Meet the tattooed, size 22 model taking over the fashion industry

Tess Holliday appears on the current cover of People magazine’s annual body issue, being celebrated as “The World’s First Size 22 Supermodel.”

The 29-year-old has had a big year, becoming one of the top plus-size models in the world after landing a contract in January with the U.K.’s Milk Modelling agency.

In March, Holliday made news for posing without Photoshop in new ads for retailer Torrid, a fashion line for sizes 12 to 28.

She’s also a proud swimsuit model who is working to change beauty standards.

And she has a giant social media following.

If you aren’t familiar with People magazine’s most recent cover star, here’s everything you need to know:

1. Tess Holliday is a social media star.

The model boasts over 903,000 Facebook fans and over 724,000 Instagram followers. Holliday’s growing fan base is also, in part, to thank for her new modelling contract.

“I started following her [on social media], and saw how many followers she had. More than most models,” Anna Shillinglaw, owner and director of MiLk Model Management, told NY Daily News. “She’s such an important role model for so many women.”

In 2013, Holliday started her #effyourbeautystandards movement on Instagram, encouring people to embrace body types of all shapes and sizes.

The hashtag has gained serious traction, currently with hundreds of thousand of posts:

2. Her size is unprecedented in the modelling world.

Plus-size agency models are generally taller than 5 feet 8 inches and U.S. size 8 to 16. At 5-feet-5 and size 22, the 29-year-old Mississippi native is the largest model repped by Milk.

“I think we’re the only agency with a model of her size,” Milk Agency’s Shillinglaw told NY Daily News. “She is by far the largest model I have in the (Curves) division.”

Tess is the largest plus-size model to be signed to a mainstream modelling agency.


3. She has tons of tattoos.

Holliday’s ink includes: a Miss Piggy tattoo on her right outer forearm, a Mae West tattoo on her right inner forearm, a Marilyn Monroe tattoo on her left bicep, a plus-size mermaid tattoo on her right upper thigh and a Hello Kitty tattoo on her right calf.

 Her latest ink is a giant portrait of Dolly Parton:


4. In 2011, Holliday was chosen as the face of A&E documentary, “Heavy.”

Holliday didn’t appear on the show, so she felt conflicted about representing it, telling plusmodelmag:

It’s a show about morbidly obese people. I didn’t know what the show was about. I didn’t know what angle they were going in. I’m obviously proud to represent everyone on the show. I know some of them personally now by being the face of the show that changed their lives. I feel like a cheerleader. At the same time, it’s hard for me because I’m not morbidly obese–although I am overweight, but I’m not at the point that they are. I don’t have a health condition and I’m not going to die if I don’t lose weight. I just happen to be curvy.

5. In 2013, Vogue Italia named the self-described “body positive activist” one of the top six plus-size models in the world.

6. By 2014, Holliday had accomplished many of her modelling goals.
“I think I finally hit that moment where I accomplished everything that I dreamed of as a child,” Holliday told Parade magazine at the time. “I thought: ‘I’m on billboards now. David LaChapelle has photographed me.'”

She also teamed up with Benefit Cosmetics.

7. In January, she became one of the top plus-size models in the world after landing a contact in January with the U.K.’s Milk Modelling agency.

8. Since then, she has been making TV appearances.

And has been featured in magazines.


9. She is featured in the ads for plus-size swimwear line, Monif C.


10. And is the face of plus-size clothing brand, Torrid, in these un-retouched ads.

She’s basically gone viral.


11. But before Holliday was a top plus-size model, she dropped out of school at age 17.

Growing up in a small town in Mississippi, the now 29-year-old was severely bullied for her weight while in school.


After earning her GED, Holliday moved to Seattle, where she became the head makeup artist, hair stylist, and creative director for numerous fashion shows.

In 2010, she moved to L.A. and became a professional full-time model.


12. She used to go by the name Tess Munster, but changed it to Tess Holliday after getting engaged to Australian businessman Nick Holliday in July 2014.

“Everyday I feel incredibly grateful for the love I have, but today even more so. I cannot wait to be his wife. #tessmunster #nickholliday #mushystuff”


13. At age 20, she had a son named Rilee. 

14. Holliday is proud of her body and encourages others to feel the same.

Today I personally overcame my fears of bikinis that weren’t high waisted. My tummy is an area that I’m still learning to love- even though I appreciate everything it has done for me. It’s round & covered in stretch marks from carrying my beautiful son in it. My fiancé loves it & constantly touches it & because of those reasons I recently decided to be kinder to it. With every other area of my body- learning to love it has been faking it until I actually accepted. The misconception about myself & many other fat/plus sized women is that we are this way because we don’t care, that we have “let ourselves go” when in reality this is the best I’ve ever felt/looked. But I couldn’t have gotten there on yo yo diets, trying to be someone I’m not, & bullying myself to fit into an unrealistic mould of beauty. I have carved my own path & will continue to do so… #effyourbeautystandards

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