling industry and to find out about the person as well as their work.
Please welcome Darrianne, Natalie and Elizabeth.
Who is your favourite designer?
Nicola Waite designs for women who want contemporary styles with beautiful fabrics that move and flatter the fuller figure.
What is your favourite colour and why?
A fabulous bold and vibrant red has and will always be my favourite colour, as I love anything that makes a statement. Red lips, red nails and a red car makes for a great look!!
What is your favourite destination in the world and why?
Positano in Italy would be one of my standout destinations, we were on a 6 week world tour 5 years ago and we had been travelling to London, Paris, Venice, Rome etc and whilst they are amazing locations when we got to Positano it felt like we had arrived in our own special piece of paradise.
It also helped that we were staying 5 nights in the same bed and that we had rented an apartment and as crazy as it sounds being able to boil water, add an egg and have breakfast with crusty bread that was delivered by the most amazing young Italian man certainly added to the atmosphere of the place.
There is also this wonderful artist who paints daily in the main area at the bottom of the famous staircase in Positano, I stopped to admire his art-work and told him that he did a great job, off we went to Capri for the day and on our return the artist was packing up for the day and I noticed that he had painted my self and my husband into the painting consequently we brought the piece and it hangs in our house, I see it every day as a wonderful reminder of an incredible time.
Whilst on your travels, who was the most interesting person you have met?
Last year in April we celebrated 30 years of marriage and we went to China for 10 days, Shanghai, Beijing and Xian which is famous for discovery of the Terracotta Warriors this is considered one of the great architectural finds during the last Century.
The story goes that the chief of the village sent four young lads into the fields to dig a well and had they not dug in the spot that they had chosen they would have missed the entire discovery by as little as half a metre as they dug up a broken head at the very furthest point of the entire excavation. We went to the ‘ dig’ in Xian to view the Terracotta Warriors and one of the original lads who is the last survivor that found the ‘pit’ was at the museum on the day we visited and was sitting behind the desk signing books, whilst I did not actually meet him I did get a signed book of his story.
Also when we were in Beijing we met 84 year old Bob from Queensland with his wife 79 year old Flo, we were climbing the Great Wall of China this day and we had set off very early as it was a 2 hour drive and would be quite hot when we got to the wall. All the young people in their 50’s set off on the climb as did Bob and Flo and when we got to the top as we all gasped for breath and admiring the fantastic view Bob did the Irish jig and sang songs he was so energetic he put us all to shame he was a true Aussie character.
Who inspired you to do what you do and in which way?
I was not inspired by anyone one person I think that my inspiration or rather passion was driven from a young age and a determination that comes from within from people that I met growing up. The 60’s and 70’s was an interesting time and I always knew that I would do something that would somehow make a difference, I just did not know then that it would be modelling that would map my journey.
I started modelling at 30 years of age as being a ‘bigger model’ was just beginning to happen and for 10 years I had a wonderful time doing fashion parades and photographic work, turning 40 was the when I actually considered opening my own agency as I could see the demand for larger models was increasing.
BGM Models (formerly BIGgals Models) was launched because I was determined to see a change in attitudes to using larger models and to encourage young girls to see a balance of models which would inspire them to have a good body image and to feel good about themselves. The inspiration and why I continue being the director of BGM is that I still love it when a new model comes to the agency and we get them a great photo shoot on location, fashion campaign or a model is signed to an international agency such as Ford Models New York it makes all the hard work worthwhile.
What was it like working in New York at Ford Models?
Working with Ford models and being in close contact with the directors and bookers on a daily basis really cemented the fact that Modelling is a career that needs to be looked after and nurtured by the right agency.
Modelling can still be a career, even after once you have achieved certain personal milestones.
You may be a great model but if the team behind you does not know your direction you may just become another pretty face in the crowd. I felt lucky to be represented by such an important agency and to have the support of my mother agency Darrianne of BGM at home to pick things up where they left off.
I had some amazing experiences, as it was such a whirlwind adventure having left my husband and two year old back in Miami while I gave International modelling my last shot by spending 10 days in NY. I flew into New York, met with Gary Daikin, signed my contract on the same day and was sent to a stylist the next morning in preparation for castings.
It was a busy time meeting and greeting clients. Unfortunately I was regarded too skinny for the plus size market and failed to crack the big time due to my size 14 frame. Needless to say I still loved every moment and managed to get one amazing booking which was shot in the snow on the top of a building in the middle of Manhattan. It was actually the first time I saw snow as well.
Did you feel like you were under scrutiny by your peers because you were a plus size model?
