I Was Told I Wasn’t Model Material


Lexi Stout, 26


There’s something to be said about a woman unafraid to tackle the super skinny, Barbie doll modeling industry, especially when she doesn’t meet its ridiculous body standards. For Lexi Stout, a nannying job evolved into an unexpected career when she decided to shoot with a novice photographer and liked what she saw. After being rejected by agencies and even told “we’ll talk when you get boobs,” when trying to book subsequent gigs, Stout has since spent her time crusading for a day when ‘plus-sized models’ will be referred to simply as ‘models.’

1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?

Never in a million years did I think I'd be a model. It was one day a friend and I shot together. He was a rookie photographer and I was there to smile for him. When I got the photos back I was surprised and thought, "hmm maybe I can do this?" I was bored with my nanny career and wanted to try something new so I submitted my photos to a few agencies. I heard back from a couple and was signed the next week. My greatest achievement was being featured in StyleWatch magazine in a bathing suit.

2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?

I feel like I should say the whole "too big to be a model" thing but I'm not going that route.

I'm signed fit with my agency, I've never been signed print with them. When in conversation about a contract, I was told "we'll talk when you get boobs." After a conversation about me getting a boob job - a conversation started by me, not them. After that I decided not to get a boob job because an agency should sign me for the way I am.

3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?

I have some limitations because of my height. I'm 5'7" and it's "best" to be somewhere closer to 5'9".

4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?

There's so much going on in the plus size industry right now and I think my biggest pet peeve is that most of the time I'm considered a "plus size model" or a "curve model". I would love to be called a model. I really don't think it needs to be put into words, it's pretty self explanatory.

5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?

Take chances. Do something you're scared to do. What's the worst that can happen?

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Momtors: The New Wave of Mentors Helping New Moms Transition Back Into Careers

New parents re-entering the workforce are often juggling the tangible realities of daycare logistics, sleep deprivation, and a cascade of overwhelming work. No matter how parents build their family, they often struggle with the guilt of being split between home and work and not feeling exceptionally successful in either place.

Women building their families often face a set of challenges different from men. Those who have had children biologically may be navigating the world of pumping at work. Others might feel pulled in multiple directions when bringing a child into their home after adoption. Some women are trying to learn how to care for a newborn for the first time. New parents need all the help they can get with their transition.

Women returning to work after kids sometimes have to address comments such as:

"I didn't think you'd come back."

"You must feel so guilty."

"You missed a lot while you were out."

To counteract this difficult situation, women are finding mentors and making targeting connections. Parent mentors can help new moms address integrating their new life realities with work, finding resources within the organization and local community, and create connections with peers.

There's also an important role for parent mentors to play in discussing career trajectory. Traditionally, men who have families see more promotions compared to women with children. Knowing that having kids may represent a career setback for women, they may work with their mentors to create an action plan to "back on track" or to get recognized for their contributions as quickly as possible after returning to work.

Previously, in a bid to accommodate mothers transitioning back to work, corporate managers would make a show at lessoning the workload for newly returned mothers. This approach actually did more harm than good, as the mother's skills and ambitions were marginalized by these alleged "family friendly" policies, ultimately defining her for the workplace as a mother, rather than a person focused on career.

Today, this is changing. Some larger organizations, such as JP Morgan Chase, have structured mentorship programs that specifically target these issues and provide mentors for new parents. These programs match new parents navigating a transition back to work with volunteer mentors who are interested in helping and sponsoring moms. Mentors in the programs do not need to be moms, or even parents, themselves, but are passionate about making sure the opportunities are available.

It's just one other valuable way corporations are evolving when it comes to building quality relationships with their employees – and successfully retaining them, empowering women who face their own set of special barriers to career growth and leadership success.

Mentoring will always be a two way street. In ideal situations, both parties will benefit from the relationship. It's no different when women mentor working mothers getting back on track on the job. But there a few factors to consider when embracing this new form of mentorship

How to be a good Momtor?

Listen: For those mentoring a new parent, one of the best strategies to take is active listening. Be present and aware while the mentee shares their thoughts, repeat back what you hear in your own words, and acknowledge emotions. The returning mother is facing a range of emotions and potentially complicated situations, and the last thing she wants to hear is advice about how she should be feeling about the transition. Instead, be a sounding board for her feelings and issues with returning to work. Validate her concerns and provide a space where she can express herself without fear of retribution or bull-pen politics. This will allow the mentee a safe space to sort through her feelings and focus on her real challenges as a mother returning to work.

Share: Assure the mentee that they aren't alone, that other parents just like them are navigating the transition back to work. Provide a list of ways you've coped with the transition yourself, as well as your best parenting tips. Don't be afraid to discuss mothering skills as well as career skills. Work on creative solutions to the particular issues your mentee is facing in striking her new work/life balance.

Update Work Goals: A career-minded woman often faces a new reality once a new child enters the picture. Previous career goals may appear out of reach now that she has family responsibilities at home. Each mentee is affected by this differently, but good momtors help parents update her work goals and strategies for realizing them, explaining, where applicable, where the company is in a position to help them with their dreams either through continuing education support or specific training initiatives.

Being a role model for a working mother provides a support system, at work, that they can rely on just like the one they rely on at home with family and friends. Knowing they have someone in the office, who has knowledge about both being a mom and a career woman, will go a long way towards helping them make the transition successfully themselves.