When Katie Willcox founded Natural Model Management in 2011, plus-sizes models were not nearly as buzzy as they are today. But she was beginning to notice a sea change on social media, she said, with consumers starting to rail against brands’ frequent use of underweight models.
“It provided people with more influence and allowed them to voice how harmful [certain] images are to our society,” she said of the platform.
As a longtime plus-size model herself, Willcox has witnessed just how detrimental weight expectations can be on women, she said, and especially on models, whose bodies are regularly patrolled by their agencies. With NMM, she hoped to found a more nurturing agency than was out there — one that promotes self care and encourages models to maintain a healthy weight.
“If we seek change within the industry, we have to offer an alternative path for the decision-makers to choose,” she explained.
So she did. Today, her agency represents 52 models whose weights are considered “healthy to their physical frame,” per Willcox. What that means — in industry parlance, at least — is plus-size.
We asked Willcox to detail a recent day in her life, which involved meal-prepping for a road trip, giving a confidence pep talk to one of her models and being awarded at a Project Heal gala.
7:00 a.m.: We live in Palm Springs, but we’re spending a few days in LA before we head out on a road trip to Denver, Colorado for a body image workshop that I’m hosting.
My husband, Bradford — the co-founder and CFO of Natural Model Management — and I wake up to our 14-month-old daughter, True, crying and saying, “Da da.” We get up and give her a bottle, and then start getting ready while she’s focused on that. I have so much to do this morning, and I am attending a gala this evening, so it’s a no-makeup, “throw your hair up and get shit done” kind of morning.
8:00 a.m.: I am officially addicted to Starbucks. I wish I were getting paid to say this, but sadly, I just have a problem. We get it every morning. Bradford and I have created the perfect iced coffee: three shots of espresso over ice, with one pump of mocha and a little bit of cream. Don’t try it — you will blame me for your addiction, and I can’t live with the guilt.
For breakfast, I normally get one of their egg and cheese sandwiches and an everything bagel, both of which I share with True or Bradford.
8:45 a.m.: Because we’re heading out on the road trip tomorrow, I need to go to Trader Joe’s to do some meal prep. During our last road trip, we made the mistake of bringing no healthy food with us, and as a result, we ate McDonald’s twice. I’m a vegetarian, so my options are slim enough as it is, and I felt so gross eating fast food and then sitting in the car all day.
True is so funny in the grocery store, because her favorite word is “bite.” She yells, “Bite!” when she is hungry, and when she sees or smells food. As you can imagine, it makes the shopping trip hilarious.
With our healthy food haul, we head back to the office to cook.
Katie Willcox and her daughter, True
10:00 a.m.: I have two amazing agents working for us at NMM — their office is on the second floor. Before I start meal prepping, I head in to say hello and get a rundown of what’s been going on this past week. The best part about being the owner and growing a business to the point where you’re no longer the main point of contact is that you get to focus on the big-picture ideas and problems, versus the daily goings on in the office.
10:45 a.m.: I put True down for a nap, and one of our models, Stephanie Viada, stops by to pick up her new comp cards and take digitals. We end up talking for a while about how important it is to communicate and be positive. A really big issue with models is that, even when they’re working, they look at what other girls are doing and feel as though there isn’t enough out there for them to succeed, too; it happens all the time. I try to bring some perspective, helping them realize that, when you operate from that place of insecurity, it doesn’t matter how much you work or how much money you have — it will never be enough. This industry feeds you all the negative aspects of human nature, so it is important to find things outside of modeling that provide your sense of goodness and purpose.
12:30 p.m.: Holy shit — how is it 12:30 p.m. already? I have to get cooking, if I’m going to have enough time to shower and get ready for tonight. Project Heal is an organization that gets grants for women suffering from eating disorders so they can pay for their treatment. They put on a gala, and are honoring me for the work I do with NMM and Healthy Is The New Skinny.
I start prepping salads, tortilla soup, and roasted veggies with rice and an Asian peanut sauce for the road.
1:30 p.m.: Fridays are slow in the office, so we order in lunch from this sushi place, Kabuki, up the street. I get spicy tuna on crispy rice, and we share some garlic edamame, which is so bomb. It isn’t until after eating the whole plate that it occurs to me: I am being honored at a gala tonight and will probably be speaking to a lot of people! My apologies for the garlic breath.
3:00 p.m.: I finish cooking and decide I am going to need another iced coffee if I’m going to continue to function. (Is that normal?) I still have to pack all of the awesome wellness swag that has been shipped to us for my body image workshop in Denver. I also have no idea what I’m wearing tonight to the gala. My online Black Friday sale haul from Zara arrived yesterday, and I’m hoping something in there fits.
4:00 p.m.: All the amazing women who work for NMM and Healthy Is The New Skinny have arrived to hang out and get ready together. It’s like the good old days, when my friends and I would get ready for a dance together — this time, without any super crispy spiral curls, thank God. I hop in the shower because I smell like tacos, and that can’t be good.
5:00 p.m.: With my hair in a towel, I finish packing all of my clothes and True’s suitcase so Bradford can pack the truck tonight. We’re leaving early in the morning.
7:00 p.m.: I curl my hair once it dries and finish my makeup. I’ve decided to wear a Zara pantsuit that has a white chiffon top with flowing sleeves, but I’m not sure how to get it on because it only has a side zipper. I get stuck with one boob exposed and try to get my arm through the other armhole without ripping the top. Bradford kindly steps in to assist me — so romantic!
7:15 p.m.: I kiss True and Bradford goodbye, and then the team and I start to make our way up to the Hollywood Hills for the gala. It’s at the stunning home of Gabriel Hammond, the CEO of Broad Green Pictures. We spend nearly an hour taking photos and chatting nonstop on the patio that overlooks the city lights. It’s such a beautiful evening.
Katie Willcox with her award from the Project Heal gala
9:00 p.m.: I’m presented with the “Bad-Ass Game Changer Award” by the women at Project Heal for my work helping to change the narrative around women’s bodies. I have never been given an award before, and this one is close to my heart, because I am so passionate about the work I do. To hear how I have personally helped several women made my heart happy. Plus, I killed my speech! I never practice when I have to speak in public — I am just a “say what is coming to you” kind of girl.
10:15 p.m.: It’s getting late, so we all say our goodbyes, and I take my aching feet to the car for some much-needed relief. I am eagerly waiting for the day when they make heels that are both cute and comfortable.
11:00 p.m.: True is sleeping in our room, so I have to be as quiet as possible. I wipe off my makeup and brush my teeth by the light of my cell phone, then I get into bed and whisper the recap of the night to Bradford. It was one hell of a day, but I did it! I have such a hard time falling asleep because of the adrenaline, but eventually, my brain calms down and I doze off.