Kate Dillon: Fantasy And Shoulder-Shaving


It’s what I’ve come to think of as the Vogue “WTF” moment. They try, really they do. Take this profile of the impressive model Kate Dillon. For the most part, it’s interesting and straightforward. But then there are those…weird moments.

Like many plus-size models, Kate Dillon started in “regular” modeling, maintaining an unnaturally thin frame to meet industry standards.

And then Dillon remembers looking around and thinking, The photographer isn’t in shape, the fashion editor doesn’t eat and doesn’t look happy about it, and the fashion assistant has body issues. Soon after, in 1993, Dillon had an intestinal virus for ten days. “Someone in fashion said, ‘You look amazing.’ I lost any faith in the belief that being pretty or skinny was better than being anything else.” She stopped starving herself and headed home for a two-year break.

If you’re re-reading that paragraph a few times, you’re not alone. While I understand the double-standard Dillon is referencing here – and the fact that an unhealthy attitude can affect many aspects of the industry, and particularly the women therein – mentioning that the photographer was “out of shape” did strike me as an odd bit of message-fogging.

But to get back to the story. When she comes back, she’s put on some weight.

She was bigger then; she had gained 40 pounds and was closer to an actual plus size. The reasons were personal-“Part of me wanted to cover up and hide by being overweight”-and professional: Certain plus-size clients will book only models whose bodies directly resemble those of the customer. Dillon realized that she was rebelling through food (“I used to eat an entire bag of Tostitos. I didn’t know what full was”) in ways that were as destructive and untrue to the naturally healthy, athletic woman as what she had gotten up to in Modeling 1.0. She sought the advice of a nutritionist, started exercising, and dropped the weight superquick. “I moved to Houston and went to school,” she says. “My focus shifted off my body.” Kate Dillon was 28.

(That tactful reference to the plus-size “customer,” whose bodies resemble that of the model in “destructive,” “rebellious” mode is another odd moment in an otherwise straight-forward narrative.)

Dillon, nowadays, is the cofounder of a program called Komera,

to educate and mentor high school-age girls in Rwanda. She also tutors and mentors students near her home. It’s her mission to form a bridge between the lives of local teenagers in New York and those of the girls in Rwanda. Education, sustainability, and poverty are her three overarching areas of concern.

And she still models. Now, her focus is on health and exercise and she’s a triathlete and runner. And then, of course, the obligatory head-scratcher.

Says her agent John Ilani, “Kate is superfit. She’s not going to shave her shoulders off to fit into a sample. As long as one is healthy and beautiful, then that’s something to aspire to.”

With the emphasis, as Lola would say, on the latter.

Life In Full [Vogue]

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