Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Thick and Thin of Being a Plus Size Model

Tricia Campbell via The Fount Group

When Frances Cordova walked down the runway at New York Fashion Week on September 6, 2013, someone backstage whispered, “you know you’re making history?” She looked around at the other models in an “Oh My God” moment. Cordova and five other women modeled for Cabiria, the first ever plus size brand to show at Fashion Week.

Liz Black, a writer for Refinery29, called the show a “revolutionary moment” and said that outfits like Cordova’s graphic black and white printed dress “threw out antiquated notions of what plus size women can and can’t wear.” 

“It’s pretty crazy,” says Cordova, “To be one of the first six plus size girls to walk the runway at Fashion Week, it was exciting.”

Walking the runway at Fashion Week is a rare opportunity for any model, but for plus size models, who spend most of their time working for department stores or as live mannequins for designers, known as fit modeling, the chance is once in a lifetime. More and more plus size models like Cordova are finding success, but only a few lucky women get high fashion jobs in magazines or ad campaigns with top designers. 

Tricia Campbell, a plus size model who has been featured in Glamour, said: “Plus size models are normally more accepted in commercial, everyday work. But I feel like that is changing because the plus size models who are working now, and the art directors of magazines, want to show that women with curves can be mainstream and fashionable.”
Frances Cordova via Wilhelmina

Despite the triumph of models like Campbell, there are many difficulties in the plus size industry. Chauncea Carothers, a fashion publicist who represents Campbell, commented: “There are always limitations as far as what size they allow to be on the runway, on the cover of magazines, especially with an American audience. Those limitations are always present. Why are they present? I think it’s just the history of the fashion industry.”

The lack of diversity is especially noticeable on the runway during Fashion Week, when designers often choose the tiniest models for economic reasons. Cordova explains, “during Fashion Week, many designers have their clothes done in smaller sizes because it’s cheaper that way. Why spend more money on more fabric when you can have smaller girls wearing the same stuff?” 

In New York Fashion Week’s 70 year history, Cabiria was the first plus size brand to stage a fashion show at the event, and Cordova was one of only six models. A typical fashion show would include 15 or more models who walk the runway multiple times each. 

Even though change is slow in North America, Campbell believes plus size models are becoming more successful abroad. She says, “I notice the change mostly in Europe. Elle France did Tara Lynn. Vogue Australia did Robyn Lawley.” 

Lynn and Lawley are plus size supermodels. Lynn starred in global H&M swimwear campaigns, has been featured in high fashion glossies like Vogue Italia, and was on the cover of Elle Spain. Lawley was the first plus size model in Ralph Lauren’s ad campaigns. She graced the pages of GQ Australia, and is the face of Chantelle Lingerie, a brand found in stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Macy’s. 

Campbell is starting to experience international success herself. “Tricia was just asked to be part of a conference in Paris,” said Carothers, “for the most part international markets are intrigued by curvier women.”

In the US, it is rare for plus size models to move beyond mainstream clients like department stores, and into high fashion magazines. According to Artemis Theocharis, a beauty editor at Plus Model Magazine, an online plus size fashion magazine, “The reason plus size girls are more commercial is that designers are not embracing plus size fashion. The industry is not fitting plus size models into the avant garde.”

Plus size models can achieve success by working for mass market companies, even if they are not welcome in the high fashion world. Cordova has modeled for big names including Macy’s and Target. Campbell regularly works with O, The Oprah Magazine, “I’m the creative director Adam Glassman’s muse,” she said. 

Both Campbell and Cordova have been modeling for years, but getting big jobs like magazine photo shoots and ad campaigns is tough. Cordova often works in fashion showrooms, where models stand around for hours so industry experts can see how clothing looks on a real body. “I’ve done lingerie shows where you basically show people a bra and underwear on your body, and people ask if they can touch the material,” said Cordova. Campbell also models in showrooms but she says, “my day to day is fit, my first gig was fit modeling coats for Burlington Coat Factory.” 

According to Carothers, “Tricia’s been working in the industry for quite some time. She’s had a lot of great opportunities. She’s done a lot, but it hasn’t been highlighted as heavily as it should be.”

