Paloma Elsesser, Precious Lee, Tess McMillan, and Jill Kortleve Get Real About Fashion, Body Image, and the 2020 Election

As fashion continues to evolve its messages about beauty and inclusion, a new generation of models has risen to the forefront. Boldly beautiful and willing to speak up on issues relating to body image, politics, and feminism, they’re among the most in-demand talents of the moment. Paloma Elsesser, Precious Lee, Jill Kortleve, and Tess McMillan represent this sea change in different ways. Still, their combined efforts are helping redefine what it means to work in the “curve” segment of modeling. Whether it’s Kortleve and Lee taking to the runway at Versace’s spring/summer 2021 show and embodying the outré spirit of Donatella’s designs, Elsesser racking up covers on prestige glossies, or McMillan lending her ethereal beauty to Marc Jacobs’s campaigns, each is charting new territory. The group joined Vogue contributor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson on stage at their Forces of Fashion panel to discuss the ups and downs of being among the first to challenge fashion’s norms and the boundaries that remain unbroken.

Entitled “Whose Positivity,” the discussion was lively and engaging with topics that ran the gamut from their unique discovery stories to moving beyond fashion’s self-imposed restrictions of “commercial” and “prestige” work. “We have to acknowledge the fact that there was a time, not long ago, where this entire panel wouldn’t exist,” said Karefa-Johnson in reference to the groundbreaking shifts that have occurred during the last decade. “We should be speaking and thinking critically about the industry that we’re in. We have so far to go, but this is a phenomenal start.” Representation for women of larger sizes in fashion is a relatively new development, but its impact remains inspiring, even for the women whose images have become its symbols.

Watch their galvanizing panel and many more at Vogue’s virtual Forces of Fashion