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Erica Jean - Plus size model and Influencer

Our interview of Erica Jean for “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes.

Erica was the first plus size female model to ever be on the cover of a fitness magazine and ultimately won a Teen Choice Award. She uses her influence to connect with and help young women.

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A transcript of the full interview follows: 

Jon: I am joined today by Erica, welcome to the podcast.

Erica: Thank you very much. 

Jon: You are a plus sized model. 

Erica: Yup.

Jon: You're also a student at Pepperdine, a senior 

Erica: Yup, getting ready to graduate soon. 

Jon: What is your major? 

Erica: I'm advertising with a concentration in art history. 

Jon: You're also married? 

Erica: Yes. 

Jon: Which is unusual for a college senior. 

Erica: Yes. 

Jon: We'll come back to that. You're the first plus size woman model to ever be on the cover of a fitness magazine.

Erica: Yeah. So in 2015, I was on the cover of Women's Running and I ended up getting a lot of accolades for that, including winning a Teen Choice Award, and a lot of interviews and things like that. 

Jon: Are you a runner? 

Erica: I do actually run. I recently had a knee issue so I haven't been running lately. I've been doing a lot more kickboxing and biking. 

Jon: As I move away from the microphone. So how did it come about that you were on the cover of the magazine?

Erica: Basically, I was a model in New York, obviously, with Wilhelmina and I got in contact with James Farrell, who is a photographer. He does a lot of active. He shoots for magazines such as Women's Running, but also clients like Nike and he saw my book and was like, wow, I really want to shoot her. So originally I was just going to be inside the magazine. Uh, and then once the producer of Women's Running or the editor saw my photos, she was like, holy cow, this is amazing. I need to have this girl on my cover. So they picked one of the photos, they threw it on I actually didn't know I was going to be on the cover.

Jon: Oh you didn't know?

Erica: I didn't know. So eventually I got a call from my agent saying, hey, so you were on the cover, congratulations, and we have two to three weeks worth of interviews lined up for you. And we assigned you a PR agent so they can cater you around. 

Jon: So that was all very good. 

Erica: Yeah, it was all very good. But I didn't know about it until the day it was released. So it was very shocking.

Jon: Tell me about you, you drop this in there. Tell me about the book.

Erica: The book. 

Jon: You said you had a book. 

Erica: The book. I didn't write a book. Oh, my portfolio. 

Jon: (laughter) Oh, oh oh.

Erica: Oh, I did not write a book on the record. 

Jon: I did some research and I didn't find anything about a book.

Erica: So in the industry we call our portfolios books. So we build up our books in order to book jobs—

Jon: And for the record this is my first model interview 

Erica: Welcome. 

Jon: Okay. I want to transition and we'll come back to the modeling. I got a whole bunch of questions about that. 

Erica: Okay. 

Jon: Transition to personal stuff. 

Erica: Okay.

Jon: Get to know you first. 

Erica: Not too personal though, right? 

Jon: Not too personal. What question do you ask to find out the most about a person? 

Erica: Oh, what's your favorite food.

Jon: What's your favorite food? 

Erica: Oh, I love chicken Tikka Masala. 

Jon: Where did you grow up? 

Erica: I grew up all over California, Nevada, but I was born in Walnut Creek. 

Jon: And now we're going to do some rapid fire questions. What's your favorite LA brunch spot? 

Erica: The Butcher's Daughter. 

Jon: Least favorite food? 

Erica: I don't like peas. 

Jon: I don't either. Favorite cocktail?

Erica: Gin and tonic. 

Jon: And you're over 21, correct? 

Erica: Yes. Barely. 

Jon: What's your favorite concert? What's your first—let me first—first concert first.

Erica: So I was 12 and I went to a Colbie Caillat concert.

Jon: And what's your favorite concert you've been to? 

Erica: 21 Pilots. 

Jon: There was recently a fire in Malibu. Were you evacuated?

