If you follow models and the newest modeling trends on social media especially plus-size modeling then you must have heard a famous name, Naomi Shimada.
She is one of the most prominent parts of the body positivity movement. She is a well-known TV presenter campaigner, influencer, and a plus-size model. She has been featured in many famous fashion magazines Elle, The guardian, vogue and starred in campaigns for Monki and Nike. She has nearly 85.9k followers on Instagram.
She gained prominence when she was recognized as a model from ASOS Curve, the plus-size section of the fashion brand as a model with unique and classifiable looks.
Naomi Shimada was born on July 13, 1987, in Tokyo, born in Tokyo, Shimada grew up in Japan then moved to the south of Spain, she spent her teenage years there. As a result of traveling from one place to another, she eloquently speaks striking four languages i.e. Japanese, English, Spanish, and French. She began her regular modeling career at the age of 13. Though she started as a regular-sized thin model, later she took a break from her modeling career and started plus-size modeling at the age of 22.
What’s a plus-size model
A plus-size model is a person or an individual whose body weight or stature is considered large as compared to an average slim model.
On one hand, average straight-size modeling is focused mostly on body size, measurements, and stature of the model, Plus-size modeling is more concerned with the casting and evaluation of a model on a dress size basis.
Generally, fashion industry classifies plus size models as an individual over a size 6. Though this designation has raised many objections in the past
Though the era of plus-size modeling has changed a bit and most women who are considered plus-size models are a size 12,14 or higher, which brings the modeling industry’s picture of plus-size models more in line with that of the public perception.
Though, the modeling industry’s demanding standards about height weight, and other physical aspects of a model’s look and appearance, however, remain quite integral when casting a plus-size model.
Plus-size fashion models are generally required to be 5’9” and up and are demanded to have flawless skin, fuller and healthier hair, and well-kept and healthy nails.
Though Plus size fit models can be shorter i.e. between 5’6” and 5’9”, while commercial modeling shows also known as real-people modeling offers more room for plus-size models.
Naomi’s career towards plus-size modeling
Naomi Shimada started modeling when she was just 13 years old. According to her, she was giving sexy shots for magazines before she even passed high school.
In one of her interviews, Naomi said that that is something the industry does not counsel models about that they always have to be what someone else wants them to be, this industry demands you to carry sexy looks as well as the girl next door look with the same accuracy.
Shimada told in one of her interviews that as she got older, her body began to show changes in terms of her physique. In her last year as a regular-size model, she was a size 8 model slowly weaving towards a 10, she confessed that was constantly trying to keep her weight down which made her miserable.
According to her, she was trying everything, all sorts of diet plans, training exercise. She even tried lemon-cayenne i.e. not eating for two weeks thing, Although, she was giving everyone a false perception that she was detoxifying her body but in reality, being thin was on her mind.
She took a break from regular-size modeling and then started to model plus sizes at the age of 22. Because she thought she could not keep up with the constant demands of being a slim-size model and it was causing too much mental and physical strain on her.
She told in an interview that as a model, one is always thinking about dieting. Dieting is something that completely takes charge of your life and that is all one can think and talk about.
She told me that when you are on a diet You are unable to have a simple breakfast and eat bacon and have a good laugh because you are constantly hating yourself each and every part of the day. Naomi said that she didn’t want this constant pressure to take over her life anymore.
Naomi told in an interview that she thought it was crazy that Plus-size modeling starts at size 12. But later she realized that it was just the language. It just meant plus in comparison to the super slim and thin. There were very few girls doing plus size, so it was a good opportunity for Naomi as she started making more money than regular modeling.
Naomi said that switching to plus-size modeling was kind of liberating to her as she felt so free. Naomi said as she grew up in hip-hop culture, she always wanted to look like those people having prominent bodies.
Shimada said plus-size modeling enabled her to become who she wanted to be which made her feel really good. she embraced it with her heart and soul, and this feeling was quite the opposite of what she felt before.
Naomi even made a cookery show after starting plus-size modeling. she wanted to be the poster girl for eating whatever one likes without any regret and enjoying it because she was always so passionate about food. She felt this urge of doing something like that and she did it eventually.
Naomi contributions to the modeling industry
She has served as the ‘curve’ columnist for InStyle (2010 – 2013). She offered style advice to readers.
Naomi Shimada is one of those models who tried to play their part in the modeling industry as much as they could. Naomi made sure that she gets to have more fun with the way she looks. According to her, everybody plays their respective roles at work in one way or another and she thinks it’s her role to promote body positivity when it comes to plus-size models. She likes to walk in with my game face walk out with her sneakers on along with her funny hat. She said that she is more than happy to step in and out of those shoes.