One of Campbell’s most exciting opportunities was a shoot with Terry Richardson, a famous high fashion photographer, for Vice magazine. Campbell describes the shoot as “a very big boost” for her career. “I was shot in my swimsuit. I felt great the day he was shooting me. The plus size industry was not very happy with me when I did it, because he’s very controversial. I got backlash from it, but I was like ‘you know what? Hey, at least they’re talking about me.’”

Campbell was also shot in a swimsuit for Essence. “It was a swim issue,” she says, “It was two of us plus size models. The flew us to Miami and shot us on the beach, which I live for. I grew up on the beach and I’m most comfortable in a swimsuit.” 

Swimwear and lingerie are two areas of the fashion industry that embrace plus size models, while the beauty industry remains dominated by skinny models. Campbell hopes to change that; “The thing I would love to see, and hopefully I’ll break this barrier down, is more plus size models in beauty campaigns,” she says. 

Cordova’s ultimate goal is to work with a beauty company like Revlon or MAC. According to Cordova, “plus size models should have opportunities with all the different campaigns, whatever they may be.” 

Cordova and Campbell may be in luck, because Robyn Lawley starred in a video and beauty campaign for Barneys New York’s holiday makeup collection, appropriately named “Face Time.”  
Robyn Lawley via Barney's

This post was originally published on

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Au Natural Beauty Hacks

This is one of the three cabinets in my bathroom.
There are also baskets by the shower, on the back of the toilet and on the windowsill, and don’t forget storage under the sink. All this space is overflowing with makeup, skincare, and any other beauty related item imaginable. Well, except the Clarisonic Pedi, but I could get ten Big Apple Red mani pedis for that price.
To support and somewhat mitigate this addiction, I’ve tested and developed many beauty hacks. Some are so good I want to tell people on the subway about them, others I chronicle with a warning.
1. Vitamin E Oil
I got a nice tube of this stuff from Trader Joe’s (it’s more expensive on Amazon, so buy in-store if you can), and it is second only to their Vanilla Almond Granola in my heart. They are both $3, and the oil lasts way longer than the cereal. I use it on my face and body, and even on my scalp at nighttime to relieve lizard skin.
The downside of oils is that they take longer to dry than cream, and in the meantime you look like you have hyperhidrosis—a condition involving excessive and unpredictable sweat. Once it finally dries, Vitamin E leaves skin crazy smooth and scale-free, like a real live Venus ad.
Oiling up my face didn't make me break out. It actually helped heal scarring from previous zit fests. It also helped reduce the size of my pores, because it cleared out my blackheads. People who recommend the oil cleansing method often do so because it helps gently remove buildup of oxidized oil, blackheads in other words. I tried and didn't like the oil cleansing method because it did nothing to remove makeup.
Vitamin E oil also has some anti-aging effects. I realize that is a ridiculous statement for someone in college to make, but they do it in Europe and I received third party evidence. Right after starting my new oily regimen, my superintendent told me I look 15. When I was out shopping, salespeople at J.Crew and Sephora both thought I was in high school. When I was actually in high school people often assumed my sister, ten years my senior, and I were the same age. So by this unscientific theory Vitamin E oil is responsible. Even my mom commented that my skin looked great, and she didn’t know I was working on this post.
The moral of the story is Vitamin E oil is oily but good, so don’t go overboard. Applying it at night once or twice a week will give skin a serious moisture boost.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar as Toner
This was not pleasant. The vinegar stung on my dry skin and smelled like salad dressing. I got some red, irritated patches around my nose after applying the ACV. Both the smell and the red patches went away after a couple hours, but even after switching to nighttime applications this popular Pinterest hack was not worthwhile.
I also tried an ACV hair rinse, which many no-shampoo advocates suggest. The salad smell was just too overwhelming and there was no noticeable difference. I’ll stick to eating this one.
3. Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide Teeth Whitening
You were probably wondering why I have these products in my bathroom cabinet. The answer is that they are better than Whitestrips. After brushing my teeth with regular toothpaste, I pour hydrogen peroxide on my toothbrush and dip it in baking soda.
Hydrogen peroxide is a mild disinfectant, and many toothpastes contain a concentrated version of baking soda. According to my dentist it’s totally safe to put this stuff in your mouth.
When I brush my teeth with this powdery mixture they come out looking shiny and bright. By the way, it tastes foul, so PSA: don’t swallow. A couple times a week really makes a difference in terms of whitening, and is way easier than sitting with a gooey strip in your mouth for 30 minutes.
4. Baby Shampoo, Baby Powder, and Baby Wipes
Baby products are the best. Everything baby is cheaper, and regulations governing ingredients in baby products are much stricter than those for big girl beauty products.
Baby shampoo can get rid of product build up. Every once in a while, I replace my regular shampoo with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, and skip the conditioner. It makes my hair feel soft and clean, not stripped.
Baby shampoo can also be used to wash makeup brushes. Especially if you use brushes on broken-out skin, washing your brushes prevents spreading bacteria and pimples. Warm water with a dime-sized amount of baby shampoo will gently clean natural and synthetic hair brushes. Try not to cringe when you see the color of the water. When brushes are drying, store them upside down overnight.
Baby powder is pretty good dry shampoo. It absorbs oil, smells like baby (who wouldn’t want that?), and volumizes. I have medium brown hair, and baby powder disappears with a little brushing and a few BeyoncĂ© dance moves.
Like baby shampoo and baby powder, baby wipes are way cheaper than the adult alternative, which in this case is makeup wipes. Baby wipes won’t remove the most stubborn mascara, but let’s face it, if it’s good enough for a baby’s butt it’s good enough for my face.
So yes, many of the things I put on my skin are digestible, and a stranger might think I am hiding a newborn under the sink. This stuff is cheap, effective, and has fewer ingredients than Diet Coke. 
This post originally appeared on Her Campus