Erica: Yes, I was evacuated. I was one of the first evacuated. I actually live out in Bell Canyon area where the fire started, but the winds were in our favor so we were fine. But my husband, I found out this month that he used to be a firefighter. He's an Eagle Scout, so he ended up getting certified as a paramedic and a firefighter and everything else under the sun. So he called me and was like, this is what you take. This is what you do. Go to your mom's house, get out, take the dog and—

Jon: What did you take?

Erica: I took pictures, all of my electronics, all of the clothes that I've gathered from all the photo shoots that I've been on, so I have some really special pieces, and that's pretty much it. And my dog obviously.

Jon: You can pick one for the next 30 days. Netflix, YouTube, books, or podcasts. What do you pick?

Erica: Oh, I've been really into podcasts lately, but I think I'd still choose Netflix. 

Jon: What TV channel doesn't exist that you wish existed? 

Erica: I don’t really watch a lot TV. Do you mean like a Netflix series? 

Jon: We'll go with that. 

Erica: Christmas 24/7. 

Jon: Watch the Hallmark Channel. It's on right now. 

Erica: We don’t have cable.

Jon: What is your guilty pleasure?

Erica: I listen to this conspiracy podcast called Stuff They Don’t Want you to Know. It's really terribly interesting. 

Jon: Favorite movie? 

Erica: The Blind Side. 

Jon: What was the last movie that made you cry? 

Erica: I cry at every movie so—

Jon: You cried at The Blind Side?

Erica: Of course I cried atThe Blind Side.I mean the last time I cried was I was watching Parks and Recand Ben proposed to Leslie and I definitely cried. 

Jon: This is a great transition after that question, what makes you laugh? 

Erica: Parks and Recand my husband. 

Jon: What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you? 

Erica: That I'm married. Most people are pretty surprised, they don’t notice. 

Jon: Does being married changed the way you look? 

Erica: Change the way I look? 

Jon: Yeah, “people don't notice.”

Erica: I mean he's a chef, so he definitely feeds me really well. Um, I mean I have a tattoo on my finger, so that kind of changes things. His name's Tony. So I have a “T” on my wedding finger. 

Jon: How long have you been married? 

Erica: Three and a half years.

Jon: How did you meet? 

Erica: It's a really long, beautiful story that I need a drink to tell.

Jon: And we are at Pepperdine so you may not have a drink.

Erica: So water is what I'm drinking. It was a very fortunate series of events that led me to meeting him. He had saw my Facebook through mutual friends and he called up the girl wanted to meet me. Turns out she was the, liked him, didn't want to introduce us. Six months later we eventually met. And that was it. 

Jon: Do you still speak to the girl that wouldn't introduce?

Erica: No.

Jon: What's one talent you wish you had? 

Erica: I wish I could teleport, get places really quick without driving.

Jon: That’d be your superpower. 

Erica: Yeah. 

Jon: Okay. What's your biggest pet peeve?

Erica: Drivers in LA. 

Jon: What's the most annoying habit you wish others didn't have? 

Erica: Being late. 

Jon: We have an audience here so, I think that was a pointed remark.  How do you stay energized? 

Erica: Working out, makes me feel energized. Sorry. The lights just went out. That freaked me out. There we go.

Jon: They’re motion sensitive. Who’s someone you'd love to have coffee with? 

Erica: Ooh, I would love to have coffee with Marilyn Monroe. 

Jon: Why? 

Erica: She just, she ruled the world basically through entertainment and she had to be smarter than she looked. You know, she has to have had a phenomenal characteristic in order to be able to captivate so many people so effortlessly. 

Jon: Have you ever been star struck? 

Erica: I met Sophia Vergara. I was pretty star struck. I'm kind of in love with her. And so when I met her I just froze up and then she left. 

Jon: We're on our last ones of the fast, fast ones. What's your most used emoji? 

Erica: Oh, the new one. The one. The face with all the hearts around it. Yeah. 

Jon: What's your most used app? 

Erica: Instagram. 

Jon: What's the best compliment you've ever received? 

Erica: I don't even know. Usually they’re about my looks, which I'm like, okay, whatever. I guess it's like you’re really smart. Like I like hearing that. 

Jon: If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would it be? 

Erica: Ooh, runway walking.

Jon: What medal would you get for that? 

