Robyn Lawley, the plus-size model who doesn't want you to call her plus-size, is the subject of a new photographic exhibition whose emphasis seems squarely focused around, well, size. Size Does Matter, as it is called, is a project that puts Lawley, naked and shiny-looking, within a cornucopia of animals.
There she is, the mother hen to a gaggle of bunnies, seducing some cats, and even straddling some sort of miniature horse. The campy series, which was shot by commercial fashion photographer Kenneth Willardt, is meant, as he puts it, to provoke thought about size – and whatever you interpret that to mean. "The title, Size Does Matter, will mean a very different thing for different people," he tells the Cut.
We spoke to Lawley, who is also a swimsuit designer, food blogger, and generally a body-image do-gooder, about participating in the show, why this isn't bestiality, and her deep affection for koalas.
So these images are kind of crazy. How did this whole thing happen? I shot with Kenneth for his billboard with the bunnies. That was meant to be our first and our last. We worked really well together.
Were you freaked out by the bunnies crawling all over you while you were naked? No. I was more worried about the animals than myself. I love animals, so I was worried about them being hurt. It was good because we had the animal handlers.
Did you have to be naked in front of the animal handlers? Yeah. I was covered, though. I had nipple covers and a patch on. I wasn't butt-ass naked. I would have been more intimidated. Anyone who's not a part of the fashion world who's not at shoots – it's always a little awkward for them. Once you become a model, you get kind of used to being naked. But once the animal handlers started working and doing their job, no one notices.
There's one image with a whip and a miniature donkey. That one was pretty sexual. I was just laughing because I was trying to hold the horse. [Kenneth] superimposes things too, so the horse wasn't yanking its head or rearing in pain or anything. It was cool, I thought it was funny – I was actually laughing. I'm six foot two, standing over this tiny horse. It's tongue in cheek. It's not meant to be so serious.
So it's not about sexualizing the animals? Oh my god, no. My boyfriend is like, "People are going to be thinking of bestiality." But it wasn't like that when we were shooting it at all. It was supposed to be my body in comparison to the animals' bodies. I'm a huge fan of animals – I was a vegetarian/vegan for most of my life. It's just meant to be a juxtaposition of my body and theirs.
Tell me about the title of the show, Size Does Matter. Are there multiple meanings? To me, I think, obviously size does matter for all things in life. I do stand out. That was part of the reason Kenneth did book me: because I'm six foot two, because I'm curvy. It matters so much in media, it matters so much in life. He leaves it open for you. He's not saying it's important to be big or small. He's just making a quite clear observation in life that size does, in fact, matter. It's up to you how you take it.
Were you conscious about how you were going to be portrayed when you agreed to do this shoot? Yeah, I didn't want to be made fun of. I didn't want to be the poster girl of fat, naked chic with all the animals. After the bunny shoot, I saw that image and was like – rock star. I thought it was such a beautiful image. I just thought I looked like a healthy, normal girl with bunnies.
Is there one animal that wasn't included in the shoot that you’d like to pose naked with? Koala. Oh my god, I would love. It's like my favorite animal, and I've never held one. And I'm Australian, and it's like sacrilege. I would love to pose with a koala.