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Meet the New Girl: Aspiring D.J. Robyn Lawley Wants to Change the World’s Perspective on Plus-Size Modeling

Featured on the covers of French Elle's April 2011 issue and this month's Italian Vogue, Robyn Lawley is poised to break boundaries in far more than plus-size modeling. The charming Sydney native told us, "I always feel people are surprised when they work with one of us and find that we can, in fact, model very well. Just because we're not a size zero doesn't mean we can't model effectively. It flabbergasts me." The 21-year-old was quick to open up about everything from her family (her father was a fireman) to her distaste for "the classic aesthetic": "The more outrageous, the better!"

Tell us a bit about your childhood.
I grew up in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia; not too exciting to report. I wasn't one of those beachy Aussie girls, unfortunately. We actually don't all live on sand [laughs]. My father was a fireman and my mum was a food technologist. I was a very arty kid and enjoyed painting a lot. Sports were big for me, too. I didn't really have that many friends until high school because by then all the bitchy girls dropped out, and I started having good friends. I have two older sisters.

How did you get discovered?
With me, I never would have picked myself as a pretty girl, or someone who could model. My confidence in that area was pretty low, but I was confident in making people laugh instead. When I was 15, my drama teacher told me I should model, and so I went into an agency with my sister who had been telling me the same thing for quite some time. I waited a year then entered a magazine competition, which then resulted in a modeling contract.

Your major breakthrough was the French Elle cover. What do you remember about the shoot?
When my agent told me I was getting considered for French Elle, it was between me and this other girl, and I automatically thought she was going to get it because she's so gorgeous. Every day leading up to the shoot, I felt I was going to be dropped because it's so goddamn tough for us girls to get editorial jobs. So when you get it, it's a huge deal. The shoot itself was great because they weren't exploiting the fact that they were shooting a "plus-size" model. Instead, they just made it another fashion story. But I feel there are so many girls like me who are just as worthy of getting these jobs, and people forget that.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would you change?
I would love to change the opinion of plus-size girls. I always feel people are surprised when they work with one of us and find that we can, in fact, model very well. Just because we're not a size zero doesn't mean we can't model effectively. It flabbergasts me. But this isn't exclusive to us; this can be said about older models and different ethnicities, too. Fashion should be indicative of the world, and we are all different; we're not all 16-year-old Russian teens. I feel every catwalk and every editorial spread should feature all different types of bodies and faces.

It seems plus-size girls are more sensitive to this issue. Why do you think this is so?
Doing plus-size modeling has helped me a lot, as I was a skinny model before. [Making the switch] opened my world in seeing beauty in different forms. You don't realize that personality and confidence has so much to do with one's success. Look at Tara Lynn [another plus-size model on the Vogue Italia cover]. Her body is insane. She's a bigger girl; it's beautiful. It's unfair for the industry to make young girls feel pressured to be incredibly thin, because it does ruin their lives. You have to be obsessed with it, and I haven't got time to be worrying about it. I've got to eat!

Are you friends with other plus-size models like Marquita Pring and Crystal Renn?
I actually hung out with Marquita last night. I love her. I've never seen another woman with a face like hers; she's exquisite!

What's your favorite:
Music: Crystal Castles, Peaches, and old classics like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin
Film: I love all the Kill Bill movies because the protagonist is a strong woman, and I love when woman can kick ass. And I'm a bit of a closet geek so I love Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. That might be why I saw Thor last night.
Books: Fiction. I just bought a Kindle so I've been reading so much.
Foods: Hummus, all the time! Japanese is my favorite by far, but I miss sushi trains because I would eat that every day in Sydney.

Tell us something random or totally weird.
I can do lots of impressions like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. Oh, also, I can do The Exorcist voice, which is my favorite.

Well, have you thought about going into acting?
I'm too tall! But maybe I can play Gollum.

Life motto?
Love life. I really, really think you need to dream big to live big. You can't doubt yourself because so many people already do.

Your idea of happiness is …
Happiness is the hardest, most precious thing in this world, and no one realizes it. People always think it's money or love, when it's happiness that truly matters. I'm happiest when I'm around my friends and family.

Any recent shoots since French Elle?
I've done three editorials that should be coming out this month. Also, it's my birthday!

What's your most favorite and least favorite feature about yourself?
My favorite feature is my hair. My worst feature is my feet. I have hobbit feet from wearing too small shoes while modeling.

How would you describe your style?
I like being eclectic, having fun with my clothes, and pushing boundaries. I can't stand the whole classic aesthetic; it bores me. The more outrageous, the better! I actually played my outfit down today because I knew it was an interview — but I still wore my favorite cut-out tights.

If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would you meet?
Jimi Hendrix. No one can play guitar like him, and he was left-handed.

Let's look inside your purse, what do you have?
Junk … wait, a Wonder Woman wallet, yes! Headphones, lip gloss, sunglasses, gum, and matches. I have the classic girl-purse syndrome where you can't actually get anything out or you can't put anything in anymore because it's so stuffed.

You're about to be stranded on an island, and you can bring one person and one thing, what would you bring?
My boyfriend and, uh, a lighter.

What's your diet like?
Although I am indulgent with my food, cooking is also a passion of mine. I love to make food from scratch and eating well. I've always been a very active, sporty girl so I get my workouts in. It sucks when people automatically think plus-size girls are unfit, fat girls.

Favorite style icon?
Peaches. She's been doing it way longer than Lady Gaga has been doing it. It's awesome to see a strong woman like Peaches just rock out.

If you weren't modeling, what would your be doing?
A D.J.! Remixing music and playing shows. I really love dub-step and electro types of music. I really love all music, though. Music is half of my life. If I could I would be making music. At the moment, I'm learning the guitar.

What would you like to accomplish in 2011?
I would like to accomplish crazy stuff for the plus-size girls who want to push the boundaries that are currently set for us. But for me personally, though, I want to accomplish how to mix music together with this specific program.

Lastly, any advice to up-and-coming models?
I feel things are starting to change within the industry. We are looking for individuals now; they want you to be you. If being a model is not working for you, stop trying to obtain it. I've seen girls stare at a yogurt container calorie box for hours on end, deliberating whether they should eat it. Look, if it's not working for you, hell, come to the plus-size world. You've also got to keep your hobbies and have a backup plan. A lot of girls are naïve and they come to New York with the idea that they're going to become some big-name model, but they don't focus on anything else. I've seen girls be chewed up and thrown out. What are you left with? You have to make sure you have yourself covered. I think we all have time, no matter how busy we are, to take a course at a university or learn a language to do something.

Model Profile: Robyn Lawley

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.

Photo: Courtesy of COACDinc.com

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