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She used to be bullied about her figure, now plus-size model Charlotte says every woman should be body confident

A Curve event at Belfast’s CastleCourt this Saturday will celebrate style at any size. Three plus-size models from Northern Ireland talk to Karen Ireland about body confidence

Published 20/06/2016

Busy model: Charlotte Coyle
Busy model: Charlotte Coyle
Charlotte Coyle with her mum
Erin Davies
Arlene Kelly

Bigger can be better according to Belfast's CastleCourt which will be hosting Curve on Saturday - a fashion show aimed at style for all sizes.

Plus size models will wear well-known brands and high street names at the extravaganza in a bid to inspire women to embrace their figures - no matter what shape they are.

Fashion shows will run from 12.30pm-4pm and there will also be beauty and hair tips, too.

Camila McCourt, CastleCourt marketing manager, says: "Here at CastleCourt we believe you don't have to be skinny to be stylish.

"Our models, who range from sizes 12 and 16 up to sizes 18 and 20 will show women how they can still wear all the latest trends.

"Stores such as Evans, Simply Be, Bonmarche and Yours Clothing, along with Dorothy Perkins and Debenhams will be taking part in the event."

Here, we talk to three plus-size models who say style isn't limited to your slimmer sisters.

Charlotte Coyle (33), is a make-up artist who divides her time between Londonderry and Belfast. She says:

I will host Saturday's Curve event and I am delighted a show like this is happening in Belfast.

It's important to highlight different of body shapes and we should definitely celebrate curves.

I have always been proud of my curves and happy with my body shape. Hopefully, we are now moving away from a time when the perfect body size is perceived to be a 10.

It is time to promote positive thinking about body image and appreciate that larger girls are attractive and stylish, too.

While I have always been happy with my shape, others weren't and I was bullied at school because of my size which was very difficult.

About 13 years ago I moved to America and a modelling agency approached me to be a plus-size model. That experience turned my life around and now I totally embrace my size, and have found my confidence.

As a plus-size model I have worked in New York, Paris and London, appearing in TV and magazine campaigns - it was fantastic.

But I missed home and felt as though I had been away for long enough. When I came back to Northern Ireland, I retrained as a make-up artist and have been working at that ever since, in everything from drama productions to film sets.

I love what I do - it's a great industry to be in. Theatrical make-up, in particular, is so creative. There is also plenty of work for me as a part-time model with the CMPR agency - though people are often surprised when I tell them that.

My outlook on life is positive, so I find it easy to embrace my curves and womanliness. I accept that I'm a big girl and that's the way I like it.

While I exercise, I'm always going to be a big size.

I love clothes and there is plenty of style for women of my size here - I love River Island which has just brought in its own plus-size range. Saturday's event will showcase the choice there is now. Years ago women like me tended to hide their shape under big baggy jumpers and it was a taboo to talk about being curvy and larger. Happily that's no longer the case."

Erin Davies (19) is a speech therapy student and lives in Parkgate, Co Antrim. She says:

Some people are offended when they discover I’m a plus-size model yet I’m just a size 12-14. Admittedly, while I’m not very big, when you hit a size 12 in the modelling industry you automatically become plus-size.

I prefer the term curvy and think events such as Saturday’s fashion show will prove to women here they shouldn’t be ashamed of having a voluptuous figure.

I began modelling a couple of years ago when I was 16, and was asked to do plus-size event at Belfast Fashionweek.

I enjoyed the experience but as a schoolgirl I didn’t pursue a career in modelling and instead continued with my studies. However, I did feel really comfortable in the clothes and was very confident about my body.

At 5ft 11ins, I’ve always been taller and bigger than my friends, who are all petite size eights and 10s.

For years I suffered from low self-esteem and lacked body confidence, until I took part in Fashionweek. Then I realised that curves could be beautiful, too.

Before that I was crash dieting all the time and trying to slim down, but then I gained confidence and realised as long as I was healthy and felt positive about my body I could be happy with my shape.

Now, I’ll happily wear body con and fitted dresses which show off my figure. And I know that I’m not fat. I’m a normal, healthy size and I’m proud to be part of an event which promotes that.

There is as much fashion choice now for curvy girls as there is for slim girls.

Women such as the Kardashians have made it okay to have an hourglass figure. Hopefully people will eventually stop using the term ‘plus-size’ and just accept the fact that women are beautiful whatever their body shape.”

Arlene Kelly (30) lives in Ballygawley with her husband Damian (34) and their 11-month-old son Danai. She is a senior health care assistant with Marie Curie and is currently on maternity leave. She says:

I started modelling about 10 years ago when a friend who owned a clothing boutique suggested I enter the Miss Northern Ireland contest.

Despite being curvy and tall I did really well in the heats and came third.

At this time the size zero debate was raging in the media, but I fitted into modelling well — I showed that larger girls with curves could be beautiful, too.

After my success in Miss Northern Ireland I began working with Alison Campbell’s agency as a plus-size model and I loved it.

For me it was about embracing my curves and making the best of my figure. I have always dressed well for my shape and know what styles suit me.

There is no excuse for not dressing well with the number of ranges available on the high street now.

While I have always been fit and healthy, I did want to lose weight after my son was born.

I recently ran the Omagh half marathon with my mum Patricia as she is an experienced marathon runner so it was a great way for me to get fit.

I am going back to work soon and it can be challenging working in the health service, but I love it and can’t wait to get back.

As a Marie Curie health care assistant I feel privileged to be part of people’s lives at such a difficult time.

Working nights with my full-time job makes life easier for me as a new mum and I model part-time for CMPR Models, too.

When it comes to my body shape I am healthy and confident.

Being a larger lady isn’t as stigmatised as it once was — not when there are role models such as Beyonce and Holly Willoughby who are happy to flout their curves.

My favourite places to shop are Dorothy Perkins, Next and Topshop — basically anywhere that stocks up to a size 16.

It’s important that women who aren’t super slim get the message that fashion is definitely still for them.”

Belfast Telegraph

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