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Plus-size model's underwear photo goes viral & sparks heated debate on social media

Claudine Varela
Jan 18, 2019
05:27 A.M.

This size 24 model breaks barriers posing in underwear but sparks a debate over her choices.

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La’Shaunae Steward is a 22-year-old plus-size model who’s proud of her body and isn’t afraid to showcase it to the world. Her size 24 figure has graced the internet through fashionable photo shoots that drew interest in her.

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BEING FAT-SHAMED

Steward admits it was a long journey for her to achieve model status and be admired for her confidence. But she also says it comes with a lot of fat shaming, the latest of which was after she posed in underwear for Universal Standard’s “Fashion Freedom” campaign.

The ad which featured Steward in white underwear was shared by Afropunk and slammed by haters for promoting poor health.

“The only thing she is ‘representing’ is poor cardiovascular health and likely diabetes,” one commenter wrote and added,

“People this size don’t NEED representation, they need help. Yours, and anyone else’s refusal to acknowledge that fact including the models and agencies themselves is doing a disservice to EVERYONE ELSE. Make the distinction, I didn’t say she is ugly I said she is unhealthy.”

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More harsh comments followed after.

“This encourages and promotes unhealthy habits, nothing more.”

“It’s NOT normal to be this size and it’s NOT normal to promote underwear being made this size. They and you are doing just that... normalizing and perpetuating morbid obesity.”

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Luckily, Steward found allies in people who defended her and said her health is an issue between her and her doctor and no one else and that she should be allowed to celebrate her body the way she chooses.

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HER RESPONSE TO FAT-SHAMING

Steward, who dreamed of becoming a fashion designer since she was in third grade is aware that these trolls taking a negative stance about her modeling career are not really concerned about her health. She told BET,

“They make it like they're genuinely concerned about my health, but in reality, they just don't want someone who looks like me to be the way I am on Instagram or any platform. Unhidden, not insecure, and not afraid to exist. It’s fatphobia at its best.”

Unwavered by the criticisms, Steward hopes that more and more plus-size people like her are given the opportunity to become models as well.

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“I want to see the models who have similar heights and body types as me, over a size 18 and shorter than 5-foot-8, on the cover of magazines and out on runways. [And also more] models with disabilities and more trans models.”

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A REMARKABLE ACHIEVEMENT

In the fall, Steward signed under London’s Revolt Model Agency and shared the happy news on her Instagram.

"I DID IT! I am now represented by @revoltmodelagency. Everyone knows how vocal I was about being a black model who is not the tallest and also bigger than a size 18, so this happening is surreal and so important to me. I grew up being told that things like this would never happen for a girl like me and i’m amazed and so proud and happy for myself. To all the ones who are still in school and being bullied for not being thin, and you have a dream that many people tell you is impossible, do NOT give up."

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Steward currently has close to 90,000 followers on social media and looks forward to enlightening them with her inspiring story as she welcomes 2019 with the determination to achieve even greater things.

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ANOTHER PLUS-SIZE MODEL WHO THRIVES DESPITE BEING FAT-SHAMED

Like Steward, Megan Kimberling is a plus-size model who'd been constantly fat-shamed. The 29-year-old who has graced the pages of Vogue Italia admits having to block at least 50 people a day to shield herself from their negative comments. However, Kimberling has also chosen not to allow the trolls to affect her life and celebrate her body as well as her modeling career.

"If you're not going to take me seriously then I'm not the issue, you are the issue," she says.

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WHEN DISABILITY ISN'T AN INABILITY

Nowadays, more and more people who in the past wouldn’t be deemed magazine-worthy are gracing these pages due to the growing trend of inclusivity. Karneshia Patton is a woman with a disability who broke barriers by becoming a model while strapped to a wheelchair. Patton is paralyzed from her waist down but that hasn’t kept her from fulfilling her dream of gracing the runway. And she did in 2015. Patton is also an athlete who ventured into wheelchair tennis and basketball. She’s currently a nail technician who holds two college degrees – one as a nurse and one as a nutritionist.

Patton, Steward, and Kimberling are proof that the possibilities are endless when one has the confidence and motivation to achieve their dreams.

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