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Study Will Show Grading System Downsizes Restaurant Profits

New York City’s restaurant grading system started in 2010, and diners have been using the “A,” “B,” “C,” and “Grade Pending” labels to evaluate eateries’ cleanliness ever since. “My boyfriend looks up every restaurant’s grade before we eat there,” said Brianna Saperstein, who dines out almost every day between picking up lunch at work and going out on weekends.

Diners approve of the system, while restaurant owners say it is expensive and the rules are arbitrary. New Yorkers will soon find out if restaurant owners are right. A team of experts at NYU are conducting a study of how the Department of Health’s grading system affects restaurants’ profits. The results will be released this summer. 

Fines for health department violations, starting at $400, create significant costs for restaurant owners. The restaurant industry paid over $40 million in fines in 2013, according to The New York Times. “The restaurant grading system was never meant to be a source of revenue,” said Diana Silver, an author of the study and assistant professor of Public Health at NYU. 

Backlash from restaurant owners forced the DOH to reconsider fines, which are paid by every restaurant that receives lower than an A on its first inspection. On March 21, the DOH announced that fines for violations are being reduced by about 25 percent.“It’s a great start and we need to bring it down more,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. 

American cities have been inspecting restaurants for a century, but 2010 was the first time inspection results became available to the public. Compared to other places, “Inspections in New York City are among the most rigorous in the country,” executive chef Josh Grinker of Stone Park restaurant in Brooklyn told CNN. 

According to a study by Baruch College, 90 percent of diners approve New York’s grading system, and 88 percent use the system when dining out. 

Yorkville resident Saperstein and her boyfriend frequent East End Kitchen, a restaurant that had a B until March 22, and is now Grade Pending. “There aren’t a lot of restaurants that far east,” said Saperstein, who lives on York Avenue, “I don’t want to know why it got a B, because we’ll probably eat there anyway.”

The DOH’s rules seemed arbitrary, so restaurant owner Jacques Ouari didn’t feel the need to follow them when he first opened Pitch and Fork on First Avenue a year and half ago. “You do a steak tartar, which is served raw, their books says steak needs to be 180 degrees. So you get a violation,” said Ouari, who serves traditional French food. 

