Katie Willcox is a woman after our own hearts—brains, beauty, and most of all, talent!
The gorgeous Californian got her start as a plus size model, but after dropping down to a size 10—totally healthy for her 5’9″ frame—Willcox was suddenly too “big” to be a regular model, but too small to be considered plus size. Frustrated by the lack of opportunity and representation in media for women of her size, Katie took a stand and created Healthy Is the New Skinny.
Since launching her brand, Willcox has written a book, created a podcast that she co-hosts with her former fit-model husband, and balanced work while being a full-time mama. We sat down with this beauty to hear about how she does it all—and what it means to be a female entrepreneur and mother.
When you work in any industry for so long, you are able to see where improvements can be made. I wanted to help make those changes using my years of experience as a working model. Having been on the other side of the industry gave me the perspective that most agency owners, model bookers, and even model scouts never get to experience. Being able to understand both sides of any market is important when creating relationships, developing new talent, and treating people well. I think for a long time, models have been treated like a revolving door and if you don’t do exactly what a client wants you take the chance of being replaced. Yes, of course there will always be new models and fresh faces coming into the industry, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t create a culture where models are treated with respect in a business relationship. Having some of those negative experiences with other agencies myself, I realized I never wanted to make other girls feel that way. I always tell them “You should never feel scared to call and talk to us.” “If you do feel that way, then something is off and we want to help.”
In 2011, I left Ford Models and opened my own agency, Natural Models Management. At the time, I began to see more stores launching plus lines and had a good feeling on where the industry was headed. I noticed there were more and more junior brands were popping up, but there really weren’t many junior plus size models. Living in Los Angeles I would see girls all the time who could be working models, but had no idea how to implement them and then it finally clicked for me. As the demand for plus size models in the junior’s market increased, I began to scout and supply that demand.
My husband Bradford and I started the agency with zero debt or investors. For three years we put all of our earnings back into the agency to continue to grow it organically. Since its incarnation, the agency has grown exponentially in models, clients, and revenue by doubling our gross earnings each year.
We realized that our skill set is scouting and developing new talent, which is extremely valuable in the industry. Because of this, we have been able to cover ground much faster because of our level of talent regardless of being a newer agency. Having been on both sides of the industry as a model and agency owner, I’ve learned that relationships are everything. I have maintained great working relationships with clients for years that now have played a huge role in our success as an agency.
It is difficult starting your own business and especially when you have a lot of people watching and waiting for you to fail. My best tactic for success has just been keeping to myself. People laughed when we first started our agency and said we wouldn’t make it. Despite the naysayers, I stayed in my own lane, stayed out of gossip, and let my success speak for itself. It’s important to just trust your vision and focus on what you are creating.
People would be surprised to know that everything is done online! People have approached us for reality shows about our agency and we laugh because we are like, “all you will see is people on the computer and on the phone here and there.” The industry is almost completely digital! That is great for my busy schedule and being a mom because I can work from anywhere. It isn’t glamorous, but most hard work isn’t and that is okay as long as it gets done!
I don’t! LOL (And anyone who says they do is lying). We are experiencing a new generation of female entrepreneurs who are also mothers and that’s an amazing thing! But does anyone ever really know what they are doing?
We are wingin’ it and just doing our best each day. I have a full plate but I just take things day by day and it is remarkable the amount of things you are able to accomplish when you have ambition and an amazing partner. I couldn’t do half of the things I do without the help and support of my husband. Although it is challenging we love the life we have created and being able to work together and be parents at the same time. We are a modern family and I think there are more and more families like us doing things a little differently and loving it.