With more and more American brands incorporating body positivity into their company ethos, the fashion industry is slowly but surely shedding its long-held biases against women who do not fit the mold. New ads are featuring women of color and different shapes and sizes, as well as new clothing lines that are producing garments to actually fit people with fuller figures. Moreover, plus-size models like Paloma Elsesser are not only taking the world by storm, they are also redefining society’s beauty standards. Representation for people of all shapes and sizes is a great crusade that we cannot take for granted. This is why we must give recognition to the woman who helped pave the way for all this — enter Emme, the world’s first plus-size supermodel.
Emme, born Melissa Owens Miller, had a fascinating life before she broke into the fashion world. Born in New York and raised in Saudi Arabia, Emme returned to America and eventually became a skilled rower. Her talents caught the attention of Syracuse University, who gave her a full athletic scholarship to become a member of their crew team. After graduating, she became a reporter and a morning news anchor in Arizona.
Success seemed to follow wherever she went. After moving to New York a few years later, she spotted a call for plus-size models and decided to give it a try. When she walked into the office, Emme was signed by high-profile agent Susan Georget on the spot. This moment in 1989, as quick as it was, is a defining moment that changed the landscape of the fashion industry forever.
Despite the idea of full-figured models not yet being accepted by the fashion world, nothing could hold her back from succeeding. When she spoke at the body positivity convention theCURVYCon, Emme described herself as “the windshield of the full-figured industry, where you’re going 100 mph and all the bugs get stuck to it.”
And she was truly a force to be reckoned with in the ’90s, as Emme boasts an impressive modeling portfolio. She graced numerous magazine covers, and was cited twice in People Magazine’s annual list of the Most Beautiful People. She became Revlon’s first plus-size spokesperson in 1998, and was even named “One Of The Most Influential Women in America” by Biography Magazine. Despite all of this, it wasn’t until 2017 when the plus-size model finally made her debut on the NYFW runway in a show to remember, wearing a cage-like blue and black corset from Chromat. This achievement, 28 years in the making, was a sign that perhaps, the times had finally caught up with Emme.
Now established as one of the most influential women to have ever entered the fashion world, she is now making her own moves in the industry. Emme’s new campaign, in partnership with the Full Beauty brand, encourages people to love what they wear — whether it’s a flowing piece from Woman Within’s range of crinkle dresses, which sway gracefully with every movement, or a pair of wide-width shoes for the utmost comfort, you will surely feel like a supermodel wherever you go. Considering how we live in a society whose eyes are glued to Instagram, it’s incredibly important for young girls to know that a plus-size woman like Emme did not let her body define her and continues to refuse to be boxed in.
In a letter to her teenage self, Emme writes, “This is my earnest plea to you, and to every young person out there … If others aren’t giving you the respect and love you deserve, give it to yourself.”
So, we say thank you, Emme, for being a true fashion trailblazer.