Robyn Lawley: ‘I don’t think anyone should be called plus-size. It’s derogatory’

Robyn Lawley

Robyn Lawley covers the March issue of Clique magazine. She continues to be a rare example of a model whose interviews are even more interesting than her photographs. I’ve been covering Robyn since she became Ralph Lauren’s first plus-sized model in 2012. She’s since spoken out on the criticism she’s received from pro-ana groups, but she’s also refused to join the “real women have curves” brigade. Robyn is not only beautiful but smart, and she’s crusading for acceptance of all body types in fashion.

Whenever I talk about Robyn, people can’t believe she’s considered a plus-sized model at size 12. She’s very tall at 6’2″, and her figure is perfectly proportioned. She looks athletic and like she enjoys her food, and it’s obvious that she does work to maintain her current figure. Now Robyn is talking about how ridiculous it is that she or anyone else is labelled a plus-sized model. Here we go:

On stereotypes: “People think plus-size models don’t exercise – we do! But it’s about health, not forcing my body to be something it’s not meant to be.”

She spent years trying to be a size 0: “Even at my lightest, I just couldn’t get there. I genuinely really tried. I was counting calories, I was taking diet pills, I was dabbling in starvation. I thought you had to be skinny to be beautiful. And I thought I would never be beautiful at this size.”

On being considered plus-sized: “People say, “How is she a plus-size model?” and I’m like, “Exactly, this is the point, how am I a plus-size model?”

On fashion’s “no-woman’s land”: “Fashion designers won’t go past a size two [UK size six], so there’s no size diversity – just none. So there’s a whole no-man’s land of models who are in between the ‘straight size’ and the ‘plus-size’ and they are not working, yet they’ve got these amazing bodies that are completely in proportion.”

Enough with the plus-sized label: “I don’t think anyone should be called plus-size. I think it’s derogatory to anyone – it’s a label. I’m a model; I don’t think I need ‘plus-size’ in front of it.”

[From Clique magazine]

This is a touchy subject of course, and I’m interested to hear your feelings on what Robyn is saying. Most fashion designers only go up to a certain size (10? 12?) before they either stop making larger sizes or edge into “plus-sized” territory. Obviously clothes must be labelled by size so people know what they’re buying, but is the plus-sized label really necessary? Some stores even have plus-sized sections, which seems like a humiliating concept. I’m sure the fashion industry would say that it’s more convenient to corner off the plus-sized models so that certain jobs are funnelled their way. I don’t know, this is all exhausting, and I don’t think Robyn will win this battle. She’s right about the absence of size 8-10 models though. Where the heck are they?

Robyn Lawley

Robyn Lawley

Photos courtesy of Clique magazine & WENN

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44 Responses to “Robyn Lawley: ‘I don’t think anyone should be called plus-size. It’s derogatory’”

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  1. Aurie says:

    No one should be labeled plus sized….? Should we just call them fat, overweight, obese then? Already political correctness has gotten rid of those words and stolen the word curvy.

    I do understand her point of not separating out a section for larger people, but again this is getting out of hand. We keep getting fatter and fatter (although supposedly in 2013 we stabilized at 33% obesity, which is horrible) and yet we consider anorexia the bigger problem? Sure you die much faster from anorexia but the number it affects is such a small, small percentage compared to the number of people who are grossly overweight.

    People always say we have a problem with pressuring girls to look skinny and yet the average American is overweight……so obviously we need to be pressuring people to NOT be overweight and to be healthy.

    EDIT: I foresee that some people are going to say “We shouldn’t call/label people anything” in regards to my should we just call them fat part.

    Well that’s all nice and ideal but realistically that is never going to happen. Also who among us has never called someone something mean? Doesn’t even have to be looks wise but could be calling them stupid, mean, insensitive, etc. Should we ban the word stupid too because it’s offensive? If someone does something stupid that has a very negative outcome should we just say “Oh it’s not their fault. They’re “clever” in a unique way. REAL people have cleverness you know.

