Meg Kimberling
Conceptual Plus Size Model

We talk to conceptual plus-size model @megmodels about nudity, modeling and boundary pushing.

Laura Jane: To start off, can you talk about when you first remember thinking about your body and what that relationship was like?

Meg: When I went into middle school, I started to get bullied by some kids. They weren’t necessarily attacking me because I was fat — they just didn’t like who I was. But it was around that time that I remember thinking, maybe I need to lose weight. I thought, if I lost weight, I would have less problems. 

It was also in middle school that I had the worst PE teacher. He was old and senile and the absolute worst. I had a couple of friends who were chubby girls too and he made our lives a living hell because we were fat. I could do the exact thing better than my counterparts but I wouldn’t get an A. Because of him, I missed out on my 4.0. 

In high school, I was in involved in everything. And I remember these tall skinny blond girls were also involved in everything and I knew that I was different because I was the chubby kid. I remember thinking that if I’m fat, I have to be smarter and better so that it won’t matter what I look like. To this day, I’m a perfectionist and everything I do, I want to be the best. 

In college, I started dating and it opened up this whole new world of things that I hadn’t experienced. I was still the fat person, the fat friend. But I went to college for music. And going to college for music is really great as a young adult and as a musician because it doesn’t matter what you look like. You can be 500 pounds as long as you can play your instrument and you have talent and you bring something to your art. I got to grow as an adult in an atmosphere that didn’t care what I looked like.  

LJ: Talk to me about modeling. How did you get into it? What was that experience like for you?

M: I decided I was going to leave Idaho and move to LA and get into the music business. And then I got there and no one wanted to hire a musician without a business degree. So I rediscovered what I wanted to do in life and what my natural talents were. I started to follow moire models and bloggers —at that time, there was a pretty big rise in plus size fashion. I went back to school in January of 2013 to FIDM. 

I worked at a production studio as a PR consultant. And one night, I was sitting in the studio with three photographers and I mentioned how I had always wanted to be a model. They were like, “Why are we just hearing about this now?” So I walked onto set and we started shooting. One of the photographer’s girlfriends came in and looked at the raw images and she asked me, how long have you been modeling? I told her it was my first shoot. Then she said, if this is your first shoot, you should be doing this. 

Shortly after, I got propositioned by this husband and wife photographer duo in LA who focus on shapely women over size 12. They photograph women from all ages, all backgrounds and they do completely nude photoshoots. They asked me if I wanted to be photographed and I wasn’t sure. I talked to a friend of mine who was a photographer in LA and she said, go check it out and if you’re not comfortable, then don’t do it. So I met with them and we agreed on everything. 

During my first nude photoshoot, I had a lot of weird feelings. I was excited but nervous. It was really liberating, to be in that creative space and be completely vulnerable. It is an incredible, liberating, experience for me. Photographing nude has kind of become my niche in the industry right now. I was lucky enough when I first started modeling to understand that there are different genres of modeling. I was educated enough to know that I do not fit into commercial modeling. I have tattoos. I knew I wasn’t going to stop getting tattoos. I have weird hair. That’s an issue. I have facial piercings. That’s an issue. I’m not an hourglass shape. That’s an issue. I don’t have big boobs. That’s an issue. 

I decided early on in my career that I was going to be an art based model. I discovered early on that a lot of photographers are looking for these weird, unique models to make beautiful, unique art. The more clothes I put on, the more awkward I get. I’m worried that I’m pulling on this thing, tugging on that thing. It’s hard for me to focus on what my body is doing and what the clothes are doing. 

 

LJ: As you mentioned, you’ve found a niche as a plus size model who mainly photographs nude. Tell me more about what that has been like for you and why you’re drawn to it?

M: I love to be able to bring something that is considered taboo to the surface. I have always been a rebellious person and in shooting nude, I have found a combination that has allowed me to bring beauty and art to the surface while bringing up this taboo imagery of fat people being naked. I think it’s very important, considering the size of the average woman is a size 16. We don’t see people of that size portrayed in a positive light. We don’t. And positive doesn’t have to be flattering. I mean positive in the way that it shows someone being a beautiful existence. 

We see fat people in hollywood always being depicted as unhappy and wanting to change themselves. We see plus size models that start to gain fame and lose two or three sizes. Society tells us over and over again that if you are fat, you cannot be happy, you cannot exist. There are little girls growing up right now who aren’t skinny and are sitting on their Instagram and their Snapchat and they are being influenced by this diet culture that tells them they can exist now but they could exist as a better version of themselves if they were thinner. That’s not okay. Why can’t we just exist? I really love the fact that my nude photography works. It shows people of my size just existing.

LJ: What has being on social media been like for you? What are your followers like? 

M: I’ve actually been really lucky to find some amazing people on Instagram. That’s really been where I’ve made connections in the industry and especially with the body positive movement. It’s where I have been able to find designers and brands and models and photographers that all have the same end goal, which is that representation and diversity matter in the media. These are the people that are actually making changes in their personal and professional lives to see that change happen. Instagram has had a really huge influence in my career. It’s been one of the best free tools available, ever. And once you figure out some tricks to it, like using hashtags, it really does open up a lot of doors for you. 

I’ve also had really amazing followers. I’ve gotten a lot of messages from women just saying, I’ve never seen anyone in the media with my body shape, my body type, and you look like me. It makes me so incredibly happy to know that what I’m doing is making a positive effect on someone else’s life. 

LJ: Some of the women I’ve talked to have experienced pretty terrible trolling. Have you had to deal with trolls?

M: For every 20 comments I get, I get one or two trolls or hate comments. And I get a lot of creep comments, like men being creeps. But social media has a lot of blocking options — I use them every single day. I take solace in knowing that I can block people from experiencing my world. It helps me to know that. 

I have found a combination that has allowed me to bring beauty and art to the surface while bringing up this taboo imagery of fat people being naked.

  

LJ: Does social media play a part in how you maintain your own body positivity?

M: That is something that I’ve been reexamining the last few months because I get too wrapped up in the industry of modeling. It’s not good for me. It’s not good for me on a whole different level. I went through my Instagram and did a little purge of who I follow and who is on my feed. I got rid of models that made me feel like shit about myself. I got rid of models that I was only following because I wanted to see what they were doing. I got rid of brands that I really don’t like. I got rid of brands that don’t support my social views. I got rid of brands that are using huge sweatshops to make their clothes instead of ethically sourced indie designers. I got rid of all of these people and brands that didn’t bring me joy. 

As I was going through, I was actually unfollowing a lot of people who are "body positive". But to me, they used their body positivity message as something just highly monetized. There is a difference between actually being involved with the body positive movement and just being a brand or a model that throws around the hashtag to make money. Personally, I feel that the body positive movement is very important and applicable to what is going on in our world. There are a lot of people who are abusing it. I refuse to support those people and I believe in using what I have to support those who I want to support. I’m not supporting these people who I think aren’t doing the proper work. If they don’t get my likes, they don’t get my money.

LJ: From talking to you and following your feed, I get such a strong sense of confidence and positivity from you. How do you maintain a positive body image? And how have you gotten here?

M: A lot of people think that body positive activists don’t have bad days, but we definitely do. We’re still just humans. 

I’ve been about 60 pounds less in my adult life than I am now. I worked my ass off to get there. I had no social life. I didn’t develop an eating disorder, but I was awfully close in retrospect. I was working out twice a day, hours at a time. All I did was wake up, go to the gym, and eat chicken. I definitely lost weight but now that I’m older, I realize that what it took to get there wasn’t worth it. 

When I have those bad days, I think, I have a social life now, I have things to do, and I have things in my life that are more important than spending hours in a gym and telling myself that I can’t have a bowl of ice cream. I was thinner, but I was still fat. I had dinner with a friend recently and we were looking at old pictures of each other and I showed him a picture of me right before I moved to California. He looked at me and said, I don’t want to offend you, but you look so much happier now. It’s true. 

What I have to remind myself when I have bad days is that, it’s a day. 

I remember thinking that if I’m fat, I have to be smarter and better so that it won’t matter what I look like.

LJ: What piece of advice would you give to women who are trying to be more body confident?

M: This is my one piece of advice that people tend to not take seriously but it comes from a serious place in my heart. People need to spend more time naked. I feel like women who are not a size zero or a two or a four are told that their naked bodies are not something that should be seen by anyone, including themselves. Because of that, the taste majority of women don’t like to get naked in front of their partners or even themselves. I’m not saying we should all become nudist and walk around in public naked. But when you’re in the privacy of your own home, instead of walking around in oversize sweats, try wearing something lighter or walk around naked and see how you feel. Is it going to be the end of the world? Nope. Because you’re home alone. Just stand in front of the mirror naked and look in the mirror with a positive light. Look at yourself naked before you get in the shower—that’s kind of my little ritual before I get in the shower. I feel like a lot of people don’t do that. Look at yourself, your true self, in the mirror and think, that’s me. I’m okay with it.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

MEG ON INSTAGRAM

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