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20 QUESTIONS with The ORIGINAL Runway Diva & Rasha Spindel-Chapman
1) When did you originally begin your career as a plus sized model and what agency were you signed with then?
I started my plus size modeling career in January 2003 in Portland, Oregon, when I signed with Q6 Model & Artist Management.. A few months later I signed with Seattle Models Guild. They are the two top fashion agencies in the Pacific Northwest. My sister, Yvette, a (size 2) model took me to her agent (Q6) in Portland, and they wanted to represent me within my first few weeks of moving back to Portland from L.A. and Honolulu. I had no luck finding an agent in L.A. and Honolulu, after being told that I was too big for the Plus market in those cities. - It was the exact opposite in Portland & Seattle.
2) What kind of success did you have when you first began your career as a plus sized model?
My very first job was a runway show for Nordstrom, and it was a blast! It was an all-plus-model show, and it felt so amazing to be around so many beautiful, and curvy women. I soon began working consistently for many clients like Nordstrom (Runway), Fred Meyer (Print), Macy's (Runway), and BAUXAL (Print). I was one of the only Plus-Sized Blondes in the market, so I got all of the work that was out there for a specialty size. Soon, the clients would start requesting me through Q6, and I started to build a solid client base.
3) How did you meet your husband, Edwin Chapman?
I actually met Edwin the first time I moved to Portland from my hometown of Honolulu in 1997. It was my senior year of high school, and I met him at a small get-together of a mutual friend. We dated for a few months when I was 18 years old, and he was even my Prom Date!!! Edwin knew from the start that we were supposed to be together, even telling me, "I am going to marry you one day!" That freaked me out, so I ended up breaking his heart, and moving to Los Angles. A few years later I was bored one day at work (this was before I became a Plus-Size Model - I was working in Sales at the beautiful Renaissance Hollywood Hotel @ Hollywood & Highland and I googled "Edwin Chapman" - and I found him! Over 4 years after we had dated! He just happened to be coming to L.A. for a business trip, and the rest is history. We did the long distance thing for a few months, were engaged right away, and I decided to move back to Portland to be with him, and honestly because I was so happy to have the opportunity to be a Plus-Size Model. While I lived in L.A., I went on 1 Casting Call in all 4 years I was there!!! Edwin and I were engaged for over 3 years (we postponed the wedding to film "The Biggest Loser").
4) One of the biggest misconceptions about being a plus sized model is that you have free pass to eat whatever you like. Now you and I both know that’s not true at all…Can you describe the “unhealthy lifestyle” that you mentioned living in your bio?
When I first became a Plus-Size Model, I did eat whatever I wanted, and Edwin did right along with me. I thought that I had free range to do so, because I was selling "big & beautiful". We ate any and everything, and never worked out, other than my playing softball. I became so lazy playing ball that I would hit home runs so that I didn't have to run around the bases. It was that bad. I just felt lethargic from eating too much junk, and not being active enough.
5) What was the turning point for you? Can you remember the exact moment you decided to change your unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one?
I honestly remember watching the first season of "The Biggest Loser", and identifying with every single cast member on that show. I had been hiding behind "my plus-sized-beauty" for so long. I remember breaking down into tears, and realizing that I wanted to change my life. I didn't want to be skinny (I never have been), I wanted to be healthy. The exact moment that made me decide to send the audition tape in was when I saw Bob Harper (my soon-to-be Blue Team trainer) on the show, telling Mo that anything was possible, and Mo was well-over 400 pounds! It was the first time I had seen people like me on TV (Fat Chance hadn't aired yet).
6) What was life like for you growing up as a plus sized child in Hawaii?
First of all, I already stood out, because, despite my melting pot of different nationalities in my background, I am the lightest in my family. Standing at 5 foot 8 was a giant in Hawai‘i, and then to add on the fact that I had friends who came from mostly Asian backgrounds, I looked enormous next to them. My sister and I are as physically different as possible - and although she was always the skinny one, it was my sister who always kept my spirits up by recognizing my beauty. -But I always stuck out. My boyfriends were always darker, and so much smaller than me. I know I got started with dating early, because I thought that by dating lots of guys meant that I was beautiful, and it gave me self-worth (I know now that was ridiculous!)
7) Aside from your family, what kind of positive role models were there for you to look up to growing up?
I've wanted to be a Superstar as long as I can remember, but I never really had anyone that I truly identified with as a celebrity. No one really even remotely looked like me. -That's why my role-model was my sister.
8) I see that you have dreams of becoming the next “plus sized supermodel”, I have heard this phrase before – can you tell who YOU think the last “Plus Sized Supermodel” was/is?
The last one? - Hmmmm, I'd say Emme, Kate Dillon, or Mia Tyler. Where has Emme been???
9) What size were you at the beginning of the show?
I was a size 18
10) What size did you get down to by the show’s end?
11) What size are you currently?
14/16 (and I am sooooooooo much happier)
12) In what way would you say the “media interest’ in your career has helped you? Or has it hurt you?
The media interest, without a doubt, has helped me. Once people found out that I was a Plus-Size Model (for whatever reasons, producers decided to not broadcast that fact when the show initially aired), the media started to love the fact that I wasn't going after an unrealistic goal of being the next skinny girl. I just wanted to be healthy, happy, and above all else, sexy in my own skin. I actually lost too much weight after the show for my liking, and my clients' liking (even after gaining back a few pounds, I still have not done any Runway, only Print - I was told by Macy's a few weeks ago that I was too small - HOW CRAZY IS THAT!!!) I feel happy in my own skin now. NBC is now very proud of the fact that I am a Plus-Size Model, and they are always looking out for media outlets for me.
