model barbara ferreira is plus size and proud
But that doesn’t mean she’s into your 'beach body ready' bullshit...
Calling for representations of people from all walks of life, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, and race, Barbara Ferreira is not your average model. Sure, she's breathtakingly beautiful, and at size 12, she oozes a level of sex appeal that most stick-thin models can only dream of. But what makes the Me and You model so incredibly unique is her refreshing attitude towards beauty and the natural confidence she radiates from within.
Confronted with the sad reality that there were no curvy role models to look up to while growing up, Barbara decided to take matters in to her own hands by sending off some pictures to American Apparel. Fast forward to today and at just 18 years of age, Barbie is a role model for young girls the world over.
She's plus size and proud - but why wouldn't she be when 'plus size' is just another term for being beautiful? What she doesn't like, however, is being wholly defined by it. Yes, she's curvy, but there are a lot of other things that make up who she is other than her body. Best friends with Petra Collins and Hari Nef, Barbie belongs to a generation of young creatives who are sick and tired of the 'beach body ready' bullshit society rams down our throats, and who are taking it upon themselves to redefine what we think of as beauty.
How did you get discovered?
I wasn't really discovered. When I was in high school I sent in some pictures to American Apparel to see if I could model for them. I didn't really know if they hired plus size girls, and back then I thought everything about modeling was about being thin. Them calling me back to test shoot showed me that the industry was opening up to a different standard of beauty.
How do you feel about terms such as "plus size" and "curvy"?
The words "curvy" and "plus size" have no connotation to me other than beautiful thick women. It is what I am and I'm not ashamed of it. Although I do mind when it's used to describe me all the time; I am more than my body, I am more than a size 12 model. However, the media body shames women to no end for gaining three pounds and has been doing this for years. Women are going to take offense to terms like "plus size" when they are taught that being big is *gasp* the worst thing in the entire world. Any word or thing that insinuates that you aren't anything but a size 0 is considered "offensive".
Do you think fashion needs to change its obsession with categorizing weight?
Yes! However, fashion has focused on the waifish body types for so long that it's going to take some time to adjust. It's so simple though; we all come in so many heights and sizes that it would be silly to go so long without representing them. I think if the industry really took the risk of diversity, it will be surprised with the support it gets. Everyone is sick of one type of beauty, it's 2015. People can be cool and edgy at 5'2 or a size 16.
What do you think about movements like Drop the Plus and the reaction against the Beach Body Ready campaign?
Drop the Plus is a great movement that urges the fashion industry to represent more types of beauty. I know plus size models with the most gorgeous bodies and faces that would make me want to buy clothes because I can relate to them, but most people don't give them the chance. Dropping the plus would change everything about the modeling industry. You can be a model and not have to worry about being a size bigger than the girl next to you.
The reaction to the Beach Body Ready campaign nearly brought me to tears. I'm so happy and proud of women for taking a stand against such a disgusting ad that was put there to try and make girls feel insecure enough to pay money for their bullshit product. But that's just one advertisement; everywhere we go we are told we aren't enough. Not young enough, not thin enough, not sexy enough. All of it in order to make money for the diet and beauty industries. I'm just so overwhelmingly happy that people are finally taking a stand over these and calling them out for their stupidity. Everyone's body is beach ready, thong ready, birthday suit ready, anything. We don't have to change our bodies to suit your sexual preferences. Women are not put on this earth to please you.
Is modeling always about objectifying women or does it empower you as a woman?
Modeling has always empowered me. It helped me be able to have the resources to do what I want and allows me to meet wonderful people that have changed my life for the better. Not to mention young girls can finally feel represented when looking in a magazine and seeing me. When I was 11 and still in my awkward phase trying to figure everything out, I would look in those magazines or movies to try to see someone like me so I could feel beautiful and give me hope that I could also do that one day. I never found that, but doing it now, those 11-year-old girls who have big dreams can find an ad with a thick girl with a flawed body and know they CAN do it, too. Body rolls and all. I just hope those little girls can feel beautiful and worthy.
There are a lot of young creatives like Hari Nef and Chantelle Winnie,who are redefining we what think of as beauty, how can we do more to promote body and gender positivity?
Both of those women are such icons for changing the game like that. Just a small shout-out to Hari for doing so well and being a beautiful soul. I can't wait for the moment that gender is taught as something that doesn't reflect what body you were born with. But I think to promote more body positivity, we just need diversity, period. Representation is so incredibly important and not just of different body types. People of all walks of life, genders, sexuality, races, disabilities and cultures need to be given the same chances as those who are in the public eye right now. Kids will see it and feel more accepting of their identity so there doesn't have to be such a high suicide rate or eating disorder rate. It gives them hope.
Who are your role models?
I love Rihanna's IDGAF attitude. Every badass girl needs to do her own thing, make her own career and have a carefree lifestyle. It's the goal for me, at least.
How do you feel about being seen as a role model for young girls?
I accept it even though it's a little scary. I'm not perfect by any means but I don't think being a role model necessarily has to mean that. I think a lot of girls see me as a role model because at 18, I have found peace with myself and seem like I have everything figured out. Trust me, I don't. I'm a teenager just like everyone else but I am here for anyone who needs me.
What advice would you give to young girls following in your footsteps?
My only advice would be to make sure you really want it. You can be an astronaut, a graphic designer, sky diving instructor, so many things. The world doesn't have to revolve around fashion and entertainment. But if you really want to, just make sure your head is on right and you're looking at the bigger picture. Don't get caught up. Don't stay stagnant. Treat yourself right.
Text Tish Weinstock