'I did something I was afraid of': Plus-size model Natalie Hage chokes up describing first time at Fashion Week

Natalie Hage is covering all things curvy for Yahoo Lifestyle. Read her articles for an honest take on navigating the world as a plus-size woman, and follow Hage on Instagram for more. Here, she documents her first trip to New York Fashion Week, capturing the joys and fears she experienced. 

When I got the call that I was being given the opportunity to attend theCURVYcon and New York Fashion Week, you might as well have told me that I won the lottery. I, someone who has been obsessed with fashion since I can remember, was getting to go to one of the most coveted, talked-about events of the year.

Me, a plus-size woman, was going to New York Fashion Week.

It’s one of those sentiments that you won’t truly understand the intensity of unless you are or have been plus-size. The world as a whole, much less the fashion world, is not generally kind to plus-size people. It’s pretty obvious what stance fashion takes on plus-size bodies: The majority of women in this country are over a size 16, yet I can walk into a mall and count on one hand the stores that carry clothing for our bodies. Non-plus sizes? You’ll lose count of how many stores are filled to the brim with options.

Attending theCURVYcon —  the body-positive gathering of curvy women in New York City that opened fashion week — was special to me for many reasons. I got to meet so many friends in person that I’ve known for years but have never gotten to hug. The energy in the venue was electric and had its own high decibel level of joy. I remember looking up into the crowd right before the Dia&Co fashion show started and seeing a sea of beautiful, lit-up faces. Women beamed with happiness at getting to be a part of that room, shared with hundreds of other plus-size women who, at least for a little while, could feel included and celebrated.

Nia Jax opened up to me about being called plus-size, what makes her feel sexy, and her cousin Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. (Photo: Yahoo Style)

This is not our everyday life, and all of us would give anything for it to be. I also got to meet Nia Jax — who told me that, yes, indeed, plus-size women can wear horizontal stripes — and Whitney Way Thore, two of my personal plus-size heroes. Both of them were exactly as dynamic and engaging as I’d always hoped they’d be.

The hours and days to follow were the most wonderful blur I’ve ever experienced. Chromat was the very first show I attended, and what a way to start out New York Fashion Week! It was an intense and ethereal vibe in the room, and I sat in awe watching all kinds of bodies rocking the runway.

Model Jordyn Woods walks in the Chromat show. (Photo: Getty Images)

Next up, Christian Siriano. Sitting in Pier 59 with celebrities and icons for the exquisite show and meeting the designer afterward was unreal. Backstage was a small room packed with hundreds of people after the show, and for a few minutes his attention was all mine. He told me how much he cared about celebrating the beauty in every kind of body, and I’ll never forget that. I also met Leslie Jones, and I can promise you that meeting her was as fun as you’d imagine!

Popular plus-size mall brand Torrid showed at Fashion Week with curvy models. (Photo: Getty Images)

Addition Elle and Torrid were the two shows that moved me more than I realized they would. It was much like theCURVYcon, where everywhere you looked there were plus-size people gathering and laughing while dressed to the nines. I was lucky enough to be able to go backstage for Torrid before and after the show, and everyone was so kind, especially the models. I got to pick their brains about how they learned to love their bodies and about how they deal with bullying and trolls.

The shows themselves were indescribable, and it’s like I could feel the music in my bones. I saw thighs and arms and hips that looked like mine. I saw power going up and down the runway, and I can honestly say that most of us left those rooms more enriched than before we walked in.

To say that I was nervous to attend New York Fashion Week is a severe understatement. The only illustration I had of it was what I had seen on television and in movies, and even then, it’s intimidating. I imagined that rows and rows of the most beautiful and highly regarded people in the industry would be there, silently judging me because I didn’t look like them. I was afraid that I would walk into a room and that heads would turn to me for all the wrong reasons. I, of course, didn’t want this to happen but had come to terms with the fact that it very well could.

Ashley Graham walks in the Addition Elle show at New York Fashion Week. (Photo: @nyfw/Instagram)

So before every show I gave myself a silent pep talk about how I was going to be just fine and to not take it personally if someone was cruel.

What I found, show after show? Not a single person looked at me any differently than anyone else. I was in entirely straight-size shows like Vivienne Hu, and although I was one of the only plus-size people in the room, there wasn’t so much as a quick side-eye toward me. I was blown away.

I got so many compliments on my outfits or my makeup or my hair, each time making my love of the fashion world grow stronger. When I would mingle around backstage, weaving in and out of thin bodies, you would have thought that it would be so uncomfortable or overwhelming, and it wasn’t at all.

Even though the fashion world has so far to go, there really is more room for us than we realize.

There were countless other shows, interviews, backstages, friends, laughs, and tears that week. There was so much more about my time there that I could detail for you, but it’s so hard to put into words. It’s like trying to describe the feelings of falling in love or winning first prize in something you’ve worked so hard for. You can try to assemble sentences in an attempt to capture these feelings, but you’ll come up short.

I have always been and will always be my own worst critic. I constantly look for ways I could have done something better, and for the first time, I can say I’m truly proud of myself. I was so scared to go to New York (for the first time ever!), scared to be vulnerable in rooms full of fashion’s finest, and so scared to be open and honest with y’all about just how raw this all made me feel.

But I did it, and I can’t wait to do it again and again.

I can only hope that my experiences can give other plus-size people some hope that there really is so much more about us than our bodies. We’re dynamic and strong, powerful and capable, and we deserve to be heard just like anyone else. There’s so much in store for us, not only in fashion but in society.

My dreams came true in New York, and I’m eager to go back. Thank you for coming with me.

See more of Natalie Hage’s adventures at Fashion Week: