Reporter Alexandra Palmer talks to Jillian Mercado whose Diesel ad campaign has redefined conventional thoughts on modeling.
Plus modeling is more popular than ever before, but the women modeling plus clothing aren’t always plus size.
“Right now there’s a big debate going on about what’s plus size, and what’s not,” said plus size model, Summer Wayans, 28 of Los Angeles, CA.
Wayans said she’s noticed a change in the industry, as designers aren’t requesting size 16 models anymore and instead using women closer to a size 8 or 10.
“I don’t have an issue with being a plus model but when that definition keeps changing then now I think that starts to really affect the way people view themselves,” said Wayans.
According to USA Size survey, the average American woman is a size 14. But the average American plus model is anywhere between a size 6 and 14.
Wayans said she noticed the changing demands in the plus industry after her agency asked her to drop inches off her hips and waist in an effort to find more work.
Many fashion publications, including Vogue have been at the center of controversy recently for using size 6 models and labeling them plus size women.
Despite the controversy surrounding the plus industry, Wayans said she’s proud to be a model and a size 14. “Really, I would just like it if they just called us all models.”
A new child labor law signed by New York’s Governor Cuomo would restrict fashion designers from having underage models walk in their shows.
Kelsea Kosko, 20 of Fort Meyers, Fla. began her modeling career at the tender age of 14, and worked until she discovered her passion for photography.
Kosko said that although runway modeling isn’t always the most difficult thing models do on the job she does recall a time when she was put in a show with themes more suited for a woman than a girl.
“Sometimes as a model you are expected to be sexy, which is why in general I think its better if you start working at 18 instead, it makes more sense,” said Kosko.
The new child labor law would ensure that models under 18 maintain the same legal rights as under age entertainers. Models in school would not be permitted to work more than 12 hours a day, and must be compensated.
Model, Maris Berkowitz, 18 of the Upper West Side, in Manhattan said, “I think the law is good and bad, because it can take away opportunities from models.”
Berkowitz began modeling at 15, and has walked in Mercedes Benz Fashion week every year since.
Berkowitz said that the best advice she has for young models is to stay in school, and have a back up plan.
At just 15, Kosko modeled in Miami’s Art Basel, and says it was an experience she will never forget. Kosko says the art installation she was placed in was supposed to replicate the scene of an orgy.
“All these models would just be lying on top of each other,” said Kosko. “It was a very sensual thing and I was really young and really skinny I just didn’t really know what was going on.”
After the show Kosko was invited to the photographer’s hotel room for a private photo shoot. Her mother politely declined.
“I’m glad my mom was there she might have saved me,” said Kosko. “But I still did a lot of weird, edgy jobs.”
Fidellity Williams, 6 waited for her favorite teacher Ms. Sweany to run past her today at the ING New York City Marathon on 125th and 5th avenue.
“Everyday after school, she runs a lot of blocks,” said Williams.
Sweany ran to raise money for the Success Academy Harlem Charter School 5, where she is a first grade teacher.
The school is located on 140th street and Fredrick Douglas Boulevard, and shares a building with PS 123, where Shirley Robinson, 33 said her daughter is learning a lot, and has even moved up a reading level.
“I’m emotional, they love my child, and I love them for that,” Robinson said.
It was the first year the mother and daughter attended the marathon, but Robinson thought that this year it was especially important.
“It’s a family thing, I had to bring my daughter to support her teacher,” she said.
Robinson said she’s really proud of the example that Ms. Sweany is setting, and that it’s even inspired her daughter to want to run in the marathon when she grows up.
“It’s inspiring to know that people are running far and long and it’s really amazing, I’m just happy to be able to support them,” she said.
A block away, on 124th and 5th avenue, Yvonne Robinson Viaer, 54 handed out paper towels, and encouragement to participants. A marathon runner, Viaer said she stands in the same spot every year she isn’t running.
“This is almost the 23rd mile, and this is when the runners need a lot more energy,” she said. “This is when they need you.”
Viaer usually runs the marathon, but couldn’t this year due to a knee injury so she chose to volunteer because a lot of her friends were running.
“It just feels good that we could do it this year, and be out here and support everyone,” Viaer said.
Last year’s marathon was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy’s disastrous effects on the city and its’ residents.
Keith Williams, 59 joined Viaer in celebrating the return of the marathon.
“I come out every year, I love the marathon,” Williams said.
Williams excitedly rang a bell for each runner that passed.
“Somebody cheering on the side can give you the strength to keep going,” he said.
Williams like Viaer, runs marathons too. He said he does it to celebrate health and life. In light of the recent Boston marathon bombing, Williams said, “I bet the people who did that never ran a marathon, because you cannot do that to humanity once you really celebrated life.”
