American model Paloma Elsesser has been “driven off” social media after receiving a prestigious award earlier this week.
The 31-year-old – who has made history at luxury fashion houses like Fendi, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga – became the first plus-size woman to take home Model of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in London on December 5.
What should have been a moment that was both celebratory for Elsesser and pivotal for the industry, however, “became a nightmare” for her instead, Dazed reported.
Elsesser was swiftly inundated with a wave of derogatory, fatphobic comments – ultimately forcing her to step away from Instagram.
“Grateful for so much of the love. I also see the hate. Taking a moment to enjoy this accolade privately. & as always, free Palestine,” she wrote on her Story.
Fashion blogger HauteLeMode blasted Elsesser’s critics in a video on the platform.
“Congratulations, you’ve done it – you’ve run Paloma Elsesser off of Instagram, for what? Winning a reward she had no control over?” he said.
“There were a bunch of models that in reality I maybe would have wanted to win more as much as other people, but would I go to Paloma and say ‘You’re an awful, terrible person and you didn’t deserve that?’
“No – because that’s crazy. And I have better things to do in my life than hold grudges against people I don’t know!”
Dozens of people jumped in his comments to agree, with one writing: “Paloma’s impact on the industry is truly historic, and it is WILD to see how angry people get to see someone different from the standard get any recognition, let alone such well-deserved and very overdue recognition.”
“And that’s on fatphobia in the fashion industry. Crickets when nepo baby after nepo baby are winning MOTY but as soon as a beautiful, plus-sized woman takes the award,” another commented.
“What we aren’t gonna do is discredit Paloma Elsesser’s work in the industry in order to lift (fellow Model of the Year nominee) Anok [Yai] … that’s really not f**king okay,” one woman wrote in a thread on X, formerly Twitter.
“So many fatphobic tweets??? Paloma is a very well-loved and talented model who works hard every single year. Some of the reactions to her win are :/.”
“You can be disappointed Anok didn’t win without putting down Paloma … Paloma is a wonderful model who works hard every single year,” the user, Linda, continued.
“She’s also had a big year this year – amongst Vogue covers and shows and editorials and red carpets … it could’ve been won by any model on that [nominee] list.”
Linda then referred to an interview Elsesser did with British Vogue in March, in which she spoke about the “responsibility” mid- and plus-sized models feel to keep working to maintain a certain level of representation on the runway.
“It’s a privileged responsibility,” Elsesser said at the time.
“There are layers added to navigating our careers, and it’s all nuanced. When our [straight-sized] contemporaries take a season off, they aren’t worried about whether or not the level of representation will decrease because they aren’t there.”
Elsesser, who was absent from the Fall (Winter)— 23 womenswear shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris earlier this year, spoke on the matter further to Vogue in September, saying she’d hoped her absence would have opened up opportunities for other mid- and plus-size models. When that didn’t happen, she said, she felt she had to return to the runway for the Spring/Summer 24 collections.
“I was hopeful we would see continued progress [for representation], but there has been an unapologetic propensity toward thinness,” Elsesser told the publication.
“It is undeniable that we are steadily slipping backward when it comes to representation. We are contending with erasure on all fronts.
“We have to respond with urgency. If we do not call this out, taking this season as both an opportunity and an invitation to ask for increasing diversity, it’ll die out.”