Arcadio Del Valle, who weighs over 400 pounds, was once so ashamed of his weight that he avoided his passion for fashion – but he has now carved a successful career as a plus-sized model. As he wears a quintuple-XL (XXXXXL) in clothing, Arcadio Del Valle, 30, had once let his large frame hold him back from taking charge of what he loves to do but has recently been the center stage for body types that don’t get equal representation.
Two years ago, Del Valle was just a regular guy who lived in Boston, working a nine-to-five job. However, after setting up an Instagram account and sharing photos of his risky outfits and revealing images of his 400-pound body, he quickly began catching the eyes of big and tall men’s brands.
With social media posts pushing against the norms of fashion and encouraging other plus-sized men to be proud of what they look like, he was soon contacted and scouted. This gave him an opportunity to take part in the first plus-sized male runway show at New York Fashion Week.
“I hesitated at first,” Del Valle tells Lifestyle. He was curious about the offer, but with no experience in the industry, he was unsure what to think about the intentions of and proposition by the brand. “I’m a 400-pound guy. I’m no model, but they loved my look and style, so I said yes and said, ‘The heck with it; I got nothing to lose.’”
The 30-year-old’s career has taken off since then. He has walked in several runway shows and been approached for several photo shoots for websites such as Blavity. Businesses alike are doing what they can to work with Del Valle, and other plus-sized males, to expand what it means to be a model in today’s fashion industry. A recent feature using #WeAreBigAndTall revamps the stereotypical image of beauty by recreating a Calvin Klein Ad with all plus-size male models.
While grateful to explore his own personal style with clothing made by high-end businesses, Del Valle’s main focus lies in spreading the message of body positivity and self-love. His platform as a model makes it possible for him to reach out to more people than he ever could have on his own.
Del Valle knows all too well what it’s like growing up in a world where media urges people to look a certain way to fit in, and he wants to let others know there are ways to overcome the feeling of being an outcast and judged.
“I wasn’t happy with myself growing up and in my early 20s,” Del Valle says. “When I saw people like plus-sized model Tess Holliday loving their bodies and embracing fashion, it inspired me to start doing the same.” He now hopes that he can inspire others in a similar way.
For those who struggle with self-love, the model has advice about how to conquer those insecurities: “Stop worrying what others will say or think. If we live worrying what others think of us, then we are not living for us; you’re not being yourself.”
Del Valle’s advice continues by explaining that it doesn’t matter what the first step is when it comes to fighting doubts about yourself, as long as it starts with the self in one form or another. Cut out the input that you hear from the rest of the world and take in what you want to feel and what you want to believe about yourself.
It’s only then that you can feel beautiful about your size, sexual orientation, age or any other aspect that might seem to get in the way of enjoying life.
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Taking action with his own advice in mind, Del Valle carries on spotlighting himself on social media platforms. His Instagram following is almost up to 10k and he expresses that it’s the people who back him up that have helped him to become a leading plus-sized model.
Their strength and support in his endeavors fuel his standing in the fashion world as he “saw the positive feedback and all the messages from men, women, and even teens telling [him] how much they have been inspired seeing someone of [his] size and confidence” standing loud and proud. It’s that positive feedback that keeps Del Valle doing what he’s doing.
Still, not all comments are positive and supportive. He admits that there are some Internet trolls who attack him for his size and how willing he is to reveal his curves. As he is over 400 pounds, viewers leave nasty messages going after the fact that he wears makeup while simultaneously saying that the plus-sized model is “promoting obesity and that being unhealthy is acceptable.”
Del Valle assures that that is not the case at all. Instead, he wants everyone to realize that regardless of one’s size, gender or disability, love and acceptance begins within and should be shared with all.
Saying that the body-positive movement is well on its way for women, Del Valle wants men to have more inclusion and representation in the fashion industry because “all bodies are beautiful bodies and should be part of the movement, regardless of who you are and what you look like.”
To him, there’s no shortage of how much clothing brands can embrace such an idea and calls on fashion institutes to understand acceptance. Through his own movement, Del Valle’s goal is to prove to everyone that you can “kill it and slay it” at any size.
Keeping all these thoughts in mind, Del Valle continues to grab any opportunity he can to show those inside the industry and out that he, and bigger men and women like him, are more than capable and worthy of walking on the runway stage.
He takes the doubts and bullying statements in stride and covers them up with the love and support that he gets from his followers. Big or small, the model is determined to strive for greatness and positivity for everyone, all while looking fabulous doing it.