    • Tammy White says:

      We need to promote healthy & that’s it. We all do come in different shapes & sizes but to solely focus on it creates a problem. Robyn is 6’2″ & a size 12, she is not plus size. No way. If she was 5’2″, maybe. According to my height I’m supposed to weigh 15 lbs less than what I do ( it could be 20 lbs more by now) & I’m a size 6 or 8. I’d be a size 4 or 2 at that weight but I look anorexic & my family starts to freak out. I just think we tend to go to extremes on this & we need to stop.

    • Aurie says:

      @Tammy I agree that what we need to do is promote healthy and that’s it.

      However I feel it’s a weak excuse for people (not attacking you directly, just commenting based on my experience) to defend overweight people by incorporating height, muscle mass, etc.. Like if you have a six pack and are a woman who is 6’3, you would still be considered plus size cause of your height, but nobody would ever say “omg, that woman is fat, obese, overweight”.

      It’s like people who say BMI is BS because it doesn’t account for muscle mass. But does anyone ever hear of a bodybuilder being called “fat, obese”? No, we call them super muscular and it’s obvious for healthcare professionals to say “well your BMI indicates you’re morbidly obese but it’s obvious that’s because you’re packing 60 pounds of pure muscle and not fat”

      • Miss Melissa says:

        “However I feel it’s a weak excuse for people… to defend overweight people by incorporating height, muscle mass, etc..”

        A statement that implies overweight people DESERVE to be attacked.

        And also suggests that it is society’s responsibility and obligation to do so.

        Because public shaming and insulting, excluding, grouping and labeling are excellent tools for inspiring life changes in individuals.

        News flash, no one knows they are overweight better than those who are overweight. And some get there because they were told they were their whole lives.

      • KB says:

        Well said Miss Melissa

      • Gina B says:


        As a nurse, I’ve never met anyone who was happy about being overweight. Virtually every one has tried diets and exercise over and over all their lives only to gain it back. Many have admitted to me (some in tears) that people treat them like lepers. Attitudes like yours are part of the problem.

        Obesity is rising in America due to a number of psychosocial, economic, genetic and environmental factors. One of the biggest factors in the overweight is family history and a background of abuse. (Google sexual abuse and obesity). Who are we to cause shame for these people even more for something they are already aware of and struggling with?

        Everyone has some weakness or problem. The difference is that the overweight wear theirs in public for all to see, and people believe that gives them the right to comment on it. If we all had to wear a sign everyday stating our weaknesses and shameful secrets, we’d maybe be a little more compassionate.

        Believe me, you’re only contributing to the problem by posting comments like these. I hope you don’t treat people the same way in real life.

    • Megs283 says:

      I don’t think we should be striving for our lowest moments. Just because last night I called someone stupid while I was driving doesn’t mean I’m proud of that. I don’t think those words should be banned, but I do think we should try to be nicer in all aspects of society.

    • lana86 says:

      haha!!! ” “Oh it’s not their fault. They’re “clever” in a unique way.”
      agree with u Aurie
      besides, what is considered “humiliating” is kind of a subjective notion. Do u feel humiliated by the fact that u r obese? Or by the fact that the section is called “plus-sized”? Or by the fact that others might think u r unattractive? Or by the fact that they look at u in a sertain way? Or by the fact that they bully u and call u names?
      I think only bulling is deragotary. All other things just reflect the way u already see yourself. If u r truly ok with your body, the term “plus sized” will not drive u to tears

  2. missy says:

    I’ve always considered lawley plus-sized because she is 6’2″. i don’t think plus-size only refers to dress size. she’s well above average height for both men and women so i don’t think it is unreasonable for someone to consider her plus-size. there is no big and tall section of women’s clothing bc i think it’s generally incorporated into plus sizewear

    • FLORC says:

      Many stores have tall and curvy sections or lbels that are mixed in with regular and petite sizes. It’s been years since i have seen a plus size lable in a clothing item. Only the words listed above

    • Lexie says:

      A 6-foot model who is skin and bones would never be called plus-sized. Most models are tall. It’s the curves that warrant the extra label.

      • missy says:

        if she can’t fit into straight-size clothes then yes, she would be considered plus. there are plenty of plus-size models and just regular tall girls that like wear plus-size clothes bc of their measurements. wearing plus-size clothes fat. wearing plus size clothes just means you wear plus size clothes

      • missy says:

        hmm my doesn’t not equal sign didnt appear. i meant to say wearing plus size clothes does not equal (=/=) fat

      • karmasabiatch! says:

        Doesn’t matter what size she is. Robyn is flat out GORGEOUS.

    • K says:

      Unless you all are 6 ft or taller, I don’ t think you understand at all what you are talking about. It’s utterly laughable that you think a tall woman whose body is in proportion would fit into plus-size clothing. Plus-size clothing is for shorter and wider people, generally speaking. It’s incredibly frustrating, even re: shopping for hosiery, as the manufacturers figure width = height, which it does not.

      • Missy says:

        My bf is 6’1″. We were just shopping at saks and there, and for a lot of rtw brands, 14 and up plus-size. I don’t think a woman like my friend who is 6’1″ and a size 16 has a body that is out-of-proportion. Some women who are taller are also wider and so they wear plus. I would expect someone taller to be wider and in my experience super tall, small framed women are the exception, not the rule.

  3. FLORC says:

    We will always need labels. Not to degrade others, but for refrence. Would she prefer to be called a curvy model? Lots of stores use curvy in place of saying plus size.
    I wonder if she refuses work if they call her plus size? Does she stand her ground?

    Her close ups are ridiculously beautiful.

    • missy says:

      exactly: we’re always going to need labels. plus may be an arbitrary label but i think when ppl understand that it doesn’t mean FAT–as if being fat is soo bad–then hopefully women will just chill out. her lamenting against calling women plus reminds me of ppl who get all rowdy that size 0 even exists and say that size 0 isn’t a real size and is impossibly small when for a women who’s maybe 4’11” size 0 is very real and not even all that small probably.

      • Penguin says:

        Exactly. Today’s size 0 would of been a size 4 20 years ago. Today’s sizes are on average 2 sizes bigger than 20 yrs ago. U can blame vanity sizing for that.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Agree, FLORC. In the modeling industry, she is not thin enough to be a standard model. In real life, it’s ridiculous and I hate that we set up such thinness as ideal, but that’s the way it is. She’s plus size in that industry. Get over it.

    • Kristen says:

      We need labels on our groceries or pharmaceuticals, but why do we need labels for this? Can’t we just call her a model?

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        I was trying to say, but didn’t very well, that the modeling industry needs to distinguish between a standard model and a plus size model when they are hiring or sending out requests for a job. The client might not have clothes for the shoot or runway that fit a “larger” girl. It would be nice if they had all shapes and sizes, but they don’t. You have to be able to fit in a 4 or less.
        We could just refer to her as a model outside of those parameters, though, and probably should.

  4. Sixer says:

    The problem is that the very important be healthy message gets lost in ever-circling, unproductive side arguments about semantics and identity politics.

    If we could all concentrate on health trumping weight and/or body type, then that would be good.

    • blue marie says:

      + 1 .. Fingers crossed it eventually happens.

    • lana86 says:

      i agree. Also, the key problem is that we all want to be liked and admired. When this desire becomes obsessive, then health is no more a priority. Then u become obsessed with words and opinions and any random comment can drive to the edge. But ppl have a right not to like u or not to consider u pretty. Its normal, tastes differ.

    • Shannon1972 says:

      Agreed. As FLORC says above, the labels are there for a reason and actually serve a purpose. In clothing stores, there are all kinds of sizes – juniors, misses, women’s, plus size, petite etc. Men’s wear has it’s own label of big” and “tall” sections. If we removed all labels, how would people possibly find what they are looking for?
      Unfortunately, sizes and how they are categorized will always be tied up with weight and height. It’s unavoidable. Body image is a separate, intensely personal thing, and I think it is unreasonable to look to the fashion industry to make people feel good or bad about themselves. It’s a business, pure and simple.

      The industry that *should* be actively dealing with this issue is the health industry. Ralph Lauren shouldn’t (and isn’t qualified to) be dictating who is overweight, but your doctor certainly should. But a doctor calling someone overweight, or the surgeon general saying it is an epidemic, doesn’t garner the same amount of indignation. I’m just suggesting that the issue is misplaced.

