Tess Holliday refused to let constant criticism and restrictive beauty ideals stop her from achieving her dream, and thank goodness for that.
The 29-year-old Mississippi native (also known as Tess Munster) is the first plus-size (or as Tyra Banks would say, "fiercely real") model to score a major contract with a modeling agency—despite being told time and time again that she wasn't the right height or weight—and has become an inspiration for women of all sizes.
"I feel like it's breaking ground. This is a milestone," Holliday, who announced her deal with MiLK Model Management's plus-size division Curves on Thursday, told The New York Daily News. "I never could have imagined that I could be here."
Plus-size models signed to an agency are generally at least 5 feet, 8 inches tall and a size 8 to 16. Tess stands at 5 feet, 5 inches and is a size 22.
"I think we're the only agency with a model of her size. She is by far the largest model I have in the (Curves) division," Anna Shillinglaw, the owner and director of MiLk Model Management, said.
So how did Shillinglaw even come across Tess? Good ole Instagram!
"I started following her, and saw how many followers she had—more than most models. She's such an important role model for so many women."
That's also partially due to an awesome body image campaign that Holliday launched nearly four years ago, which quickly became viral. The #effyourbeautystandards campaign has reached her over 624,000 followers on Facebook and 308,000 followers on Instagram.
Tess uses this hashtag with photos of herself flaunting her curves, modeling designer clothes and snapshots with her loved ones while pairing the pic body positive mantras.
Under a photo of herself modeling black lingerie, she wrote, "Does it bother you that a fat body like mine exists in the world? That this body makes me money, brings my partner (& myself) joy & for some of you, is your 'worst case scenario'? Heaven forbid. F--k what you've heard about me. I'm not going anywhere #tessmunster #tessholliday #effyourbeautystandards"
"It took a really long time to get over things that had happened to me during the vital years of my life," Holliday said, but she always had her eye on modeling. "My mom always encouraged me," she said. "But the rest of my friends and family thought I was nuts."
"I see a lot of negative comments as well, and I ignore those. I know she's healthy and active," Shillinglaw said.
"We're all built differently. She goes hiking, she's in love, she has a son, she has a gorgeous husband. Maybe people can lose weight if they walked more and ate less, but it's so easy to say that. Everyone has their things in life."
And now, Tess has one more thing under her belt—a dream come true. And even she can't believe it's finally happening.
"It doesn't feel like it's me. Every time I have a big thing happen in my career, it's an out of body experience," Holliday said. "I'm always still that 13-year-old girl in Mississippi who people told I wasn't good enough. I never could have imagined that I could be here."
Believe it sista, because you deserve it.