Brazilian bombshell Fluvia Lacerda is known as the “plus-size version of Gisele Bündchen”. Lacerda, 36, was born in Rio de Janeiro, and moved to New York in 2002 to study languages.

She says her modelling career happened by chance.

“It all started about 15 years ago. I was catching a cross-city bus in New York one afternoon on my way home from work. I was working as a nanny at the time and was in my jeans, T-shirt and sneakers, a normal day for me.

“A lady approached me on the bus and asked me what size I dressed.

“I thought, ‘What? Who asks that on a bus?!’ But she seemed so sincere and truly interested that I indulged her.

“I asked her why and she said that she worked at a fashion magazine and that I had the perfect figure, hair and face for plus-size modelling.

“Okay, my first reaction was: ‘There’s such a thing as plus-size modelling’. She gave me her business card with the names of a few modelling agents on the back of it and that was that.

“It took me about a month to finally make the move and call them, but the important thing is that I did, and I’ve never looked back.”

Today, Lacerda has a social media following of more than 200 000 thanks to the many fashion campaigns she fronts.

“I’m a brand ambassador for Kiabi (Europe), Melinde (Brazil), Carmakoma (Denmark) and most recently, Donna (South Africa).

“I do model for other brands from all around the world but these are the brands I’m contracted to.”

Last year she launched her own lingerie label, Fluvia Lacerda Lingerie, a premium plus-size label that includes a signature swimwear collection about to launch its second season.

At the beginning of this year, she accepted a contract to write her biography with one of the largest publishing houses in Latin America.

Lacerda is known around the globe for being an outspoken activist against body-shaming and gives advice to those experiencing body image issues.

“The biggest hurdle has been breaking stereotypes about plus-size women and that they cannot or shouldn’t be fashionable.

“The days of wearing over-sized men’s T-shirts are over, ladies. No more hiding, let’s flaunt it!”

She is passionate about trendy clothing in larger sizes that allow women to dress in a feminine, beautiful, powerful, seductive and sexy way if they choose.

“When I was young there was no one to look up to, in all honesty. If I had to name one role model, though, I would say that Sophia Loren epitomised infinite beauty to me. Full-bodied, robust and sexy.

“Plus-size fashion remains a niche, but it is growing around the world. The reality on the streets still doesn’t correspond to what the fashion world supplies.

“Brands need to consider more variety in terms of plus-size fashion. Simple business: supply needs to meet demand.

“Young girls should question ‘the rules’. Why should these proverbial rules change your priorities? Who are these people who create these rules.

“Who are these people to tell you how to live your life? Live your life to the fullest and be grateful for the body you have. You only have one life, it is too short to worry about what other people think. When someone criticises what you look like, the problem is often with them and not with you.”

In April, Lacerda joined local plus-size fashion brand Donna (formerly known as Donna Claire) as its spokeswoman in an effort to help plus-sized women across South Africa feel more confident and beautiful regardless of their size.

“I feel honoured to be able to be a voice for women and to change women’s ideas of their own self-worth.”

Her advice to others?

“Live every day like it’s your last. Do to others as you would like done to you. Wake up grateful to be alive. Have wine every week!”

She adds: “I live on my bicycle, I seriously do. I even go to fashion shoots on my bike in New York. I do Bikram yoga… it kills me but it’s so good for me and I feel like a million bucks after that.”

● Social media information for Fluvia Lacerda:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/fluvialacerdaofficial

Instagram: www.instagram.com/fluvialacerda

Twitter: www.twitter.com/fluvialacerda

Blog: https://fluvialacerdablog.wordpress.com/

YouTube video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPpGkkLCqok