Who is Jilla Tequila, the Top who normalizes the “real size” on the catwalk?

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Jill Kortleve, aka Jilla Tequila, is 28 years old and comes from the Netherlands. She has been storming the catwalks of the world for more than three years: Alexander McQueen, Versace, Mugler, Jacquemus and Chanel. The world has made her a symbol of Body Positivism as she is one of the rare models whose measurements do not fit the criteria of modelling and yet are representative of the average size of women.

Let’s face it: Jilla Tequila is not a “Plus Size” model as many media outlets like to call her. Moreover, this term, which accentuates differences, should not be used for her size 40 (the average size of French women according to the French Fashion Institute), as for any other. This top model does indeed go against the established standards of beauty in the fashion world, but it’s high time they were shattered. This is what the agency, The Movement Models, launched by one of her best friends and in which Jilla Kortleve signed her first contract, is doing. Her philosophy? “Health over Shape, Potential over Pigment, Identity over Gender, Muses over Measurement, Equality over Diversity”.

Born in Heerlen in the south of the Netherlands, Jill Kortleve, who has no less than 4 origins (Dutch, Surinamese, Indonesian and Indian), first seduced the Nike brand thanks to her great beauty and her self-confidence. “I grew up in a small town in the south of Holland where I always felt that I had to dress a certain way to fit in and for people to like me. It took me about 22 years to realise that I was in control of my own life. I made a big decision in my work – which was to stop focusing on my body weight,” she explained in an interview.

She then went on to do campaigns with Diesel, H&M, Zara, Mango before finally being cast by the luxury houses at the end of 2018. It was with Alexander McQueen that she walked the catwalks of Paris Fashion Week for the first time exclusively. She was then signed by several agencies around the world, represented by Women Management. Since then, she has been one of the most popular faces in the fashion industry. Versace chose her to walk in the Spring-Summer 2021 show alongside Precious Lee and Alva Claire after 40 years of invisibilisation of bodies other than size 34 or 36. Chanel also invited her to its Autumn-Winter 2020/21 show after waiting 10 years to break out of the norm again. In 2011, the Chanel cruise show in Saint Tropez featured model Crystal Renn, who wore a size 44.

Since then, Jilla has appeared on just about every fashion magazine cover, including the very select Vogue, from France to Spain and the UK to the US. But the cover that will have the most impact is certainly the one of the Russian Vogue of last November, which highlights the sublime model, naked and unretouched, thus showing the folds of her skin and her stretch marks. Commonplace you may ask? Yes, but much less so in an environment that still struggles to be fair in its representations.

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