A Few Words With...Rachel Marotta
by John A. Wilcox
I very recently came across the beautiful Rachel Marotta online. Her #plusisequal message immediately caught my attention and I reached out to her. Marotta quickly agreed to talk about modeling, film making, size shaming, and much more. Please join us...
PS: Where were you born?
RM: I was born in Danbury, CT, where I still live today, however my family is from New York and lives mostly in Long Island now. My mom moved to Connecticut after she met my father.
PS: Do you come from a creative family?
RM: Well, my family as a whole is creative in a cultural sense, we are 100% Italian from New York so we have always been survivors and you have to be creative to survive (not to mention we are AMAZING cooks!). My mother is one of nine siblings and they did not have a lot of money growing up so my grandmother made most of their clothes and knew how to stretch a dollar.
My mom is the same way, my father passed away when I was a baby and she made the decision to raise my brother and I on her own. She made it work and never took a hand out from anyone, one of the things I admire most about her. We had a great life regardless if money was tight, she taught us to be creative, use our heads and make the right decisions.
In terms of "artsy" creative; my brother was an art major in college, and worked in the music industry and now is in the restaurant business; so we are creative in a literal sense and in a sense that we like to be multi-faceted and try new things. My mother is a lover of the arts and always made sure we were exposed to pop culture and good music. I grew up listening to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and watching Bye Bye Birdie. And to this day we all remember verbatim lines from movies and quote them incessantly (My Cousin Vinny and Goodfellas are fan favorites to quote in my family!)
PS: As a young girl, what were your interests in life?
RM: I had my "sporty" days! I played basketball and swam competitively for 6 years, but my passion has always been theatre and acting. I did theatre for 15 years, I used to go to a theatre camp: "Summer on Stage" I always refer to it as "Danbury's version of The Mickey Mouse Club" it was ages 6-14, every one got a part; we sang, danced, and each given a few lines to say. It was a fantastic experience, I was always the kid who didn't have to be mic'd! Not sure if that's the greatest thing to admit, but my directors were always happy I was there because it meant an extra mic in case one gave out! As I got older, I continued theatre in high school and then community theatre when I got to college.
PS: Did you have any creative interests at a young age?
RM: Theatre, when I was four years old there was a community theatre group at the local playhouse and my mother bought a summer pass and we went to every show and then waited outside their stage door so I could get autographs and take pictures with the cast, which we still do today. My mom and I have a special bond and that bond begins and ends with Theatre. I honestly do not think I will ever be able to go see a show without her, I'd feel like I'm cheating on her or something!
PS: At what age did you find yourself interested in modeling?
RM: very recently to be honest, I never thought modeling was an option for me because I have always been plus size. I have always wanted to be an actress and when I finally became comfortable in my own skin (which wasn't until last year) I realized modeling can be a stepping stone to help me gain experience and exposure and be able to translate that into film and television work.
When I was in college I started as a theatre major, and the job I had at the time was not very conducive to my major choice, unfortunately I couldn't quit my job because I needed to pay my tuition, but I weighed my options: what can I do that is still in the arts, but give me more flexibility than theatre because I need to keep my job? Then it hit me: Media Arts! Plus I thought "If I learn how to use a camera, edit footage, and write a script, I can cast myself in things and become an actress that way" So that's what I did, I became a media production major and learned how to do all those things and graduated with honors.
It ties into modeling because I learned how to use a camera, and be behind one, but now I need to learn how to be in front of the camera and be multi-faceted in media. This business can be mostly BS but honestly the more pieces of the puzzle you can acquire, the farther you go and the greater you will succeed. Just keep hustling and never give up.
In addition to that, when I was 24 I (finally) became comfortable in my body and realized I wanted more than just personal success, I wanted to help women and young girls who are going through body image issues and help them accept themselves for who they are at ANY age.
