She’s the 5ft 5in tall, size 26 model who everyone’s talking about. But life wasn't always easy for plus-sized beauty Tess Holliday...


Now she’s an internationally successful model, going by the name Tess Holliday, who has inspired countless women to celebrate their looks with her #effyourbeautystandards campaign. But born Ryann Hoven, in small town Mississippi, the young Tess Holliday didn’t have things easy.

Bullied at school for being overweight and having pale skin, Tess didn’t even get respite at home.

She’s said that her father would belittle her too, calling her fat. Tess’s parents split, then, when Tess was 9, more tragedy struck her family.

Her mother was shot twice in the head by a violent partner. She survived but it left her temporarily paralysed, and facing years of physio and pain.

After the attack, Tess and her family had to move into a trailer behind her grandparents’ house. It became just another thing that Tess was bullied about.

The torment from her classmates meant Tess dropped out of school at 16, with the hope that there was more to life than her small town could offer.

A year before she’d auditioned for a modelling job but was told that she was too short and – then a UK size 20 – too fat, even to work as a plus-size model. So her dreams went on hold – for a while.

Tess Holliday


By the age of 20, Tess was a young, single mum to her little boy Riley, working in Walmart.

She has said it was Riley’s arrival which gave her the push she needed to live her dreams as a model, saying: ‘Having him pushed me to fight for what I wanted even more.’

Leaving Mississippi, she moved first to Seattle, and then to LA – where Tess was finally discovered. Having posted her picture on website ModelMayhem, she was approached by the producers of a documentary called Heavy, and became the face of the show.

After that things took off for Tess. Her pictures have appeared in Vogue Italia, and the front cover of People magazine. Now a successful working model, she’s signed to London-based agency Milk Model Management, and is their first model over a size 20. She’s currently modelling a range for Yours Clothing.

Part of Tess’s success has to be down to her incredible social media following. On her Instagram account, she shares photos and promotes her message of body positivity with over 850k followers. And she’s not offended by being called fat. ‘It’s a word. It’s an adjective. And I don’t care,’ she’s been quoted as saying.

Now Tess lives in LA with her fiance Nick Holliday. She uses his surname, though they’re not yet married.

Still just 29, Tess has had her share of drama. Is that what’s made her into the outspoken, confident role model to so many?

Her website says: Tess is proof that determination, relentlessness, and positivity can look beautiful on anyone, and that there is a wonderful life past a size 20.

Looking at Tess’s success, it’s hard not to agree.


Are you a fan of Tess Holliday? Let us know in the comments box below!