Plus size model Candashian is taking over the world one runway at a time.
Candice Manuel, aka Candashian, is a motivational model from Mitchells Plain who has taken the modelling industry by storm. Manuel is also a body positivity activist, entrepreneur, and the host of ‘Keeping up with Candashian’ on YOH Radio. Further to this, she runs a children’s party line, owns an apparel range consisting of goodies printed with motivational quotes, and is the founder of the very successful Embrace Your Curves movement.
Manuel started her modelling career at the tender age of 18 to support her unemployed parents. Only three years later, she was getting rejected for “being too fat”. “In the years that followed, the weight crept on and I was no longer marketable as a model. I had my contract terminated at the age of 21 as I was considered to be too fat for the industry, which made my confidence drop dramatically,” says Manuel. She soon regained her confidence and launched the Embrace Your Curves movement which is a platform for all women, no matter their size, shape or colour, to inspire each other. The platform encourages women to send through their motivational stories to Manuel, who then arranges for an interview that includes make-up and a mini photoshoot, which is shared on the Embrace Your Curves Facebook page. When asked to describe the movement, Manuel says: “We’ve created something to break all barriers. As women, aside from societal expectations, it is also our own fears that get in our way of reaching our full capabilities. We need to step out of our own way and realise that we deserve and can achieve what we desire and more.”
Manuel’s YouTube video PLUS IS EQUAL is a testament to her mission to break down societal boundaries, which she approaches in her typical light-hearted and playful way. The video shows Manuel removing items of clothing while walking down a street, much to the approval of curious on-lookers. “We can’t take ourselves too seriously! We are all equal and should all be comfortable in our own skin.”
In 2018, Manuel entered the #GHMiladysModelSearch and went on to become one of the six winners. “I entered the #GHMiladysModelSearch because I want to play my part in breaking the narrow- minded moulds that society subscribes to around plus-size women. I also want to motivate and uplift my community; to demonstrate that life’s circumstances don’t define you,” says Manuel. Body shaming and criticism unfortunately go hand in hand with being considered a plus size model. This, however, has only motivated her to speak out louder and be bolder against those with narrow minds and preconceived ideas about what it means to be considered to be beautiful. “We are all created in God’s image and I don’t believe that he makes any mistakes,” adds Manuel.
Towards the end of 2018, Manuel was selected as one of the few plus size models to walk the runway at the African Fashion International Show (AFI) in Johannesburg, where she modelled the much-loved Ruff Tung label. This was by far one of the biggest opportunities of her career to date, and proof that things are definitely changing in the fashion industry. The plus size industry was valued at over $21 billion in the United States in 2018 and it is evident that some of that growth is tricking down to South Africa. More local clothing brands are starting to carry plus size ranges and curvier models are being accepted in the limelight. That being said, being a model in South Africa, whether it be “standard” or plus size is certainly not a sustainable stand-alone career just yet. Most models have to supplement their incomes with a 9 to 5 job or multiple part-time jobs. As Manuel says, “It’s a very tricky business and requires lots of hard work, commitment, patience and confidence. It’s not as glamourous as it’s perceived.” However, aspiring models shouldn’t be deterred from following their dreams. If anything, it should drive more young women to aspire to flaunt their curves and grace the covers of top magazines and campaigns.
Having achieved so much in such a short period of time can only bode well for the body positivity activist, so ‘Keep up with Candashian’ as she continues to break boundaries and uplifts and inspires her South African sisters.
Getting to know Candice one on one…
RUAN: As a motivational model from Mitchells Plain, how did you overcome being told you were too “fat” to model?
CANDICE: When faced with these labels at such a young age, it’s very difficult to understand self-worth or self-acceptance. This took its toll on my dream of wanting to be a model.
As with age we get wiser. I started posting pictures on social media and realised that publicly I was been accepted and seen as beautiful, even though I had thought differently. It encouraged me to do portfolio updates with photographers who wanted to work with a professional model without all the admin fees.
