Maria Merckens: Model at JAG
Maria, a model at JAG represents the ever-changing landscape of inclusivity in Fashion. JAG modeling agency was born out of necessity as co-founders Jaclyn Sarka and Gary Dakin recognized a need for an agency to celebrate and represent the diversity of beauty, regardless of a woman's size. Their models have booked major campaigns from Calvin Klein to Aerie to Lane Bryant and have appeared in Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Elle, i-D. Maria is from the Carribean, a mix of her Dutch dad and Surinamese mom. Her wit and warmth are contagious. She states below,
"That not everything is what it seems! There’s a lot that goes behind the photo you see in a magazine and even online! It’s normal these days that people edit the photos they put on social media, and I’m not just talking about filters! There’s special lighting that’s being used. There’s photoshop. There’s a hair and make-up artist. There’s a lot of thought and work that goes behind those images! When I have to model clothes that are too big for example, I wear padded underwear to fill up those pants. Or we use a few pins to make sleeves seem tighter," says Maria
Today, as a former curvy model who has lost weight it is common for her to bring padding to photo shoots in order to fill into clothes since she is neither the size of a standard Plus-size or Straight model.
Padding is commonly used in shoots "to make clothes fit snugly — much like the clothespins that are hidden out of view and used to perfect the fit of garments in high-fashion editorials" states Ben Reininga of Refinery29.
“Since all women are not created the same as the samples, sometimes you need to tweak to accentuate the garment as best as possible,” says Gary Dakin, co-founder of JAG. Especially on shoots for e-commerce, where one model could show 50 outfits in a day, he says padding is quicker and cheaper than an on-set seamstress, and it makes things fit.
Learn more about Maria in her interview below as she talks self-love, modelling, and the world of Fashion.
How did you fall upon your career and makes you love what you do?
I was scouted back when I was living in the Caribbean. At first I was a bit hesitant. I had an amazing life on St. Maarten and wasn’t very keen on leaving my beautiful island to go to NYC. After some convincing I went after all and haven’t regretted it a single day! So many cool opportunities are coming my way and I get to meet all these amazing people and travel to so many amazing places!
What are you currently most excited about?
What would you tell yourself when you were younger and/or what advice would you give other women?
That everything will fall into it’s place. Every now and then I get super nervous about what I will do next. Am I following the right path? Am I doing the right thing? If I could give my younger self some advise, I would tell her to just go with it. You will find your way and you will be extraordinary!
Is there something you were self-conscious about when you were younger and have learned to embrace today?
Not really to be honest. I’ve always been a bigger girl and recently lost quite some weight, making me smaller than I was very comfortably being. I felt good about myself then and I feel good about myself now. The only difference being that I’ve become totally addicted to working out - I know… cliche… But it’s the truth!!! I love going to the gym and lifting weights, but I also enjoy fried dough with powdered sugar.. Did I mention I just went to New Orleans?? Soooo many beignets! <3 Balance is key!
What do you love about lingerie?
I love wearing something sneaky that nobody knows about, hihihi! You can wear an outfit that is very simple and not show any skin, but feel a bit naughty, because only you know you are wearing something incredibly sexy underneath!
What would you like to share to consumers about what goes behind photoshoots.
How do you feel when clients alter your image? Is it something you have control over?
I don’t have control over it yet. I think that the more well known you are the more power you have over it. It’s a shame that everything has to be perfect all the time and that we see “flaws” as something bad. Thankfully there are amazing brands - like Aerie for example - who do not photo shop their images. Or Diesel who is currently embracing imperfection in their latest campaign. This is amazing and I think more brands should do this.
What does your agency/client request of you that may seem out of the normal?
Honestly, I’m really lucky so far! I’ve worked with amazing clients and my agents around the world are incredible!! No horror stories so far!! I’m so lucky to be supported by so many people that accept me the way I am! Most out of the normal would be the whole padding thing I suppose. People always react surprised when I tell them I have to wear them every now and then. I understand, it’s very strange to grasp that we make models look bigger. Would be a lot cooler if we accepted every body the way it is! But there’s a big body positivity movement going on at the moment. We are getting there!!