Naomi feels that in this era the modeling and advertising industries like to play safe thought that was not the case back in the ’80s and ’90s where there was so much diversity in terms of body representation.
As a size 16 woman and a model, Naomi aims to shape a world where models of all sizes can be used for all brands. Which of course means thin. This conversation needs to be opened up, not just with the brands and the magazines, but with all the decision-makers and influencers of the fashion industry. A lot of the time it feels as if the creatives aren’t necessarily making the decisions – it’s the advertisers and others with money at stake. You can see that everywhere, from fashion weeks to magazines.
In this era where the advertisers and influencers of the fashion industry are more inclined towards promoting thin models and there is no room for creative decision making the only way to standardize the representation of people of sizes, people of different color and even ages is to take risk while sticking with it.
What can be done to break the faux concepts of the ideal figure?
Naomi Shimada thinks that the modeling industry needs to be more considerate of their employee’s feelings She posed the very question by saying why doesn’t the modeling industry thinking about how people perceive models when they look at them? She said that people should be able to connect with models despite their age, color, size and should be able to consider them beautiful but to do so someone from this very industry has to do it first.
Shimada made it very clear that she does not hold anything against skinny models and she is not being pessimistic at all, but there is always room for more diversity at the table. She agrees that there are changes happening in the fashion industry, but it still not enough to cause considerable change.
Shimada thinks that the term plus-size model should not be taken as a token rather people should take it seriously. She thinks promoting plus-size models and giving them a chance in all sorts of advertising and modeling industry will bring creativity and diversity to the table.
Naomi went on saying that certainly there are people who are doing great things in this area of the modeling industry, but their voices are not as amplified as other slim-size model advocates. There are so many interesting plus-size role models in the fashion industry, but the industry is not providing them the platforms they are worthy of.
Naomi thinks of H&M as a fashion retailer which could actually bring some change in the fashion industry. They have the required money to experiment with their designs. There is no risk for them as their targeted audience is the real western population which is not quite a risk.
Naomi thinks that fashion retailers could sell more if they improved their creativity and enhanced their output. She thinks many women aspire to change and it would benefit everyone if the fashion industry is willing to bring creativity to the table.
In 2019, Naomi Shimada co-authored a book with her friend and journalist Sarah Raphael. Sarah is an editor at large Refinory29.
Naomi’s book Mixed feelings discusses the social media phenomena along with its adverse effects. In her book, Shimada has encouraged people to take a break from social media as it is changing the very notion of our lives.
Shimada stated in her book that her social media totally changed her life by changing the scope of her work, the community she works in, and even the industry she works for.
Naomi chose to call her book “Mixed feelings” because she thinks that having a smartphone and constantly being on social media gives birth to have mixed feelings, especially when it comes to the millennial generation.
Mixed Feelings represents the idea that there are just as many good things as there are bad things about being on social media is giving you access to the whole world now with the help of just one tap. Though it is an amazing experience, that comes with new feelings.
What’s next for Models like Naomi Shimada herself?
Naomi Shimada is one of the most influential personalities when it comes to plus-size modeling. She has her distinctive style and personality and she has accredited her parents with that approach of hers towards fashion and styling.
She told in one of her interviews that her father was one of the first people who opened vintage stores in Tokyo so she grew up looking at people dressed differently than others. This became the very foundation of her unique styling and fashion.
Naomi has made this very clear that her idea of promoting fashion and styling is to liberate people from cliché trends. She said that she does not want people to dress up like her rather she wants people to explore their unique style whenever they come across her profile on social media.
Naomi thinks people are obsessed with ideas of perfectionism throughout society and this idea just gets magnified on social media. She wants to address this idea and break barriers in the modeling industry.
Though it would not be an exaggeration to say that these untiring efforts from plus-size models like Naomi herself have actually made the difference as now many fashion retailers like ASOS Curve, Pretty Little Thing, Boohoo, Mango, Elvi, River Island, New Look, Simply Be and many others don’t shy away from promoting Plus-size models and plus-size modeling trends.
Even Nike has promoted plus-size sportswear by displaying plus-size mannequins in their stores which stirred up quite a positive response from the buyers.
So, all in all, Naomi Shimada is indeed a stereotype breaker. She has indeed inspired many people by her work and also played a huge role in building up body positivity among people who are may not be so sure about themselves.