Zoe Melissa Mae is a plus sized model, makeup artist, and self-proclaimed horror junkie. I first ran into her profile on Instagram and after seeing the description “a role model for roll models” on her profile, I knew that I wanted to interview her. Read on to find more about Zoe, her ‘vintage goth’ style and her opinions on the modeling industry.
Tell us about you! What are your interests? Passions? Any interesting facts?
Well crazy fact about me, I have a huge phobia of sand. I am literally petrified of it, and even the thought of it right now is making me itch. I have no idea why and it only developed over the past 10 years or so because I loved it as a kid.
Interests? I love crafting, if I can make something rather than buy it new I will. I tend to make most of my own props for shoots as well. I also have a huge passion for horror movies, I'll watch them all day and all night and it's extremely hard at this point to show me a film that will scare me. I also love makeup probably more than someone should ever love makeup. I have a collection so strong that I needed a chest of drawers to house it all.
How did you get into plus-sized modeling? Did you always aspire to be a model, or was it just happenstance? Also, because it’s always interesting to ask, what did you want to be when you were younger?
I got into modeling by complete chance actually. When I was younger I wanted to be a makeup artist, it was all I dreamed of, and then back in late 2012/ early 2013 I was offered the opportunity to go to a makeup school in London and train in all features of makeup. It was there I met a lady called Jay, who worked as a professional makeup artist and came in to teach the class about catwalk makeup. She spotted me and thought I would be perfect for a designer called Ziad Ghanem, who was looking for models to walk his London fashion week show. She sent my picture and stats over to him and I met up with him a few days later and that was it. It was a couple weeks later that I walked at London Fashion Week, and it was the start of this career I have built for myself. I'm basically extremely lucky to be where I am right now.
What is— or is there a secret to taking a good photo? What’s it like to be on the set of a photo shoot? Do you ever find yourself with a case of nerves?
I think the best thing to do to get a good photo as a plus size model is to learn your body. I see a lot of girls who are stunning and have so much potential, but they kind of just stand there slumped over in their pictures. The trick is to be confident with your body, and use those curves you have. I used to stand in front of a long length mirror and practice angles, find what ones suited me and then use them in shoots. It's also good to take risks, try poses that may make you look a little silly on set, because chances are they will look amazing on camera. I would also recommend chatting to the photographer as much as possible before hand. The better you know who you're going to be working with, the more relaxed and confident you will feel.
Is there any advice you would give someone aspiring to become a model or dive straight into the industry? Any tips? Cautionary words?
Be prepared for criticism and some hatred from people. There are a handful of people in this world who are still stuck in the mind frame that models can only be size 0 slinky girls, and they can't accept that everyone else has moved onto a bigger picture. It's going to hurt your feelings and feel awful, but you have to stay strong and remain confident in yourself or it could break you apart. Also don't expect to make masses of money from this job. Modeling seems like it would be a really well paid job, but even the top working plus models don't earn a lot. Unfortunately we live in a world where creatives aren't paid for their craft.
You’re also a makeup artist; do you have a signature makeup look? What brands of makeup do you use on the regular? What is the must have in your beauty bag?
I try to change up my makeup as much as possible, as I love experimenting and trying new colours and products, but if I'm just heading out the door quickly I tend to do a alternative vintage look with a big cateye liner and some matte grey smoky look. I use masses of brands as well, I have a little bit of a makeup hording problem as I mentioned earlier. Urban decay are my current favorite brand, and if you were to buy anything from them I would recommend their eyeshadows, they are the most pigmented and easy to blend shadows I have ever used. Plus they always come in stunning palettes.
How would you describe your personal style? Has it evolved over the years? Any major influences?
Oh it definitely has changed over the years. I used to be a bit of a mis-matcher with my style, and would wear clashing colours, have my hair all spiked up like the statue of liberty, piercings and band tops. I've also been the other end of the scale and dressed like I'd walked straight out of the devil wears prada. My current style is the most comfortable I have ever felt, although I find inspiration from loads of different places. I was described the other day as a 'vintage goth', and I think that's probably the closest likeness to how I style myself. I love the 50's era, and I dress in vintage reproduction most days, as well as creating classic vintage styles with my hair, but I also have the gothic side of me who loves dark makeup, and darkside style clothing. I get most of my inspiration from women like Michelline Pitt, Kerosene Deluxe, Nina Kate and Victoria Modesta, the vintage glamour styled women with that dark twist to them.
What are your three favorite items in your closet, and where did you get them?