  5. Maureen says:

    While I like her point about trying to force her body to be “a size it was never meant to be”, I would argue that MOST models are sizes their bodies were never meant to be. At 5’9″ I’m the height of an average model but many are even taller than me. However, at a very healthy and athletic 145 lbs I would look HUGE standing next to one of them. Their weight average is 110 lbs, maybe 115? Trust me, if you saw me you wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get 30 – 35 pounds off of me. Where would the weight come from?? From my boobs and and butt and hips. That’s just for starters. Okay, I could see getting 15 pounds off me, *maybe* even 20. I’d be thin as a rail almost but it could be safely achieved. But 30 or 35?? My god, I can’t even visualize myself minus 35 pounds. I would be bones protruding and hollow-cheeked and hollow-eyed, and my hair would be thin and my skin would be pasty.

    Basically, I’d be every girl you’d see in magazines. Except they have really, really beautiful faces. And their protruding bones and pasty skin gets photoshopped and re-colored and airbrushed so they look normal and healthy. But I know they’re not.

  6. agentscully says:

    What type of models is she talking about that are all size 2 (UK 6)? Runway models? Because I’m pretty sure a lot of commercial and editorial models I come across are closer to a size 4 than 2. Lara Stone, Adriana Lima, Joan Smalls, Catherine McNeil, Arizona Muse and Georgia May Jagger, just to name a few, are all listed as size 4. Plus the majority of models on shopping sites like net-a-porter, ASOS and ShopBop are size 4 also. So I don’t really understand why she’s saying there’s no work for models who are larger than a 2 but smaller than a 10.

  7. Little M says:

    My mom was big. By big I mean taller than the average Spanish woman (like 6’2″) and with a bigger feet size than average (42 in Spain). She was slender for her height.

    In her youth, she needed to have everything custom made and, up until the end, she was called a plus-size. She hated it and always felt bad about being so big.

    One day my mom started to grow a belly. She was concerned, she went to the doctor. In 2 years she got like a huge belly and during all this time she went to the doctor every 3 months. She visited the family doctor, 2 gynecologists, and an endocrinologist… The last time she visited the gynecologist he told my mom she was just fat.

    My mother’s belly kept groing inspite dieting and exercising, so I drove her to the OR one Monday morning. I remember having to press the OR doctor to do her a proper exam, because that guy too thought my mom’s only problem was glutony.

    Well, it turned out she was not getting fat, she had stage IIIc ovarian cancer. She died after years of surgery, chemo and misery because the only thing everybody -and every doctor -saw was a fat woman.

    Nobody choses to be big, ugly, dumb or fat. Also, some people do have real health problems or resilient metabolisms and will never, ever, ever be perfectly slim, not even if they starve themselves to death. I have been in a hospital long enough to witness this myself.

    I can occasionally make fun of a celebrity who has a fortune and a live I cannot even dream with, but I could never be mean to an average woman trying to get by. Eating right, working out and having a doctor who is good enough to help you stay healthy requires time and money, two things not every woman has.

    The plus-size thing is an stigma. Enough already wit the “she should work out and stop with the doughnuts” brainwash.

    • minime says:

      This is a great comment. Thanks for sharing and raise awareness!
      Actually what really lacks in a lot of people is not exercise, but sympathy and empathy for the other and their stories. There are many grounds for the way we look, either genetic, psychological, health related and what so ever. Main point is people are different, that’s how it is. The plus-size label is unnecessary, as there is no “super-skinny/minus-size label” either (and as it shows it is also not a primer necessity for thinner people to find clothes that fit them).

      Apart from that, Robyn is ridiculously beautiful and extremely healthy looking.

      • Little M says:

        That’s right. We are all different and I agree we need a chart to figure which size to buy but not a label that tells us “you are ok” or “you are bigger than average” or “you are fat”.

        Fashion trascends into the world and that can have consequences, like what happened to my mother.

        Robyn looks to me far better than some skinny models, but I can see beauty in thin women as well as in not so thin ones.

    • megs283 says:

      I completely agree with this statement:

      “I can occasionally make fun of a celebrity who has a fortune and a live I cannot even dream with, but I could never be mean to an average woman trying to get by. Eating right, working out and having a doctor who is good enough to help you stay healthy requires time and money, two things not every woman has.”

      We never, ever know what tragedies or health concerns someone is facing in their life.

