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Ballwin Women Sound-Off on Model Size

Pictures of a plus-size model next to an average-sized runway garnered attention across the Web. This week, fashion-industry workers and observers around Ballwin reflect on how they view weight as portrayed by media.

Plus Model magazine, a publication that supports plus size models in the fashion industry, devoted part of their January 2012 issue to comparing modern model standards to the average woman.

The photos include plus-size model Katya Zharkova in artful nude along with a striking photo of Zharkova embracing a standard sized runway model. The photos received over 6,000 shares on Facebook and 1,000 Tweets.

Editor's Note: To view the complete photo layout, click here. Warning: Photos contain partial nudity.

Francesca Bell, 25, works in communications for a Ballwin car dealership. Bell is naturally thin—which comes as no surprise considering her history as a former Miss Springfield—but she said she still faces pressure from images in the media.

"It’s the feeling you get after you watch a Victoria's Secret commercial and think 'That’s the impossible' and flip the channel," said Bell, whose academic and professional work has focused on media. "However, I have to stop and make myself think: These models are 2 percent of the world who qualify as 5’9'' and above and probably a size 2 and under."

Ashley Holloman, 25, was raised in Ballwin, and did modeling work before having her son. Although she finds that some types of fashion still use very thin models, other areas have embraced curves.

"The modeling industry has come a long way from only using stick thin fashion models to using curvy models to sell lingerie, swimwear or even lotion," Holloman said.

D'Shannon Llewellyn has been voted the No. 1 wedding makeup artist in Missouri and Illinois, according to The Knot and The Wedding Channel. Llewellyn is based in Chesterfield, but has many clients in Ballwin and Ellisville. To date, she has worked on hit TV shows, local models-in-the-making and for St. Louis Fashion Week.

"A friend of mine posted a similar photo on her Facebook page a few weeks ago, and I think she made a good point," Llewellyn said. "She said we need to celebrate healthyness, be it a size 2 or a size 12."

Llewellyn also saw that some models were more pressured to maintain a frame that wasn't natural to them with agency expectations. She saw a positive turn when some women decided to freelance model so they could maintain a healthy weight for them.

The Plus Model magazine article states that most models meet the Body Mass Index criteria for anorexia, and that 50 percent of women today wear over a size 14. The solution, our local women say, is not to glorify one extreme or the other, but to focus on an appropriate lifestyle and size that is natural to your body.

"I know I tried modeling before I had my son, but was put into a 'glamour' category because I do have curves," Holloman said. "I would never be used for fashion (now), but you know, I'm OK with that."

Bell finds that embracing who we are is a more pressing issue than promoting an ideal weight.

"Eating healthy and working out is a lifestyle change—one that should promote our bodies as healthy and beautiful inside and out," Bell said. "Realize the fashion world is not real life and will not be there to save you from yourself when the negative thoughts evolve into something deeper."

Llewellyn commends Zharkova for not only being open with her body and willing to bring discussion to the issue, but also for the attitude she excudes in the photos.

"She seems open and genuinely happy," Llewyln said. "We all face pressures to meet others expecations. I would love to see every woman walk out the door with that smile on their face."

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