Crystal Renn isn't the only (as Tyra would say) "fiercely real" model who's making waves in this industry: 20-year-old Marquita Pring is well on her way into the mainstream. The charming, upbeat athlete spent the majority of her childhood playing every sport her mom could sign her up for. It was that kind of dedication that secured the native New Yorker face time with photographer Solve Sundsbo in 2009. Sundsbo shot Pring for V magazine's much-publicized "Plus Size" issue last year, which emphasized her gorgeous size 14 curves. During the spring 2011 collections, Jean Paul Gaultier booked Pring to walk in his Paris show alongside the likes of Coco Rocha and Karlie Kloss. These days, Pring is well beyond being pigeonholed as just a "plus size" face: She's also one of the current faces of Levi's and modeled in Joy Cioci's debut presentation this past New York Fashion Week.
Tell us a little about your childhood.
I had a wonderful childhood! I moved around quite a bit until I was 7, and then we ended up settling in a small town in upstate New York. For as long as I can remember, it has always been my mother and me, which luckily has made us very close. I was very active in sports and theater growing up. I tried everything: swim team, synchronized figure skating, soccer, field hockey, track, singing, basketball, and lots of musicals and acting classes. I had a very happy, sheltered childhood upstate. Which was great, until you start becoming your own person and start developing your own sense of style and personality. By 16, I had a year of modeling experience and was fully aware that I absolutely loved my job and that I wanted to work as hard as I possibly could. Which meant I had to get out of Clinton. So I asked my mother if we could move. She said yes, [and she] got a new job, a new apartment, and we moved to Brooklyn. I finished high school at an inner-city school. It was a culture shock compared to my little upstate town where everyone had a mom, a dad, a dog, and a white picket fence. I'm happy to have had experience in both extremes while growing up.
How did you get discovered?
I was discovered through a scouting agency. My mother and I had read about the casting call going on in a town close to me, and next thing I knew, we were in the car and off to the Radisson Hotel, where I met with a panel of people telling me they "liked my look" and that I could go on to the next round happening in Canada. My mother and I headed to Toronto shortly thereafter. I walked a runway in front of tons of different agencies — some big names, some not. At the end of the weekend I had received several callbacks; I decided to go with the agency with the closest location and best reputation of agencies that I attended. I went to NYC for my first test shoot and immediately brought the photos into the agency, where they signed me then and there. I was with them for a couple of years and did fairly well, then went to Ford, where my career was taken to the next level and continues to rise.
Where do you call home?
Clinton, New York, will always be home. Although I no longer have a house there, all of my closest friends and families are there, as well as my fondest childhood memories. It was a great place to grow up.
How do you maintain that physique?
I work hard to maintain my size. People often think that by being a plus-size model we just let go of ourselves and have no self-control. I work harder than some of the smaller girls. We have to maintain our size and be careful not to fluctuate too drastically, especially when we have consistent clients that need us at specific measurements. I've always been athletic, so working out is something I enjoy and do regularly. As far as diet goes, I'm a fairly healthy eater. Love to start my day with oatmeal or Ezekiel bread and fruit. Salads, chicken, and fish are major parts of my diet. I've never been a fan of red meat. I also try to be as gluten-free as possible because I find I feel a lot less bloated after a meal. But of course everyone has their own indulgences. Chocolate happens to be my guilty pleasure.
What is your stance on plus-size modeling? Do you think the industry is shifting to a broader audience, or is this just this year’s trend?
"Broader audience" [Laughs]. My stance is that the industry needs to embrace diverse women. I find it interesting that the fashion industry is notorious for change and constantly coming out with newest hottest trends before the previous one has even been played out. I don't think this uprising of curvier models is just a trend. I think people are realizing that we are healthy, beautiful, happy women who are finally being discovered. I mean, let's be honest, economically and psychologically it is in everyone's best interest to include all sizes and models, regardless of the titles put on them. Designers will be making a lot more money by embracing a wider range of sizes, and women everywhere will start to feel better about themselves when they finally realize that to be beautiful, they do not need to conform to someone else’s ideal.
Are there any designers, editors, or stylists you’d love to work with?
Catherine Malandrino and Diane Von Furstenberg have always been favorite designers of mine. Their clothing is always flattering, accentuating the most beautiful parts of a woman's body. [And] it would be an honor to work with a stylist as innovative as Grace Coddington. Finally, I would love to work with Mr. Lagerfeld. His stance on beauty seems to be evolving to be more inclusive, and I would love to be part of that movement.
Do you think there will ever come a time when plus-size models will be equally embraced as "normal" size zero models?
Well, for one, I think we need to phase out the category "plus-size models." I'm a model. I'm doing the same catalogue and editorial jobs as the "normal" models. Slowly, as designers start incorporating bigger girls into their shows and campaigns, I'm confident people will start seeing us as normal, healthy models who are just as beautiful and capable as the girls we are used to seeing. I think curvier models are still viewed as relatively new to the fashion world. People are finally starting to embrace us, and we aren't just being seen for our tits and ass, but for our overall beauty and ability.
You’ve done well editorially, and even walked for Jean Paul Gaultier. What's been your most memorable modeling memory to date?
The Gaultier show was such a thrill. It's definitely up there as one of the most incredible career-defining moments. But my most memorable shoot would have to be the last Levi's campaign I did. You always know you're in for a treat when you book a Levi's job because they're notorious for making you go outside your typical comfort zone. This past shoot they made us dance our asses off! I have never worked so hard for a shot in my entire life. It was incredible. Then we proceeded to the Brooklyn Bridge to ride bikes, skateboard, climb the fence in six-inch heels, and wrestle in the park. it was just one of those days where it was nonstop fun. Not to mention I was working with a bunch of my good friends. Another memorable experience was the Joy Cioci presentation from this past New York Fashion Week. It was Joy's first presentation, so it was such an honor.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years I see myself successful and happy. I'm currently saving to buy my own apartment, and I'd also like to venture into the restaurant business. Maybe open up my own little wine-and-chocolate bar to start.
If you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would you meet?
I would love to kick it with Mama Cass. Not only do I love her music, but I think she would have some amazing stories to share as well. She was a big woman who was confident and pursued her dreams without letting others bring her down. Her personality was as large as she was, and she wore what she wanted no matter how loud or bold. I admire that; so many bigger women today play down their personal style simply because they cant find anything they feel comfortable in and/or there is not much available for them to express themselves with.
What scares you?
Snakes really freak me out, to the point where I'm fascinated.
Tell us something random and totally weird — about yourself or the world.
Every now and then I get into these weird phases where I obsessively Google images of weird, gross things. For example: berried lobster. They're so gross, but it's like a car crash, you just can't take your eyes off it.
What would you like to accomplish in 2011?
This year, like every model in the industry, I would absolutely adore to land a major beauty campaign, or [to see] someone equally diverse and unique to do the same. It's been my dream since starting this career, and unfortunately you never see curvier girls in beauty campaigns. I would also love to have the chance to work with amazing photographers like Mario Testino, Steven Meisel, or Steven Klein. My story in V magazine gave me a taste of that, and I loved it.
Explore other rising stars (plus all the big names) in our extensive Model Manual, featuring runway pics, glamorous editorials, model bios, career timelines, and more.