This week we interviewed beautiful Amanda Collins, successful fashion model and social media influencer with one of the fastest growing Instagram account. In this interview, she talks about her journey and vision as she paved the path through the unforgiving fashion world as a body/age positive model.
Q. Tell us something about Amanda. Who is she?? Where is home??
Hi, my name is Amanda Collins and most of you probably know me from Instagram as Alabama Valentine! I am an international runway & print body positive/age positive model. I am also an Influencer for Fashion Nova Curve and an Advertising Representative for FabUplus Magazine! However, being confident and body/life positive wasn’t exactly where my story began. I was raised in many different cities from Alta Loma to Los Alamos (not New Mexico!) to Santa Barbara, so I have always been and will always be a California Girl! Upon turning 18, I received a full-ride scholarship to play Division 1 volleyball and graduated from Pepperdine University. I received my degree in Liberal Arts with an emphasis in education and thought I would end up being a kindergarten teacher; however as life sometimes does, that wasn’t the direction I would end up going. Instead, I found an amazing wealth management company in Montecito, CA and ended up working in Finance for a little over 10 years. And then around age 37 life handed me a wake-up call and I realized I just needed more out of this life! I made the life-changing decision to go into recovery and decided that I needed to get mentally, emotionally and physically healthy. During this time, I began connecting with the body positive community, I started changing my focus from the negative to the positive and for the first time in my life, I decided to go after my dream of becoming a model! I figured if Iris Apfel can become a cover girl in her 90’s, I surely could do so in my mid-thirties! And as dreams go, it is still a faith walk, but I know in my soul it is where I belong!
Q. What was the hardest thing about breaking into the fashion industry at a time when full-figured women were far from being considered mainstream?
I believe so much is changing currently in the fashion industry. Even from four years ago when I started what I now call my “love you” journey to 1 year ago when I started actually being paid to model at a size 14 or 1x there are definitely more models being used of all sizes; however plus-size models are still not being fully represented as much as I would like them to be. There are 121 million ladies in the United States who are a size 14 or above and we still aren’t seeing that represented enough, especially on the runway! I will say, one of the things that really warms my heart, is I have been blessed to be able to work for a magazine called FabUplus Magazine, which is the only body positive magazine focusing on Health, Fitness and Lifestyle in the world! The models and the companies in the magazine are all body positive/life positive in nature and carry plus-size apparel. So when our plus size readers see an advertisement for the hot new outfit in the magazine, they know that company actually carries their size! They can go right then and buy that item and that is sadly a relatively new concept! Imagine what it would be like to look in every single magazine on the shelf and see all the beautiful clothes and none of them come in your size! It’s just not right! And FabUplus Magazine is changing that for millions of women, which is a beautiful thing!
Instagram Handle for Amanda Collins(@alabamavalentine)
Q. There seem to be various thoughts on the term “body positive”. How would you define the term and the movement?
I have been everything from 135 pounds to almost 300 pounds and in both instances I was unhealthy because I didn’t love me or my body! So for me, the body positive movement is about being kind in your thoughts about yourself, being kind in your words about yourself and rocking what you’ve got today! I will no longer allow myself to say “when I lose 20 pounds I will wear that swimsuit, or that dress or that sexy lingerie”! I am beautiful today and can wear anything on any day and look amazing because I love me and I am beautiful, confident and shining from within! I FINALLY LOVE ALL of me! I love my chubby tummy, my cellulite, my stretch marks (I prefer to call them tiger stripes!) & my laugh lines and anything else I might have previously been hard on myself about! There are so many beautiful things I can be thinking about and I am just not willing to waste any more brain power being negative about me or anybody else for that matter. Life is too beautiful and too short to fuss over the things that really don’t matter.
Q. How did you feel about being labeled a “plus-size” model?
I know there are different perspectives on this and I understand and actually agree with both sides of the conversation… if that is possible. I am proud to be big and beautiful! In heels I am 6’2 and 210 pounds of sexy, so from the basic definition of the “label”, I am plus-size and proud of it! I also believe at the core of my being that all sizes are beautiful! And am ready for the day when all brands carry all sizes! That day is coming, I promise you that! In the meantime, I am a model. Plain and Simple. I just happen to wear a size 1x, which is currently considered plus-size & fully support the body positive community for all sizes!
