Amy grew up in Richmond, Virginia and before long she was working with amazing photographers like Bruce Weber and Steven Meisel. Her second job was the ultimate dream job for a girl from Richmond, working with Kate Moss for the Calvin Klein campaign. From that point on, she worked for everyone from Abercrombie to Louis Vuitton, from Versace to Valentino, Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. She loved it, until she noticed people were making comments about her size, some mild, some blatantly rude.  She would hear things like “you are a pretty girl, but slightly “too healthy” for my taste”.   Amy signed with Ford+ in January 2009 where she started working immediately.  Amy took the time to speak with me and Emily Sandberg about her experiences and work with the Model Alliance.

You have worked both as a straight sized and plus sized model.  What have you learned from this experience?

I’ve learned that I’m really not a straight or a plus sized model. My size does not define me and my management recognizes that and represents me as the individual I am.  That hasn’t happened to me before and it has been the best experience of my career so far.  The modeling world can categorize me and I am fine with that but I represent a size in between the two worlds and there is a huge gap in that market.  Why do we have to be a size two or a size 12?  There are a lot of sizes in between that need representation. I think it’s important for models to know that there is a choice out there.

Some people accuse the modeling industry of body fascism, others see thinness as part of the territory.  On what side of the conversation do you stand and why?

I think all body types are part of the territory.  A whole other world has been opened up to me in the fashion industry.  My curves were embraced and no one has tried to pin me as stick thin which I will never be.

Eating disorders are endemic in the modeling industry while the majority of Americans struggle with obesity.  How do you define wellness and health?

I define wellness and health by my own standard.  Every body type is different and there isn’t one approach to fitness.  It takes work but I have found a balance where my body should be naturally and I believe that is where a woman looks her best.  It’s different for everyone.  Some girls look great as a size four, like Sara Ziff, because that is where they are naturally.  Some girls are a size 14 and look amazing like model Ashley Graham.  I don’t feel I have to compromise myself any longer and I am being embraced by the fashion industry.  That is a great feeling.

What did you learn about yourself during your time away from the industry?

When I left for Los Angeles and went back to UCLA I found a whole new happiness and stability that I never felt before.  I realized I wasn’t defined by my looks and the modeling business.

What do you think about the unobtainable images perpetuated by the media?

I think women want less illusion in their fashion images.  There’s an emerging ‘let’s get real’ mentality that makes women less competitive and more supportive of each other.

How is your experience now as a model different than the beginning of your career?

I wish the Model Alliance was around when I started in the business.  I wasn’t able to properly talk about my struggles and therefore they got worse.  It can be very alienating.  The Model Alliance brings girls together and gives them a voice.  It advocates for models so they are not compromised and we asks for standard rights in the work place just like everyone else has.  It is even more important when you are dealing with minors.  We are also working to provide health insurance and I believe that is a great place to start.

Follow her at @AmyLemons