(Un)covering Ju Romano: tête-à-tête with the first plus-size model ever to nail the cover of ELLE Brazil - no Photoshop filters attached.

She describes herself as a chubby girl with short legs and long eyelashes, who loves music, fashion, beauty and would certainly be a hairstylist if journalism hadn't entered her life first. The new gray-haired version of blogger Ju Romano has become a web sensations since her appearance on the cover of ELLE Brazil wearing (only) a Prada coat and a pair of Miu Mius. VOLUP2 takes you backstage and shares some thoughts on beauty and freedom with our model du jour.

You have declared that you had been waiting for a long time to see a fat woman on the cover of a magazine, but could have never imagined that this woman would be you. Tell us about he process of making this cover? How do you feel participating in such an important moment for women's beauty representation in the media?

It was quite natural, really. Sandra Soares, the journalist who produced the story, interviewed me and then the Elle team scheduled a photo shoot. I thought this was going to be a small picture only, something to illustrate my case. I go really excited when I found out that the story was going to be a big essay on diversity. But I have only discovered that I was going to wear nothing underneath the coat at the time of the shooting... and there was no drama, I already had my make up on and when the time came to dress up, the fashion producer only gave me the coat. I asked: "What about beneath the coat?" and he said, kind of jokingly: Nothing. Are you in?" And I was, no drama, because after all this is about. If I talk about curves, natural bodies and acceptance, what would be the problem as showing my own body as it is? That is exactly what I have done. In the end, I was super happy and proud of being out with no Photoshop.

Any other backstage cases you'd like to share?

Oh, it wasn't such a drama to be honest... But the truth is that, if I knew I was going to be stark naked in the studio, I would have turboed my bikini waxing.

You have also said that focusing on "fat itself" was not the most important thing, but rather focusing on "the freedom of taking our own decisions about our body" and on "forgetting the unrealistic ideal of 'body perfection'". How have you been constructing this freedom/liberation in your own life? What challenges do you face and what joys have you discovered? And how does your blog "Entre Topetes e Vinis" participate in this construction?

I've been through a whole lot of drama because of my body. More or less then years ago, I was into this crazy, radical dieting and ended up as a size 36 (equivalent to a size 4 in the UK). I have never been so miserable in my whole life. It took me a while- and some good days in therapy- to realize that my true will was not to have that body. I was acting crazy just trying to fit in, believing that would make me happy, when, in fact, it only made me crazier. When I started to rationalize my relationship with my body, I understood that each person is unique. I want to be free to be myself, without the obligation of fitting into any pre-established pattern. This is what my blog is about: how to be yourself, no matter what appearance you have. Writing for women who suffer or suffered from similar dramas has made me grow and believe, more and more, that each person has a different body, a different metabolism, different desires, so there is no reason why we should be obligated to look alike.

Your image is inspiring (and will, certainly, go on inspiring) many women to find their own ways of expressing their beauty. How do you understand this role? Do you feel like an icon or model? What outcomes would you like to see from this cover and from your positioning towards the beauty industry?

To be honest, I don't feel like an icon, but I am very happy to inspire other women to follow a freer and happier path. It is truly gratifying to know that I have managed to chance someone else's life for the better: there is no bigger reward. Now, I hope that, with the repercussion of ELLE's cover, other vehicles feel free and inspired to showcase different types of women on their pages. And I'm not referring to body type only. There is a huge amount of pressure related to skin and eye color, as well as hair texture which are also oppressive. I would really like to see the media stop treating what is "different" as special and start treating all women as normal- something which is far from reality these days.

And who is it that inspires/inspired you in your search for authenticity?

I dont have an icon, precisely because my search was authenticity-based. I like many actresses and bloggers, but my inspiration comes from anonymous women, from each email I receive, each tender comment and each conversation with my readers and friends.

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Would you like to leave a message for women who, like you and me, are in search of creative ways of expressing their beauty?

I think that the biggest expression of beauty comes from within. When a woman feels comfortable within her own body, no matter how it is, she becomes beautiful for others, but, mainly for herself- which is the most important thing! 

A word or sentence that summarizes this experience for you:

PRIDE! Pride is my word, because I was proud of seeing a natural body on the cover of such an important magazine, proud of ELLE's courage to be a pioneer in this issue, proud of the opinion of women who have opened their minds because of that... Ultimately, lots and lots of pride!

Want to keep up with Ju Romano, follow her on her blog


SABINE MENDES MOURA is, above all, a storyteller. Living in Rio, with her wife and kid, she works as a university professor in the language research area. When writing, she may go from academic articles to sci-fi but, no matter what the genre is, she is driven by the belief in the empowering virtues of shared stories as self-liberating tools.