Former Miss Universe Says She Was Told She's "Plus-Size" After Gaining Two Pounds
Paulina Vega said she wasn't offended by the term "plus-size," but it did make her think about beauty standards from a different perspective.
When Paulina Vega was crowned Miss Universe in 2015, the Colombia native says she wanted to use her time in the spotlight to inspire women to feel beautiful from the inside out, according to People. That goal became more important than ever shortly after finishing her reign as Miss Universe when she landed a contract with a New York modeling agency.
Vega was three months into the contract when she says she was told she'd no longer be considered "a model of catwalk and editorial," and that she "was no longer among the 'skinny' and would be classified as a 'plus size' model," because she had gained weight—two pounds, to be exact.
In a blog post on her website, Vega says that the agency told her that this weight gain classified her as a "plus-size" model. As a result, she could no longer be considered for runways and editorial shoots. (Related: Miss Universe Contestant Claps Back at Body Shamers Who Criticized Her Weight)
"It was a 'wow' moment," she shared in her post. "I was not offended to be told [I was] 'curvy' or to go to another 'category.' It was about how strange the term PLUS SIZE was...Under what standards can someone be considered plus size? And who decides those standards?"
This isn't the first time someone has taken issue with the term. Ashley Graham, who is often labeled as "plus-size", previously opened up to us about the inherent issue with categorizing women's bodies in this way. "Why do we want to be put in a different category than all the other types of models?" she said. "No one says 'skinny model', so am I wrong for not wanting a label? I don't think so. And you know what, this younger generation of girls that are bigger and curvier, do they want to be called plus-sized at age 13 when they go to school? No. You just want to be a girl. I think it's about getting with the times." (See: Why Curve Models Are Embracing a More Body Positive Label)
Vega said she could have felt "disappointed" about being labeled "plus-size," but instead, she decided to turn the whole experience into an important lesson.
"It inspired me to focus on what I really love to do and build my own path," she wrote. "Above all, it taught me to be true to myself, not to let other people's ideas typecast me and to choose how I want to live my life." (Related: Where the Body-Positivity Movement Stands and Where It Needs to Go)
Vega, who now dedicates her work to both social activism and modeling, realized that her "dreams, passions, [and] being a better person" were far more important to her than the way she looked.
"Going from that state of constant exploration and growth to being again only judged by my appearance seemed ridiculous to me," she wrote. "I knew I was not in the right place."
From that day on, Vega vowed to only work with brands and organizations that share her values and don't force her to conform to "absurd measures.”
"I have managed to create a balance in my career that makes me feel full," she wrote. "I believe that physical beauty cannot be everything, it cannot be the focus of your work, your priority, in everything you think and where you direct all your energy. It is not healthy. When I'm 60 years old I'm going to look very different from what I am now and if I just concentrate on that, what will become of me when that beauty disappears?" (Related: Katie Willcox Wants You to Know You're So Much More Than What You See In the Mirror)
Vega said she feels much more secure in her self-confidence now than in the past, and she hopes that sharing this experience will inspire other women to feel the same.
"Today I feel happy because I nurture positive vibes and work in healthy environments," she wrote, ending her post. "I do not define myself by what changes: the shape of my body or my weight. Today I live according to my standards of beauty and health, and now I feel in the right place."