Things boomed from there in a sense of me gaining my confidence back once I realised that my weight had nothing to do with ME as a person.
RUAN: Can you tell us more about your success of embracing your curves movement?
CANDICE: Embrace Your curves has blown up over the socials and has made a huge impact on how women feel about themselves. We try to empower women by promoting body positivity regardless of shape or size. With a strong following, we try to put it to good use by rallying up the community to give back. We host quarterly charity drives, with this our next one is coming up on 29th March where we will do a sanitary towel drive with Girls With Wings foundation.
Ladies now have a positive outlook on life and are refusing to let labels define them any longer. We have a weekly #WCW Women Crush Wednesday where we have a lady share her story to uplift and inspire her fellow ladies. We have come to realise that women need women of everyday lives to inspire one another apart from the opulence portrayed on influential and sometimes-unattainable lives portrayed on social media feeds
RUAN: What are some of the trials and tribulations of the modeling industry in South Africa?
CANDICE: Well, an unspoken incident that occurred was when we (10 plus sizes) models were cast for a huge fashion show. Upon arrival we noticed that fitting rooms were segregated and labeled as “Models” and next to it “Plus Size Ladies”. We were called in at different sessions and groups for Hair and Makeup and were only allowed to wear one designer’s outfit and NOT including Swimwear even though the full range of models had participated in this. My feelings are that, yes designers are incorporating curves into their shows, as let’s face it, it’s trending and if you don’t do it, you’re behind the game. BUT I feel that it’s still not as openly accepted and we are still not seen as MODELS, merely “Plus Size Ladies” bearing in mind that we all get paid the same rates.
Another struggle with being taken seriously in today’s world as a model depends so much on your Instagram number of followers, many models are losing jobs to influencers and the profession behind being a model is slowly fading.
RUAN: How do you handle and confront body shaming?
CANDICE: Head on! I’m a proud coloured woman with lots to tell. Of course, I get the “oh you are plastering you fat a** over social media for attention” but the so many “Thank you for inspiring me and making me feel so much more comfortable to love myself” comments surpass the shade.
I don’t succumb to cyber bulling as I simply remember WHY I started this profile to begin with. I was merely going through life and at no point knew it would inspire anyone. Once this took off, I realised that by using my voice, I’d be able to give so many teens the advice that I never received, and the validation I found in social media comments before accepting myself. I now have the opportunity to change their mind set from a much younger age as I feel my career would have been much further, had I not succumbed to the Body Shaming I received at such a tender age.
RUAN: How have you inspired those around you to feel confident within themselves no matter their size, shape or colour?
CANDICE: I do this by just living my life. I do motivational talks at many women’s events and schools and I post frequently on social media with the rawness of the real me. Showing that with my success in this industry and regardless of my size, weight or social economical background, I’ve prevailed and achieved so much that was doomed to fail.
I always try to step out and prove that the size of my jeans will never define my happiness, my place in this world or my profession as a model (Lets strip away the derogatory trade name of Plus Size Model) – Goals
RUAN: Do you have a special message you would like to share with young adults who are currently struggling with their weight?
CANDICE: In a world where our youth is focused on Social media popularity, my aim would be to instill a sense of confidence that the number of likes you receive does not define you. Neither does what others say about you deem you beautiful. Seek to be confident and happy with whom you are.
RUAN: Are there any motivational or inspiring projects you are currently working on that we can look forward to?
CANDICE: I do many guest speaking gigs at women empowerment events. Quarterly I also use my following to gather up “fans / Followers” and run charity drives. Our next event will be in collaboration with Girls With Wiings and we will be collecting sanitary towels for the homeless and under privileged.
RUAN: If you could sum up your journey and how you see yourself today by using a hashtag, what would it be and why
CANDICE: #EmbraceYourCurvesYOLO We have one life to live and I will live it by embracing who I am regardless of the size of my Jeans.
PHOTOGRAPHY CREDIT: DeeSquared