Lucky cover girl proves she's ahead of the curve
Proving that big really is beautiful, more than 6,000 curvy Irish women have chased their dream job as a catalogue cover girl.
A 28-year-old commercial artist from Claremorris, Co Mayo, clinched the coveted prize in the Simply Be Curvy model search in Johnstown, Co Meath, at the weekend.
"Curvy women get a bit of a bad rap and it's time the fashion world gave us space on the catwalk and in magazines," said winner Karen Forde, who is a size 14.
The 5ft 9in brunette, who is a visual communications graduate from the National College of Art and Design, usually spends her weekends in hiking boots training for her Gaisce president's award in mountain survival skills.
But she swapped the waterproof gear for glamour and high heels on Saturday when she took part in a catwalk show for the competition.
As the winner, Karen will fly to London next month to shoot the cover of the 'Simply Be' spring-summer 2011 fashion catalogue cover. The images will also appear on the company's website.
"As a graphic artist doing magazine layouts, it always annoyed me how the spotlight was always on skinny girls," said Karen.
"I'm a big girl and I enhance it. My focus growing up was to be comfortable in my skin rather than forcing myself to be a body shape that is unrealistic," said Karen, who celebrated the win at her parents' pub, the Country Club, in Claremorris last night.
Modelling runs in the family: her mother, Helena Conneelly, was a leg model for Pretty Polly tights.
Second place went to Vickie Maloney (33), a mum of three from Ballitore, Co Kildare, who halved her weight -- down from 28 stone to 14.
"Basically, I was comfort eating, reading books and having a glass of wine and curries. I put on a stone a year so at 28, I weighed 28 stone. People would look at my body and whisper about my size but they would never look me in the eye.
"Now they are looking at me for another reason. I'm rocking it, I feel great and I love showing off my curves," said Vickie, who walks with her friends to maintain her new silhouette.
Now a size 16-18, Vickie says her red hair attracts a lot of comment. "People say: 'She looks like Cheryl Cole, but with more burgers in her'."
Joint third place went to students Aly Kavanagh (21) from Dun Laoghaire and Ciana Lennon O'Dowd (22) from Kilmeedy, Co Limerick.