DESTINED FOR FAME : Charnelle Paulse is one of SA’s most recognisable models. She is also one of the faces of Australian Swimwear brand called, Lilly & Lime, left. Picture: Marnus Meyer
Charnelle Paulse has been modelling for five years but says it’s only this year, that people are starting to understand and respect plus-size models as part of the modelling industry.

Gerry Cupido chats to this Cape Town-based model about her rise in what’s seen to be a niche in the competitive modelling world.

One of South Africa’s most recognisable plus-size model, 32-year-old Paulse is best known as the face of Donna (previously Donna Claire) as well as the work she’s done with the Edgars plus-size label Penny C. Online clothing shoppers would recognise her as one of the plus-size models for Spree, Zando and Superbalist.

Last year, she was the first plus-size model to appear on the cover of Foschini Club Magazine. Internationally, Paulse is one of the faces of Australian Swimwear brand called, Lilly & Lime.

Picture: Supplied/ Marnus Meyer


Looking back over the past five years she believes that she’s been the pioneer of the curve industry in South Africa. That there was no one to look up to or a role model that she aspired to follow.

Even though her friends and family couldn’t understand why she wanted to pursue this career, she knew she was destined for it. She speaks to us about being a plus-size model and some the people she looks up to.

How the does the modelling industry define or label a model as “plus-size”?

I hate labelling things or people. I personally don’t like being called a plus-size model. But in the industry it’s when you considered not a “skinny” model and in South Africa that would be when you’re a size 12 to 18.

Picture: Supplied/ Marnus Meyer


What have the highlights of your career been this far?

Being the face of Donna for the past three years now. They are the biggest plus-size retail brand in this country. As well as working with Donna’s creative director, Tania Rossouw. She believed in me when there were times that I didn’t believe in myself. She has helped me in so many ways in my career.

Then there was my first cover shoot for Foschini magazine last year. I was the first plus-size model to appear on their cover.

Which women inspire you and who do you consider to be your role models?

Different woman inspire me in different ways. I feel inspiration is everywhere, all the time, from Bonang Matheba who has worked extremely hard to be a dynamic powerhouse in this country, to Oscar award-winning Charlize Theron who was born and bred here but has made her mark and earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But who always stands out is my mother-in-law Dawn Paulse. She is a strong, humble and God-fearing woman who always puts her family first. If it’s not a recipe I’m learning from her, or a joke or two, it’s her quiet strength that’s so admirable. Being around her is a daily reminder of the woman I would love to be.

Picture: Supplied/ Marnus Meyer


What advice do you have for young girls wanting to get into modelling?

For as long as I can remember being a model was always something I wanted to become. But growing up my body showed me that I don’t have the right build for it as I was always a little heavier than what a “normal” model should look like.

I would go on extreme diets month after month, year after year, hoping that one day I would wake up with the “perfect” body.

So my advice to any girl wanting to become a model would be, “Know who you are and have a real passion for it”.

It’s not all glitz and glamour like most girls think it is. If you want to do it for the fame or fashion you won’t last, so have a real passion and love for it. Working hard, and having patience in this industry is essential.