Erica: Oh, I wouldn't even—no. Tyra Banks can take that. I'll just watch her. 

Jon: I think you kind of foreshadowed this, but are you usually early or late?

Erica: Early. 

Jon: What is the luckiest thing that has happened to you?

Erica: Meeting my husband. I'd say.

Jon: What question would you most like the answer to? 

Erica: Is there a God?

Jon: That's a good question actually. 

Erica: I just want an answer. Yes or no. 

Jon: Okay. Let’s go with yes.

Erica: Okay.

Jon: Okay.

Erica: We'll go with that. We’re at Pepperdine.

Jon: We’ll go with that. I want to switch gears to your modeling career. 

Erica: Okay. 

Jon: You moved, from the research, I found you moved to New York City at 14.

Erica: Mhm. Well 15.

Jon: 15? 

Erica: Yep. 

Jon: And when did you first start to model?

Erica: So I started modeling in LA when I was 13. I was homeschooled and my mom wanted to get me a little bit more socialized and so she decided that I was pretty, I just got my braces off, I was playing volleyball so I had got really fit, had gotten contacts instead of glasses, and I was glowing up per se and she sent in my pictures off my Facebook not thinking anything, not telling me either. And they called her about a week later and they said, “Hey, bring her in.” She still didn't tell me. She told me you're going on at home school field trip to the La Brea Tar Pits and—

Jon: Would you consider modeling to be a tar pit? 

Erica: It'll definitely catch you. You see that paycheck and you're like, this is where I belong. And then they loved me and then I started modeling.

Jon: Were you always homeschooled? 

Erica: No. So I went to school for a long time. I went to a lot of private schools, but we had moved about 10 times before the time I was 11. And so by the time that I had gotten into middle school, I didn't really want to make more friends because I knew we're just going to leave soon. So I was already really ahead of school, like I was in Algebra Two by the time I was in sixth grade. And so my mom was like, “Hey, you can just teach yourself as long as you'll be fine with that. You can be homeschooled.”

Jon: What's the first modeling project you did?

Erica: So I did editorials for Teen Prom Magazine, but the first like, well paid job I did was for Wet Seal. They paid me $2,500 a day and as a 13 year old I saw that paycheck and I was like, “Whoa, that's a lot of money.” 

Jon: That's a lot of money for a 13 year old. 

Erica: I put it into a savings account and that's actually, that client was the one that helped me move to New York.

Jon: Did you ever take any of that out? Get something for yourself. 

Erica: No, not until I moved to New York. I kept most of it in a bank account. 

Jon: And then when you went to New York, what did you get?

Erica: An apartment. And I didn't have any roommates. So it was expensive. 

Jon: Big thing. Yeah. How often do you have paid modeling appearances as a fulltime student? 

Erica: Appearances or photo shoots? 

Jon: Photo shoots. And then we’ll go back to appearances.

Erica: Photoshoots—since I'm full time I do have to turn down some photo shoots because of exams or unrelenting professors that want me in class, but—

Jon: Imagine that.

Erica: --I do have a steady client who I work with two weeks a year for five days each week. So that's about 10 days a year. But then I also have some random clients. This year I've probably worked about 30 days. I'm making a decent amount. 

Jon: Then what about appearances? 

Erica: Appearances aren't necessarily paid. I usually get paid to post. So, I do a lot of appearances. I go to a lot of parties, but usually you get like gift bags, not cash. But I get paid to post probably 40 times a year.

Jon: For brand deals?

Erica: Mhm.

Jon: Do you have a role model within the modeling world? 

Erica: So I used to love Robyn Lawley. She's pretty phenomenal. She was a huge model growing up. She was the first plus model in Swimsuits Illustrated but then she had a baby and she kind of started focusing on her private life. She's now getting back into modeling a little bit more now that her daughter is a little bit more grown up. I also love Ashley Graham just because she is such a huge superstar in the plus size community.

Jon: How long have you considered yourself to be plus size? When in your head did you say I'm plus size? 

