My name is Sonya Dias. I am a presenter and talk show host in the Netherlands. When I was asked by REglam to interview someone I thought was inspiring, the first person that came to my mind was Gisela Machado. Why? She is so much more than a plus size model. She is an example of someone who chose for herself and by doing so she helped so many others. Gisela and I have a lot in common. We both have Capeverdean roots and we are both strong willed curvy women who have taken it upon us to show the world that Capverdean women are not only beautiful but also very smart.
Gisela Rocha Machado is an international plus size model. This curvy and exotic beauty was born on the Cape Verde Island and raised in the Netherlands, won the profile pic contest Style & Curve, was featured in Plus Model Magazine and did fashion shows & campaign shoots including a campaign for famous Dutch designer Mart Visser. She works for Maxi Me Models and recently joined D&A Model Management.
- You were born on the Cape Verde Islands raised in the Netherlands. How where you as a young girl growing up between two cultures?
Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to become a dancer. I loved the camera. Whenever there was a camera nearby I would stand in front of it. When I look back at old photos and videos I feel a little embarrassed because of this. I always was the curvy girl. When I became a teenager I was constantly confronted with being big. I was always focused on losing weight. I changed from the happy little girl who always wanted to be in front of the camera into the girl who lived in her own little world. On the internet and in the magazines everybody was thin and that had a huge impact on my self-esteem. It became so bad that I developed a non-defined eating disorder that was a cross between binge-eating and bulimia. I was a secret eater and when I craved food I would go by all the big fast-food chains to get it. I became very depressed and my self-esteem dropped.
Ultimately I needed therapy to overcome my eating disorder and my depressions. You have to understand that going into therapy is not usual whit in the Cape Verdean community. “Only crazy people need therapy” is what people usually say. I went to the Ready for Change clinic which is an addiction clinic and it helped me so much! I even got my entire family to go in to a family therapy. Since then my relationship with my parents, especially my mom has become stronger! Things that I could not discuss with my mother before are now talked about openly. The relationship with my two elderly sisters also changed drastically. I changed from the baby sister who needed to be taken care of in to the sister who they look up to because I had the courage to break the family cycle.
- When and how did your striking appearance become your strength?
Everything changed after I went to therapy. I learned to appreciate myself the way I am. And I learned to control my addictions. The most important lesson was self-knowledge and the trick is to be smart and not strong. That meant I had to avoid the places where there was junk food available. So going nearby a Mac Donald’s or KFC was not possible, because I knew that this would make it very difficult for me to not go and eat there. Now, I know the strength of affirmation. Every day I stand in front of the mirror and tell myself that I am beautiful. I know that nobody is perfect so it has no purpose to look for perfection. We are all people and we are all equal. I am glad I have the realization that I am beautiful the way I am. Remarks used to make me insecure about myself, but now they don’t have that impact on me anymore. I feel pity for the people who put others down because it says something about them. I only wish that people would stop with the negativity and focus on the positive things.
- How did you become a plus size model?
I saw the Maxi Me Models ad on Facebook a couple of years ago. They were looking for plus size models. At first I was rejected, but after two years I got a message. They wanted me to audition for them and I got in. And now I am Mart Visser’s muse in the campaign for the warehouse V&D! This is an accomplishment that I did not think was possible a few years ago!
- What’s the secret to becoming a successful model?
I do not consider myself a successful model yet. I have many goals to achieve, but I am working on it! If you ask me the secret of success, I would have to say: If you have a goal, just believe in yourself and go for it! Follow your intuition and do a lot of networking.
- You’ve joined D&A Model Management that’s a huge accomplishment. How does it feel to be part of this international agency?
“Yes, thank the lord for mama Africa!” I did not have the opportunity to go to America yet. I got invited but I had a big assignment in the Netherlands, so I choose to stay here. But now it is ecstasy to the max!! Shortly I will shoot a new casting video and portfolio for D&A Model Management.
- I read an article about a girl who had a 16,5 BMI (19 is considered minimal to be healthy) yet the modelling agencies did not book her because they found her too fat. What would you like to say to agencies that work with size zero models only?
This literally makes me nauseous. I want to ask these people: Don’t you have children? Don’t you have a conscience? Do you have any idea what this does to the self-esteem of these models? How do you sleep? Maybe you should go into therapy! This is my message: “You can change the world and you should make an example by using models of different shapes and sizes!”
If you enjoyed this article, please check out: Can You Recover From Assault & Anorexia? Neesha Arther Speaks Out, From An Eating Disorder to Plus Size Modelling, and DiversAbility. The fashion world needs a radical change