I went through hell as a kid always being one of the "bigger" girls and I just finally stopped caring what people had to say and what they thought of me. this is who I am and there are people in my life that love me for me and those are the people I want around me. If I could help at least one person say to a bully "I don't care what you think of me, I'm fine the way I am" then I accomplished what I truly want to do.
PS: How did you find your first pro modeling gig?
RM: Through my agency: John Casablancas.
PS: When did you get your first agent?
RM: Through John Casablancas last summer, I met with Brielle Grestini and we instantly clicked; when I first met her I told her I would have hated her in high school by default because she's pretty and skinny and I would have just been defensive and not given her the time of day because I assumed she would have done the same. But like I said before, once you stop caring what people think of you life gets so much better and you can trust the skinny, pretty girl to have your best interests at heart regardless of what you look like. Brielle saw something in me, she saw potential in me and she has been a great agent and friend of mine.
PS: Did any clients ever have an issue with your weight?
RM: No, but I have only been booked for things that are for plus size women so I am usually what the client wants/needs, but I have definitely gotten comments just in every day life; that is how the idea for "Plus is Equal" came about. I went into Victoria's Secret to get a gift for my cousin and I asked if they had any extra large nightgowns because we both have been "blessed by the good Lord upstairs" if you know what I mean and a manager pulled me to the side and said "we don't have the larger sizes you have to order online". I honestly felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and I was absolutely shocked, for the record I have always shopped in Victoria's Secret so I never felt like it was a "novelty" a woman my size couldn't indulge in. I am an Angel card holder so I've never had an issue. I got really annoyed, walked out and thought well, I could do two things: do nothing productive and just complain about it to whomever will listen, OR get even...so, I got even.
I saw the spring 2016 commercial that VS was airing and thought here's where I get even, I will "recreate" this commercial with plus size women. So I asked a few fellow production friends to help me shoot and edit it and I got to work on producing it.Two of my lovely, wonderful friends who I am forever grateful to agreed to be on the beach in their underwear with me. I definitely accomplished what I set out to do, but in the process it stopped being about getting even with Victoria's Secret and started being about empowering women and that made it all the more rewarding.
PS: So, let's hone in on being a "plus size" model. In the modeling industry, I understand that means up to size 24. Is that correct?
RM: Yes, in the fashion industry the term "plus size" is for women who are a size 6 to size 24. Which means most women in the world would be considered plus size. I personally think a sizes 0- 12 should not be considered plus size. The average women is between a size 14 and 16. I am between a 16 and an 18, but I also fit into certain size 14 jeans. I am a plus size woman, by industry standards but I am so much more than the number on my jeans. I am a sexy, beautiful, voluptuous force to be reckoned with of a woman and I do not care what people think of me, we should just do away with the term...we all need to be equal.
For the record, women's sizes are confusing and complicated and talking to a woman after a day of trying on jeans could be the equivalent to poking a bear.
PS: Is the implication that women over size 24 should not be represented?
RM: I honestly do not know and can't really give it an educated answer so I'd rather not answer it.
PS: Why do you feel our society attaches such negativity to weight?
RM: When I tell someone I am a model I feel like they are waiting for clarification that I reassure them I am aware of the fact that I am indeed not a size 0. I have gotten those "you're really a model?" looks if I don't say "I am a plus size model". It's absolutely ridiculous, this is who I am, so what if I am a size 16?
There is a stigma attached to weight because most people have this preconceived notion that excess weight means unhealthy. Yes, people who carry excess weight can be unhealthy, but so can someone who is thin. I dropped out of the crash diet circuit back in high school after I ended up in the hospital the day before my prom with the kidney stone because I did a stupid 7 day diet.
Genetically I am big, but I eat right and exercise and do the best I can to stay healthy- which includes getting enough sleep and finally quitting smoking.
PS: As you decided to put your film together, did you meet any resistance or were people eager to get on board?