Erica: Well, technically when I first started modeling, I was a size 12 so I didn't consider myself plus size then it was more an inbetweener model, but I still modeled for plus size brands. Once I got to be about a size 14, which is after I moved to New York and stopped playing volleyball competitively, that's when I considered myself plus size and now I'm definitely plus size. 

Jon: And when did you first kind of internalize that you were pretty?

Erica: Way after I started modeling. It took, it took my husband meeting me and him being like, you're really pretty and like having someone that I trusted that would tell me that, that wasn't my family. I don't—

Jon: Like mom telling you isn’t enough?

Erica: No. When your mom tucks your hair behind your ear and goes you’re so cute, and pinches your cheek that’s not-

Jon: I still remember the day my mom said you should be on the cover of GQ and the only response I had was, “Thank you mom.”

Erica: You’re like, Thanks mom. Shut up. Please don't say that in front of my buddies.

Jon: Doesn’t work that way. 

Erica: But yeah, like even my agents because I was like, oh well you're of course you're going call me pretty because like you're making money off of me. But it took me actually gaining a lot of weight because I had mono for three months that multiple doctors said I was just heavy. But I gained about 60 pounds when I had mono and that's when I went from being a 14 to an 18 and it took gaining weight, feeling like hideous essentially and being really depressed because I couldn't get out of bed, I couldn't do anything and I wasn't getting treatment to get healthier and then realizing that it didn't matter what size I was, it didn't matter if I had gained weight or lost weight or had acne or look differently. It mattered that I loved myself no matter what I look like because I deserve that. So getting past the pretty was more important than realizing I was pretty.

Jon: Has the industry changed since you started as a wee child? 

Erica: The bassinet? Yes. Well it's definitely come around a long way and now we have brands like 11 Honoré and higher end brands that are realizing that we're actually a market and that either they can make money off of us or that we deserve to be closed. So not just Walmart and Target who are making plus size clothes, but designers like Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, all of these high end designers that we've wanted to spend our money on as plus size women and that we have the resources and we want to look beautiful. 

Jon: Do you have any idea why it took them that long? 

Erica: Like we, we have money. We will give you the money for clothes that will fit us.

Jon: But do you have any personal theory on why it took them that long? 

Erica: I mean the 1990s were so focused on being that tiny, beautiful little fairy that it just took so long to get out of that mindset that bringing brands along with the stereotype of being a beautiful model and being a beautiful woman just, it just took awhile. But now beauty standards are changing. Big women have been in before. If we look back to Greco Roman. 

Jon: For a long time.

Erica: Yeah, exactly. It was a sign of wealth. 

Jon: What is your secret to a killer photograph? 

Erica: Oh, I mean, there's always the smeyes. So smiling with your eyes once you figure out how to do that it works. 

Jon: And how do you do that? 

Erica: It's, it's kind of, it's really hard to explain. You can watch Tyra do this. She'll explain it. It's smiling with your eyes, like you just really a lot of intensity, not too wide because you don't want to look crazy. But kind of like upturning the edges. 

Jon: Is this something that you can consciously do? 

Erica: Yeah, yeah. It's definitely something conscious when I'm on set after 12 hours I am mentally exhausted because all I've been focusing on is angle this angle next. What's going on? Where's the camera and whereas the light, it's a lot. 

Jon: When you're on set, is there a mood that you try to create within your head? 

Erica: Well, it depends on what I'm going for. So if I'm on an editorial set, I'm definitely turning on some JLo a little bit more like sexual music, you know, keeping it very edgy and not pop. But if I'm on a lifestyle set like doing bridal or doing Target, or things like that, turning on whatever pop station is on high beat, big smiles, very focused on like convincing someone I'm happy.

Jon: What is your must have beauty product? 

Erica: Well, I mean makeup artists love me because I focus a lot on my skin care so I actually have—well backtrack a little bit. So I had a problem a year or two ago with—I had a staph infection on my chin and around my mouth from a makeup artists using bad brushes, like dirty brushes. So I went to the doctor, I got out on a ton of antibiotics and things and I ended up getting referred by Veronica to Dermalogica and Dermalogica sent me so much product and it ended up curing all of my issues, the rash, the dryness, all of it. And it's been an absolute blessing because I don't have to put on as much makeup, they don't have to pile it on and it gives a really fresh, natural look. So it's good for clients like bridal and lifestyle.

