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Paloma Elsesser on Modeling, Diversity, and Finding the Perfect Pair of Jeans

If you’re a regular reader of Who What Wear, you need no introduction to Paloma Elsesser, the L.A.-born, New York–based model who’s appeared in a ton of high-profile campaigns and has been making waves in the industry with her call for body inclusivity. “I want to create a space for people to like themselves a little more,” Elsesser told me when we recently got together to chat about social media, the industry at large, and all things denim.

Speaking of which, Elsesser’s currently the face of 7 for All Mankind’s “We Are Mankind” fall campaign. The campaign’s mission? To highlight people of different backgrounds and talents who offer a unique perspective in their respective industries. Obviously Elsesser couldn’t be a better fit, given the way she’s been working to break boundaries in her industry and promoting body positivity in younger girls one modeling gig and Instagram post at a time.

“To be plus size, to be a woman, to be mixed, or to be brown—I want to be all of these things that are missing in the visuals,” she explains. Did I also mention that she’s incredibly funny and has killer style? Keep scrolling to find out how she’s shaking things up, and to see the cool fall looks she helped style from 7FAM.

Photo:

Clique Studios

Paloma wears 7FAM Luxe Vintage Cropped Alexa Jean, Short Sleeve Slub Basic Tee, and Slim Classic Jacket.

On the Message She Hopes to Send to Younger Women:

“I want to be a girl I didn’t have growing up, using Instagram and modeling as the vehicle. The classic plus-size woman is a gorgeous bombshell—a sexy girl. I never really felt that way. My aspirational attitude doesn’t veer sexy because I don’t really identity with that. There’s such a spectrum.

“I feel like for this specific body identity, that’s all that’s being showcased. What about that girl in South Carolina in a tiny town who feels like that outsider? Who says ‘I’m fat, I’m brown, and I’m broke’ and who doesn’t want to participate in the normative description of what’s around her? What if she can have access to Who What Wear or pictures of me doing whatever I’m doing and can relate to that?”

Photo:

Clique Studios

Paloma wears 7FAM Luxe Vintage Cropped Alexa Jean, Short Sleeve Slub Basic Tee, and Slim Classic Jacket.

On How Instagram Has Helped Her Career:

“I have a very curatorial mind with the way I like to do things, and I’ve felt that Instagram is a way to highlight that. Posting my face every day doesn’t let you know who I am. Seeing things I’m inspired by or that catch my eye actually invites you much more intimately into who I am.”

On Dealing With Social Media Haters:

“I kind of let it slide, but sometimes I clap back when there’s sheer ignorance or someone’s being snarky. When I’m really hurt, it’s mainly because I feel really disappointed. One time I got trolled by a community of women for not wearing Spanx. It was all of these women, a lot of whom were plus-size, condemning me for not wearing Spanx. It highlights how much work we have to do. I don’t feel particularly upset when a white dude comments ‘You should work out, fatty’ on my Instagram. You’re not relevant to my life; I’m not trying to service you, and I’m not here to teach you.”

Photo:

Clique Studios

Paloma wears 7FAM Luxe Vintage Cropped Alexa Jean and Striped High Low Tie Front Shirt.

On Her Hesitation to Work in the Fashion Industry:

“I didn’t feel invited, so I never participated. I did my own thing, and was influenced by publications and images throughout the years, but I never felt this deep attachment or like I could participate in this way. I could never afford the stuff either.”

On Her Most Memorable Modeling Moments:

“I constantly feel like, Oh my god, what’s happening?” I don’t know if there was one ‘aha’ moment, but meeting and being praised by the people I’ve respected my whole life, like Pat McGrath or Edward Enninful, is an honor.”

Photo:

Clique Studios

Paloma wears 7FAM Luxe Vintage Cropped Alexa Jean, Short Sleeve Slub Basic Tee, and Slim Classic Jacket.

On the One Thing She’d Change About the Modeling Industry:

“I’d love to add a nice healthy squeeze of empathy in there. It’s hard because we’re currently dealing with an industry trying to operate on voice, but it’s also an industry of commodification and visuals. So that crossover is a little bit scary. Even with voice and intention, things can get lost in the visual and lost in the commodity. How can we uplift people apart from the visual? How can we uplift them indirectly? Maybe it’s hiring a more diverse staff so that people don’t always have to have a voice fighting for them. It’s hard to disrupt the archetype that has existed forever.”

On Why She Prefers to Shop in Stores:

“Online is more productive, but I love going to the boutique of the designer. I love the smell and the ambience, and being able to feel and touch the clothes. That goes for anything—friendships, restaurants… I’m a very sensory person.”

Photo:

Clique Studios

Paloma wears 7FAM B(Air) Denim Cropped Boot and Rib Turtleneck Tee.

On Her Favorite Piece From the 7 for All Mankind Collection:

The black turtleneck, and I love baggy, high-waisted jeans.”

On Her Relationship With Denim:

“Always trying to fit into a trend for jeans doesn’t work for anybody. When I was younger, I didn’t wear expensive denim brands because I couldn’t fit into them and couldn’t afford them. Shopping for pants and denim specifically is intimate and really personal. When you find the right fit, it’s important to stick to it.”

Photo:

Clique Studios

Paloma wears 7FAM B(Air) Denim Cropped Boot and Rib Turtleneck Tee.

On Her Favorite Denim Style:

“I like a baggier leg, a little bit of ankle to show off the shoes, and a high waist.”

On Her Personal Style:

“I’d describe my personal style as pretty uniform. I dress in shapes and proportions. If I’m going to do a fitted top, I’ll wear baggier pants. It’s all about balance. I’m not into the description of masculine or feminine, necessarily; I just like balance. Even in color, people always say ‘You’re matching,’ and I’m like, ‘I just know that’s a blue sweater and that’s a blue shoe, and I’ve got to get out of the door.’”

SHOP PALOMA'S LOOKS