Ray Segev: Israeli Plus-Size Model

In Israel, Ray Segev is one of a kind—a high-profile plus-size model and blogger who has several fashion and lingerie campaigns under her belt. She's the media's go-to girl when they need a curves advocate, someone to present an alternative to the industry standard of extreme thinness. In addition to her modeling career, Segev is running a mini online empire, influencing young women while inspiring a new generation of full-figured fashionistas.

Two years ago, she decided to leave everything behind and try to make it big in the U.S.; wearing a completely see-through dress to Tommy Hilfiger's fashion show during the last New York Fashion Week was a recent statement. She's currently residing in New York after a stint in L.A, working on making a name in the local fashion industry. The U.S has been more difficult to break into than small, conservative Israel—but Segev is determined.

We caught up with her to talk about body issues, her fashion icons, and the differences between Israel and the U.S. in perceptions of the ideal female body (hint: They're really not that different).

How would you define yourself?

Well, this is actually a tough question to answer. Ever since I started modeling I wanted to define myself just as a model because I had something to prove to the world, to my friends, family, colleagues or people in the fashion industry. I was 25 and already had a profession that I loved and succeeded in, but I wanted everyone to accept me as a model despite the fact that I'm not a size 0. The thing is, I entered the plus-size fashion world because I have a passion to change how young women think about their bodies. I do it in many ways, including modeling, so today I feel like I call myself a model and an entrepreneur.

What did you learn during your years as a plus-sized model?

Oh, I learned so much! But I think the most important thing I've learned is to really embrace myself and rejoice in my body. It isn't easy, as especially in the beginning I was very judgmental and each time I looked at some new photos from a photo shoot it was overwhelming. I was busy thinking about what people would think about me. I did a lot of work on myself in order to stop criticizing myself for every curve, every pose, every blink. I also learned that if you're passionate about something and you work hard, you'll succeed. This is pretty much what I feel about coming here, to the land of the unlimited possibilities. You can do anything here if you won't give up.

Was the moving process difficult?

Israel is great. I love Tel Aviv so much, I really do. But I want to touch more people's hearts, and I felt like if I didn't do it now, it wouldn't happen. So I just bought a ticket. After a month in New York City, I signed with an agency (with no help from any agency in Israel). After a few months I got my working visa and here I am, open to all the amazing opportunities this place can offer me.

How is L.A or New York different from Israel in the way curvy women are perceived?

I'm not sure it is so different. Size 0 is still what the world aspires to nowadays. It's everywhere—Fashion Weeks, magazines, blogs, billboards, TV, movies, store displays. Literally anywhere you turn, you see the skinny type of beauty. People are so brainwashed and 100% sure that being skinny is equal to being healthy and socially approved. It is very hard to convince them that there are ways you can feel beautiful other than being skinny. I see it here; I saw it in L.A. and in Tel Aviv. Everywhere is the same.

Can you elaborate on the statement you're trying to make?

I have a mission I'm strongly passionate about. It is kind of a life mission that drives me through this whole path and keeps me going. I want to make women happy by teaching them how to love their bodies. I am sure now more than ever that self love is the source of all the good in the world. And I feel like it is the most important thing I can do in my life, helping women understand that.

Who are some of your fashion icons?

Actually, I'm still looking for one. When I look for an icon I want to feel related to it. So I'm looking for a woman who is feminine, curvy and confident, with great style. If we talk about the icon as something classic I'd say I love Sophia Loren. If we talk about today's pop culture, I'd say I also love Beyonce. And if I want to flatter someone from the plus-size industry, there's Felicity Hayward, a model and a stylist with a very cool style. I love her attitude and choices of looks.

There's a feeling that "booties" and curvy women are trendy now. Can you feel that?

I think we are just staring an incredible progress of self acceptance; it's nice that curvy women are starting to get more appreciation and approvals to be proud of who they really are. But what about the millions of women who have no booty and no curves, still living with a enormous feeling of hate and anger toward their body just because it isn't as "perfect," according to society's unrealistic norms and beauty ideals? I want to help bring on the individuality trend. Lena Dunham is a wonderful inspiration in this sense. I'm so happy she exists.

How do you like to dress, and who are your favorite designers?

I love to mix second-hand, affordable clothes from chains with designer pieces. I believe that you need to fall in love with a dress or a jacket or a shoe, and not just buy a bunch of stuff that you will never wear. I love to buy things that I can wear a lot, and I'll feel comfortable and chic while wearing them. Clothes can really dictate your mood during the day, and that can be crucial if you want to project the best version of yourself while working, going to meetings or going out on a date.

What's next for you?

I've initiated a plus-size active wear company (size 14-24) called Molly Maven. We designed our first product, patent-pending yoga pants that work like magic on curvy women. They have an inner cincher that supports and lifts the center, helping to build posture and holding the tummy.

They're made from a great breathable fabric and they flatter—an important issue when you're a curvy woman and you want to go to the gym or a yoga class, or to walk in the park. We need to reach the goal of $18,000 on Kickstarter in order to go on with producing the pants. I know we'll make it!

Images: Alon Shafranski, Guy and Yariv Kushi, Gilad Bar Shalev, Lior Nordman


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