Item number one has to be my pair of black denim swing trousers from Vivienne of Holloway. I love them so much because I have a long torso, and most high waisted jeans cut me off in weird places but Vivienne trousers tend come up far enough that they really flatter my figure and these are no exception.
Item number two is actually 2 tops from the same company, Rock Rebel. They are an American company and it's really hard to find them over here, I actually got mine from Universal Studios in Orlando. They are graphic tee's based on the universal monsters, one is based on the bride of Frankenstein, and the other is Bela Lugosi's Dracula. I am obsessed with horror/ monster movies as I mentioned earlier, and even have an entire sleeve tattoo dedicated to the genre, and these tops get worn all the time.
Item number 3 has got to be my pair of iron fist bone breaker flats. I wear them all the time and get tons of compliments on them. If you don't own a pair of iron fist shoes, you need to go and get some immediately!
If you had to live the rest of your life in one outfit, and one outfit only, what would it be?
Probably a hell bunny dress of some description. They are literally the most comfortable dresses in my entire wardrobe, and if I have to wear something for the rest of my life, I'd want to be comfortable, as well as looking glamorous.
Who are your favorite musical artists? Do you have a favorite song at the moment?
I love all genres and I don't think I could ever have a personal favorite because my tastes change like the wind, but I am really into Sia's new album at the moment, it's a fun album to get stuff done to if you have it playing in the background, but it also has dark underlying tones to it and I really like that.
Have you ever struggled with body image, do you still? How did you overcome it, or how are you still working on it?
Yeah it almost defeated me at one point. I was bullied relentlessly for my body size in school. I've always been big boned so even before I gained any significant weight I was curvy. I honestly believed that the path to me ever being happy with my life was if I was skinny. I think I was 17 when it finally hit me that just because I was plus size, it didn't mean I wasn't beautiful. It was a long hard process, but I began to step out my comfort box a little bit everyday and stopped looking for acceptance in others but from myself. I think everyone on the entire planet has something about themselves that they want to change, even to this day there are parts of me that I'd happily swap for something better, but the trick is to stop worrying about what you think everyone else wants from you, and do what will make you feel good for yourself.
Do you think the fashion industry as a whole needs to change to better accommodate plus-sized women, do you think it’s already changing?
I think that agencies need to stop advertising plus size as size 12 upwards. Size 12, size 14 are not plus size. I sometimes even struggle to see how a size 16 is, as it's the UK average. It's completely disgusting to me, and creates unrealistic beauty standards for women and completely disheartens women who want to become models. On the other hand, I think the world has become a much more open place for plus modeling. There are now more plus models and potential plus models than there ever was when I first started this, however it's not controlled enough because of the agency restrictions, meaning more girls are working for free just to try build connections.
Lead us through a typical day in your life?
Well there are two types of day for me. One is getting up, and travelling for hours, to somewhere in the UK for a photo shoot. The other is a slightly more plain approach, in which I get up, answer emails, maybe play some Xbox, run any errands, or go to my part time job at a retro dress shop. People think my life is super glamorous but it's the complete opposite 90% of the time.
What keeps you motivated? What drives you?
My fellow plus model friends definitely help. We all support one another and push each other to go further. If I've worked with a photographer I think they'd benefit from, I'll set them up, or vice versa. It's a nice little community we have going. I also am lucky to have a family who support me and always encourage me to do more. My dad especially has become my unofficial manager so to speak. He helps me get in contact with companies and magazines, he's always thinking of cool new ways to get my name out there, and he uses all his experience of business management to make sure I'm doing everything I need to be doing to stay on track.
Where do you see yourself in the next couple of years? What are you doing?
I would really like to pick up the brushes and do more makeup jobs these next few years. I have been so focused on modeling I put makeup artistry on the back burner for a while but I have the itch to do it all again. I would also like to go international with my modeling; I have a trip to LA in the works with another plus model for the end of this year so hopefully that will play out.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say to the blog readers? Any parting words of wisdom?
It's going to sound cliché but just stay true to who you are. If you are happy with the way you look and the body you have let it be known, don't hide yourself away for fear of what other people might say, because chances are they are unhappier with themselves than you are with you.
DANIELLE SIDHU is a current student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities pursuing a degree in theatre arts, and hopes to eventually work in the field of theatrical makeup design. She has a strong interest in fashion, beauty, and creative writing and believes strongly in self-love and body positivity. She is an avid fan of science fiction, red lipstick, and winged eyeliner.
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