Plus Size Models Should Never Give Up – Philomena Kwao

Plus sized Ghanaian model Philomena Kwao was recently caught up in an extensive interview with Zen Magazine and she dashed out some advice to other plus size models. Check it out.

Philomena Kwao is signed to Ford Models/JAG Models in New York
Philomena Kwao is signed to Ford Models/JAG
Models in New York

Many plus size models dream of working in New York, getting signed to a top agency and if possible, inspire other models along the way. Philomena Kwao is a plus size model who is already living that dream and for her, even though it’s been an incredible journey so far, she is still hungry for more success. Philo as she is fondly called opens up to Zen about the most exciting year of her life and what it feels like to be one of the world’s top plus size models.

Zen: What inspired you to get into modelling?
Philomena: In my late teenage years, I did a bit of hair and beauty modelling, without any big aspirations that it would take me somewhere. After a year of sporadic shooting, I decided to concentrate on my education and was able to achieve a 1st class degree in Economics and a Masters in International Health Management. My journey into professional modelling so far began by chance as I had fully planned out a career in health management and policy.

Zen: When and why did you get started?
Philomena: A friend of mine entered my details online into a modelling competition in which Evans and Style 369 in conjunction with Models1 were looking for a new plus size model to front their shape campaign and to also become the Face of Style 369. I eventually won the competition becoming the Face of Style 369 for the SS 12 campaign and also got signed by Models1. It’s been an incredible journey so far. It’s coming up to 2 years since I was signed and my career has moved from strength to strength. I am now signed to Ford Models/JAG Models and I am living and working in NYC.

Zen: What’s it like being a plus size model?
Philomena: Honestly, I didn’t realise how hard modelling was until I started it as a full time job! It’s not easy painting the perfect picture. One really has to study their craft and perfect it. This is done through support from my agents and a lot of study. Luckily, the plus size community is generally very supportive and I have been helped and encouraged by other models along the way. My general working week consists of shoots and numerous castings and go-sees. Occasionally, I have test shoots to improve and diversify my book. Even though we are bigger than your standard fashion models, we still have to work hard to maintain our size, shape and tone. Believe me, this is harder than it seems.

Zen: Who are some of your favourite models and designers?
Philomena: I absolutely adore Naomi Campbell because I think is the ultimate icon for me. I also love Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls, Daria Werbowy and Alessandra Ambrosio. Plus size icons I also love include Crystal Rennn, Fluvia Larceda, Ashley Graham and Candice Huffine. In terms of designers I am really into, Chloe at the moment is 1 of my favourites. The simple styles and clean palettes are really up my street. And of course! What’s a curvy model without anything Herve Leger.

Philomena Kwao is a British Ghanaian model working and living in New York
Philomena Kwao is a British Ghanaian model
working and living in New York

Zen: How would you describe your style?
Philomena: I like clean simple clothes for my everyday wear, but on nights out, I’m not afraid of wearing a bold statement piece, whether it’s a dress or a blazer. I’m currently blogging my style travel looks on the Models1 Curve blog and on Instagram. You can view the blog here ( or search the hashtag #PhilomenaSuitcaseStyle on Instagram.

Zen: What advice do you have for other aspiring models?
Philomena: Breaking into modelling can be extremely difficult. This competition has given me a huge boost and I appreciate how long others work to be given the opportunity I have been given. My advice would be to never give up, keep on trying! Also, don’t take anything personally, criticism is not directed at you personally so don’t take it to heart, and finally work hard and always be optimistic. Lastly, study your art! Believe it or not I actually studied to prepare shoots. I constantly search the internet, studying the pictures of well known models such as Crystal Renn, Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine, Robyn Lawley lean and Marquita Pring; watching the way they pose, move and how they are confident and comfortable with their bodies.

Zen: Who are some of your favourite fashion photographers?
Philomena: One of my favourite photographers of all time would have to be Peter Lindbergh because his photography work and vision is iconic. It would be a dream if my ultimate profile picture was shot by him. The Patrick and Victor Demarchelier father and son team produces some stunning classic photography. I love the dark edge of Jan Welters work and what’s fashion without Mario Testiano who doesn’t go wrong with darker skinned girls like my icon Naomi.

Zen: What does fashion mean to you?
Philomena: Fashion to me is simply an extension of one’s self. Your mood, your attitudes and your persona. That’s the fun thing about fashion; your outward creation (style) can totally transform you.

Zen: What are some of the main differences between plus size modelling and runway modelling?
Philomena: The main and obvious difference is the size requirements. Your typical plus size model is a UK 12-16 with some bigger and some smaller girls also working. The actual jobs are also quite different. I have found that plus size girls tend to work in the commercial market a lot more than in the fashion/editorial sector. However this is increasingly changing. Models like Crystal Renn, Candice Huffine and Robyn Lawley have broken this division by scoring campaigns for high fashion clients and being featured in high fashion magazine such as Vogue and ID.

Zen: What are your goals as a model?
Philomena: I would love to have a good collection of firm regular clients, and be recognised as a household name. I would also love to fully cross the boundary from commercial to high fashion, and get a chance to be featured in more high fashion editorials. Ultimately, I would like to become a spokesperson for a beauty brand such as Clinique or Estee Lauder

Zen: What is next for Philomena?
Philomena: World dominance and the emergence of Philomena Kwao as a brand

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