Jon: What's your insider modeling beauty tip? 

Erica: Just don't overdo it. You don't need to cake on the makeup, take care of your skin, drink lots of water, and just highlight the features that you want to highlight. So if you're looking to highlight your lips, do a bold lip color but then go light on the eyes. Do a little mascara, something light, you know, focus on one or two things. 

Jon: Do you have a pre-shoot routine?

Erica: Lots of water. It depends if I'm flying or not. So if I'm flying into the location I will—I'm that weird chick that puts a face mask on, on the flight because the circulated air is really bad for your skin. So I put a barrier over my face whenever I'm flying. I drink at least a gallon of water the day before. I pack my model bag full of all of the bras and underwear, spanx, heels, business cards, everything that I could possibly need for the next day. I also bring along a makeup bag just in case the makeup artist doesn't have my color, doesn't have, doesn't show up. That's happened before where I've had to do my own hair and makeup because they just didn't come. So just being really prepared mentally and lots of face masks. 

Jon: You've talked about a long day of shooting. How long are the average shoot days? 

Erica: It really depends. So some clients, especially for banner ads, in-store ads, things like that they need two looks. Like when I used to work for Target in New York, I would do their ecom, but I would also do some of their bigger banners. When we were doing the bigger banners, it was in the chair for two hours as in getting hair and makeup done and then I would be shooting for two hours and be done. So it'd be like a four or five hour day. I wouldn't even make it to lunch. But if I'm doing ecom, it's a full 10 hour day where they're just keep shoot this shoot that keep going and then whenever the day is done, that's when you stop. Ecom is a lot more consistent. You work more often. Lifestyle things you work less consistently but you get paid better and the days are shorter.

Jon: From your perspective, this is from the model’s perspective as opposed to the photographer, who runs the shoot?

Erica: Oh, the producer. The producer tells the photographer and the model what they want, but the photographer has the ability to translate whatever the producer wants and whatever the model is doing. So it's like a translator with someone that's actually in charge and then the model is doing something completely different. It takes a lot to get a good team together. 

Jon: And then how often do you see the photographer be actually the same person as the producer?

Erica: So like the photographer is producing the whole set? Well, anything that's editorial is usually a creative photographer that's taking over and doing what they want. But on anything that's backed by a large corporation, so clients like Target or my bridal client, they have two to three to four producers on one set that are all contending for their intentions to be done. 

Jon: I've heard it other models talk about they try to have a runway event be a story. Do you try to have your sessions be a story? You know, the shoots be a story? 

Erica: No, no. Runway is very different because it's a performance act. It's like doing a movie versus a theater performance. So during a theater performance you want a lot more energy from the audience. You're feeding off the audience and so you need that storyline in order to keep them engaged. But some runways they don't even focus on a story. They're just trying to show the clothes. But the more creative you get, so the more designer you get, the more New York Fashion Week you get, that's when you get all the big stories. Yeah. But on set, you pretty much just want to keep, keep upbeat, keep moving, good music. 

Jon: Do you prefer to work in a studio or outside? 

Erica: Oh, in studio for sure. 

Jon: Why so?

Erica: Whenever you're on set, there's so many unpredictable things. It could be 20 degrees outside and you're shooting swim or it could be 120 degrees—

Jon: Now who would ever schedule a swim shoot in a place that it could be 20 degrees.

Erica: Well think about it. So all of the new swim campaigns come out in March.

Jon: Right.

Erica: For spring break. But when do you shoot those? You shoot them in November.

Jon: In Hawaii.

Erica: No. There have been—I have done multiple swimsuits in Montauk in November where it's, oh, they're like, oh, hey you guys, it didn't snow this week. So there's no snow on the ground. Let's go shoot in Montauk. It's cheaper because you can get permits really easily during the winter. 

Jon: Yeah. 

Erica: Um, yeah, no. And then the Women's Running shoot that I did, we shot that in June and in New York with 120 percent humidity.

