This week we’re continuing the series that chronicles our search for the illusive plus size male model. Meet Jeremy Howard, an L.A. based model and actor. He talks about trying to break into the business, being too big for the mainstream and not big enough for the big and tall modeling, and how he thinks plus size modeling will change in the near future.
How did you get into modeling? My sister was a plus model, and I was into America’s Top Model. I started doing poses and taking photos, and someone saw my pictures online and wanted to meet. This was back in 2010-2011. We ended up meeting and doing a shoot. Then I just started going for it – getting work with local photographers and fashion shows.
What was it like those first days, being out in front of people on the catwalk, or posing for photos? It was scary at first, but I realized they picked me for my size, and I sort of embraced that. People started to recognize me for the work I was doing, and I realized it was a good thing!
Once you realized this was something you wanted to do, how did you try to take it to the next level? I tried to find other plus guys doing this, but I couldn’t find any. I turned to the women’s plus size industry and they were very welcoming. I started to get jobs from connections there. Opportunities to model for Plus Model Magazine and Full Figured Fashion Week came up. When I was asked if I would be interested, it was like “yes yes yes!”
Is it still hard to find work as a plus size male model? Yeah. It’s scarce. All the jobs I get are by word of mouth. One minute, it’s amazing and there’s so much work. The next minute – there’s not much. That’s when I started acting – it keeps me busy.
A lot of the plus size male models we see look like ex-football players. They’re a bit older and they’re fairly proportionate. They don’t look quite like many of the customers who are buying the clothing. Has that kind of corporate big and tall ideal helped or hurt you when trying to get jobs? It’s nearly impossible to get jobs with those companies on your own. They just don’t respond. I’m either too big or too small for them. I’m seeing plus size models out there with waist sizes of 35 or 36. I’m a 40-42 waist, and I don’t hear back. I’ve even based my test shots toward traditional big and tall looks, but these companies are looking for an older and larger, less fashion-forward type of model. Living in New York might make it easier [to find modeling jobs], but I’m not ready to do that.
Have you considered getting an agent? I’m looking for one now. A lot of agencies just don’t represent plus size models, or men at all.
Do you think companies are doing a good job of representing plus size men in their models and marketing in general? When I’m out shopping, I regularly get questions from wives and girlfriends asking me what size I am. They say that whoever they’re shopping for is built just like me. I hear it a lot, but companies aren’t looking for models like me. If they had models that looked like these women’s brothers or husbands or boyfriends, they’d be addressing a real need.
At my largest, I was 335 pounds. I shopped at big and tall shops, but I wasn’t inspired because I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. I’d shop other places, but I could only find what I needed online. I wanted to be able to shop somewhere like American Eagle because the guys wearing that stuff looked cooler – more along the lines of how I wanted to look.
We get a lot of guys asking for advice on becoming a model. Where should they go, how do they break into the business? I started out by practicing in the mirror. Practice and learn your body. Start to understand how to pose. When you’re ready, start looking to local photographers to get out there. It’s a good step in the right direction. You’ve got to keep at it. People will notice you because you’re different and you stand out. Never let anyone tell you that’s a bad thing – it’s a great thing.
What are your long-term goals as far as modeling and acting goes? In my mind, the perfect gig would be something with a brand like Calvin Klein. The brand is so timeless and sleek, and they already offer larger sizes. That’s what I’m working toward. I was recently interviewed for A Perfect 14, the upcoming documentary film about plus size models. As far as acting goes, all you ever see is the funny fat guy in tv shows and movies. I want to see the big guy step out of the luxury car in the high end suit! That’s the kind of work I want to see available for plus size male models.
Are things getting easier for plus size models? Yes! Definitely for plus size female models. The general public has had their eyes opened, and I think they’re starting to understand that the standard size model body isn’t actually standard.
For guys, there’s been little progress. We get a little shine, but it’s not where modeling is concerned. Maybe it’ll trickle down from the female models over time. It’s hard for people to see big men as aspirational because of the way we’ve been portrayed for so long. We need to make noise and get out there – get people talking. Represent us seriously, positively, and realistically. Take us seriously and people will talk.