      I am so, so sorry for the loss of your mother.

  8. Pumpkin Pie says:

    I agree with her, it is derogatory. Just call them size 2 models or size 6 or whatever.

  9. smee says:

    I’m a 6′ tall woman and I can tell you that the average weight charts for my height indicate that I need to lose 30 to 40 lbs. I wear a size 12 now, so I guess I would wear a 6 if I lost that much weight. That would be a great weight for a model my height but I am totally not interested in starving myself to reach that bs ideal number. Finding clothing that fit length-wise is a total pain right now. It’s always on-line and rarely on sale.

    I do believe that new terminology would be helpful bc “plus size” currently includes everyone from tall to wide. It’s not very specific. Basing the entire fashion industry on a size that so few women actually are seems crazy. Surely more clothing would be sold if it was labeled and designed for different shapes.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I bet you look great at six feet tall and size twelve. Those weight charts are crazy. And I’ve always wondered about the length thing, so thanks for answering that. I’m five six and size six pants (when I can squeeze into them) are a little short on me, so have always wondered how taller skinnier people made that work.

    • Megs283 says:

      I’m 5’11… I was friends with a girl in college who was my height, and also named Meg. One day we each confessed that we were envious of each other’s figures. We shared the magic number…and we were both size 14! It was sort of mind-blowing.

      Due to various…life events…I’m now a size 16/18…looking forward to landing at a 12/14 (though not enjoying the work)!

      Keep up the good fight for getting pants that are the right length. And sleeves!! My kingdom for sleeves that reach my wrists…

  10. klaas says:

    Having same height as model doesn’t mean you have same body frame and bone structure. Yeah many runway models are way too thin but many have naturally slim figure.

  11. Naddie says:

    The fashion world is so ridiculous with its standards.

  12. What is astonishing to me is that none of these designers and department stores have clued into the fact that women don’t like flipping through magazines or browsing through a store and being made to feel inferior, unattractive and grotesque.

    I guarantee you that if Ralph Lauren (a notorious photo-chopper of already extremely thin models) were to use exclusively “plus size” models like Robyn, their sales would skyrocket. Plus size – what a joke. She is gorgeous and looks fit, sexy and healthy.

    If I were thumbing through Vogue and came across a photo spread of women with bodies like Robyn (with ZERO mention of their size or “curves” – gag) I would make a mental note to buy from that clothing line, so long as the clothes were nice.

    As a size 8 5’7″ woman, I am tired of being told by the fashion industry that I am a cow. I have money to spend and I will shower it upon those companies that understand how looking at anorexic models makes us average ladies feel.

    Rant over. Carry on.

    The other Robin, but spelled correctly 🙂

  13. Denise says:

    I think the question is, who is using the term plus-size? It’s the media who keep it out there in the headlines, in the stories. If it’s used behind-the-scenes it’s inconsequential as long as it’s not perpetrated publicly. Shops that cater to larger sizes tend to use other terminology or simply list the sizes they carry.

  14. skeptical says:

    we could always get rid of labels entirely and just go by measurements?
    guy clothes do this often. I bought my last pair of work pants in the guy section. Put a tape measure around my waist and hips, and found pants based on those numbers in about 5 minutes. I just held them to my waist to judge length. They fit.

    or would the obese hate that even more?

    Why is so much of the fashion criticism based on the “you make me feel bad about myself wah wah wah” tag? Fashion is advertising! And Advertising is based on making you feel like you need to make a change, ie buying the advertized product.

    STOP BLAMING THE MODELS! They do what they must in order to get and keep their jobs!
    Fashion treats the models far worse than it treats the customers. Yet where is the outcry?

  15. SD says:

    Methinks she fails to distinguish between derogatory and descriptive…
    Fat cow = insult = derogatory
    Plus size = statement of fact (i.e. outside the ‘usual’ sizes) = descriptive

    There are so many worse things it could be called…isn’t huge one of the many antonyms for petite (also out of the normal range)?

    I do realise that petite doesn’t have the apparent stigma that plus size does, however I would imagine that those who would require plus size garments would prefer shopping for those instead of having to ask a retail assistant if a dress comes in a huge size. As a currently obese woman, I know I would.