I co-created a blog called Plus-Size Models Unite. We feature inspirational women. Paulette’s interview is one of my all-time favorites and so I would like to share it with the Secrets of Moms readers. If you have been a stay-at-home mom looking to start a career, or you are already working outside the home and want to start a new career, this is a great article to read. Paulette is an inspiration! This is our interview with Paulette:
Paulette Osborne is proud to be one of the first mature & plus-size models. She is represented by Wilhelmina. She is the mother of two sons, Kent and Mark, who have both found great success in the entertainment industry, and the grandmother of two children, Maddie and Riley.
Please tell us when and how you got your start in the modeling world.
I started modeling at 40. There were only two agencies at the time–Plus Models and Big Beauties, Little Women. I was living in New Jersey when I heard someone on talk radio talk about modeling, and the first thought in my head was “models are thin, blond, and young”, but I kept listening anyway. A gentleman called in and said he was 40, and told he should start modeling. Then I thought about all those other areas where models are used. I rushed home (this was before cell phones, lol) and called the radio station. I have never done anything like that in my life.
The author was still on the air, and I asked him about women who weren’t a size 8, which was the norm at the time. He told me about Pat Swift and Mary Duffy. I went to New York, and Pat said she would add me to her board, but I had to lose weight and get my tooth fixed. After all, you hear about getting into the business, I was skeptical that it was so easy.
So of course, I had to go to big beauties. The woman who interviewed me was not Mary Duffy, but her assistant. She told me they were running a contest and I could try to enter. She wasn’t very accommodating and I innocently told her that Pat Swift wanted to sign me and she was incredulous. She said that Pat had someone on her board like me and big beauties had tried several models to compete with her to “knock her off her perch” and it never worked.
I left there and RAN back to Plus Models. I guess Pat Swift was smart enough to think if she could get the other model work then she could get me work. Pat told me it would be part-time at best, and not to move to New York, but I didn’t listen to her. I moved to New York, never fixed my tooth, and the rest is history.
That’s how I started.
What did you do before you were a model?
I raised two sons in Vermont and when they were school age, I did just about everything there is to do in the restaurant business and ended up as Operations Manager for Bentleys Restaurants. I left Vermont in 1985 and took a 6-month sabbatical in Greece. Then I moved back to New Jersey and I worked in Princeton selling cars. When I first moved to NYC, I was nervous about the modeling industry and sold high-end cars on the Eastside, but I quit after I shot my first commercial for Gitano, Spirit of Family campaign. With that commercial, I got into SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and have been working ever since.
How has the modeling industry changed over the last 20 years?
When I started modeling over twenty years ago, there were only two modeling agencies now there are many more. There weren’t as many designers making plus-size clothing and there certainly wasn’t the respect there is now.
Is there ever a point where someone is considered “too old” to begin modeling or is there a market for all ages?
I think anyone can start modeling. I was over 40. However, there isn’t that much “high fashion”. I do a lot of commercial print and TV commercials. Pharmaceutical companies love me! I had to find all that for myself as my modeling agency did not have the connections for those opportunities.
What advice would you give to women who want to start a new career (any career)?
I would tell them it’s never too late, but find something you are passionate about. Also be prepared to work it, no one is going to hand it to you. However, it could be the best thing you have ever done for yourself. If not NOW, when?
Have you ever struggled with self-esteem or body image issues in the past? If so, how did you reach the point of accepting and loving yourself?
When I look back at myself at 18, I wasn’t “fat”. I went from being a skinny tomboy to puberty and when I developed breasts and hips, no one told me that was natural and I perceived myself as “fat”. So the dieting began. At 18, I had a doctor giving me speed and some type of shot to help me with weight loss. I yo-yo dieted most of my adult life until I moved to New York and became a plus-size model because with all the dieting, each time I lost weight, I would gain it back and then some. So, when I walked out of Plus Models and they loved me for who I was, I began to feel good about my size. Over the years, I maintained a size 16/18 for about ten years, and then when menopause hit, I became an 18/20 and have maintained that for over ten years. I do yoga, bike, walk, and hike. I am always on the go with my grandchildren and traveling. I eat healthy and try to take care of myself, but no longer am I obsessed with diets. I haven’t dieted for over 20 years, and I get upset seeing all the advertising for the multi-million dollar weight loss business. I had a friend who almost died from gastric bypass.
What kinds of pressures do you see the girls and women in your life facing? What can we, as mentors, do to address these issues?
I try to be a role model for my daughter-in-law and granddaughter. I avoid talking about their weight and concentrate on supporting their health. When my granddaughter was six, she called me “fluffy”, which I thought was adorable. She is proud that I am a model.
If you could go back in time to your twenty, thirty, or forty-year-old self, what advice would you give?
I would say stop spending your time and money on trying to lose weight and enjoy your life.
How do you define beauty?
There are so many ways to define beauty. I knew a young woman who was not particularly attractive according to our society standards, but she did not have any self-esteem issues. When I met her parents, I found out that they told her she was beautiful from birth every day and she WAS. Sometimes it’s all perception. In other countries, their ideas of “beauty” are different from ours. I think the most “beautiful” are the people who love life, love people, are passionate about what they do, and are happy with themselves.
How do you define happiness?
Happiness is waking up every day and starting with a clean slate. Everything is possible!
Where do you like to shop for clothes?
I like big department stores. I think Catherines, CJ Banks, Fashion Bug, and Lane Bryant all have something for everyone. I just wish the designers would take what they make for straight-sizes and enlarge it. That’s all. I might make some enemies, but don’t add appliqués, sequins, and other ways that they make those same clothes less attractive. Plus-size women want to wear what everyone else wears.
What are some of your beauty must haves?
Great mascara, peppermint foot soak, and healthy food. It starts from the inside out.
Please tell us about your skin care routine.
Over the years, people ask me what I use for my skin. I would always tell them the skin care I was using at the moment. Now I have come to realize I have good genes. My Mom had beautiful skin and I inherited that. However, I love products from Clinque, Shishedo, MAC, Mary Kay, and my favorite eye cream is Anew clinical eyelift from Avon. It’s a gel for the eyelid and a cream for under the eye.
What is the best beauty advice you have ever been given?
My mother-in-law told me whatever you do to your face do to your neck. I know it’s kind of simple and sounds silly but it’s good advice. So many women spend a lot of time with their skin care and stop near their jaw line.
Do you feel plus modeling is helping to redefine beauty?
I think plus modeling is helping women who are not a size 0 to feel good about themselves. I think the Dove campaign was fabulous. I would have loved to have been a part of that!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would love to go back to Santorini and spend a month there. I would rent a villa and invite family and friends to visit. I spent six months in Greece and Santorini and it was magical and mystical. There are some that believe it’s part of the lost Atlantis. The sky and the sea are the bluest blue. Most of the buildings are whitewashed with brightly colored doors or trim, usually blue. Little churches everywhere–some only big enough for two people. They even have an archeological dig that you can visit. I still haven’t been to Paris and that is on my bucket list. ; )
What achievement are you most proud of?
I know it sounds corny, but I am most proud of raising two sensitive, healthy, and talented men!! There aren’t enough of those around.
What are you excited about right now?
Being a part of my grandchildren’s lives. Since I raised two sons, Maddie is my first experience with girls and it’s FUN!! I didn’t know what I was missing, but I am happy she’s my granddaughter. I thinking raising a daughter is more difficult. In my experience, boys are easier. I also have a grandson and he is a joy! I love being bi-coastal and spending so much time with them and making new friends. I want to spend more time in Vermont, which is my favorite state. My years spent there were very memorable and I feel like it’s home.
*Thank you, Paulette!