A New York City photographer is defending himself after a modeling agent and former model slammed him in a TikTok post about test shoot rates with some of her clients.
Megan Mesveskas created Model Nexus after spending years trying to make it in the industry herself. When she became a manager, she prioritized building successful careers for a diverse range of bodies.
“As a model who was told she was ‘curve’ or ‘plus-size’ for eight years, I’ve suffered all kinds of humiliations in this industry,” Mesveskas told In The Know by Yahoo. “It’s my passion and drive to protect my models and help them to have the most enjoyable and successful career possible.”
Part of that process involves setting up test shoots for her models to build out their portfolios. In the TikTok she posted, Mesveskas said she reached out to a New York-based photographer, William Lords, to see if he’d be willing to work with some of her models.
In response, an unnamed representative from Lords’s office told Mesveskas the photographer has two rates for photographing models. The rate for “standard” models would be $950, but it would be $1,050 for “plus/curve” models.
“My jaw completely dropped,” Mesveskas said in the TikTok. “A curve or a plus-sized model is going to cost an extra $100. I guess he just doesn’t want to look at them through his camera.”
Mesveskas told In The Know that she did not respond to the email, and that since she posted the video — both on her TikTok account and the Model Nexus Instagram account — nobody on Lords’s team has reached out to her.
“He’s allowed to run his business however he wants … [and] I’ll run mine in a way that I feel benefits my clients,” she explained.
Lords confirmed with In The Know that those are his going rates for models. He also said that he hasn’t watched Mesveskas’s video in full, but that he had to turn off the comments on his Instagram account.
“I’ve been shooting curve models for years now,” he told In The Know. “I didn’t just add a price to photoshoot them. I do more than that.”
According to Lords, for test photoshoots, he operates as the stylist as well as the photographer, which means that he sources looks for the models. Lords said that styling plus-size models in “the coolest creative clothes” requires more work, because a lot of designers do not produce clothes in their size.
“I go out there with my own card — my debit card — to purchase clothes,” he said. “They cost almost thousands of dollars. … Because I have to work so much harder to get these clothes, I was going to charge a very low rate of $100.”
Lords said he empathized with the models because, given his own size, he has issues himself getting clothes, even occasionally settling for smaller shoe sizes.
“I’m just a young man trying to, you know, work in this industry,” he said. “I’m not the core of the fashion industry. I’m not the maker of clothes.”
Mesveskas confirmed that she was not aware that Lords also operated as the stylist on his test shoots, but that this didn’t change her outlook on the situation.
“If Lords wants to be a stylist as well as a photographer, that’s fine, but do the math on how you can charge a fair rate for everyone,” she said.
She also contested the idea that Lords is going out purchasing clothes for every model he does test shoots with.
“The idea [that] he is personally shopping for every model is funny,” she said. “A little simple math and you can figure out a fair pricing structure that doesn’t penalize women for their bodies.”
Lords maintains that he does not discriminate against plus-size or curve models and told In The Know that he’s very proud of the work he produces. He also added that while he works with publications like Vogue and celebrities like Katie Holmes, he’s still happy to set up test shoots with up-and-coming models.
“This is not about discrimination, [about the] size of women or whatever it is. I love my job. I love shooting different people,” he said. “I don’t even need to test. I do it because a lot of girls ask me.”
Lords mentioned his experience photographing plus-size models, but his photography Instagram — which has 22,000 followers and which he confirmed that he runs himself — does not highlight that work. In The Know requested samples of his previous shoots with plus-size models, which were provided over email.
Mesveskas said she never expected her video to reach as many people as it did. The Model Nexus Instagram has only 1,600 followers, mostly her clients and other aspiring models.
“I didn’t expect this would move beyond my own circle of influence,” she said. “I honestly didn’t think the greater public would be interested in this.”
Body inclusion and diversity have been major talking points in the fashion and beauty realms for years now. From 2016 to 2020, the value of the market for the U.S. plus-size apparel industry increased by $4 billion to $24 billion. But retailers are still underserving the community, and as Refinery29 reports, for some brands, “extended sizing means simply making straight-sized garments in larger sizes, a process that neglects the fact that women have different sizes and shapes.”
It’s also impossible to separate today’s options for plus-size fashion from other factors. Many ethical and sustainable clothing brands remain inaccessible to the general public, whether because of cost, because of the narrow range of sizing options, or because some brands don’t take disabilities into consideration. As they struggle to find brands with diverse sizing, some plus-size shoppers feel ashamed that they have no choice but to resort to fast fashion — because it’s their only option.
“As someone in the plus-size fashion space, it’s nerve-racking to tag the brands I’m wearing on Instagram, when I know that a majority of them are fast fashion,” Gianluca Russo, an author and fashion expert, told Refinery29. “But the truth is this: That’s all I have.”
Ultimately, Mesveskas knows that Lords represents only a small symptom of a larger problem.
“I don’t think focusing on Lords alone is helpful,” she said. “But if we can continue to shine a light on the way models deemed ‘not standard’ are treated, we can continue to chip away at the status quo.”
According to the New York Post, Lords is considering legal action against Mesveskas, although she says she still hasn’t heard either from him or his team.
Lords, on the other hand, argues that the fashion industry has bigger problems to report on TikTok than his fee of an additional $100.
“I think we all know what needs to be done. I think everybody knows what needs to be done,” he said. “People right now are talking about $100. This is not what needs to be done.”
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