Marilyn Melo Surpasses Boundaries in the Modeling Industry

Model Marilyn Melo is moving the goalposts in the modeling industry, ushering in a new era of representation for the world’s petite and curvy women. Melo, who stands 5’4 inches tall, is well below the industry standard of 5’9 inches and up, and she also has curves that defy the profession’s standard measurements. Petite modeling agencies are seeing these changes and are welcoming them. Modeling agencies will soon adapt to the changes because people are being more and more open about introducing petite and other body types into their line-up.

Melo’s good looks and natural photogenic quality have landed her in high demand for her talents, making her a part of a prestigious modeling agency and enabling her to star in campaigns for megabrands like True Religion.

She has also defied expectations of a petite model by walking the runway at major events like Miami Swim Week and L.A. Fashion Week, paving the way for other curvy women to follow in her footsteps. Fashion Week used to be dominated by women who stood at least six feet tall. Because of her efforts in breaking down barriers in the industry, those with the same body type who aspire to be models are now searching for legitimate modeling agencies to realise their dreams.

As a jack-of-all-trades, she spends her free time working on her philanthropic and entrepreneurial ventures. Melo runs the Melo Rodriguez Foundation with her family, which helps underprivileged children and families in her native Dominican Republic and other third-world countries, thanks to funds raised through her cause-oriented virtual thrift store, The Hand Me Dwn.

She also owns and operates Diosa, her own beauty salon in Philadelphia, which features Melo’s signature beauty line of high-quality hair and lip products. Melo has amassed a massive Instagram following of over 825,000 users, establishing the social media star as one of the most exciting faces to watch right now, thanks to her ground-breaking modeling career and keen business sense.

Changes in the Landscape

Body positivity is a popular phrase these days, but it’s not always helpful. It’s come to mean, more or less, that women should feel beautiful regardless of their shape—which is both true and impossible in a culture that continues to teach women that thinness is the key to success.

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According to professors at the Florida International University, when you constantly consider yourself an object and judge your body on aesthetic grounds, you lose your sense of embodiment. Social demand and taboo produce body shame.

Body shaming isn’t a new concept. Women’s bodies have always been seen as public property, open to criticism, and body shame occurs when a woman’s body is nit-picked—think of celebrities who were mocked for either gaining or losing weight—and this reflects on the critics themselves as they look inward.

That is why many petite modeling agencies are looking to remove the stigma by welcoming petite models and other body types to their roster. It is a great leap in the fashion industry because the audience and consumers can better identify themselves with the diverse models.

Shame is a social construct that must be addressed on a social level. Models claim that they do not require change, but the system as a whole does.

The evolution of the sampling process is one change that can be made. In order to create their one-size-fits-all clothes, Manas and Delepierre test their patterns on a wide range of bodies. Other designers, such as Gabriela Hearst, expect diverse show-casting and make different designs with particular models in mind. They will have the garments available to loan out once requested by editorial and celebrity stylists.

Technology may also play a role in resolving patternmaking solutions and providing retailers with a wider range of sizes. Consulting with different players and asking for efforts from their end to advocate diversity and educate designers to be more inclusive could be one of the possible key changes.

Stakeholders from across the fashion industry have come together to create “a U.N.–style framework” to address these issues. A schedule of commitments—brands agreeing to sample a certain percentage of their collections in more generous dimensions and stores promising to buy larger sizes—could be included in such a framework.

Michael Kors sees changes in the attitude of customers. He notices how women are no longer interested in rules—they want to wear what they love and what makes them feel great.

The young aren’t the only ones who are evolving their consciousness. Amber Valletta is another stunning model and one of the most enduring fashion icons of the 1990s. She says she had other worries back then, but body image wasn’t one of them; due to her naturally thin body, she was able to avoid most of the industry’s pressures to lose weight or work out.

When her son was born, everything changed. One problematic client once grabbed her hip and said that she could lose a bit of weight. That changed her perspective. She said she became more aware that her body was more important than anyone’s opinion.

Giving birth and ageing transformed her again and again. But she believes that her body is what she takes on this life journey. She said that it had been with her all this time, and she was very thankful for it. She concluded that her body was her life.

It is a tax on the flourishing of humanity to make women think of themselves as objects. The fact that society insists on doing so demonstrates that it still places a low value on female achievement. But with the steps made by Melo and other concerned parties, things will change for the better sooner than we could imagine.

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