Jon: Well you didn't have to worry about the fake glow for—

Erica: Oh yeah. We didn't have to worry about sweating. It was already there. 

Jon: I'm shifting gears a little bit. In your view, who's the most stylish person alive? 

Erica: Oh, stylish person. I can't remember her name. Oh, but her, her Instagram is icon, iconofficials? iconaccidental, thank you. Sorry, accidentalicon. She is, she's like 60, 70 years old and she is just a killer style icon. 

Jon: What is your favorite fashion trend of all time? 

Erica: I like a lot. I really like crop tops. I think that's a good, good move. I mean and you can have all different kinds of crop tops. You can have the fancy crop tops where you have glitter and sparkles or you can have the workout crop top.

Jon: You can have the bedazzled look. 

Erica: Mhm.

Jon: Who is your favorite photographer?

Erica: I'm sorry. I’m sorry, Veronica. My favorite photographer would probably be Enrique Vega. He is a New York photographer. He has shot me multiple times. We've done a few tests together, but we've also done editorials. So we did a 10-page spread in Veintitantos for a South American, like Teen Bogue type. 

Jon: Why is he your favorite? 

Erica: His style is really phenomenal. He—we do the big red lips, it's very Spanish, very Latin, and he just goes big. So we have the big hair, the leopard print clothing. So it's, it's very bold and it's just a lot of fun. He's great to shoot with. 

Jon: What is the most positive aspect of modeling that is rarely acknowledged? 

Erica: So it's not really to do with modeling, but modeling gave me the ability to do this. Being a social media influencer as a model. There's a lot of young women that are following me and that I get to connect with and talk to and they'll message me with their problems or how they're feeling about their bodies and it's just really beautiful to be able to interact with them on a more personal level.

Jon: When, and this is through Instagram? 

Erica: Yeah. 

Jon: When did you start on Instagram? 

Erica: Well, I started right when Instagram came out, so probably when I was 12 or 13 and the moment that I got signed with my agency, I changed my name. So originally my name was foreverthesickestkidd with two d’s and then—

Jon: Not, that’s not how probably the brand you want—

Erica: Not the classiest thing, no. It was actually one of my favorite songs at that time and when I got signed with Wilhelmina I immediately was like, okay, I got to grab this because I knew social media was going to be a big thing. Snapchat was coming out and Facebook had already been around for awhile. We had been evolving and so I knew that I needed to get the best handle. So, I'm curve_model. So many people are like, “How’d you get this, like did you have to buy this from someone?” And I'm like, “Nope. Just been around, around the block.” 

Jon: And did you always have it be more business related than personal photos? 

Erica: Oh no, no, no. So for a long time I, it was just me interacting with a bunch of my friends, models, agents, kind of whoever I knew that had started following me. But once I got the cover on Women's Running, Kylie Jenner ended up shouting me out. She was like, “Look at this girl, this girl is so cool. She is a plus size girl who's now on the cover of Women's Running. She's really inspiring.” And I ended up getting tens of thousands of followers and now I have about 108,000 followers. And then it became very business oriented. 

Jon: Do you find that it helps you get work? 

Erica: Oh, 100 percent. Especially since I have that little blue check mark because I'm verified because I had so many interviews after that. It's, it's a really interesting process getting the checkmark basically I put together a press kit and then my agents submitted it to Instagram, but it was a rigorous challenge.

Jon: How long did it take you to get it?

Erica: Probably about a year. It took a very long time. Now it's a little bit easier because you can apply yourself. Uh, but back then because I've had it for about three or four years now, back then you had to go through a long process. 

Jon: How do you decide what to post?

Erica: Well, I don't, it depends. If it's a paid post then I put a lot of energy and effort into it. I'll hire a photographer, or I'll have my husband do it for free, pro bono, and I'll make sure it's really perfect. Hair's done, makeup's done. But otherwise I'm really just trying to show life as a model so I'll take pictures behind the scenes on set or just about my life in general about what's happening because I want to be able to connect on a more personal level because I don't want it to be just about modeling. I want it to be about me and my brand and my community. 

Jon: Do you have a schedule of when you post? 

