When the photo that made Lizzie Miller a household name hit newsstands in the September 2009 issue of Glamour, Miller didn’t even know she was in the issue. “It was an outtake from a shoot that ran in the April issue,” says the 21-year-old model. Fashion magazines often buy rights to photos for an entire year, she explains. “So they can throw in pictures whenever and you don’t know. My friend actually told me I was in the magazine.”
The photograph in question — which became widely known as “the photo on page 194” — is a small image that accompanied a story about body confidence. It shows a blonde, beautiful and nearly nude Miller, seated and smiling broadly. While strategic placement of her arms and legs keeps the photograph modest, it reveals something extraordinary: a little roll of belly fat, undisguised, for all the world to see.
(The photo on page 194 of the September issue of Glamour that made Lizzie Miller a household name.)
Miller is considered a “plus-size” model, and she is used to seeing photos of her size-14 frame, but this one took her by surprise. Fashion photographs are typically airbrushed, but this one was untouched.
“My reaction was mixed,” says the San Jose native who now lives and works in New York. “I thought it was a beautiful picture, but of course I zoned in on my little belly because that is actually a part of my body I’ve always been self-conscious about, and I was like, ‘Oh, man, why did they choose that unflattering angle?’ I literally said to myself, ‘OK, well, it’s small. No one is going to see this anyway.’”
But readers did see the photo. And they loved it. Letters and emails in praise of the gorgeous “woman on page 194” began to flood Glamour’s offices. Before long, Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive was blogging about their decision to include Miller’s photo, and Miller and Leive landed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, ABC News and Access Hollywood as news of the photo spread internationally.
Leive has called the photo a “revolution,” and inspired by the response, she has promised to feature more real-looking women and plus-size models in future layouts.
Indeed, the November issue of Glamour highlights a luscious, two-page spread of Rubenesque beauties as part of an article on inviting new definitions of “gorgeous.”
Of course, just how predominately more voluptuous bodies will figure in typical fashion layouts (where stick-thin models have long been the norm) remains to be seen. In the interim, the term “plus-size” is increasingly being acknowledged as a less-than-satisfactory misnomer, given that it currently represents the size of the average American woman.
Miller herself takes issue with the term. “What does the term ‘plus-size’ make the skinny girls? Minus-size?” she asks. “The phrase sounds unhealthy; it doesn’t sound pretty. I think they should use a term that is more sensual and beautiful.”
Miller, who carries about 175 pounds on her nearly 6-foot frame, hopes the positive feedback her picture inspired will bring more real-sized women to the pages of fashion magazines, but she knows it’s going to take more than a single photo. “It’s got to be a continuous momentum,” she says.
True to Leive’s promise, the November issue of Glamour also featured a plus-size model in one of its editorial spreads — without calling out or drawing attention to her size. Miller sees that as a good start.
Miller’s own feelings about her body have changed a good deal since she started modeling at the tender age of 13. “When I first started out, I used to be so self-conscious I couldn’t even change clothes in front of family or my friends. I was just not comfortable in my skin,” she recalls. “But over time, I realized that this is the body God gave me, and I just have to stop comparing myself to others.”
Today, Miller stays fit and healthy by working out regularly and taking dance classes. “I really love dance classes because it’s great exercise and you just kind of lose your mind for an hour and have fun,” she says. “You forget you’re working out.”
She also avoids an all-or-nothing approach to food. “It’s all about balance; you can’t starve yourself. If I tell myself, ‘No, Lizzie, you absolutely can’t have that,’ I know I’ll likely eat the whole bag!” she says, laughing. “So if I’m really craving some chocolate, I let myself have it.”
Miller hopes to continue modeling — since the Glamour photo appeared she has had more work than ever before — and to one day fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a professional singer. Meanwhile, she wants to inspire, encourage and bring confidence to the real-sized women whose bodies look like hers.
“I want to show that there are other body types besides the little skinny models you usually see in magazines. Most women just don’t look like that,” she says. “But many feel like they have to, and I think that’s wrong.”
Laine Bergeson is an Experience Life senior editor.
Go behind the scenes at our cover shoot with Lizzie Miller at experiencelife.com/videos.