13) As a reality show alumnus myself, I very am curious as to how “Overnight Celebrity” has changed your life?
I remember one of the creators of the show taking me aside before we started taping and said to me, "Rasha, your life will forever be 'before The Biggest Loser, and after The Biggest Loser, it will never be the same” -and boy, was he right! People come up to me every day, and ask me, "weren't you on 'The Biggest Loser?", and I love it, because, like "Fat Chance", you and I have inspired people. At first when I had gained back some weight, I was afraid of what the public might think, and then I realized how "real" it is. I am beautiful just the way I am, but most importantly, I am happy. The best part about the Celebrity Status is that when I go home to Hawai'i, I am embraced with open arms wherever I go. They are very proud that I am a Hawaiian girl. I am even on the list of "Famous Hawaiians", right next to Bette Midler. :)
14) History has shown us that as quickly as the media can “make” your career, they can “break” it twice as fast. Since you lost a considerable amount of weight, do you find the media and/or your fans either consciously or unconsciously trying to monitor every morsel of food you put in your mouth these days?
Everyone always watches what I eat, and especially what I put into my shopping cart at the grocery store. If they catch me having a cheat day, I tell them that I am human, and that I am going to work it off the next day. I am not about depriving myself. One of my good friends, Devin Alexander, who co-authored "The Biggest Loser Cookbook" that came out a few weeks ago (Edwin and I have recipes in her book as well) has been helping me with making healthier versions of the "bad foods" I love - like cupcakes. :)
15) Please explain how the media has taken a “special interest” in your career?
I think I have been focused on more than many of the other stars of the show because even as a model, I represent so many women (and men) out there that are not a size 2, and I still consider myself beautiful. I was taught by my multi-cultural family at a very young age to accept everyone for who they are, no matter what color, what sex, what sexual preference they have, what religion they are, or even what size they are. I feel that being a Plus-Size Model breaks down so many stereo types. No one can look at me, and read me like a book. I am unique, and I love that! :)
16) What kind of clients and/or work have you gotten with your newfound plus sized celebrity model status?
IGIGI (the most amazing clothes ever - so sexy!) has been so good to me, I've started shooting lots of editorial work in Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and I am constantly doing press for "The Biggest Loser" as it airs in different countries (I did over 10 hours of phone interviews with all of the Australian Media Outlets a few weeks ago), and all of them primarily focused on my career as a Plus-Size Model. I have been on lots of TV Shows, like "The Tyra Banks Show", "The Today Show", "Inside Edition" (they filmed our wedding in Honolulu), "AM Northwest", and many other shows, and it's all about the modeling. :) - and who can forget about booking the cover of Plus Model Magazine right now?! ;)
17) As an Olympic worthy athlete, you HAD to have been in awesome shape! Was it an injury that caused you to forgo working out? Or was it something else?
That's the funny part, I wasn't in awesome shape, but I was a phenomenal softball player. My speed (or lack there of) was my only downfall. I trained with a celebrity trainer in L.A., but tore all the ligaments in my ankle before my final try-out for the Olympic Softball Team, and I just gave up. -But I am a firm believer that "everything happens for a reason", and I soon found Edwin again after my injury, and became a Plus-Size Model, and did the show, etc., etc., etc....
18) Are you still pursuing a career as an entertainer, as well as a model?
Yes. I just completed filming my first (very small) movie role opposite Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear, and Selma Blair in "The Feast of Love" playing a softball player - what a stretch, huh? I am picking back up with theater as well, and I will be going into the recording studio to record with my Dad in Honolulu. I have been singing since I could breathe. -But, honestly, my bheart, and soul is being a Plus-Size Model. I love that it is my stepping stone for so much more. I have always wanted to make a difference in the world. I want to inspire people from all walks of life, and tell them that DREAMS REALLY DO COME TRUE!!!
19) What’s the best part of your new found celebrity for you?
I am SO PROUD to say that I am a Plus-Size Model. I am proud to say that I accomplishing my dreams. I am proud to represent my beautiful home of Hawai'i by spreading aloha (love). The best part is touching peoples' lives. Just a few weeks ago, I was recognized by a beautiful plus-size woman working in the Coach Store. I was just in a tank top, and black pants, with cute sandals on. I had no make-up on (I rarely wear it when I'm not working), and just felt like it was a casual day. She told me that I was beautiful, and that I had just inspired her to show her arms, and she hadn't done so in years. I know it's small, but it felt so good. I told her that she was gorgeous, and that she should OWN IT!!!
20) What’s up next for Rasha?
It looks like I will be traveling non-stop for the next few months. I've been back-and-forth to Honolulu, L.A. and San Francisco, and will be on my way to New York soon. I am in talks to sign with Wilhelmina NY (fingers crossed), and if that doesn't happen, I will conquer the world another way. I have been approached to go to Germany to model there. My goal is to sign deals with big clients, like Lane Bryant, Just My Size, Torrid, anyone with a positive message. On the home front, I have promised my family that I will sing more, and write more (maybe a book?), and I need to sneak in a few extra kisses for my husband, since I haven't seen him a whole bunch since my career has started to blossom. We're newlyweds, so we have a puppy named Stitch, and maybe we'll have a pup, or two of our own in a few years. Whatever happens, I know my life has only just begun.
It takes a small beginning to make a successful or great future.
Miss Sharon Quinn