She gained global acclaim this past year when she strutted her real curves down the Paris runway for John Galliano's and Jean Paul Gaultier's spring collections. At 39 years of age, 5'8" and 290 lb, Velvet's size 28 frame has been causing a stir in the fashion industry and the plus size community. Her compatriots couldn't be more proud. Besides modeling this multi-talented woman is also a photographer, dancer, actress and god parent. If you haven't heard of Velvet, now is your chance to read up.
Moe: Where were you born?
Velvet d'Amour: I was born in Upstate New York.
Moe: Where do you live now?
Velvet d'Amour: Currently I live in Paris, France.
Moe: When did you move to Paris? Why?
Velvet d'Amour: I moved to Paris in January, 1996 as I had fallen in love.
Moe: When did you start modeling?
Velvet d'Amour: When I was 18 years old I started having friends photograph me as I modeled.
Moe: Before John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier had you done runway modeling?
Velvet d'Amour: No, I didn't do any runway shows previous to Galliano and Gauthier.
Moe: Would you do runway again?
Velvet d'Amour: I wouldn't rule out doing runway again, it would depend on the gig, but I can honestly say that by having modeled for both John Galliano and Jean Paul Gauthier I have worked with two of my most cherished designers. I am not about working loads of runways, I prefer to be discriminating and work with the best.
Moe: What have you learned about the industry of modeling you wish you'd known when you started?
Velvet d'Amour: I have learned one of the main components to looking beautiful, is feeling beautiful, feeling beautiful exudes a sense of confidence and that counts in any industry, but is integral when modeling.
Moe: Can you provide three tips for young women wanting to work in the modeling profession?
Velvet d'Amour: Personality counts more then you might imagine, being fun and easy to work with is a huge plus, leave the diva attitude at home as its just plain ugly.
Modeling is perceived as screamingly easy and somehow inherent, personally I 'studied' by collecting diverse magazine poses, (as well as hair and makeup styles). I found that one of the most amazing posers was Linda Evangelista, she consistently stood out amongst other models with her dynamic, creative and exceedingly diverse poses. So don't make the assumption that it's the photographer's job to pose you; if you choose the occupation of modeling then it's your responsibility, do your homework, know your stuff and be accommodating. In the end you are selling a product, take it seriously.
If you want to model, you can, it's as easy as asking a friend to shoot you, and with digital cameras it's much cheaper and easier. That doesn't mean you are guaranteed to land paying work as a model, but it does afford many the possibility of coming to better appreciate them selves. Using modeling and photography is a tool of self acceptance.
I never let other people's opinions effect my belief in myself and in the end that played a large role in how I landed the high profile gigs I did. While some scoffed at the notion of me, a SSBBW hitting the runway, or landing the lead role in a film, I found that those whose opinions do count, saw my potential and were excited at the prospect of taking a risk on me. So when others count you out, don't give up easy!
Moe: Do you think you'll ever move back to the States?
Velvet d'Amour: My guess at this point is I won't move back to America as I have the best of both worlds by popping back and forth between Paris and New York, but I never say never. Who knows, I may end up living in Australia or something, the world is my oyster!
Moe: You starred in a film called Avida. This if your first film? Can you tell the readers a bit about the film and filming? Where can people see it?
Velvet d'Amour: Avida is my first feature length film, I did lots of fun bit parts in short student films as I graduated from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, which has a decent film department.
Avida is a very nonlinear, surreal black and white French film. The storyline loosely speaks about the kidnapping of Avida's (that's me, a SSBBW billionaire) dog by a deaf-mute and two ketamine addicts, which ends up going wrong. Avida takes advantage of the situation by making them fulfill her last wishes. If you enjoy Bunuel (filmmaker) you may also like Avida.
The filming took place in a small old coal mining town in northern France during the month of August - h o t ! The cast and crew were amazingly fun and it was an incredible experience. The icing on the cake was finding out we made it into the Cannes Film Festival, and being able to walk the red carpet in the festival with Mathieu Kassovitz was definitely beyond my wildest dreams!