Q. How has the conversation about curvy women in fashion evolved in the last couple of years?
I have seen it change dramatically since January of 2015 when Tess Holiday graced the cover of People Magazine as the first size 22 model to sign with a prominent modeling agency. I actually did a shoot for Dynamite Dames where Tess was assisting with posing one week prior to that news dropping and honestly, everything has changed since then! You have Ashley Graham being the first plus-size model to be featured in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2015, ESPN 2015 Body Issue featured Amanda Bingson, a plus size track and field athlete on their cover. Ashley Nel Tipton won season 14 of Project Runway in the Spring of 2015 for her plus-size line. In 2016 Mattel announced their new plus size Barbie doll modeled after Ashley Graham with no thigh gap! Plus Size apparel sales rose 6% to over 20 billion in 2016 which is double the growth rate of overall apparel sales and there are 6,892,700 million posts on Instagram with the hashtag #plussize (11/27/17), so a lot has changed for the better! We still have a long way to go, but I believe we will get there!
Q. What keeps you up in moments when you are feeling down about yourself or your body image?
I have worked so hard in becoming the best version of myself over the last three years that I can honestly say I don’t spend a lot of time thinking negatively about me. I have a gratitude practice I work on, I spend time focusing on mindfulness and I spend the majority of my time being creative and thinking of ways to keep this modeling dream alive, so I no longer have time to focus on the negative. I feel if you focus on the positive you will get more positive in return! My focus is so much about putting myself out there in a way that will hopefully inspire other people to either get sober, fall in love with themselves and/or begin their own “love you” journey that I no longer allow myself to spend time feeling down! I got a second chance at this life and I am going to do everything in my power to make it the very best life possible!
Facebook Page for Amanda Collins (@alabamavalentine)
Q. What has been the response so far to your work?
For some they just see it as “sexy” and I somewhat expected that and honestly the way I look at it is, if people are connecting with my photos and are finding this big, beautiful 40 year old woman sexy, then I believe I’m doing something right! However, what people may not realize is one of the reasons I am showing my body in what some may deem as provocative clothing is because we were shown unrealistic, photoshopped models for so long, that people, I included, forgot what real bodies actually looked like! So one of my goals is to show the world what my real body looks like and that I rock what I’ve got and I am beautiful today! Plus I want other people to realize that our presence and confidence is 1000% sexier than how each individual part of our body might look. I often look back and think about what I was like at age 15; I had a very fit body but was not confident. I had very low self-esteem, and I was very insecure about my body. I got stretch marks very early on, given I grew so tall so fast and I really didn’t want anyone to see them! It blows my mind how much time I spent thinking about body related issues that just don’t matter! I wish I could go back and tell my younger self all the things I have learned, thanks to the other body positive warriors out there, but I know it’s a journey and this movement wouldn’t mean as much to me if I hadn’t so deeply struggled with my body at such an early age and really for the majority of my life. And I know this movement matters!
Q. What type of emotional response do you hope to achieve through your work?
Modeling is my favorite thing to do on the planet! It is everything to me and it makes me so HAPPY! I can’t sleep the night before photo shoots because I’m so excited and I kind of go into this super creative process around what poses I want to do, what shots I want to create and then during the shoot I consciously find myself thinking that I don’t want it to end! It is an energy builder for me! That is how I know it is my destiny because when I get in front of the camera I just turn on and there’s nothing better. I truly from the bottom of my heart love it!
Q. In what direction do you see your work evolving?
I see myself working more, connecting with more people and traveling to more destinations for on-location photo shoots. I see myself on the cover of magazines and rocking more runways! I would like to see my work evolve in a way that has a beautifully positive impact on those who come in contact with it! And I would really love to give people of a certain age, hope that you really can do anything you set your mind to no matter your age!
Q. Thanks for the interview. Anything else you would like to tell our readers.
Sometimes when it comes to dreams we have to believe enough for everyone around us and I believe we are given passions as tools to create our most beautiful life, so don’t push those passions by the wayside. Actively pursue your dreams and incorporate those things that you love the most into your day to day lives! I don’t know how much time I’ll get to be on this beautiful planet, living this amazing life, but I want to make sure that in my last moments I can look in the mirror and know I gave it my ALL! And promise me, you will always remember, no matter what, to LOVE YOU!
Note: This Interview was taken by Ash from DigiKarma.
Facebook Page for Ash (@officiallyAsh)