Breaking the mold: Diversifying Arizona’s modeling industry

plus size model
As a plus-size model, Ce-Ce Marie says she credits the body positivity movement for her confidence and involvement in modeling. (Photo by Thalia M. España/Cronkite News)

By Thalia M. España

PHOENIX – Models from across Arizona will take part in Phoenix Fashion Week’s Model of the Year search on Saturday. The organizers will choose 40 men and women to walk their runways for the weeklong event in October in Scottsdale. But how diverse will the top 40 be?

Ce-Ce Marie, a plus-size model who has worked from coast to coast, said body types other than tall and slender have been rarely seen on runways in Phoenix.

“You go to fashion week here in Arizona and you don’t see plus-size models. They don’t cast them here at all,” Marie said, adding that the focus on fitting into certain categories can be detrimental to mental health.

She’s one of several members of the Arizona fashion scene who strive to bring plus-size models, as well as those who are more diverse racially and ethnically, to the forefront.

Steph Rosa, who created her own agency to promote different types of models, said the lack of diversity in the Arizona fashion scene goes beyond body shape.

Models of all shapes, sizes and colors are a signature aspect of fashion shows directed by Steph Rosa. (Photo by Thalia M. España/Cronkite News)

plus size model
Steph Rosa touches up Sky Lian’s hair and makeup between shots of a photo shoot. (Photo by Thalia M. España/Cronkite News)

“The ‘typical’ models would get a really long interview,” Rosa said of her experience at casting calls. “I’d see people of my race or other races and their interviews were super fast.”

Kevin Martin, who is Thai and plus-size, tried out for Phoenix Fashion Week for three consecutive years and never made it. But the fourth time, was chosen to walk in Phoenix Fashion Week’s 2019 Spring Into Style event earlier this year – the first plus-size model to do so, he said. He hopes more diverse models will be cast now that he has broken the mold.

“I think it’s going to help take that next step toward widening the industry standards here in Arizona to where now we can be seen on a larger scale like New York, like LA, because we have all these diverse models,” Martin said.

Martin will be competing to make Phoenix Fashion Week’s top 40 this year.


  1. Diversity of thoughts ideas, and points of view is a GOOD thing. Diversity for it’s own sake, or to make people feel moral and just is just plain stupid. The root word for diversity is “division.” Something to consider.

  2. Being Fat and Fit is one thing
    But fat lazy with ozzing cottage cheese rolls are another
    And why take a picture with old trashy tires ?
    Never understood long sleeves with shorts ! Is that saying your legs dont get cold ?
    Sorry but that picture lacks alot not in good taste

    I have seen heavy and plus size bodys that actually have tone and it shows that they eat right healthy etc Lots of Classy Woman that are big

    But this rolly polly carb eating coke drinking candy sucking junk food eating model says I am not healthy i deserve to be picked

    Nope sorry There are other heavy big plus size girls out there that care about their health and are still big
    Big is beautiful When its a healthy big
    But fat lazy unhealthy look is out,,Only work this model does is with her mounth Snowflake

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