I have an obsession with learning the behind the scene story on everything I read, see or do. I started following Heather Hazzan on Instagram months ago and I was not only mesmerized by her beauty but her photos to me, exude positivity in front of the camera and when she is behind it.
As a successful plus size model, Heather has booked campaigns for the likes of American Apparel, Evans, M.A.C Cosmetics and more; her star is on the rise in the modeling world.
In a world where we are bombarded with images of what we need to be or what we should look like, Heather’s journey will inspire you and reminds all of us that as women, we need to create our own ideas of beauty and self-acceptance.
Meet Heather, the latest profile in our Creating the life YOU want to live series.
Profession: plus size model
Heather, where did you grow up and where do you currently live?
I grew up 30 minutes outside Washington, D.C., in Northern Virginia. I’m currently bouncing around NYC, Colorado, and California.
Did you go to College, University or the School of Hard Knocks?
I studied Sustainability at Arizona State University. So much to do with fashion, right?
Tell us about your career path…
In a nutshell, my career path goes something like this: wanting to model, losing 60 pounds to become the size 0/2 standard, failing to maintain the unnatural low weight, gaining 70 pounds, and reemerging as a plus size model.
You started your modeling career as a “straight size” model and like many models, harmed your body in order to stay at unhealthy size 0. Tell us about that and your path to recovery…
Back then, I thought the only way to enter into the seemingly amazing life of traveling the world, being creative, and meeting talented people was to be thin. Plus size modeling was not very popular for a younger woman — even five to ten years ago. So, obsessively counting calories, constantly working out, not having a life, and developing OCD and Anorexia did the trick. I ended up losing 60 pounds from my naturally larger teen frame. I vividly remember asking the salesperson in the dressing room at American Eagle that I needed a smaller size — zero was too big.
It began to hit me — my body and my life were decaying before my eyes. I didn’t have my period for five years because of my extremely low body fat percentage. My body literally did not have enough calories to run this bodily process. I didn’t have a life. My personality was morphing into a disease. I lived in a mental prison. Friends and family and learning were secondary to my workouts and calorie counting and obsessions.
I finally decided to take action — little steps toward health. I felt lazy if I’d skip a workout, or disgusting if I broke my calorie limit, but I did it with purpose. I decided to choose freedom with every single choice I made. I wanted to live life. I never looked back.
How did you get into plus size modeling?
During my transition from straight size model to my natural weight, I worked as an assistant at a local modeling agency in Scottsdale, Arizona. Leaving the fashion industry all together was something I couldn’t bare digest. I wanted to be a part of it — even if that meant working behind the scenes.
One day, I noticed a contest on V Magazine’s website calling for women of all shapes and sizes to apply for the chance to be featured in their pages. I thought it would be such an honor for any of our models to get. So, I posted it on our agency’s Facebook page. Then I got the bizarre idea to apply myself! I ended up winning that contest. It completely revitalized my interest in modeling — especially because this time, I could do it as my natural and healthy self.
What are some of the challenges you faced when you decided to switch from “straight size” modeling to plus size?
At first, I was extremely concerned that people would think that I couldn’t take the industry anymore and just let myself go. And I couldn’t blame them: size 0 to 12/14 is quite a change (70 pounds to be exact). But I didn’t let myself go — I made healthy choices. I put on weight fast, because my body was trying to save itself from starvation.
You’re amazing in front of the camera and I see also behind it. What intrigued you to become a photographer?
My passion for photography also surfaced during my transition from straight size to plus size.
While working behind the scenes at the local modeling agency that I mentioned before, one of my tasks was to take digitals of the models. I lack technical photography knowledge, but with my eye for composition and knack for graphic design, I began creating good pictures. I especially love capturing more the raw, unadulterated beauty of a person. And most times, in black and white. The sense of control from behind the lens was and still is refreshing.
What is it about your life a plus size model & photographer that you now love?
Keeping my own schedule, traveling to new cities, meeting great people, and inspiring women to love who they are.
What inspires you?
What are you the most proud of?
The open and honest dialogue I have on my tumblr with all kinds of women. Many times I am moved to tears. Having my years of struggle finally be worth something means everything to me.
What advice would you give someone who wants to change their path?
First off, do some soul searching. Find out exactly what it is that you are passionate about. Ask yourself what it is that you do on your off time. That will usually point you in the right direction. Do what makes you feel alive.
Check out more from Heather here: