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BIG is beautiful; Coleen McLoughlin is campaigning for the fashion industry to ditch size zero models for curvier girls in her new TV programme, Real Women. Lorne Jackson met one Midland modelling boss who also believes bigger is beautiful.

Byline: Coleen McLoughlin

THERE are a few things we know about supermodels.

They're paid pots of cash, for instance. But what they gain in pound notes, they usually loose in pounds of flesh.

However, that's now changing.

Models will soon be cramming on the curves.

Coleen McLoughlin - the girlfriend of Manchester United footballer, Wayne Rooney - has started a campaign to get modelling contracts for women with regular shapes. Her new TV show, Coleen's Real Women, is set to change industry perceptions.

But even before her campaign, shipshapely models were making it in the Midlands.

Although they aren't clunking down the catwalk on totter-tall heels, they do make a good living. Helen Priestley, who runs Artimis Model Agency in Birmingham, says you don't have to be a rake to rake it in as a model.

"I don't agree with the idea that young girls who want to be professional models should be persuaded to lose weight until they are stick thin," she said.

"Of course, I understand that's what some designers want. But I don't think these girls should put their health in danger for another human being.

"When girls come to me, I don't want them to have to change to fit in.

"Instead of making them change their look, I try and find clients who want their type of look."

But are there enough clients out there who crave the curvier model?

The answer is YES.

"The business isn't just about being a size zero catwalk model," explains Helen.

"There also have to be models to advertise everything from Wellington boots to oven gloves."

Helen specialises in fitting models.

These are men and women hired by fashion designers and clothing manufacturers to check the fit, drape and visual appearance of pieces of clothing.

Such models have to look 'normal' and have the regular body shape you can spot in the high street.

"There are plenty of girls we hire who I wouldn't say were traditionally stunningly beautiful, or 5ft 9in, or a size 10," says Helen, from Solihull.

"We hire all shapes and sizes.

"Some of our models make a good living. Others use the work to supplement their income, or just view it as a bit of fun.

"Normal girls can use modelling for pin money, or to forge a career.

"It is a hit and miss industry, with no regular work guaranteed.

"But we've had some incredible successes. For instance, our oldest female model is 87 years-old. She recently had some photos taken where she posed as a grandmotherly type.

"She's just had a hip operation and was looking to retire. Now she's thrilled to pieces because she's still getting jobs.

"We also have a retired vicar on our books. It's a very broad range."

But are there any specific types more likely to have a successful career?

"All I would say is you have to be confident; be a person who likes yourself,"

Helen said.

"Don't love yourself, mind you! But a little bit of confidence goes a long way."
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 2, 2008
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