Photographed by Michael William Paul
Leah Kelley is from Sacramento, California. She was scouted online and is with Ford +. On her first day in New York, she met with and worked for Sarah Jessica Parker as a model for Sarah’s clothing line, Bitten. Leah has been one of biggest supporters from the beginning of Plus-Size Models Unite’s conception. She is such a wonderful person. We appreciate you, Leah!
How did you get starting in modeling?
I was 19 and in my second year of college, working for a tow truck company in Sacramento (yes, I can unlock your car or change your tire) when I was discovered. It began while I was browsing the internet, and I saw a link through MySpace for the Ford Models online submission. I did not really think very much of it, and it took about a month for a reply. I actually almost deleted the response, because I use to get a lot of emails from auction lots relating to the automotive industry, and I misread the sender as Model Fords. I ignored the email for about four days, and just as I checked to delete it, suddenly I read it was a reply from Ford Models. I was very surprised to find I was being offered a contract with Ford!
What are some of the clients you have worked with?
Marina Rinaldi, Elena Miro, Macys, Nordstrom, Target, and Saks.
I grew up in Sacramento, California, and Abercrombie and Fitch thin was the ideal body image. Since my body type did not fit into this category, it affected my self-esteem. To my surprise, Ford offered me a contract and did not try to change into one-size fits all. The fact that I could have a career with image acceptance really was a confidence booster. This opportunity has taught me to appreciate who I am both body and soul.
What advice would you give to girls and women who are struggling with body image and self-esteem issues?
Stop Comparing. You will never find true self-esteem from trying to be like someone else, you need to focus on what is unique about you.
What is your go-to outfit?
My go-to outfit depends on my mood. An A line dress ALWAYS works.
Where do you like to shop for clothes and who are some of your favorite designers?
I absolutely love to shop vintage. I love buying an old dress or jewelry, imagining all the places it was worn, and the way the wearer felt while in it. New York City has the best vintage shops anywhere, yet you need to know the art of negotiation to get a good deal. My FAVORITE shopping though happens in thrift stores in towns like Palm Springs where a lot of elderly people retire. They take all their favorite and usually expensive outfits from when they were young and donate them to area stores. Normally, you will have to sift through a lot of junk, yet most people who work at thrift shops compared to vintage stores, are unaware that a label lacking vintage Chanel suit is hanging-up for five dollars. If you are savvy and can tell the cut and look of couture you, will find a whole designer vintage wardrobe for under 100 dollars!
Photographed by Enrique Vega
What do you LOVE about yourself?
I love my ability to make people laugh.
Who do you admire and why?
Albert Einstein for his ability to think outside the box, Ishmael Beah for his power to overcome, and my mom, sister and Grandparents for well, everything.
The new-found acceptance for different shapes and sizes in the fashion world excites me; opportunities seem to arise where I never expected them before!
Photographed by Vikas Sharma
*Thank you, Leah!