16-year-old Natalie Nootenboom made history when she became the first plus-size model to walk in the Anna Sui show during New York Fashion Week. The 5’11, half Japanese model and niece to DJ Steve Aoki was once bullied for the very traits that have made her a standout in the modeling industry: her long dark hair, full lips, green eyes, and distinct Asian features. But Nootenboom believes her mission is one of empowerment and continuing the body positivity movement that has already helped her feel more represented. “I’m an ambassador for women and for body image,” Nootenboom tells ELLE. “I think that the more plus size models are out there and the more that they are incorporated into the media that it’s so much easier to accept your body and see people representing different body types.”
You recently walked in Anna Sui’s show during NYFW. What did it feel like to be the first plus-sized model to walk in her show?
“It was uncomfortable at first. Being the first of anything requires a little uncomfortability. When I walked backstage, a lot of people assumed I was on crew because they had never seen a plus size model walk for Anna Sui. A lot of the other models were well known, and they had a lot of press. The photographers didn’t know who I was. I thought it was a very magical experience, and I’m so honored that she chose me to be the first plus size model.”