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Video: Plus-size model bares it all

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TODAY contributor
updated 8/24/2009 9:56:07 AM ET 2009-08-24T13:56:07

Slender, leggy supermodels such as Bar Refaeli and Gisele Bundchen are taking a backseat these days to an unlikely supermodel contender in the form of Lizzi Miller — all 180 glorious pounds of her.

Miller, at 20 already a seven-year veteran of the modeling world, rocked the magazine industry and the blogosphere when her photo appeared alongside an article on women’s body confidence in the September issue of Glamour magazine. The photo shows Miller in all her blond beauty, flashing a confident smile — but also flashing some stomach pooch that hangs over her thong bikini.

Within a day, Glamour was inundated with comments, overwhelmingly positive, about the magazine’s showcasing a beautiful model unafraid to let it all hang out. Web sites such as Facebook, MSN and Jezebel.com were consumed with dialogue over Miller’s photo, and Newsweek.com dedicated Web space to a renewed debate over women’s body image.

Game changer?
The response was so large and effusive that Glamour editor Cindi Leive says Miller is proving to be a game changer when it comes to fashion magazines — which often pay lip service to the idea of representing all women, but usually opt for the carrot-sticks-and-cigarettes, skin-and-bones types when it comes to cover girls.

“I think it absolutely will,” Leive told Matt Lauer on TODAY Monday. “You get a reaction like this and you can really see it. It’s also a sign of the times that women are really looking for a little bit more authenticity and a little bit less artifice in every part of their lives.

“Will it change our approach? I think it will.”

Ironically, the fashion mountain came out of what amounted to a molehill of a picture. Miller’s life-altering pose was not on the cover of Glamour; it was just a 3-inch-by-3-inch photo illustration buried on page 194.

And speaking with Lauer Monday, Miller says she initially wasn’t all that enthused about the picture showing her belly roll spilling over. “I’m just like every other girl who has insecurities,” she said. “The first thing I thought was, ‘OK, not the most flattering picture.’ ”

TODAY
Lizzi Miller’s buzz-inducing photo was buried on page 194 of Glamour.
Little did Miller know she struck a nerve — and struck a blow for the Everywoman in the process.

‘Hot momma’
“Immediately, within hours of the magazine coming out, we had people telling us they were e-mailing it to friends, and that it was the first time they felt good about their own bodies, looking at this picture,” Leive told Lauer.

One reader wrote to Glamour saying, “Get this hot momma off of page 194 and put her on the cover!”

Another reader said, “Thank you for showing a picture of a BEAUTIFUL woman who has a stomach and thighs that look like mine! I have NEVER seen that in a magazine before.”

Yet another said, “This woman rocks and we need more women like her to make a mark on what the real woman looks like.”

TODAY
Glamour editor Cindi Leive (left) said positive reaction to the photo of Lizzi Miller (right) may change the magazine’s approach.

Miller admitted the reader responses brought tears to her eyes. The sun-kissed California girl spreads her weight over a tall, 5-foot-11 frame, and while her varying size 12 to 14 body is in keeping with the average American woman’s, she competes in a modeling industry in which any size over 6 is considered “plus size.”

Natural look
Early on in her modeling career, Miller said she had trouble even changing in front of stylists. But her confidence has built to the point where she could go nearly au naturel and not worry about a bit of belly flab ruining her self-image.

TODAY
Lizzi Miller has appeared in Glamour several times.
“This was a real picture — they just caught me in a moment when I was feeling comfortable and I was just being natural, and it was just the way it came out,” Miller told Lauer.

“I’m healthy and I work out; I live a healthy lifestyle. This is how I look; I embrace it.”

And as it turned out, Miller’s embracing of her outer self has rocked the world of fashion models.

Of Miller’s belly, Leive said, “You see it all the time when you look into the mirror, and I think that’s what women reacted to here. They’re actually seeing something that looks the way so many of us really do, but you don’t see represented that often.”

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