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That's a Plus! - What it takes to be a Plus Sized Model - with Anthony Higgins of MSA Models

Written by: Kelly Calabrese

Hour Glass… Curvaceous… Zaftig women can make over $200,000 in the plus sized modeling business. That's a whole lot of dough - so to get started, here's what you need to know…

“A plus sized model, in the past, was a size 10-12 – up to a size 18 for fashion. Now, they are calling a size 8 - plus sized,” shares Anthony Higgins – Director at MSA Models.

Anthony Higgins has over 15 years of experience representing curvy women and really enjoys his role in shaping careers.

“If there was an Anthony magazine or clothing line, I would hire all types because I see beauty in everybody,” says Anthony Higgins. “I would love to see things be more fluid and have Mario Testino or Steven Klien take pictures of all different types and have Vogue be seamless... here's a size 6, here's an 18, here's a 2, here's a 4.”

Yet, in reality, “we are looking at the general standard of what America thinks is attractive,” says Anthony. “The people who run the magazines, and pick the clothes that go in the magazines, dictate what is plus sized. And, Hollywood dictates a lot of it too. Brook Shields has taken to being called a plus sized model. Some people are even calling Drew Barrymore a plus size, because she is a 6.”

For catalog work, specifically, “they will use a size 8 because they think size 14 and 16 will relate to that person and size 4 and size 6 will relate to that person. They do not use size 18 as much as they should for print – though… size 18 makes the most money,” says Anthony, “because the typical sample sizes are 18. There is less print work, but there is more print and showroom work for them.”

The demand for plus sized models may be dwindling in size requirements, but “there will always be a demand for plus sized models because there are plus sized people,” says Anthony. “More than 50% of American women are size 14 and up.”

To make it as a plus sized model, the requirements go far beyond the number on a clothing tag.

“There are still the same standards when someone wants to be a model.”

“For print and for runway, you have to be a minimum of 5'7 – 5'8 up to 6 foot. Though, there are exceptions to every rule,” shares Anthony. “I have Mia Amber who has done films, acting and print who is 6' tall and a size 20 - and she's a star, she works all the time. And, I have Tricia who is 5'6 who works all the time.”

In general, “modeling is about being proportioned,” says Anthony. “Even though you can be a size 18, you have to be tight, in terms of your skin tone, have clear skin, beautiful hair and teeth.”

“You have to know your shape before you show it. There are women who are inverted triangles, pears and all sizes. But the ones who work the most are proportioned hourglass.”

And, “toned is good,” shares Anthony. “I represented a woman for years who was a size 18-20 and a yoga instructor. People don't think that a size 18-20 can be healthy, but this woman was extremely healthy. Some women are just big.”

“I tell the girls that just because you are bigger boned, or have some meat on your bones, it is not an excuse to be fat or sloppy.”

“To be a working model, you want to utilize everything” – including personality!

“Personality is paramount,” shares Anthony. “The model is helping their client sell their clothing, their toothpaste – whatever it is. The good models understand that.”

“I am not the model's boss or therapist, I am there to help guide and direct their careers so all of us can make money,” say Anthony. “I market them and help them market themselves. The more I can market people, in more facets, the better career they will have.”

To make the most out of a modeling career, especially when it comes to plus sized modeling, the talent needs to be able to do print as well as fit and showroom.

“Print modeling is tough unless you reach the higher end of it,” says Anthony. Yet, “fit and showroom models, in the garment industry here, can make $200-$300, 000.”

“I have several models that make that much because they are multifaceted. They are beautiful, so they can do those print jobs that come up once in a while, but the daily grind is going showroom to showroom and designer to designer.”

“In the plus sized world there is a lot of competition, but there is a lot less competition than super fashion models,” shares Anthony as another upside to working in plus sized.

“There are 4 major agencies, who are prominent, that work with plus sized models and two of those do not even have girls who are size 16 or 18 - we get a lot of the lion's share of that. I have a model that is a size 26 and she works because there are a lot of people that size.”

To make sure that Anthony sees as many potential models as possible, he holds open calls in NYC.

“I have this philosophy that was given to me by my mom - that everyone's worth meeting at least once because you will learn something from them, even if it is the simple fact that you will learn whether you like them or not.”

“I bring some people in and just know I can work with them, I see something in them. That is why I have open calls and attend modeling shows on the weekend.”

For the open calls, “pictures don't really matter,” says Anthony. “I just need digital snapshots of you that your husband, boyfriend, sister or Mom can take. Bring in about 5 or 6 pictures – a head on face shot, some profile shots and then a body shot, preferably something in a bathing suit. For plus sized women it can be one piece, but we need to see what your body looks like.”

And, “come in with no product in the hair, no product on the face. We call it clean, clean. We want to see what you look like raw.”

One of the reasons why you should not go into an open call with a portfolio is because “not everyone knows how to shoot curvy women,” says Anthony. “You don't put a size 18 woman in a white jumper and then have her sit Indian style because you want to get the curve.”

“If the girl twists a little and keeps the shoulders back, it makes a better line and gives a curve. There are certain things, especially when you get into the bigger sizes, that the girl needs to know about how to make her body look best.”

To look your best, “don't put it in the front window if it's not going to look good,” says Anthony. “You can be curvy, you can be any size, but dress so you accentuate the positive things.”

Positively… there are so many beautiful aspects of plus sized women. And, as an interesting experiment, MSA Models worked with Marie Claire in doing a man on the street segment where they took one of the MSA models and a camera crew to ask men, “What aspects do you like about her?”

“The men said hair, eyes, booty, smile,” says Anthony. And, “the next question was ‘What size is she?' but not one man, out of a hundred, knew. They don't see things that way. When they asked women the same question, the women were more critical about what parts needed help, while the men just said what they thought was attractive.”

So how do you feel and look as attractive as a model, even if you are not one?

Click here for Part 2 of this article where NYCastings gathers insight from two MSA superstars…

For more information on MSA Models visit

Thank you to Anthony Higgins!!!

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