Claremont resident Lyle Curry (34) has been chosen to participate in South Africa’s first completely plus-size male fashion show at the Radisson RED Hotel, V&A Waterfront, on Wednesday 27 November.
He, along with 12 other full-figured men, will model a new plus-size men’s range designed by a secret designer. They were picked from about 60 candidates who attended the open casting call held at the hotel on Saturday 9 November.
The task to select the most fabulous of them all fell on the shoulders of six judges: Curve model Candice Manuel, director of Fusion Model Management Fiona Craig, creative director of Tramps Mary Reynolds (who will also be producing and directing the fashion show), marketing director at RED Sue Levy, director of Ice Genetics Donné Le Grange, and – of course – the mystery designer himself.
Initially, Levy explains, the plan was to select only 12 from the pool of semi-finalists.
“However, it was simply too difficult to decide on only 12 and eventually the mystery designer was persuaded to include one more look,” Levy says.
The fashion show is part of the #PlusIsEqual campaign which aims to raise awareness around body positivity among plus-size men. Curry is completely behind the body positivity cause.
“I’m a feminist who wants to challenge toxic masculinity (TM), which I feel has some roots in self-hatred in certain men. And one of the ways we can tackle TM is to show the men out there that you are more than just your body. You are a whole person with thoughts, ideas and dreams,” he says.
Discounting the time he was crowned Mr Springfair in his matric year, Curry is a stranger to the catwalk. He is much more used to spending time in a lab, pursuing his PhD in Medical Virology at the University of Cape Town.
He says his wife, Ruby Bunjun, told him to enter “because she says I’m hot”.
“In the end, I decided to enter because I had nothing to lose if I didn’t get picked,” he says.
Curry admits he was nervous at the open casting before he had to go into the hall with the selection panel.
“I asked the ‘helper elves’ (Nikki and Sean) three times what to do. I don’t remember feeling anything once I got into the room and started walking. But I felt very comfortable talking to the panel.”
His wife was ecstatic when he called her to tell her he was one of the finalists.
“Ruby was squealing on the phone when I told her. Afterwards, when she had calmed down, she said, ‘I told you they’d pick you’. All my friends are being very supportive, telling me not to forget them when I’m famous. My mom (Karen Bagarette) was very excited.”
The self-confessed nerdy gamer says he is nervously excited about the upcoming fashion show. “I didn’t think what I was auditioning for was this big, the first plus-size men’s fashion show. Wow! What did I get myself into? I feel grateful to be a part of this movement.”
Body positivity among plus-size men is slowly gaining momentum, highlighting the need for change in the fashion industry.
Curry says there is a lack of well-fitting, plus-size clothes in South Africa.
“I have my own sense of style. My most favourite clothing items are those my wife bought me overseas. She goes to international conferences a few times a year and buys T-shirts for me. I find the American sizes fit me better.”
The fashion show will be a by-invitation-only event and will be attended by celebrities, personalities, influencers, modelling agents, potential buyers, stakeholders and the media.
Levy explains the event is not a competition so there won’t be any prizes or first, second or third positions. “The #PlusIsEqual campaign aims to mobilise clothing brands to consider plus-size men’s fashion as part of their offerings. Once this happens the demand for plus-size male models will inevitably increase.”
She says, at the open casting call, several of the semi-finalists were given cards by a few modelling agents.
“It is hoped that this will lead to them being booked and launching their careers,” Levy says.