Paulina Vega was crowned Miss Universe in 2014, and now she is reflecting on a defining moment that took place after receiving the title. “Some time ago I had a very particular experience that made me wonder: Is this what I want for myself?” she shared on her website, revealing that she was labeled plus-size by her agency after gaining only 2.2 lbs.
The 26-year-old, Colombian model goes onto explain a meeting that took place 18 months after finishing her reign, in which the agency told her she was no longer considered a “model of catwalk and editorial” standards and that she was no longer “among the skinny” selection of models in New York City. (Though we don’t know her exact measurements, it should be noted that Vega has never appeared to be anything near a size 8, which is what traditionally characterizes the start of “plus-size.”)
“I was happy with my body,” she recalled of the time, admitting that she was traveling more, sleeping on airplanes, and generally off her usual routine – something that could, of course, cause weight fluctuations.
“It was a ‘wow’ moment,” she said. But instead of becoming discouraged, she decided to rethink her values. It was in this moment that Vega she realized that her dreams and passions meant more to her than her physical appearance.
“The truth is, I had spent so many years of criticism, so many opinions about my physique, my personality, my mentality, and even my attitude, that it did not touch my nerves. But if it made me think, Is this what I want for myself?”
She continued: “After my reign, I had a year and a half in which I dedicated myself to responsibilities that went beyond my image and challenged my mind. Activities in which I had to think, interact with others and show my personality. Going from that state of constant exploration and growth to being again only judged by my appearance seemed ridiculous to me. I knew I was not in the right place.”
Now, the model is committed to creating a career that makes her feel full, working only with brands that align with her values and do not require her to “maintain absurd measures.” She recognizes that the industry is slowly shifting and hopes that as a society we continue to question the brands, media, and industries that continue to idealize unrealistic body sizes.
“I believe that physical beauty cannot be everything,” she shared, finishing her post. “Going from ‘skinny’ to ‘curvy’ could have disappointed me. Instead, it inspired me to focus on what I really love to do and build my own path. Above all, it taught me to be true to myself, not to let other people’s ideas typecast me and to choose how I want to live my life … I do not define myself by what changes: the shape of my body or my weight.”
Kudos to you, Vega. What an inspiring message to share.