​love the skin you’re in with model sabina karlsson

The red haired beauty opens up about her difficult transition from child model to plus size star.

by Tish Weinstock
24 April 2016, 11:46pm

With her gapped tooth smile, constellation of freckles and fiery red curls, Sabina Karlsson is more beautiful than you could possibly imagine. It's no wonder, then, that the half Swedish, half Gambian beauty has been modelling since the age of four. The first job she booked was for a hair salon, after which campaigns, shoots and show requests came pouring in. Life as a child model was fun and carefree. It wasn't until Sabina hit puberty, however, that her body began to change - her hips widened and she developed curves - and she eventually was told she had to lose wait. Though she managed to get her measurements down to a size 2, Sabina never really felt at ease in her own skin, and despite walking for Jean Paul Gaultier and Armani, the fear of never being good enough ate away at her constantly. Everyday, her body waged war against itself, as she struggled to maintain her shape. It wasn't until she discovered the plus size industry that Sabina finally felt like she fit in. Fast-forward to today, and at size 14 Sabina has never looked, felt or been better.

Tell me about yourself and where you grew up?
I'm 5"11, Swedish and Gambian, born and raised in Sweden. I have a motorcycle license and I used to drive a Honda CBR.

When were you first discovered?
I got discovered when I was four, in my hometown. The job was for a hair salon and that's when I started working. Growing up I did smaller fashion shows, campaigns, magazines, and Scandinavia's Next Top Model.

What was it like transitioning from a child model to high fashion?
As a child model everything was just fun and easy, people would just ask me to smile and be happy. When transitioning to high fashion, I entered a completely different world. My measurements were too big so I had to go on my first diet and start with daily workout routines. It was very difficult for me to think about what I could eat and couldn't and it took some time before I accepted it.

Have you ever felt pressured into looking a certain way?
Yes I have felt pressured to look a certain way, to be skinnier. It didn't come naturally, it was definitely a struggle for me. I never felt skinny enough, and I guess not good enough for the industry even though I always believed in myself.

You took a brief break from the fashion world, did you learn anything about yourself during that time?
I took a break because I had to get my measurements down, I went on a boot camp for six week to Cambodia. Just focused on getting into the "right shape". I came to NY and wasn't skinny enough, after that I had had it; I was exhausted. My agency at the time told me to look into their plus size division, which I did and that became one of the best decision I've made.

What does modelling mean to you?
It's made me into a very independent woman. I love my job and sometimes I have to remind myself that this passion of mine is my job. Modelling has given me so many different experience, from meeting people, living in different countries and achieving goals.

How has modelling changed you as a person?
Modelling makes you a chameleon, you learn to handle different people with all kinds of personalities. With the people I met on jobs I've learned a lot about life and their journey and stories, which gives you a broader perspective of life.

How do you feel about terms such as "plus size" and "in betweenie"?
I'm not a fan of the different terms models gets after their size. I'm a model and shouldn't be defined by my size. I want to be booked because I'm a good model not because I'm a size 14.

What changes have you seen within the industry over the years?
The industry has changed since I started, it's nice to see that different body types are being accepted.I'd love to see this change go even further that models gets booked because of their talents. I love walking shows and would love to do more shows during fashion weeks in a major cities.

What does beauty mean to you?
I love beatifically things but true beauty to me is when a person shines and has a genuine personality.

What do you stand for?
I stand for equality, gender and ethnic equality. I've always been that person who wants everyone to be a part, and everyone to be seen. I can't stand when people are being disrespectful or when a man treats me differently because I'm a young woman. I stand for human equality.

What advice would you give to young girls hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Believe in yourself, remember that you're unique and that a no doesn't mean that you're not beautiful, they're just not ready for you yet.

Aside from modelling what else are you into?
I want to help young girls with their self-esteem and the things they go through as a teenagers. Another goal is to get into acting, be able to score a role in a movie.

What's the best thing about being a girl in 2016?
The best thing about being a woman in 2016 is that we're getting encouraged my each other to be stronger and make our voices heard. I love being a woman.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
My hopes for the future is that I can continue working with my passion, stay healthy and enjoy life the way I'm doing now.


Text Tish Weinstock

Plus Size
body diversity
Sabina Karlsson