The first time I saw a photo of Megan Kimberling I was besotted right away. It was a photo of her stood in the middle of a highway, nude save for a black jacket and high heels. Her stance is powerful and she stares right into the camera lens. Kimberling is a plus size model, an actually plus size model. She has a figure that so many of us see in the mirror, but never see in the media, and she is demanding that the world makes that change.
An alternative model in every sense of the word; from her tattoos, partially shaved head and canary yellow hair, to her completely atypical plus size figure. Most plus size models have a very similar figure: a traditional hourglass, large breasts, they wear corsets and have flat stomachs and curves in the ‘right places’. Kimberling is a bad ass. She breathes life back into a stale industry and she is the plus size model we’ve been asking for. I’ve written several articles about my problems with certain high profile plus size models like Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence, so I just had to introduce you to my new favourite model.
First of all, tell us a bit about yourself! Who is Megan Kimberling?
I am actually a pretty normal person. I live outside of Los Angeles, CA in Long Beach in a cute little apartment seven blocks from the beach. Originally, I am from the Pacific Northwest, hailing from the Washington-Idaho state line area. I grew up in Eastern Washington on an old farmstead, and then did my undergrad studies at the University of Idaho in North Idaho. After studying music theory and radio/TV/digital media production, I moved to Southern California to try my hand in the music business. Decided that wasn’t for me in that way, and went back to school at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in LA.
After obtaining a degree in Merchandise Marketing, I did a few odd jobs here and there before finding the company I am currently at. Yes, I have an office day job and I love it! I am a product developer for a small company that specialises in private brand collections for theme parks and pet brands. Modelling has been my glorified hobby for three years now, and it has been an incredible rollercoaster of emotions the entire way.
In a sea of size 12 models masquerading as plus size, your work is an absolute breath of fresh air! How did you get into modelling?
Thank you! I got into modelling while I was running a photo studio in Downtown Los Angeles. I sat around watching models, photographers, hair and makeup artists, and stylists day after day. One night, while I was sitting with about four photographers, I mentioned that I had considered trying it out. They turned to me with blank stares until one said: “and we are just hearing about this now?” So I did a fashion shoot at the studio with hair, makeup, and styling. The photographer’s girlfriend was also a model and was looking through the raw files; she asked me how long I had been modelling. When I told her “this is my first shoot,” she responded with, “you should keep doing this.” So, I did.
After about a month of promoting myself as a model, I was approached by photographer J William Washington and his wife to participate in their series called Lady19. Lady19 is a project filled with artistic nude images of shapely women (all over size 12). When they asked me to participate, I had never shot nude, let alone consider doing it. I consulted some friends in the industry and all came back with an astounding “YES.” The experience was fantastic, and I decided that I wanted to pursue fine art modelling for my career.
You’ve been really outspoken about your issues with most of the mainstream plus size models like Ashley Graham, so who are the plus size models we should keep an eye out for that you love?
Yes, I have been outspoken about a lot of mainstream plus models because of their shady politics. Now, this might upset a lot of people, to find out that I don’t follow many plus models, that I’m not inspired by many plus models’ work. I find that the models I’m aesthetically attracted to tend to be “oddballs” and don’t fit into typical agency standards. I love models who push boundaries and don’t have standardised bodies. For those reasons, I don’t follow a lot of plus models. I find that when I follow numerous plus models I start feeling shitty about myself because I don’t look like them, I don’t have the follower count, I don’t have the engagement they do. No one wants to feel shitty about themselves. For mental health reasons, I have had to cut a lot of plus models out of my social media.
The plus size people I look to aren’t “models” but are beautiful people, and people who inspire me. Take a look on Instagram at @abbeymag, @thoughtscaughtinmyfro, @sdvvintage, @wearyourlabel (clothing brand, but they feature wonderful bodies), @kobi_jae, @nickholliday, and @ushshi. My all-time model crush is @alexundone on IG. She is a straight size model, but inspires me to push my body in directions I didn’t know were possible. Simply put, she is a fantastic model.
Your modelling work is a wonderful combination of editorial fashion, artistic nudes and boudoir work, what is your favourite kind to do?
I love shooting artistic nude. It is freeing. There is no clothing to worry about, no uncomfortable undergarments, no standards to reach for clothing your body. When I shoot nude, there is just me – and that is pretty great. Most of my shoots are actually very intimate with only me and the photographer. I find this allows me to fully put my trust into the person behind the camera, and lets me just be myself. I forget about my lumps, bumps, curves, cellulite, stretch marks, and whatever else society deems unacceptable, and I just pose. I want people to see my body as it exists.
Personally I adore your artistic nude work, your body type is so similar to my own, seeing it in art fills me with glee! Why did you decide to start doing nude modelling?
I discovered that I was much more comfortable shooting nude. Styling became a breeze, and the anxiety that came from trying to fit my odd body into clothing that truly wasn’t ever meant to be on a body like mine was torturous. I was scared shitless at first because my body isn’t “ideal.” How would people like me? Is my work any good? Does my body shape effect my work? How much ridicule will be under for doing this? After about a year, the questions disappeared because of all the fantastic support I was gaining. Women were sending me messages and comments about how they had never seen their body shape represented in photos. That hit hard. There are people out there that have been trained to think their bodies aren’t worthy of existing because society doesn’t allow them to be photographed. I felt like I needed to be the change I wanted to see in the world – if I wanted to see fat bodies existing, I was going to show them a fat body existing beautifully.
