How to be a successful curvy model without letting the pressure to diet get to you...
Scottish Supermodel Louise MacCallum earns a fortune jetting around the world and living out most young girls fantasy. But unlike most of the ultra-slim, size zero girls who sashay down the catwalk at fashion shows, Louise boasts her beautiful curves and knows what it feels like to have the relentless pressure to lose weight.
Now at a healthy size 14-16, the 5ft 10in plus size model battled an eating disorder in the early years of her career. with her weight dropping to seven stone before she realised the price she was paying to conform.
'I hadn't thought about modelling until a family friend who had modelled in the Sixties suggested I give it a go. It was something to do in the summer holidays and I thought 'why not'. It was a really exciting experience.'
She was signed up by the world-famous Storm model agency and was expected to follow in the footsteps of supermodel Kate Moss, but in between her first meeting with the agency and completing her school exams she started putting on weight as her body developed to a healthy size 12.
Louise was told to lose weight or kiss her modelling career goodbye. 'On one shoot I was called 'the fat one' and I'd have to put up with sly comments on jobs. It made me more determined to prove them wrong by losing a dress size. First I stopped buttering my toast, then I skipped having toast and finally I opted not to eat breakfast at all.'
All the other models looked so skinny and I felt so much pressure. I was told if I was curvy I wouldn't get work.
''I'd skip breakfast then have a Diet-Coke at 11am. If I was feeling particularly hungry I'd eat some chewing gum. I smoked a lot of cigarettes too and at lunchtime I'd buy a red pepper from Safeways. ''I got into the habit of eating red peppers like you'd eat an apple. I chose a red pepper because it had less calories than an apple.'
'I was still living at home so I'd be starving during the evening. I'd eat the dinner my mum had made me then go in to the bathroom to throw it all back up.'
Her career was going well and she even featured at London Fashion Week but her body was suffering. Her periods had stopped, her skin was pale, she had no energy and suffered dizzy spells.
'I was down to a size eight, which was a tiny size for my frame,' says Louise. 'I didn't see myself as ill. It just became the norm. At home I'd cover up my body with baggy clothes. If my mum asked how a casting had gone I'd say, 'don't ask me, just leave me alone'.
'Starving myself meant my mood became unbalanced but I think my mum just thought I was a moody teenager.'
Finally Louise had had enough and when she was offered 6 months work in Sydney she took the escape. 'I got away from some of the pressures I'd felt at home,' says Louise. 'The look they were after in Australia was more beach babe. Curvier girls were more popular so I started eating better. I was still thin but when I looked in the mirror I thought I was fat.
'Upon her return Louise was forced to face the truth when her sister burst into tears when she saw her. Louise says: 'I've always been very close to my sister and I trust her. She told me I looked awful and I remember her asking, 'what on earth have you done to yourself?' 'I didn't go for counselling - my sister was my counsellor. She was great and showed me I could be successful without worrying about my size.'
Louise resigned from her agency and got an office job where she did not feel she was judged for the size of her hips - 'I felt like I was finally healing,' she says.
She gradually put on weight and with the increase in her dress size she also gained her strength and self confidence. Eating sensibly again allowed her to start working out at the gym twice a week - something she didnt have the energy for before. 'I was happy. I was eating healthily but I'd still allow myself treats like chocolate ice cream. I was learning to enjoy life again.'
In October 2000 Louise felt able to return to modelling. She signed up as a plus size model with Allison Bramwell's agency, Excel.
Soon she was living in New York as a celebrated plus size model - 'At the after-show party in Milan all the plus-size models went out to lunch. The room was full of laughter as we ate Italian cheeses, pasta and drank champagne.'
Today with a 29-inch waist, 42-inch hips and a 36C bust, Louise is more in demand for modelling work than she ever was at her skinniest and has worked for many leading brands but being chosen to open Milan Fashion Week this spring in a gorgeous black Elena Miro dress was an unforgettable moment for Louise.
'I felt so honoured,' she says. 'I knew the applause was for Elena's designs, but in my heart it was the final acceptance of who I really was. I'm a completely different person from who I was 10 years ago - I'm stronger and happier.'
Her advice for girls considering a career in modelling is simple...
'Don't be affected by it all,' says Louise. 'Some women are naturally very skinny but many starve themselves to stay on the catwalk. Be who you are and be careful.'
If like Louise you love your voluptuous figure check out Curvety.com for a fab range of plus size fashion which celebrates your curves instead of drowning them.