It was a model in an fashion magazine that inspired Charnelle Paulse, of Rosebank, to become a model, despite not having the stick-thin figure so common on international catwalks.
Now, six years after starting her career as a plus-size model, the 33-year-old is inspiring others in the same way and showing that beauty takes many forms.
“Plus-size modelling is about changing the mindsets of what beauty really is,” says Charnelle.
But her first job wasn’t quite what she had expected. She had had visions of making her modelling world debut with a glitzy, glamorous assignment, adorned in high-end fashion. Instead, she found herself posing as a mom in modest apparel for a baby magazine. She was 27 and didn’t have any children herself.
But she persevered, and since then, her career has blossomed. She modelled for Jet Stores in 2013, then Donna Claire from 2014.
“Being the face of Donna, the biggest plus-size brand in the country, was a real great experience,” she says.
She is now with Ice Genetics modelling agency, which represents Ackermans, Spree and Superbalist. And she has modelled swimwear for Australian swimwear brand Lily and Lime.
Charnelle says there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes of a modelling shoot. Her hair and make-up must be perfect and scores of pictures will be sifted through to find the right one for the billboard or magazine spread.
Charnelle also has a strong social-media presence on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and gets a lot of positive feedback from her followers.
She says she hears a lot from women telling her how they have been inspired by her to wear clothes they wouldn’t ordinarily have worn because they would have felt self-conscious about their bodies.
When Charnelle isn’t modelling, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Nathan Paulse, the former Ajax Cape Town footballer; reading; dancing (Zumba, hip-hop and dance funk); and power-walking with Nathan on the Rondebosch Common and Sea Point promenade.
Charnelle is now preparing for the African Fashion International Fashion Week, now in its 11th year, from Thursday October 4 to Sunday October 7, in Johannesburg. She’ll be modelling for Ruff Tung on Saturday October 6.
It’s Charnelle’s second Fashion Week. Last year was the first time plus-size models were included.
“No matter what anyone tells you, pursue your goals,” she says. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not capable of reaching them, have faith, operate from a place of faith and not fear.”