Photography Marton Perlaki
Styling Roxane Danset
Hair Fernando Torrent
Makeup Yasuo Yoshikawa
“Are you allergic to anything like gluten?” the model Candice Huffine asks as she hands over two popcorn treats she’s made with M&Ms and pretzels and wrapped in cellophane bags tied with ribbon. “I’m always making stuff and putting things in tinfoil,” she says. “I like twine and craft paper. I’m like the plus-size Lauren Conrad.”
Huffine is also plus-size modeling’s crossover star. She is still a favorite in the lucrative world of catalog work, but her bold strides into the high fashion world make the 30-year-old a welcome anomaly – and are changing the way the fashion industry thinks about not just the consumer, but size itself.
“It’s unchartered territory,” she says, as she sips an iced latte in a booth in an East Village cafe. Her striped Elizabeth and James oxford is unbuttoned to reveal a gold necklace with a wishbone charm on it. “It’s a fresh path to figure out. I’m straddling both worlds and markets. I’m relatable as a bubbly catalog girl next door, but I can fit in seamlessly in the high fashion world.”
Fashion is having a plus-size moment – which was inevitable as the average American woman isn’t a model size 0-4. Looking at these figures makes one think that the terminology needs to evolve (some agencies call their plus-size board “curvy” which seems like an even worse sobriquet). Calvin Klein used a size 10 model in its latest lingerie campaign, which was misconstrued as a plus-size slam dunk (some disagree). But most of the curvier forays into fashion have been courtesy of Huffine.
Being size 12 isn’t what makes Huffine stand out among the sea of beauties – it’s her versatility paired with her extreme confidence and garrulousness. She peppers conversation with “hell yeahs” and exudes personality. She has graced the cover of Vogue Italia twice (the last time was for the September issue), and appeared in Harper’s Bazaar (shot by Karl Lagerfeld), V magazine, and W. In the current issue of CR Fashion Book, Huffine is a vision wrapped in nothing but layers of fishnet. It was styled by editor in chief Carine Roitfeld.
“Fishnet is more exciting with a voluptuous girl!” Roitfeld says. “It’s not the same with a skinny girl, it doesn’t stretch. With her body, she became like a sculpture.”
Huffine is now something of a muse to Roitfeld, who has enlisted her as a model five times.
“She is more comfortable with her body than some other girls with … I will say … a ‘size of fashion,’” Roitfeld says. “Working with her you can do everything. She is always in a good mood and has great energy, She is a happy person. Fashion is sometimes too systematic. I prefer the personality of the girls. They give something much more beautiful. Sometimes you just don’t care if you can’t zip a skirt!”
Roitfeld is the former editor of Vogue Paris, a publication famous for its stick-thin aesthetic. Huffine disputes that her ongoing collaboration with Roitfeld is the stylist pandering to exoticism or trying to be egalitarian. “She is so rad and doesn’t care about size,” Huffine says. “She loves people of all shapes, sizes, and colors – the whole gamut.”
Huffine gives an example of a prior issue of CR that was shot by Tom Ford. “I wore this Miu Miu piece,” she says, “and obviously the sample wouldn’t fit. So, Carine had it made in my size. She is the coolest, sexiest woman ever. You can’t help but be excited when you’re onboard with her.”
The photographer Steven Meisel (who shot the Vogue Italia covers) and Roitfeld are helming the 2015 Pirelli calendar. Although the coveted, limited-edition calendar is available only to VIP corporate clients, its release is one of fashion’s biggest yearly happenings. Being a Pirelli girl signifies that a model is at the zenith of her career – that she has crossed over the pop culture divide. Other heavy-hitters featured in the calendar include Adriana Lima, Carolyn Murphy, and Joan Smalls.
This year’s edition has a bondage and fetish vibe, and Huffine vamps it up in a corset. It’s racy and sexy, and her buxom luminosity adds a subtle yet sexy message of positive body image. Huffine recently starred in Vogue.com’s busty lingerie story, and she doesn’t shy away from nude portraits, either (especially when the photographer is Meisel). “The point is, I love my body and am happy in it,” she says. “If me showing it to the world can help other ladies in any way, then game on.”
Huffine was born in Bowie, Maryland. In high school she was a cheerleader and played lacrosse. At 15, her mother took photos of her with a disposable camera to send to agencies. “They’re amazing!” Huffine says and cackles. “I am standing in the back of my red pickup truck in bootie shorts and a tank top. I thought I was so fly – a diva in a truck!”
The pictures worked though, and she came to New York for meetings with agencies. “I had no idea what plus size was,” she says. “I was tall and broad. I mean, I was bigger but I thought I was slim. When I went to the agencies and one proposed plus modeling, I wasn’t offended, but I was like, what do you mean? He showed me these fabulous girls he was representing and I was like, oh, I’m down for that!” But her career could have taken a very different route if she hadn’t had such uncanny foresight and fortitude as a teenager.
“One agency said, 'If you lose 15 pounds we’ll sign you,’” Huffine recalls. “I thought if I’m not small enough now and I’m young and active and I’m not a size 4 … no thank you. It’s crazy how there are these moments, a fork in the road and it dictates the rest of your life. This was a moment.” She continues, “I don’t mean to sound Pollyanna about it, but my body is meant to be the size that it is. I eat healthy and I work out, and my weight doesn’t move. This is where I’m meant to be.”
After high school she moved Manhattan. Just in case the modeling career didn’t pay off, she got a job as a waitress at Ruby Foo’s in Times Square. “I pass it all the time and am like oh my God!” she says. Her career swiftly took off, especially for European plus-sized brands, and she was often sent to England and Germany.
Huffine has been married for three years to Matt Powers, a filmmaker. “I love a glass of wine to unwind,” she says. “My husband and I have a cozy home. When it’s cold we stay at home and have a wooden dartboard and play darts. I’d sleep until noon if it wasn’t for my husband waking up so early.”
Huffine has more than 30,000 Instagram followers and is carving out a niche for herself as a brand. “I get a lot of messages saying, 'I like how you dress because you have my shape and I never knew how to dress for my shape,’” she says and adds, “People want to know the model as a person. I’m not just a voiceless mannequin.”
Huffine has never been more in demand, but she realizes her untapped potential. Because she’s a plus-size model, Huffine has never walked the runway except in specialty plus-size shows. “I haven’t really done advertising,” she says. “The next step is getting into a beauty campaign. That would be mega. People of all sizes wear makeup. It’s a long time coming, on baby steps, but it’s exciting to see that one thing you dream about come true.”