Model and student Imogen Ker was at a housewarming party in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles recently when the host delivered an unexpected blow. He waltzed into the kitchen, where the 25-year-old was alone, and introduced her to a complete stranger.
“‘Imogen would be perfect if it wasn't for her body,’” the host remarked, according to Ker, who recounted the incident to TODAY. “He gave me this very snarky look as if he was trying to be playful.”
Ker was shocked. As a model with thousands of social media followers, she has grown somewhat accustomed to unwelcome comments on her body. But to be body-shamed by someone she considered a friend — and in front of a man she’d never met — felt completely different.
“I was just really taken aback, if you can imagine, almost as if someone punched me in the stomach,” Ker said. “My first reaction was to let it go.”
But after it haunted her for days, Ker decided to confront him via text.
“You don’t get to make comments about my body. Nobody does. It’s not okay,” she wrote in the text. “I'm saying this so I can get over it and move on. Women’s bodies are not fair game. We still live in a world where women and their worth is almost entirely placed on our bodies. And by saying what you said, you are just a moving wheel in that operation. I'm not expecting an apology, I just needed to let you know how it made me feel.”
The friend responded with an apology, writing, "I don't have any recollection saying that. I am flabbergasted by myself ... really that's not OK."
As a model, Ker consistently fights pressure from herself and others to have “the perfect body.” But in recent years curvy or plus-size models have received more exposure in mainstream media, and Ker believes this is a step in the right direction.
“Obviously there is still a long way to go and a lot more to be changed, but curvier girls being incorporated in the fashion industry is just one part of a much bigger thing that is happening. It’s getting more inclusive,” she said.
There may be greater diversity of body types in modeling, but it is still an industry of extremes, according to Katie Willcox, founder of Ker’s agency, Natural Model Management.
“There’s plus size and sample size, there’s really nothing in between. That’s where most women fit, somewhere between the two extremes,” Willcox said. “So I thought, one day that is going to be the marketable strategy.”
She founded Natural Models in 2011 to represent the “in between.” The L.A.-based agency prides itself on representing models that more appropriately represent real women’s bodies.
With the help of Natural Models and Willcox’s intimate approach to coaching, Ker has booked campaigns with Darling Magazine and ModCloth, among others.
Aside from modeling and pursuing her bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, Ker makes time in her busy schedule for work as a doula. She said that pursuit has been a quintessential part of her journey toward self-love and has given her a new perspective on what it means to be a woman.
“We hold so much power in our bodies as women. We hold so much power to create, and that’s not just children, that’s everything,” Ker said. “I am just appreciating being a person with a womb and being divinely feminine. That has allowed me to love myself more deeply than I have in the past.”
As an advocate of self-love, Ker routinely uses social media to share positive messages for those who have experienced body-shaming and other forms of marginalization. But her recent encounter at the Highland Park party really emphasized to her the importance of standing up to body-shamers. To the haters, Ker has a message:
“Shaming other people is not going to fix your misery. I hope that you can find love and empathy, instead of spewing hate.”