Last week, actor, comedian, and model Zach Miko became the first plus size male model to sign with IMG Models new Brawn division. I chatted with Zach about signing with one of the biggest modeling agencies in the world, becoming the face of the plus size men’s modeling movement, and dispelling one of the most annoying big guy myths.
Why IMG? Chubstr was the first site ever to write about me. Ever since you first covered me, I was getting press and getting noticed, and it was fun. Then I started to see all the support coming in from big men around the world, and I saw that it was a real, viable thing. Doing something like this could help change the way we view fashion. We could change the discussion, and change the game.
Ivan Bart, the president of IMG Models, sent me a message on Instagram. It took me a while to actually believe that it was really him! I went in and met with everyone, and Ivan started telling me about his vision, which is inclusion, and diversity. IMG represents Ashley Graham, who’s doing so much for the plus community – it’s just been amazing. After that conversation, I knew that IMG was the place for me.
We’ve seen success come to women’s plus size models like Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday. Do you have any big goals out of the gate as the first high-profile plus size male model for the Brawn division? My big goal is to make the luxury brands, the designers I grew up wishing I could wear my entire life, create clothing for big men. My biggest dream is to have my own clothing line. I want to have a clothing line for brawn men that offers a variety of sizes in general. I want to cater to the big and tall guy, but also someone like my best friend, who’s 5’2 and has a 48 inch waist. I would love to make something for the outliers. We’ve been put in a box for so long, that you’ve only got these six sizes available to you, and if you don’t fit within that, you don’t have any options. I want to help give people more options.
When we last spoke, you were on this path for acting and comedy. How does this new development for your modeling career factor into those goals? I’m first and foremost an artist, and modeling is really another outlet to showcase art, who I am, and what I believe in. The acting and comedy is all still there, full steam ahead. All of these things complement each other. I only started modeling this past summer, and I think the reason I’m comfortable in front of the camera is because of my acting experience, and because of being on stage doing comedy.
My comedy band is still together – we just did the Toronto Sketch Festival, and what we’ve found is that having this extra thing going on makes us more focused. We started to get some spotlight because of my modeling work, so one thing feeds the other, in a way.
Was there ever any point in this process that you had doubts about signing, and ultimately becoming kind of this figurehead for a new division of modeling? I never expected to become a model. From the very first time I modeled with Target, and your first article came out, the outpouring of love from the body positive and plus community in general was so overwhelming, touching, and emotional. I heard people’s stories and what seeing something like this meant to them, and there was no turning back. I told Ivan in our first meeting that to me, the most important thing in all of this was to be part of the body positive community. I grew up feeling terrible about the way I looked because of all these standards I thought I was supposed to uphold that I was falling short of.
We used the term outlier before – if I can show a couple people that they’re not outliers, they’re people. We all have these things about us that make us beautiful. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other, it just means that everyone is different. So many people of sizes feel different or feel less about themselves because of the way they look. If I can do anything to change that, that’s what it’s all about for me. If you can go to a website or open a catalog and see a guy who looks more like you, that you can relate to, that’s amazing. I saw an article about all this the other day, and there was a comment saying “how come he can be a model, but I don’t get to?” That’s the whole point! I’m privileged to be the first, but I’m doing this so that everyone can do this.
The fact that you’re signed to IMG Models breaks a lot of them, but are there any big guy myths that you’d like to dispel? I want to push back against the idea that if you are a bigger person, you are unhealthy. This stigma [that having any extra weight makes you unhealthy] has been around for so long. My cousin is a really big guy, and his whole life, people have always called him out on being unhealthy, but he’s not. He’s active, and he’s big. You don’t have to have 6 pack abs and bulging biceps to be a healthy person. I cycle, I go hiking, my wife makes kale for dinner. It’s so important to take care of yourself, but that doesn’t mean that you have to starve yourself, deprive yourself, and change who you are in your heart to make other people think you’re worthwhile. Your health is between you and your doctor. No-one should try to use it as an excuse to police your body.
It feels like the fashion landscape is ripe for change. Do you think we’ll see brands offering more plus size men’s clothing options in the near future? I think so. That’s what I’m hoping happens. The fact that I’m signed to IMG Worldwide – the biggest, and best agency out there. The fact that they were willing and interested in signing me – I think that’s proof enough that the industry is going to follow suit.
Let’s talk money: you’re alienating almost 50% of the population from ever buying your clothing. If you open that up, you open a market share you’ll never believe. We’ll prove to you that this is a viable market. Big guys want to look good – they don’t want to look like giant toddlers wearing the big and tall clothing that’s out there on the market right now. A lot of it is strictly functional and utilitarian, and has no style. I just want mens brands, especially the luxury brands, to open up to the outliers of this box that has been created, and I think the companies that do will see a huge market share. I don’t see how that can’t be viable.
What has to general response been to your news so far? Have you resisted reading the comments? It’s amazing! People have been so supportive. In the last few years, I think that clear cut line of what “beautiful” is has started to fade. We’ve opened up to the idea that there’s not just one ideal. People can look great, wear stylish clothes, and feel good about themselves. I’m getting messages from all these people who are so happy to see someone trying to represent them, who never thought they’d see something like this happen. It’s making a difference for them, and that’s what matters to me.
You’re signed, you’re in this spotlight, what’s next for you? We’re working on it now. We’re shining a light on this Brawn category now, so my managers are in talks with brands and designers, basically saying “let’s take a chance together and try this out.”