Back here in Australia it was the complete opposite as this was the first time a model over a size 8 was being featured in Editorial magazines and I guess from a stylist and photographers point of view I was huge and something they had to learn how to deal with.
At times you would arrive to the shoot and they would say oh you must be the make up artist: and you knew all too well that they were thinking this cannot be right? She so is not the model is she? It did not take very long though for the general public to realize that they liked seeing something a little bigger and a little more like themselves and thus forced editors to feature real women on a regular basis.
Where was your favourite shoot, and why?
One of my favourites was a cosmopolitan shoot shot at Manly with six spunky guys on location. Directed by Amanda Newman who was the fashion editor at the time, the brief for the shoot was taken out of a Vogue Italia. No expense spared and the dresses were beautiful (even though they did not fit me since they were samples) I felt like a million dollars. It was an eight-page spread and something that has not been repeated in an Aussie Magazine since.
Fashion is something that you know you want from a very young age. I am the youngest of four daughters so as you can imagine I have seen it all and could not wait to put my own stamp on the fashion world.
What made you decide to do a Jeans label?
With all my sisters and mother in the fashion Industry it was only natural that one of us make the garments instead of buying them. It was on my second trip to New York that I saw the huge potential for the Plus size fashion Industry and how we lagged behind here at home.
Jeans were always a struggle for me as I have an apple body type and always wished the waists were not so small. Once I started investigating the process I fell in love with denim and knew that this was what I wanted in the next chapter of my life. To make curvy women happy to wear denim again!
How has your success changed you?
I still feel as though I am on the journey to success, I try to enjoy the little milestones within my business or personal life along the way. I have had a good friend tell me that I have not changed since we went to school together; I think I am still a bit of a rat bag. Success should give one the privilege to help others.
Which do you enjoy more being a plus size model or a thin model?
PLUS SIZE! Hands down. I always loved modelling and the feeling of being on set in front of a camera but the pressure that came with being there was tremendous. I began to enjoy things less and less because I was always afraid of being told I was putting on weigh or getting to set and the clothes not fitting. Now that I am on this crazy wonderful adventure in New York I am constantly thankful that I not only achieved this success by remaining true to myself but that I am able to enjoy all the great restaurants and cuisines that New York has to offer!
How does New York compare to Australian modelling?
The plus size industry is well and truly established over here. In Australia I was reluctant to say that I was a model because a whole discussion and explanation of ‘plus size’ would inevitable for sure. Believe me, I hate the label! Here I feel I can say model and people don’t bat an eyelid. I think that America has a better handle on the diversity of sizes and shapes that women come in.
To that end they also have a better handle on ethic diversity than we do in Australia. Apart from that there is just a lot more work here. They have a much larger population to cater to and so every day I learn about different companies all over America that are designing for women with curves.
What are you plans for the future?
I plan on staying in the U.S at least another year. Just enough time to see out the horrible economy!! I love my job and life in New York City, it is very exciting but there truly is no place in the world like Australia. I miss my family tremendously and I miss the lifestyle of Australia. My plans ultimately… I would like to work in T.V- I love being a model but I also have a lot to say!!
What is the most exotic place you have been to in your travels?
Hhhmmm Tunisia was an amazing location. I was living in Milan at the time and I was asked to shoot a catalogue and a magazine editorial in Tunisia over a one-week period. We didn’t need the whole week to shoot so I got a vacation in a couple of amazing hotels as well as some wonderful pictures. We were shooting in the middle of a desert on sand dunes and on a salt field. Just brilliant!
What is your favourite design house and why?
When I shop I am always looking to flatter my figure. I like pieces that strike a balance between being fashionable and just plain comfortable. I tend to stick to basic, clean lines and good tailoring. When you have those timeless pieces in your closet you can have a bit of fun each season with trends or accent pieces.
For knickers and singlets you can’t go past Bonds, especially the prices! If I am going for a statement and I really want to splash out I love lingerie by Agent Provocateur. Camilla does some absolutely stunning kaftans that flatter any figure and are just perfect for standing out in a crowd. When I am travelling and I want to feel particularly glamorous I will throw one over my bathing suit. I think Alex Perry’s designs are to die for but I would love to see him launch a plus line- we need fabulous eveningwear too!
Natalie’s jeans are phenomenal! I am always receiving comments on them here in the U.S. Paige denim also has a plus line that is wonderfully fashionable and comfortable. I tend to shop around and see what’s out there rather than sticking to one particular brand. I can tell you that I think the plus industry has a long way to go in terms of adequately representing its customers. There needs to be a whole lot more options out there that are made for young, fashionable women as well as more representation in the media.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Darrianne for her participation with this interview as well as Elizabeth and Natalie for their time and effort.