Top Model talks of challenges, success

The gentle clink of champagne toasts and the hum of excitement was thick last week in the midst of the most important fashion event in New York City. Though fashion week is held twice a year, the thrill never wears out especially for one model who is still relatively new to the glitz and glamour of New York Citys
modeling scene.

Florida native Whitney Thompson has led her life on the fast track since she won Americas Next Top Model in 2008, the first plus-size model to claim the title.

Thompson remembers being in Los Angeles International Airport when someone from Americas Next Top Model came up to her and asked her to be on the show.

She accepted, and a few months later became a major model.

The journey wasnt easy, though.

You really have to have a thick skin in this industry, she said. I received criticism because I am a plus-size model, and I really had to learn to accept that people will put you down and say mean things. Clothing designers will push your buttons just to get a reaction from you because you arent average in regard
to size.

In an industry where a size six is considered plus-size and even a size 4 is too curvy, Thompson rocks a size 8 with confidence.

Sometimes on Americas Next Top Model, Id get discouraged because I was the only one who was my size, she said. Id even start to question Am I really actually big? because I was surrounded by models who were double zeros and designers who only wanted those kinds of models for their clothes.

Anorexia is still the leading cause of death among mental illnesses, and Thompson said the $40 billion dollar fashion industry preaches a subjective definition of beauty.

But she said her hectic schedule and whirlwind travels, multiple clients and high demand proves she has
been able to redefine the standard of beauty in the industry.

I realized that no one had really paved the way for me to make it in this industry, she said. I was on my own and I had to be the change I wanted to see happen in the world.

Change is exactly what Thompson got.

At the age of 24, she is now flying between countries to do photo shoots. The passion for her career rings in her voice as she describes her job, declaring the entire career as a perk.

I have seen so much of the world and Im only 24, she said. I get to have all of these amazing experiences and meet celebrities and be a part of charities.

But traveling comes with sacrifice, and the hardest part for Thompson is being away from everything familiar.

Australia and Greece are a couple of my favorite countries to visit the scenery, food and culture are just amazing, but at the end of the day Id rather be back in America, she said. Im really close to my family my mom and dad and siblings and after I started traveling, I kind of lost touch with most of my high school friends. We had a hard time relating to each other once we all got into college. I was tired
from flying to four different countries in a week, and they were having boy troubles.

But Thompson has made new friends along the way she even considers Tyra Banks, who she got to know well during Americas Next Top Model, a mentor.

I think everyone has this idea that because Tyra seems like she is so perfect on screen that she must have this crazy hidden side where she isnt perfect, but she really doesnt, she said. I look up to her, so I was nervous being around her, but she just has this amazing energy all the time. You cant be in a bad mood (around her). She really is as perfect as TV portrays her.

Banks was also at Fashion Week, though neither she nor Thompson were on the catwalk this time. Thompson got a front row seat to enjoy the show and scope out the latest trends.

I am in love with the retro looks that are coming back in style, she said. Chunky heels are amazing and so much easier to walk in. I hate seeing striped pants. Unless you are actually a double zero model, that look is just completely unflattering for anyone. Ive also been seeing a lot of pants with prints, and it looks like the same effect horrible. Too much going on with pants is a no-go.

Even as the fun of fashion week wraps up for Thompson, she has little time to unwind before getting back into the working world and hectic schedules. She did, however, have a piece of advice to share with girls who might want to model but think they are too big, or girls who have self-esteem issues.

Hold your head up high and show people who criticize you or try to hurt you that you have confidence in yourself no matter what, she said. There are always going to be people trying to bring you down, but proving them wrong by having the confidence to know you are beautiful is the only way to go. Life isnt better stick-skinny for me, and thats okay. The world can learn to love you anyways.