The Orlando-based model and blogger wants you to think beyond labels.
As New York Fashion Week approaches, posts from fashion bloggers and would-be models abound on Instagram. But you won’t find anything typical on Nadia Aboulhosn’s feed.
While many fashionistas dress like followers, Aboulhosn is daring and full of vision. It only takes a quick scroll through her Instagram to understand why brands like Boo Hoo and, most recently, Addition Elle have brought her on board to design body-positive capsule collections. Her look is fun and fearless, with bold lines, smoldering confidence, and a refreshing dose of humor.
With nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram, Aboulhosn knows a thing or two about building a brand. The secret to her success? Just being herself.
“Everyone tries to glamorize their lives and it’s just fuckin’ fake,” Aboulhosn told the Daily Dot. “I don’t want to take a picture of a pretty pair of sunglasses next to a pair of flowers on a rug to make it look aspirational. I want to twerk in front of a cheeseburger pinata.”
Aboulhosn also attributed her success to her relatable shape: “I think women are tired of seeing the typical body type.”
“I don’t want to take a picture of a pretty pair of sunglasses next to a pair of flowers on a rug to make it look aspirational. I want to twerk in front of a cheeseburger pinata.”
There’s certainly been an uptick in body-positive campaigns and plus-size models hitting the mainstream lately. Plus-sized supermodel Tess Holliday has had a banner year in the fashion industry, while U.K. lingerie company Curvy Kate and prominent bloggers have challenged stereotypes across the board with compelling body-positivity campaigns.
But while Aboulhosn is savvy and alert, she doesn’t always jump at the chance to be part of a body-positive campaign simply for the sake of exposure.
“There are some campaigns out there that are great, but there are others that I want no part of,” she said, citing the Lane Bryant campaign, which proclaimed “I’m no angel” and was criticized for its competitive spirit.
“[Lane Bryant] approached me, they were going to pay me good money to be a part of it,” Aboulhosn said. “But I told my agency no! Pitch me to Victoria’s Secret! Because it’s companies like Victoria’s Secret that need to open up their minds and extend to larger sizes. They need a model like me to be a part of their campaign.”
In the meantime, Aboulhosn has relished the opportunity to design fresh, modern options for plus-sized women. On Aug. 31, Aboulhosn shared outtakes from her Addition Elle capsule collection trailer on Instagram. Aboulhosn seductively flashes her legs at the camera and declares herself sexy, but she also drops f-bombs with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
The video is a microcosm of Aboulhosn’s personality. She’s edgy yet warm. She’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind, but she’s also incredibly thoughtful, inviting, and kind.
Perhaps Aboulhosn’s outspoken disdain for fakery is a nod to her humble roots. When she launched her blog, she didn’t have expensive accessories at her disposal and she certainly wasn’t sipping champagne or lounging on a yacht. But she was uniquely innovative and resourceful. “I started off with thrift clothes because I was working and going to school full time and I didn’t have much,” she recalled. “So I would take thrift items and make them into really good looking outfits and people would be like what’s happening?”
Aboulhosn began fashion blogging in 2009, as she describes it, on a whim. Working in a family-run restaurant at the local mall food court, she passed much of her time people-watching with best friend, Shevah Vahdatpour. “I love to people watch—I could do that all day. And I would always critique people’s outfits—not in a negative way, but I would think oh what if she wore that with this. And I was also getting inspired watching Fashion Week.”
Motivated by her favorite runway fashions and the support of her bestie, Aboulhosn realized she could easily turn her daily fashion daydreams into an Internet reality.
Aboulhosn describes her foray into fashion blogging as a way to keep herself on the right path. “I needed something to keep me occupied,” she said. Surprising, considering that her schedule already consisted of working and going to school full time, studying journalism and Middle Eastern studies. But Aboulhosn is a firecracker, and she had energy to spare. She saw blogging as an outlet for self-expression. “When I was younger I ran with the wrong crowd, that kind of thing, so I needed something positive,” she explained.
Looking back at her journey, Aboulhosn spoke with relentless optimism. She never let setbacks get the best of her. When she applied for the Fashion Institute of Technology and her portfolio was rejected, she cried for a solid five minutes. “And then I was like you know what I’m gonna make a fashion line another way. I’m gonna keep blogging, I’m gonna keep blogging, I’m gonna keep blogging.”
“It’s companies like Victoria’s Secret that need to open up their minds and extend to larger sizes. They need a model like me to be a part of their campaign.”
When Seventeen magazine invited her to do a fashion shoot in New York, Aboulhosn, who was then located in Orlando, Florida, fibbed that she already lived in the city and purchased the plane ticket to New York with her own money. While she may have started blogging “for the fun of it,” it’s clear that Aboulhosn can’t help but do what she does with ferocity and determination.
“I always said I’m gonna fake it til I make it. For the first two or three years I had a fake email. When someone would contact me to work with me I would say, ‘Thank you so much for contacting Nadia Aboulhosn. This is Jordan.’ But it was me the whole time. People take you so much more seriously when you have an agent. And if people weren’t reaching out to me, I would reach out to them [as my assistant]. And then I would set a budget and make sure I was getting paid.”
Aboulhosn’s hustle paid off and landed her a gig at a high-end fashion magazine. But working in the “plus-size” section of the magazine came with frustrating restrictions. She found her bosses had limited ideas about what plus-size models could wear. “I was like, ‘OK, you’re telling me this girl who’s bigger can’t wear ankle strap heels. Are you fucking kidding me? Like she looks amazing in it.’ They wanted me to follow these rules for what’s flattering. But in my head, anything’s flattering as long as people have confidence.” Aboulhosn left after three months.
Aboulhosn still bristles at the “plus-size” label. “People used to talk so much shit about me because I would say, ‘I don’t label myself plus-sized—you are the ones who label me plus-sized.’” But Aboulhosn has fans of all sizes and, while she sees the value in women of larger shapes feeling better represented, she’s ultimately interested in a future where we think beyond potentially divisive labels.
“We’ve come a long way,” Aboulhosn said. “But for me, I really hate the separation.”
“I’m happy I represent for [plus-size women] but I also have anorexic and bulimic women telling me, ‘You saved my life!’ So why would I want to just inspire plus-sized women?”
Aboulhosn recently relocated to her native Orlando and is adamant about pursuing a career where she maintains creative control. “I can work from anywhere, and I wanted to give back to my family. And coming home was great. My mom does my laundry!”
If it sounds like she’s regressing, don’t be fooled. If anything, Aboulhosn is expanding her vision and recharging her ambition. She has big plans and they reach beyond the world of fashion and modeling. One of her biggest goals is to create a documentary about Lebanese refugees. She recently traveled to Lebanon and shot her own footage. “It really opened my eyes to see what people struggle with every day when I was there,” said Aboulhosn who spent her trip with guides from Oxfam, Sawa, and Najdeh.
While Aboulhosn has only designed “plus-size” collections so far, she’s received positive feedback from women of all sizes. Model Jasmine Sanders was such a big fan of Aboulhosn’s Boo Hoo collection that she said she wished it were available in her size. The feedback inspired Aboulhosn. Following her work with Addition Elle, she says she only wants to design clothing for all bodies in all sizes.
“I’ve worked so hard to not have to fit in a box,” said Aboulhosn. “After this, no more plus-size; I want to design stuff that’s sizes 0-24.”
Screengrab via additionellevideo/YouTube