“I’m having a great time eating “
Melina Querel was born in Canada and grew up in Dubai, but doesn’t consider anywhere to be home. She finds herself amongst international models who, like her, live out of their suitcase and are ready to go with a phone call from an agent. Querel began modeling at 13, and at that time began then back and forth swing between both ends of the weight spectrum. Years later, she now says, “I’m having a great time eating”.
How did you begin modeling?
“While living in Dubai my father and I heard about a modeling competition, we sent in photos not expecting anything and three months later heard I was a finalist. I did a runway show and surprisingly won first prize. I was thirteen at the time and this was my first time in heels. From there we looked at the industry internationally and I ended up signing with Chantale Nadeau.
What interested you in modeling?
“While in middle school I always felt left out or different. I was also bored and causing trouble. Modeling and the artistic aspect of it lets you escape and is always entertaining.”
What do you think of when you’re shooting?
“While I’m shooting I get into a bubble, in an imaginary world, its sort of hard to explain to people, but I really get into it while shooting, its always some eerie magical world where I have to walk on my tippy toes.”
What is your opinion on the industry?
“The modeling industry… people think they know but no one really knows. Kids in high school may laugh at a girl for having freckles, a big nose or red hair and in the industry they’ll accept that for being different and weird. In the industry they like extremities, like extremely big or extremely thin. You have to not take things personally because it’s just the way things are. You have to adapt to this world or you’re just not meant to be in this world.
I wish people knew… “People expect me to be a size 0 and now I am plus size (size 10-12). This is my natural weight and this is the first time I found my healthy weight. You can’t be in the middle you have to be on one end of the spectrum, you have to make a decision to be on one side or the other. I get told a lot by clients that I am still too small, in plus size they like big breasts but average women don’t have double D breasts so I have to wear padding to castings. It’s a funny world, you’re never perfect for this world but I think that the girls in the industry they either can’t take it and leave or you toughen up.
It’s also a very solitary life; you spend a lot of time alone or with people you hardly know. You have to be in the mindset to be independent. I started when I was 13, and no matter if you’re 13, 18 or 25 you’re all the same age, everyone is forced to mature quickly.”
You’re now a plus size model, how has that been?
“I always thought it was for older women, cheesy or very big sizes. Crystal Renn is someone who introduced me to another side of plus size modeling. Once I saw her I immediately wanted to contact her agent.”
Interestingly enough… after battling anorexia Crystal Renn in 2006 reemerged a plus size model with an additional 70 pounds to her frame. Then in 2012 lost most of the weight and once again is unrecognizable to most at almost “regular” model sizes.
“It still is a very fickle industry, because I look muscular as opposed to soft other girls will book the job. I take one day at a time, especially with modeling. “
Was it hard accepting your body?
“The first year was very up and down. I would gain weight… lose weight…and gain again. I hated wearing shorts so I was wearing dresses and baggy clothes, when you gain at first you don’t gain it proportionately. All of a sudden I had boobs, and everything was Jell-O, your bum grows, nothing fits well, its really hard accepting that.
Before I was plus size I would over exercise and then when my mother was not around I would eat junk food. When I went to Milan for the shows I thought I was at my skinniness and people were telling me I looked puffy. Finally, they signed me up at a local gym and I would go twice a day. I lost a lot of weight this way, when I went home I remember constantly comparing myself to everyone around me. If people were bigger than me they were automatically fat. I would make salads of some iceberg lettuce, a couple of carrots and half a tomato, sometimes a half a can of tuna. The orange vitamin C pills were seriously a treat for me.
Even now I feel embarrassed buying chips and chocolate. I hide and feel ashamed. You become brain washed and so used to it for so many years. I don’t know how many years it will take for me to get used to eating junk food.”
Where do you see yourself in the future?
“I’m planning on going back to university, I love arts so I would like to get into that eventually. If I could live off modeling I would, but it’s very unstable.”
As a female model, I can say with conviction that self-love is a constant struggle. Staying confident while combating industry standards is nearly impossible. I believe that instead of changing the industry from the top, it is important reach out to the young women who support it. Models or not, women need to fight for the respect they deserve. Demand making your health and happiness a priority and from here you will force everyone else to abide.