If you recently enjoyed the Ganni, Eckhaus Latta, Fendi, and Alexander McQueen fashion shows or if you look closely at some of the most coveted fashion magazines, you might find the beautiful face of Paloma Kai Shockley Elsesser, A.K.A Palo Mija on Instagram. Born in London, England, and daughter to an African-American mother and a Chilean-Swiss descent father, this Afro-Latina plus-size model is taking the fashion industry by storm and she is just getting started.
For Paloma Elsesser, everything started when she got selected to walk the Ganni’s show during Copenhagen Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2020, and later hopped on a plane to walk for Eckhaus Latta during New York Fashion Week. We all know that if you make it in New York you can make it anywhere, but when you have the once in a lifetime opportunity of hanging out with Vogue‘s editor-in-chief during Vogue100’s annual fashion week dinner at the Upper East Side’s Majorelle, then you can confirm that networking can open doors that degrees can’t and that what’s coming for you will be pure blessings and opportunities.
In an interview with Refinery29, Elsesser revealed that being part of this industry was never in her plans. “Somebody gave me the want before I wanted it for myself because I never knew that I wanted it,” Elsesser said to the magazine, adding that she was advised by an editor at Pop Magazine to become a model because the industry was changing and was more inclusive than ever. “I took the bait,” she says. “I was inspired by how it was evolving and that I could have financial and experiential autonomy over my life, which I didn’t have as a 20-year-old. I also wanted the chance to change the world a little bit. And that seemed like enough for me.”
For her, taking the bait completely worked out because two years into modeling, Pat McGrath — a British make-up artist that has been called the most influential make-up artist in the world — asked her to star in her Golden Makeover makeup line. Elsesser’s beautiful features caught everyone’s attention including companies like Glossier and Fenty Beauty who hired her to be part of their campaigns.
Having the beauty and fashion industry on her side, Elsesser had the amazing opportunity to become one of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund judges, invited by none other than Anna Wintour. “Anna sent me a personal email,” she told Refinery29. “I thought she sent it to the wrong email,” she joked. “It’s been like such an incredibly eye-opening experience getting to see how this business works up close because if I don’t know the business, how am I supposed to change the industry? That’s what I came here to do: I didn’t come to wear clothes, I came here to disrupt and change some shit.”
Elsesser understands that the industry has made big steps to become more inclusive but in her eyes, there’s still so much left to do and she is willing to push those boundaries. “For way too long, the plus-size industry has been all about being extremely sexy,” she says.“I really feel like instead of all that, we can just be cool, we can have nuance, we can be strange.” The 27-year-old supermodel is also looking forward to being part of a more empathetic industry where people care more about the welfare of models. “I think there needs to be a heavy dollop of empathy inserted for the well-being of models,” she said. “But that takes time. Even just that you were able to ask me that question and me answer it honestly is a change in and of itself.”
Undoubtedly, Paloma Elsesser is — if not already there — on her way to becoming a plus-size icon. Her beauty and brains are definitely a great combination and she is hands down one of the best examples of Latina representation in the plus-size community alongside Denise Bidot, Alessandra Garcia, Christina Mendez, Lorna Litz, Rosie Mercado, Fluvia Lacerda, Venezia Cruz Maria Luiza Mendez, and many more.