A plus-size model has a career similar to any model, in that he or she appears in advertisements to model products, clothing or other items. The distinction exists, however, because plus-size models are not as small in size as other models. The specific definition of plus size varies and there is no uniform agreement as to exactly what size a model must be to be considered plus size; some believe that a model who wears a size 12 or larger is plus size while others believe that size 18 is the minimum size the model can wear to be considered a plus-size model.
Models in general serve a variety of functions. They may appear in fashion shows and magazines to demonstrate and sell clothing. They may also appear in other forms of advertising, such as newspaper ads, billboard ads, calendars or even television commercials. They do not necessarily have to be selling clothing, but may be selling other products by appearing in an ad campaign with those products.
A plus-size model will engage in all of these similar activities. They may model plus-sized or larger clothes for designers to sell the cloths, or they may simply act as a brand image in an ad for any type of product. Most commonly, plus-size models appear in special categories or ads targeted toward selling plus-sized fashion. They tend to do less general-purpose modeling to advertise other products, although some believe this is beginning to shift as culture becomes more accepting of different definitions of beauty.
Plus-size models have long experienced a disadvantage or discrimination within the fashion industry and the modeling industry. While in the Middle Ages, fuller figured women were considered to be most beautiful — and curves were even considered a good thing as late as the 1950s when Marilyn Monroe's somewhat voluptuous figure was considered the icon of female sexuality — there was a shift toward appreciating thinness that began to appear, especially within the American culture. As this occurred, many of the fashion agencies and magazines turned toward slimmer models to act as mainstream models and advertise the majority of products. Generally, a plus-size model thus had to work with agencies that focused on this type of model or primarily advertised for stores such as Lane Bryant that targeted plus-size clothing.
As culture shifts again toward greater acceptance and less discrimination, a plus-size model may experience more career opportunities. Many famous plus-size models have found themselves adorning magazine covers or being hired as spokesmodels for products. Barbara Brickner, for example, is a famous plus-size model who appeared in numerous magazines, including Glamour and Women's World.