RM: The girls I asked were on board, when we were filming it, it became such an empowering journey because we are all different shapes and sizes, and have all had a point in our lives when we felt like we weren't good enough-skinny enough, smart enough, pretty enough, etc...we have ALL been through it and it was an awakening experience to understand each other better. The girls that were in the video with me (Jocelyn Zayas and Maggie Dalton) were ready to do something big that spoke volumes. I did a lot of social media promotion for Plus is Equal and I asked each of them to think of a quote that empowered them to help empower others. It was a positive experience for all and I appreciate all the work my camera girls did to help me (Maria Abreu and Kristin Greco)
My mom was a mom and didn't want the world seeing my "coolie" (her word for butt), but she is very supportive in everything I do and thought it came out very tasteful.
PS: Now that you finished filming, what's next in terms of #Plus Is Equal?
RM: I hope to make more videos and reach more people. I want to make an impact on this world and one of the best ways to do that is through social media. I am fortunate that I am able to use social media to my advantage and spread the word. Plus is Equal has gotten over 1,000 views just on YouTube alone - on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook it has been shared over 100 times. I want to get more people involved to share their stories and help people realize that at the end of the day we are more alike than we think. We have all faced adversity and have had insecurities at one time or another and we need to be a support system to build each other up.
PS: Within modeling, what have been your most pleasant experiences?
RM: I have gotten to meet some amazing women, I did a bridal show a few months back and not only did I get to work with some of the most talented makeup and hair artists (FACES by Joanne Sherwood /Jocelyn Portela and Blu Hair and Bridal), but we apparently made an impact on the bridal show. I was with 3 other girls who were all curvy and fabulous, and throughout the event, people came up to us and thanked us for not being these "skinny, stereotypical looking bride models". Love comes in all shapes and sizes and Michelle, the owner of the boutique (Bridal Trousseau) has beautiful dresses for women of all sizes. I was proud that I helped encourage women who were apprehensive about trying on wedding dresses because they felt they weren't "wedding ready". It was a fantastic experience.
PS: I have said for years that weight is the last "acceptable" bias. Any thoughts on why there seems to be so few if any repercussions for size shaming?
RM: I feel like (unfortunately) it is so common and it's not one of those bias that can get you into serious trouble. Yes, you will hurt people's feelings but you can't go to jail or be fined for calling someone fat. People have a preconceived notion of weight, I've been told some very hurtful and eyebrow raising comments: "You don't look that bad", "At least you're still mobile", "Your mom is thin, how come you don't look like her, What happened?" - that one I never understood...what happened? Well, my mother is a cancer survivor so that's why she is so thin, and second of all pertaining to what happened to me, nothing happened to me! I mean that cracks me up! - there's no compelling, eye opening, shocking reason why I look this way, this is who I am... I accept me, why can't you?
PS: What's next for you on the modeling horizon?
RM: I want to be a household name, be an advocate - speak at schools / public events and tell my story and listen to other people's stories. Everyone has a story and they are fascinating, I want to help young girls on the playground who are "different" and help them discover their inner strength because it's in there, we all have it.
I'd want to be on the cover of magazines- be on the cover of SELF with the caption: "This is what 200 lbs. looks like! Curvy and Fabulous!" I wrote a screenplay a few years ago and I have waited patiently to make a move and begin production at the right time so I have a feeling in the next few years I'll be accepting an Academy Award for Best Actress, or Best Original Screenplay - OR BOTH!
It all comes back to acting for me. I want to inspire people through film and tell stories that have yet to be told. I want to own a production company one day, and be the best daughter, sister, friend, cousin, Godmother, I can be - maybe one day I'll add wife and mother to that!
The sky's the limit, don't ever let someone tell you you can't do something, think outside the box and be extraordinary.
PS: Since my site is primarily music based, can you please tell me 6 albums you never get tired of listening to?
RM: (had to give you 7!)
1. Nevermind: Nirvana
2. The Black Album: Jay-Z
3. In Your Honor: Foo Fighters
4. The Very Best of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons
5. Heart of Stone: Cher
6. Don't Look Away: Kate Voegele
7. Ready to Die: Notorious B.I.G.
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