Erica: No, I try to post as frequently as possible. I usually post midday because I have a lot of followers on the east coast and I'm just trying to balance all of the schedules.

Jon: How much time do you spend putting together the description and thinking what you're going to say? 

Erica: Well, it depends. If it's for a holiday then I'll base it around the holiday. I usually take a while. I draft all my posts, wait to post them. I never post where I am in real time because that's gotten bad.

Jon: There have been home invasion robberies because of that. 

Erica: Yeah, well I definitely don't post where I'm at home, but if I ever post—

Jon: Well I meant that people are away and people, and the followers know they're away. 

Erica: Yeah, of course. I usually I'll wait a day or two or at least a few hours. Like if I go out to dinner I'll post that I'm at dinner after I leave. So then I don't have people popping up. 

Jon: Do you ever delete posts? 

Erica: I archive them, yeah. Especially the ones—I need to start going through my really old posts that are no longer applicable. But yeah, if they're just dumb, I don't like them anymore. 

Jon: What advice would you have for aspiring models?

Erica: I would definitely suggest waiting until you're a little bit older. I feel like I was a very special case. I was able to test out of almost 40 units of college level classes and that's the only reason that I was able to move to New York and my mom was okay with it. So I was a little bit ahead of, ahead of the curve. I was, I knew how to pay taxes, knew how to get my own apartment I really proved that I could do it myself. So definitely don't move away from home to do it if you're under 18, but try it, why not? It's a great confidence boost. I'd suggest everyone to at least get a photo shoot done even if you don't want to be a professional model, having good photos on your resumé and on your LinkedIn and just having that confidence boost when you hand someone your business card with the like little picture in the corner and you look good.

Jon: What do you think social media's effect has been on the modeling industry? 

Erica: Well, there's a lot. There's almost no real soul models. Most models now are also influencers or they started out as influencers. A lot of modeling agencies don't even consider models that don't have a following of at least 10,000 followers, which is considered like—

Jon: A micro influencer.

Erica: A borderline micro influencer. 

Jon: Do you read all of your comments? 

Erica: Of course. I usually comment back where I try to. 

Jon: On a scale of one to ten, one being you couldn't care less, ten being you internalize every comment, where are you on the comment scale? 

Erica: It depends if they're male. If they’re male, I don't care. I barely look at them because they usually are very creepy. Or they're just emojis and like beautiful or not in English. And if they're female then I usually internalize them a lot more.

Jon: What percent do you respond to? 

Erica: If they are actually saying something, then I'll respond to them and I'll be like, if they're like, “Oh my gosh, she looks so beautiful today. I love this outfit,” then I'll be like, “Oh, that's awesome. This is where I got my outfit from,” but if it's just an emoji I’ll usually heart it because now you can like comments. I try to, if they put effort into it, I want to put effort back. 

Jon: Are you self critical? 

Erica: Of course. Aren't we all? I, like, every other girl struggle with some body dysmorphia or not believing that we're good enough at times. But Instagram and my following and posting has helped me get over a lot of that.

Jon: Now do you, from what you've seen in the last five years, has it changed just people's view of plus sized people? Has that changed? 

Erica: I think the view of a certain demographic of plus size. Like now there is an extended size that's acceptable, but even if you're a size 14 but you're only five foot, that's still seen as not okay because it's not proportionate to your body. So you'll see a lot of shaming for like Tess Holliday who is a larger woman of course, but she's still beautiful and she's still very successful as model. But you'll see her getting a lot more trash talk than me where I'm a little, I'm six foot. I'm a little bit more proportionate to my body, so that makes it okay. I'm doing air quotes, but I think it's getting better. We're moving in the right direction. 

Jon: Given that your looks are so important in being a model, have you ever felt pressured to have plastic surgery? 

Erica: Oh, of course. I mean I'm, I'm top heavy so I have obviously considered getting a breast reduction, but it's, it's more than just—like for me to actually go through with it, it would need to be more than just I want to look a certain way. So like back problems or something like that would make me consider doing it, but just the sheer vanity of fixing something about myself, I don't think that that's a healthy mental state to be in.