Jeronim Hajdaraj was born in Kosovo. His family immigrated to New York City in 1991. He is a self-taught artist, specializing in comic book drawings. With a colorful and creative portfolio of nostalgic comic book heroes, Hajdarajincorporates legends and heroes from his native Kosovo as way to pay tribute to his heritage.
Sitting on a bench in the West Village, Niandi Scentaimai talked about his upcoming wedding to his fiancé.
“I’ve been with my boyfriend for seven years,” said Scentaimai, 31, of the Upper West Side in Manhattan. “Now finally we can get married.”
Scentimai was referring to the June 26th Supreme Court decision that dubbed DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, unconstitutional. The act claimed the federal government did not recognize legally married gay couples and deemed them ineligible for marriage benefits.
“Now we have freedom, and I hope it stays this way,” Scentaimai said. “It’s not just about tax benefits, we are humans and we can get married too, so we’re celebrating.”
Further uptown, on 42nd street, Edith Windsor, the 84-year-old petitioner responsible for overturning DOMA, celebrated Constitution Day today at an American Constitution Society luncheon.
Windsor, a perfectly coiffed woman, dressed in a silky purple blouse, sat and answered questions from the crowd of lawyers and students. Her case garnered a landmark ruling that entitled legally married gay men and women to maintain their marriage rights in any state under federal law.
“I always had a strong feeling about justice,” Windsor said. “I believed in the Constitution, but I didn’t know why it wasn’t working for me.”
Windsor married Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007, but were together for 40 year before they wed. After Spyer died in 2009 she was charged $363,000 in federal estate taxes and fought it. The case made it way to the Supreme Court.
“In the United States vs. Windsor, what it came down to, was that the courts couldn’t explain how gay people were any different from straight people,” said Windsor’s attorney, Roberta A. Kaplan.
Some lawyers have compared her case to Rosa Parks and have awarded Windsor and Kaplan, with the Keeping Faith Award for continuing the fight for equality and challenging DOMA.
“People come up to me and they say, ‘Now I feel married. Now it feels real’,” Windsor said.
Brian Coley, 25, of Kingsbridge in the Bronx, said he wasn’t celebrating Constitution Day, but hoped that the United States v. Windsor case was just the first of many victories for gays and lesbians.
“I definitely hope to get married one day,” said Coley. “This case is a victory but there’s still a lot more to do.
Even though DOMA’s treatment of gay couples was clearly perceived as unconstitutional, the feeling of inequality remains without the federal statute.
“We just want equal rights,” said Coley. “We’re not asking for anything extra. We’re just human beings wanting the same things that everybody else has and gets to enjoy.”
On this primary day, while a lot of New Yorkers are casting their ballots for the candidate of their choice, fast food workers in Washington Heights are debating the weight this election holds for their economic futures.
“Homelessness and getting laid off are issues everyone’s facing, that’s why we need a new mayor,” said Amy Grossman, 19, a resident of Washington Heights and an employee at the fast food chain Chipotle on 168th and Broadway.
Grossman was referencing the 73% increase in homelessness during Mayor Bloomberg’s 12 years in office.
“I worked for minimum wage, and I just feel it’s horrible,” she said.”
Washington Heights boasts a population of 159,314 residents, mainly Dominican Americans. Workers and residents alike are looking for a mayor that will raise minimum wage, end the threats of homelessness and make a change in their neighborhood and city.
For six years minimum wage has remained frozen at $7.25.
“I’m fine here, Grossman concluded. “I love working here. I have a second job, but that’s for food and shopping expenses.” She said she’ll vote for Thompson, because he seems more involved in the community.
Across the street from Chipotle, Jelani Fernandez, 25, an unemployed resident took a five minute break from his job hunt and sipped a hot cup of coffee in the neighborhood’s McDonald’s. He said he’s not voting because all the candidates appear to be the same. But he wants the new mayor to increase minimum wage, “maybe $15, $16, $17,” he said.
In regards to the ever-widening gap between the city’s rich and poor, Fernandez said fast food is an option for people to not be jobless, but there should be more options.
“This rise of rent, low incomes, more taxes on the lower and middle classes limit people to work and to stay home,” he said. “You have to pay the bills, the electrical bill, phone bill, food bill, you live a slaves life, you go to work and then you go back to your cage.”
Maintaining a job that is unable to provide the basic necessities is not an option for Fernandez.
“If I have no choice or other option, I would take a fast food job with my mind already thinking about the next step in my career to take,” he said.
Another block north, a new Dunkin Donuts has opened up in the neighborhood. Just one month in operation, Dunkin workers there too are in favor of increasing their wages. Crystal Lopez, 22, a Bronx native, said she can’t afford everything she needs on her current wages.
Lopez fears she cannot afford her already humble lifestyle. In the end she said, “only if things start to change will the new mayor become important in my life.”
If forced to make due with the current minimum wage Lopez said she would just make do.
“I’ll just cut my spending and keep working really hard to survive,” she said.