Where are your go-to stores to shop? Your style is so eclectic and alternative. And I’m in lust with your yellow hair!
Thank you! I have recently decided to shop indie designers and US brands (nearly exclusively). I shop brands like Sheeek By Bee (shameless plug for our new swimwear collection we co-designed), SmartGlamour, Universal Standard, RWN by Rawan, JIBRI, Monif C, Zelie For She, Yatir Clothing, Curvy Couture Intimates, and Hanky Panky (for my all time favourite undies – vintage thong!). I love custom things because my measurements are weird. I have a vintage designer in LA that I work with often for custom and alterations. My favourite vintage dealer SDV Vintage is out of Canada and she gets me treasures all the time.
Outside of modelling and the plus size world, what do you love to do?
I am, and will always be, a huge lover of music. I studied classical and jazz in college, and truly fell in love with jazz in my early 20s. The dream is to open my own jazz club one day. I don’t know when or where, but it will happen. Outside of music, I love tv shows. There ain’t no shame in my show binge game. While studying production in my undergrad, I had the opportunity to study film and television, as well. It gave me a great appreciation for cinematic arts
You’ve worked with some brands that we at She Might Be really love, including favourites Ready To Stare. Who would be your dream brand collaboration?
Ohhhh girl! This is easy. I have two: Christian Siriano and Signor Mont. Siriano is so incredibly talented; I would LOVE to collaborate with him. Signor Mont is actually bridal designer Anthony Montesano in Australia. His work is breathtaking, and I would love to be a part of his creative process.
What has been the highlight of your modelling career so far?
Wow, I never know how to answer this question. I have had the opportunity to be involved in multiple projects that fill me with great joy and pride. I would have to say the response to the swimwear collection I just launched with Bethany Calvin for her brand Sheek By Bee is overwhelming. I was lucky enough to travel to Puerto Rico with my best friend, Samantha Figueroa, and have her shoot the lookbook. Bethany was/is a dream to work with. This collection came together in about three months time, and we are both floored by the response. You find out who is in your court when you hit milestones in this industry. I found out I have an extravagant number of people on my side, and it makes me incredibly happy. (Tears of joy while typing this.)
Most recently, you’ve collaborated with independent designer Sheeek by Bee on your first ever fashion line, a range of plus size swimsuits for the small chested plus size woman! As a plus size woman who fits that description, I am so excited about it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a line specifically for those of us with a smaller chest before. How did that collab come about? Tell us everything!
I haven’t ever seen a line like this before either! As a plus size woman who wears a 44B US bra, in order to find swimwear to fit my ribcage, I apparently have to be a DD cup. Both Bethany and I are small chested plus women. We connected on social media about a year or so ago when I found her designs (which are great and affordable and handmade). I complained on Facebook in a status one night after being completely pissed about not being able to fit into chest sizes the plus industry has deemed appropriate for women. She commented that we should fix it. I sent her a private message asking her if she was suggesting a collaboration, and she was.
We took inspiration from straight size fashion and trends, noting that we wouldn’t be using foam cups or underwire. We wanted something that fat women would be looking fly as hell in while letting their boobs be boobs! As far as inspiration, Bethany is more modern contemporary than I am, as I live in vintage for my fashion. We wanted to combine the two in our designs – which is exactly what we did. The tops feature a couple crop top/sports bra inspired pieces, as well as a tie bandeau straight out of the 60s. The bottoms are our take on a lingerie trend you will probably be seeing soon: the high-waisted thong. I am so in love with this silhouette.
As a plus woman with a belly, the high-cut suits I am seeing from the 90s just don’t fit my body right. My hope was that these high-waisted thong bottoms would give a lot of body shapes some love while showing off some booty. The one-piece was very much from Bethany’s brain, and she nailed it. We wanted a colour block option, and the low back, cut out one-piece was a perfect choice. I have so many people in love with it already!
Which are your favourite pieces from the collection?
My favourite pieces are the sheer blocked bottoms, with the mesh hip panels, and the tie bandeau top. I also fell in love with the long-sleeved crop top in the green mesh while in the water! It is definitely a functional piece, as well as fashionable.
Do you plan on doing more fashion design?
Short answer, YES! Long answer, I would love to do more fashion design in the future. My day job is developing products from souvenirs to apparel, and so I understand the process. My creativeness wants me to get more into design with the knowledge I have. I’m not sure how or what is next, but I am definitely keeping my options open.
What’s next for Megan Kimberling?
What’s next for me is some more projects. I have recently gotten involved with a group of artists called Sketchboard Community. They do live nude figure drawing events in LA, and I will be attending my first as a live figure June 25th. I have some shoots that I have lined up for this summer, and a couple shoots I am waiting to show off. I recently worked with Gregory Prescott on an incredibly diverse shoot that will be absolutely breathtaking.
My next big goal is a printed magazine cover, so I am working toward that! I am really just focusing on taking care of myself for mental health right now, and hoping that my art follows. This Spring I was re-traumatised out on location shooting and my PTSD came back just as it ever was. So far, it’s been a successful plan, and I’m excited to see what is in store for me.
Where can we find you to follow you online?
The best way to keep up with new work is on Instagram (@megmodels). You can follow my daily rants and raves on Twitter (@megankimberling). To view a full collection of my portfolio and publications, you can find me at www.megankimberling.com.