Big beauties all a model for success

IT'S a modelling contest with a difference – the biggest prize is a boost to the confidence and none of the contestants have set foot on a catwalk before.

Until tomorrow, those logging on to Stevenson College's website will get the chance to vote for one of ten-plus sized models – ordinary city women selected for the final of a modelling contest – and to take part in a fashion show tomorrow night.

It's the culmination of a project students of photography, and hair and beauty, have been working on with Portofem, an Argentinian fashion company which specialises in clothes for women size 16-plus.

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The company's motto is: "Beauty is not a matter of size but of attitude" – and that's exactly the outlook of the ten contenders. Here they explain their views on curves, beauty and plus-sizes.

KERRIE MURPHY, 22, from Wester Hailes is size 24

She's tall and curvy – Kerrie knows she cuts a striking figure. But there was a time when passers-bys' cruel jibes used to get her down.

"But there have been times when I would see people looking at me or making the odd cheeky comment and it would get to me. It used to get to me to the stage that I didn't want to go out."

It was going to university and later finding her ideal job – she is a community support worker for the elderly – that helped boost her confidence. As has her relationship with her boyfriend.

Kerrie says: "I'm 22 and I want to wear clothes that are fashionable – so it's a bit frustrating to open a fashion magazine and see models who are skinny wearing things that I wouldn't wear."

OLIVIA BEGBIE, 65, from Musselburgh, is a size 18-20

Olivia might not fit the popular image of what a model usually looks like.

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But with a larger than life personality and a healthy outlook on life, she's determined to ensure the older generation of curvy ladies is catered for in the world of fashion.

"I suppose I'm just an exhibitionist at heart," laughs Olivia, a former fundraiser and marketing manager with the Breast Cancer Institute.

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But while she oozes confidence, she admits finding fashionable outfits can be challenging.

"I would like to see not only curvier girls modelling but older models too – people like Twiggy, Joanna Lumley, Helen Mirren and Judi Dench are great."

MORAG AINGE, 44, from Castlebrae Rigg, is a size 18

Morag is no stranger to modelling – when she was younger and a slim size 12, she worked as a photographic model.

"I was around a size 12 to 14 at that time," she recalls.

"At 5ft 9 in I was tall enough, but because I didn't fit the bill as a size 10 it was a struggle to get work.

Single mum Morag, a team leader working in support services for the disabled, lives with daughter Iona, 14, and is acutely aware of the impact of super skinny models on teenagers.

"They see images of these celebrities and think they must be too big when in fact, they are perfect and it's the celebrities who are unhealthy.

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"But attitudes are changing – I've seen some curvier models appearing in adverts which is great."

FIONA TOPPING, 25, from Carricknowe, is size 16

Just a few years ago Fiona would have been the last person to consider modelling clothes for curvy women.

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She was in the grip of an eating disorder that saw her weight plunge seven stones in just 18 months.

Fiona says: "I took a long time for me to admit I had a problem.

"Now I'm the healthiest I think I've ever been."

Now a curvy size 16, Fiona has conquered her eating disorder and discovered a love of sport.

"These days I'm much happier," she says.

HANNAH WESTWATER, 30, of Lochend, is a size 18-20

Like many new mothers, Hannah Westwater has found losing her pregnancy weight a bit tough – even more so since as a single mum to eight-month-old Jack she has little time to herself.

But even without the pregnancy weight, Hannah is a size 16 – the average size for a British woman but a plus-size in fashion stores and magazines.

"There are more and more people who are a size 16, so it seems ridiculous that's classified as a plus size," says Hannah.

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The former deli manager says it can be tough finding fashionable clothes and adds that she is very excited about the show and competition.

LINDA PERPTULA, 31, of Morningside, is a size 16-18

One of the things that struck Linda most when she moved from her native Finland to Edinburgh five years ago was how much people here complain about the cold and the dark.

"It doesn't really get that cold or dark," she says.

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She came to the city looking for "adventure" and is currently studying history at Edinburgh University, though eventually she'd like to work for a charity.

As to size, she says she's never had any negative comments: "What people see as being average and normal is a bit different to how magazines see it.

"We live in the real world."

And she adds that in general she's content with how she looks: "There are always little things I suppose but I am quite happy with the way I am."

JOAN BRYCE, 45, from Mayfield, is a size 16-18

Her motto is life is for living, so enjoy it. And 45-year-old Joan is determined to apply that maxim to the fashion show and modelling competition.

"It's all a big confidence booster for all of us. It's celebrating being who you are," she says.

"We worry for 25 years from the age of 20: 'Am I putting on weight?' It's not worth it if it's making you miserable."

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The youth transition worker says she entered the contest for a bit of fun – and to help redress the balance from the fashion glossies with their size zero models.

"The average size is 16 but a lot of magazines don't portray that and that really hacks me off.

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"And I'm 45, I probably won't get an opportunity like this again."

KATHERINE INGLIS, 24, from Fairmilehead is a size 14/16 and 5ft 2ins.

Fashion fan Katherine knows better than most how tricky it can be finding clothes for the fuller figure.

As manageress of Morningside boutique Curvy Girl, she's seen customers' delight when they find an outfit designed to fit their curves.

"Some can hardly believe it," she laughs.

"And for me, it's great to have a customer and to make her feel fantastic."

Katherine's at the less curvy end of the scale, but at 5ft 2ins and a voluptuous figure, she knows how tricky it can be finding the right fit.

PATRICIA CANNON, 60, from Comiston Mains, is size 20

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Patricia, describes her style as "smartish" and says shopping for plus-size clothes isn't as hard as it once was.

"It's becoming a lot easier. More shops are catering for plus sizes but then I think women are getting bigger."

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So is she looking forward to tomorrow's fashion show? "A little, not a lot!" she laughs. As for herself, she doesn't worry about her size.

"As long as I am fit and healthy I am fine with it. I did have a stroke a few years ago so I work on keeping my mobility."

JANE LAMBIE, 25, of Musselburgh, is a size 22/24

Napier University graduate Jane now works as a paediatric nurse, looking after children with complex special needs.

It's a demanding job and she admits she doesn't have much spare time.

"The time I have I enjoy spending with listening to music and watching films. I love live music and try to see as much as I can," she says.

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