Plus-sized model Barbie Ferreira laid it all bare for StyleLikeU’s “What’s Underneath” video about the hardships, body discrimination and erasure she’s faced working as plus-sized fashion model.
After going viral as the face of American Eagle’s “aerie Real” campaign, the 20-year-old hasn’t let the negative comments weigh her down. She has continued to gain traction, going on to model for Gucci and American Apparel. Ferreira credits her big personality and upbringing for her success and strength to move past the harsh comments, and embrace her position in the industry to change peoples’ perceptions about curvy women.
When she was 15, Ferreira dropped 15 pounds due to pressure to be thin from magazines, movies and television filled with images that didn’t portray curvy women. It took years for her to learn to love her body and embrace her size. Being true to herself on social media has served as a way for Ferreira to break stereotypes of being plus-sized where she isn’t afraid to show her true thoughts to her 426,000 followers on Instagram where she regularly posts candid photos of her body, daily activities with encouraging messages of body acceptance mixed in between some of her more wackier posts.
“People think that I’m morbidly obese,” Ferreira says. “There are housewives writing essays on Facebook on how obesity is being promoted. Most of these women are my size.”
The transgressions don’t end with social media as Ferreira has encountered her fair share of body-shaming occurrences on shoots.
“I’m doing editorials where I’m the only fat girl there,” says Ferreira. “The things that happen within those spaces can be very overwhelming.”
She recounts being asked to wear Spanx under her leggings for a sports shoot, pressured into eating chocolate cake on set and being cut from photos by clients as some of the more harrowing cases she has experienced. Her biggest eye-opener was when she was cut from her first major campaign in 2015 because of her size.
“There were no pictures of me anywhere, in-store graphics, no billboards, nothing, says Ferreira.
Instead, she found a video of herself that had been posted to YouTube. This video eventually blew up, gaining tons of views according to Ferreira. But, she still didn’t see her image in-stores or anywhere else nor was she ever paid for her work.
“They never booked me again or a girl who is bigger than me or my size,” says Ferreira. “They didn’t want to put my fat body in their store.”
Despite her experiences, Ferreira hopes to see an industry that accepts all body and hair types, admonishing the treatment of models of color who have bring their own make-up and styling tools to shoots.
“There’s beauty in everything and its socially irresponsible to market your brand or whatever to a certain race.”