Jon: Well I agree 100 percent. How do you consume media in the sense of you already said you don't have cable. 

Erica: Nope. So we don't have cable. I don't really watch the news. I do listen to talk radio, which is very abnormal for my generation.

Jon: It is.

Erica: I listen to KNX. I listen to a lot of podcasts and things like that—

Jon: KNX, for the, for the people who are not in Los Angeles is the news station out here. 

Erica: It's a new station, but they try to be as unbiased as possible. I don't really like listening to extremism. I just want to hear the information. I love BBC because of that, especially when they're reporting on American things. They leave a lot of it out, which is interesting.

Jon: I want to shift gears a little bit. What is the question you wish people would stop asking you? 

Erica: Are you trying to lose weight? I'm like, oh, well, even if I am, it's none of your business because I do—I work out a lot and I'll post about it and I'll be like, “Oh, like, look at me kickboxing, whatever,” and the first thing people ask is like, “Are you losing weight? That's probably a good thing,” and I'm like, “It's none of your business. Thank you for—”

Jon: I actually heard a plus size model say that was a bad thing for business.

Erica: It depends. So I kick box in order to cardio and get my adrenaline up and have that like nice boost of energy. Also muscle—gaining muscle—

Jon: Tone. 

Erica: Yeah exactly, toning. I'm not necessarily trying to drop 60 pounds, I'm not trying to get way smaller, maybe a size, but I just want to be more toned and a little bit leaner because it looks better in pictures, but I also feel better. So—

Jon: What do you think about the concept of influence? How much influence do you have doing what you do?

Erica: Well question. If a—if a good friend that you trust told you, “Hey, I use this hair care product, you know, I think it worked really well for you,” and they're—

Jon: I get that all the time.

Erica: But you know what I mean? Like if you have a good friend that you trust that you've been following for years and that you've been listening to their input—I have girls that have been following me for six years and that they now trust my input on things. So when I post and say, “Hey, check out Dermalogica, they fixed all my skin problems,” and they're like, “Wait, I have those skin problems or I have other skin problems,” they might, I mean, they do, they message me and they're like, “Hey, look at what Dermalogica fixed. I have no more acne,” like things like that. So I definitely think influencers have a great ability of changing people's minds. 

Jon: When was the first time somebody recognized you?

Erica: I was on the streets of New York walking around and this was probably two months after the, the magazine came out, so, or maybe a month, so it was still on newsstands like the last few additions. But this guy came up to me and he's like, “Wait, you’re the guy, the girl on that cover,” and I'm like, “Oh God, please leave me alone you crazy person.” Um, he just, I just walked away and it was fine because it's New York. But, I’ve definitely been approached many times. One time I was in, in Nordstrom with my mom because I didn't bring enough clothes to her house, and I was in her sweatpants and sweatshirt and this lady came up to me and she's like, “Are you Erica Jean”, and my mom was like, “Yes, she is.” 

Jon: So your mom fully embraced it. 

Erica: My mom was very excited, and the lady was so nice, she just wanted to tell me about how I had changed her daughter and how she was going through like the, her transition from adolescence or into adolescence and so she was getting a little older going through puberty and got some confidence by watching my journey.

Jon: Who has influenced you the most?

Erica: In real life, my grandma. My grandma is really special to me and she has kind of shaped a lot of my moral values and a lot of things like that. Online, yeah. I don't know. I guess I, I consume a lot of media online and so I probably have a lot of influences.

Jon: So what's ahead for you?

Erica: Well, I would like to graduate eventually, eventually start paying off these student loans and I'll probably get another internship at an advertising agency, I’ll continue modeling, hopefully get an agency in London so I'll be able to start working in Europe and traveling around, probably moving back to New York too.

Jon: One last question, and you already gave you your handle, but how can people find you? 

Erica: My Instagram is curve_model. I also have an email address that's attached to that. You can just say send email.

Jon: Thank you. It's been a pleasure. 

Erica: Thank you. Have a good night.

_______________________________________________________________________

The Creative Influencer is a bi-weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California.  Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them. 

  • The Creative Influencer , Influencers | Social Media
  • Jan 02, 2019

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