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'At 117lbs I was too fat': Rejected model on gaining weight and finally making it onto the catwalk as a 'super plus-size' 26

 Velvet D'Amour, a New York native now based in Paris, was deemed 'too fat' by model agents when she was aged 21 and weighed 117lbs
Ironically, the five-foot-eight-inch blonde went on to get her big break aged 38, weighing 300lbs and a size 26
Today she published the fourth issue of her diversity-focused magazine, Vol Up 2, in a bid to get women embracing their 'imperfections'

A 'super plus-size' model has told how going from thin to fat helped her achieve career success.
Velvet D'Amour, a New York native now based in Paris, tried to make it as a model when she was 21 years old but was deemed 'too fat' by agents at a petite 117lbs.
Ironically, the five-foot-eight-inch blonde went on to get her big break in French Vogue and on the catwalk for John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier, aged 38, weighing 300lbs and a size 26. 
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 For the past eight years she has been striving to 'push size acceptance along' and today unveiled the fourth issue of her diversity-focused women's magazine, Vol Up 2.
D'Amour, 46, launched the quarterly publication in February last year in a bid to encourage women to embrace their 'imperfections' and be proud of their bodies. It features plus-size as well as mainstream models.

 Through working in fashion - as a model, photographer and now magazine editor - D’Amour has many thoughts on the status of modeling and the changes she would like to see happen.
She told 'The women we hold as icons of beauty are not happy. And if they’re not happy, who is happy.
'All the images that are out in the media [are] the same - the 16-year old white girl who is totally emaciated.

 'Older women are excluded . . . Different ethnicities are never shown.'
D’Amour, the youngest of five children from Rochester, New York, said she always dreamed of being a fashion illustrator or designer and would look at 1940s photos of her parents for inspiration.
'I became obsessed with the more eccentric styles,' she says.
But because the illustration field was dying out, D’Amour turned her hand to artwork, photography, and performance arts.
'At the time everyone was coked up and maybe 99lbs. So I went down to 117 and model agents said I was still too fat'
She moved to Manhattan to study at the School of Visual Arts. With a great bone structure, slender figure and long curly hair, people would often mistake her for a model.
'They’d say you have the face of talent,' she says.
IMG models showed interest in her - the same agency representing Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum, and Alek Wek - but D'Amour says she couldn't lose enough weight to be on their books. At the time she tipped the scales at a light 140lbs.
'At the time everyone was completely coked up and maybe 99lbs,' she added. 'So I went down to 117 and they said I was still too fat.'
Feeling rejected, she went on to focus on photography, spending a year studying in Italy under American photographer James White before returning to New York

 Pushing size acceptance: Velvet D'Amour was deemed too big by model agents when she was 21 years old and weighing 117lbs (pictured left) but shot to fame at the Jean Paul Gaultier catwalk show as a size 26 (right)

D'Amour says when her weight shot up she felt ashamed about her body. But the more she worked with 'perfect-looking unhappy' models the more she came to terms with her larger frame.
'I started out photographing models and that's actually where my size acceptance came into play. 
'Because I was shooting models and I was not feeling good about my body and I was shooting women who were the ideal of beauty. And I was thinking, "They're not happy with themselves". And that was a huge revelation. 
'It was highly ironic that I was getting signed at 300 lbs! I considered it a personal victory for all the struggles that I went through to accept my body'
'That here I was with these ideals of feminine beauty and they hated their bodies. Now if these women who are the ideals of feminine beauty of our society hate their bodies, then what exactly is going on?'
When the first French plus-size modleing agency opened in Paris, Agence Plus, D’Amour, who was then based in the city, approached them about being a photographer.
'I showed them my [work] so they’d get a feel for my talent,' she recalled.
'But I also included photos of myself so they could see I was a plus-size woman, and they said, "Well, we want to sign YOU." 
She previously told during an interview: 'It was highly ironic that I was getting signed at age 38 and near 300 lbs! 
'I considered it a personal victory for all the struggles that I went through to accept my body and the rollercoaster ride which yoyo dieting led it on.'

She made headlines after appearing as a plus-size model in Jean-Paul Gaultier's Paris Fashion Week show in October 2006.
She also made a catwalk appearance in John Galliano's runway presentation entitled 'Everybody is Beautiful' the same season, scoring her a spot in French Vogue shot by photographer Nick Knight.
A keen performer, the same year she landed the lead role in Avida, a French dark comedy, and later participated in the third season of France's popular reality TV show, Celebrity Farm.
Critics have accused D'Amour of 'promoting obesity' but she insists she is healthy and has no high blood pressure or cholesterol problems. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she says she does not abuse drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.

She concludes on her blog: 'For those who spend their nights up wringing their hands together, sick with worry over my health, there are so many examples of unhealthy models and celebrities. 
'Sadly some aren’t just unhealthy, but actually dead, and yet none are banned from the media. 
'So many women suffer from poor body image, wake each day to loathe their image in the mirror, do you sincerely believe that by pretending fat people don’t exist somehow changes this phenomenon for the better?! 
'We do exist, we always have and we always will, there will always be a fatty somewhere in this vast world. 
'If there is any shred of sincerity in your feigned concern over a fat person’s health, then instead of mocking us when we do get to the gym, or track, or waddle our way into a pool, take a second to encourage someone to better health. 
'At the end of the day, the true beauty we will all be left with isn’t cloaked in Dior or Lanvin, it’s the simple acts of kindness which have made a difference in the lives of others, which no cellulite or wrinkle can ever erase.'

Big is beautiful: D'Amour launched the magazine Vol Up 2 last February to try and crack fashion's obsession with size zero

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