Restaurants can lose business by not having an A grade. “I was getting a B,” said Ouari. “People think when you have a B you don’t have a clean restaurant,” he said, “People were paying attention. It was affecting our establishment.” Ouari owns three restaurants in the Upper East Side and Nolita, all of which now have A grades. 

How diners use the grading system can depend on the neighborhood, according to Silver. In certain areas, like Chinatown or the South Bronx, where the number of B- and C-grade restaurants is higher, residents may be less bothered by low grades. Someone who lives in an A-dominated neighborhood might be less inclined to eat at a B or C grade restaurant.

For some diners, convenience and other factors may be more important than grades. “I never look at the grades,” said Emily Strange, who has lived in Manhattan for almost 10 years. “I probably should. I typically just go by word of mouth and cool factor.”

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

One Simple Dish is All You Need

Photo via

Burek Pizza serves only one type of food, and it’s not pizza. Like pizza, burek is baked in round pies and served in slices with different meat, cheese and vegetable fillings, similar to pizza toppings. Unlike pizza, 
Burek is a phyllo pastry dish from the Balkans.

Former pizza parlors are convenient for making burek because of their large, high-powered ovens, hence Burek Pizza’s misnomer. There's even a place in the Italian part of the Bronx that serves both pizza and burek. 

Waves of Balkan immigrants brought burek to the Queens and the Bronx in the ‘90s, after Communism fell and the borders opened in many Eastern European countries. The number of Balkan immigrants in New York today is under 70,000 by most estimations.

Ridgewood, Queens is one of the neighborhoods with a large Balkan population. The main shopping area on Forest Avenue is dotted with businesses like Romanian Coffee, Euro Food Mart, and Burek Pizza.

Customers at Burek Pizza are mostly Ridgewood locals, “people from the [Balkan] region,” according to the server, whose brother owns the restaurant. The family is from Montenegro, and has been in Ridgewood since 1998.

The family serves beef, cheese and spinach burek at their eatery, which looks and smells a lot like a neighborhood pizza parlor. There are four dine-in tables; takeout is the more popular option. 

Other restaurants, like Tony and Tina’s Pizzaria in the Bronx, serve adventurous flavors like pumpkin burek, and sometimes cook their pastries in coils instead of pies. Italians and Albanians share Ridgewood and Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, so pizza and burek have been neighbors for a while.

If you order a whole pie ($12) at Burek Pizza, it comes in a pizza box. The slices of burek ($4 each) are served hot enough to burn your mouth on paper plates. Crispy and flaky on the outside, doughy on the inside — all three fillings are enjoyable, although spinach is the least popular.

I tried the ground beef filling for my first burek. The warm, gooey filling was comforting on a polar-vortex-cold day. One of the regulars suggested I take a few slices home for later. “It doesn’t lose anything when you reheat it,” he told me. The spinach and cheese bureks were a little less flaky when reheated in the oven at home, and not quite as rich as the beef.

Lots of people order “yogurt” ($1.50) with their meal, which refers to a smoothie-like drink made with plain yogurt. The drink is thick and cool, perfect with an oily slice of burek for lunch or dinner. There are only three other drink options: bottled water, Snapple and Coke. No diet soda.

There's no menu at Burek's and the glass display case is covered with paper. There’s no need to display the offerings, because everyone already knows what the food looks like, and it tastes better straight out of the oven.

Burek Pizza is at 68-55 Forest Ave. It is open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 347-689-3086. 

Must Visit: Honest Chops

Photo: Sara Ashtaryeh

Like most great ideas, Honest Chops, a new Halal butcher in the East Village, was born out of necessity. Store owner Anas Hassan couldn’t find a high quality, ethical butcher that followed Muslim religious practices. So last month, he opened Honest Chops in a basement space on East 9th Street.

The block of 9th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues, full of high-end boutiques, jewelry shops and an espresso bar, is an odd place for a butcher shop. Honest Chops was actually a jewelry store before Anas and his team moved in. 

A Halal butcher is new territory for the East Village -- Anas claims to be the only one in the neighborhood, which has been historically Jewish.

Back in the mid 1800s, the area was settled by Jewish, Italian and German immigrants. Over the centuries, it's gone through several reinventions. In the '70s and '80s, it was home to punk musicians and performance artists. Now, the East Village is trendy, home to multi-million dollar real estate, restaurants, bars and shopping. 