The film is currently hitting international film festivals and will at some point be available on DVD.
Moe: Do you want to make more films?
Velvet d'Amour: I am always open to artistic pursuits, but I am definitely very discerning in everything I choose to participate in, as I make a point to accept only those offers which do not intentionally demean fat people. I make a note to say 'intentionally' as it is so rare to witness a woman of my size doing much of anything in mainstream media that sadly, some people automatically classify my participation as such.
Moe: How do you feel about being an advocate and role model for plus size women?
Velvet d'Amour: I am a very passionate advocate for the positive inclusion of plus size women in modern media, as well as for helping people in general to accept and love themselves. My efforts at advocacy stem from feeling utterly indignant at how fat people are depicted in general. If people view me as a role model, I am honored to be perceived as such.
Moe: Do you consider yourself to be healthy?
Velvet d'Amour: While I have often answered this question, I am admittedly perturbed by it. By virtue of being plus size I am thusly expected to tout my health, yet my smaller counterparts, be it in contemporary dance, or film, or in fashion, are never asked the state of their health. I do not drink alcohol and I never have, I do not take drugs and I never have, I do not smoke and I never have, yet many of these same counterparts do one, or a combination of all of the above, and yet merely by virtue of weighing less then I, are completely excluded from this patronizing question.
Moe: Do you think you are encouraging other to adopt a fat lifestyle?
Velvet d'Amour: I find the notion utterly laughable. Having read one forum which stated, by Jean Paul (Gauthier) using me on the runway, we were 'promoting' obesity, I was left incredulous. Honestly, do you think the next day 8 year olds were powering down pizzas in vain attempts at emulating me?!
There have always been fat people throughout history, and there always will be fat people, so to reject the possibility of our inclusion in any positive way, in the vain assumption that by virtue of seeing a fat person in any positive light it will 'encourage' a fat 'lifestyle' is ludicrous. The notion seems an effective way to stifle any fat involvement by virtue of such participation being viewed as condoning unhealthy living, yet thin models have been walking the same runway for decades now and their participation is never scrutinized, which must imply they are the symbols of health, even if we witness them drop dead of anorexia, or hear rumors of drug use, and merely witness them eat junk food etc.!
Clearly obesity needs no encouragement, and this is partially due to the persistent, practically unattainable beauty ideals average people face daily. If there were any direct connection between what is witnessed on the runway and reality, then we would all be screamingly thin, instead we see more and more fat people.
Moe: What message do you have to give to fans?
Velvet d'Amour: The message I give my fans is to live life to the fullest! Live z e s t y ! Revel! Don't waste time on what you don't have, instead concentrate on what you do have. Practice acts of kindness, as physical beauty may fade but (as trite as it may sound), genuine beauty comes from within. Pay it forward.
Moe: What about to those who just don't get it.
Velvet d'Amour: They are welcome to their opinions.
Moe: What makes you happy?
Velvet d'Amour: Simple pleasures: dancing, laughing with friends, swimming in the sea, photography, listening to thunderstorms while snuggled up in bed, reading in the bathtub by candlelight, volunteering, playing with my three supremely adorable, stunningly gorgeous and most delightful godsons! Life is chock full of pleasure!
Moe: What makes you sad?
Velvet d'Amour: Prejudice, violence, bullying, close-mindedness, and apathy towards human suffering.
Moe: What do you want to try but haven't yet attempted?
Velvet d'Amour: My siblings and I always have a bit of a giggle and say, FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY! since my Mom got all five of us that same book one year for Christmas; and I have lived by that motto, except when it comes to scuba diving. Since I adore snorkeling it makes sense to scuba, it looks so magical, but that's one fear I've yet to overcome. Maybe I can ask Galliano and Gaultier to stitch me up some pink wetsuits, that'll inspire me to dive!