Hip Village-dwellers are the main customers at Honest Chops, according to Head Butcher Rex, but in a way Halal meat harkens back to lower Manhattan's Jewish history. Halal and Kosher are pretty similar (you can read about them both in detail here). Observant Muslims and Jews don't eat pork. Both require animals to be blessed and slaughtered humanely. 

The strict Halal rules are part of the ethical philosophy behind Honest Chops. Animals must be fed a natural, all-vegetarian diet. The beef is grass fed -- although the steers eat grain for the last month or two of their lives to achieve the ideal fatty marbling in the beef. Anas also promises that none of the animals were fed antibiotics or growth hormones.

Honest Chops is a whole meat butcher, which means Anas buys the whole carcass from farms within 100 miles of the store. Butchering is done on-site to provide the freshest possible product and avoid waste. 

Photo: Amanda Waldroupe

Since Anas buys his whole meat from a small group of local suppliers, the products vary depending on the day. When I visited Honest Chops, there were chicken breasts, sirloin steaks, and four kinds of sausages, to name a few. Anas is still looking for a lamb supplier who complies with the store’s religious and ethical practices. 

Enough about the story behind Honest Chops. Here's the fun part: testing the product! 

I came home with bavette, which is a sirloin tip, and spicy beef sausages, based on recommendations from Rex. The total for two bavettes (like two small steaks) and six sausages was $16, much less than I anticipated. 

Rex gave me a cooking lesson, suggesting I wait for the bavette to reach room temperature, salt it to keep the moisture inside, and then sear it in a very hot pan. I followed his instructions and the bavette turned out perfectly. I will definitely be going back to Honest Chops.  

Honest Chops, 319 East Ninth St., between First and Second Aves.; open Sat to Thu 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Divergent was a hit with my family on opening day. The audience included my sister and her friend, who are freshmen in high school, my dad and me. The movie was long (2 hours 23 minutes) but tense throughout. And by tense I mean my dad stayed awake the whole time, which doesn't happen often.

A lot of young and talented actors, including Shailene Woodley who starred as Beatrice. Miles Teller, Zoe Kravitz, and Ansel Elgort also appeared. Definitely some eye candy for the younger crowd.

It's a good story, and I appreciate strong female leads like Woodley, Kate Winslet -- who plays an evil ruler -- and Ashley Judd as Beatrice's mother.

The characters overall are predictable. There are the antagonists, the friend who betrays, the mentor/love interest. All a little cookie cutter, and too similar to The Hunger Games for my taste.

If you liked the book, you'll like the movie. Otherwise, if you're not a fan of the young hollywood cast feel free to skip this one.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


I'm a little late to the show on this one, but I just saw the movie Philomena. The film was nominated for Best Picture and Judi Dench was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the Oscars.
The poster looks cheesy for some reason, but the film is very serious -- I'll try not to give too much away. It's based on the true story of Philomena Lee, and Irish woman who was forced by nuns to give up her son. Philomena and her son both spent years trying to find each other, only to be sent away by the nuns, who claimed they had no information. Journalist Martin Sixsmith wrote an investigative book about Philomena and her son, which the film is based on. You can read the original article from 2009 in The Guardian

Even though it addresses a heavy topic, I enjoyed the movie. Judi Dench is brilliant as Philomena. In other movies, I've seen her play much more calculating characters, but the Dame shines as a woman who "exists on a diet of The Enquirer," as Steve Coogan describes her in the film. The whole thing is beautifully made, especially the music and the script, which were also nominated for Academy Awards. 

My only criticism comes from after doing some research. The real Philomena said "I was a bit of a dumb cluck in the film," according to The Washington Post. I did feel that the film's portrayal of Philomena was a bit reductive. 

In the film, Philomena and Martin go to the US to find her son, which never actually happened. This part of the story occupies a significant portion of the movie, so I was surprised to learn that it never actually happened. 

These changes didn't damage my enjoyment of the film. While it isn't my must-see pick, Philomena is a well done movie and tells an important story.