Lights…Camera…Action! Introducing Stephanie Zehr

We are pleased to introduce you to Stephanie Zehr, BBW’s new spokesmodel. Part Steel Magnolia and part Southern Comfort, the Greenville, S.C. native has pounded the New York pavement as a Wilhelmina plus-size model, but feels her true calling is “helping others to help themselves, whether it be personally, professionally or spiritually.”

Getting to Know Stephanie

Modeling Career: It all began in 1995, when Stephanie was reading an issue of BBW and saw an ad for the Miss Plus USA Woman Pageant. It was the day of the pageant deadline, and Stephanie called Chicago from her Greenville, S.C., home. “I said, ‘Please, please…I want to enter,'” she recalls. The next thing she knew, Stephanie was at the pageant in Chicago, and her name was being called as Ms. Photogenic and the Division 1 Winner. An agent from Wilhelmina was sitting in the audience, and before she could say “crown and scepter,” the modeling agency’s representative asked Stephanie to call her once Stephanie returned home.

That moment was the culmination of a lifelong dream. While growing up in Greenville, Stephanie fantasized about becoming Miss America. “I just wanted the crown,” she now says with a laugh. When she was eleven, Zehr started the pageant circuit, and set her sights on becoming a model, an actress or a singer. “Imagine that – me with a little pixie haircut, no make-up and a big ol’ grin,” she remembers fondly.

After her stint modeling in New York, Stephanie began working as a local and regional model in South Carolina. Her clients include ShopCurvie, Saks Fifth Avenue, Marshall Fields, David’s Bridal and Champion Athletic Wear. She also works as a runway model for both large and small productions. Stephanie says she loves modeling because of “the freedom I have with it. It’s fun for me. Modeling makes me feel happy.”

Beauty Routine: A model’s face is her livelihood, and Stephanie treats her skin like gold. She uses L’Oreal products to cleanse her face and an eye make-up remover from Lancôme. “I use a toner that contains Tea Tree oil – it’s a natural antiseptic and is good for acne,” she says. She uses L’Oreal eye cream and Lancôme face cream each morning and night, and has an exfoliation once a week. And every six weeks or so, Stephanie goes to a local day spa and lies in a relaxation chamber for 30 minutes. “I go home and pass out, and feel like a million dollars the next day – it’s very nice and relaxing.”

Family, Friends and Fun: For the time being, Stephanie is living with her family in Greenville, although she may move back to New York this summer. Her brother, Mark, 31, works with her father, David, who for 35 years has installed sound systems in churches on the East Coast. They, along with Stephanie, her sister, Elizabeth, 28, and her mom, Vivian, often go to Atlanta on weekends. “We eat pizza together on Sunday nights and go out to the movies,” Stephanie says.

In fact, movies are Stephanie’s passion. She adored Erin Brockovich, saying, “I love assertive movies!” Charlie’s Angels, she says, “was too much fun. It was a girls’ kick-butt movie.” But her favorite movie of all time is Out of Africa. “Maybe it has something to do with Robert Redford,” she says dryly. In a more serious vein, Stephanie says she identifies with the character Meryl Streep plays in the movie, which she describes as womanly, independent, yet someone who had to rely on people, too. “I need to stop playing the mother hen sometimes and let someone take care of me for a moment.”

When she gets together with her friends, Stephanie likes to go dancing or play cards. “Sometimes we have a good, old-fashioned girls’ slumber party,” she says with a chuckle. She also has a relatively new romantic interest, about which she discreetly says, “I met him in New York last month. He’s a very thoughtful, very kind person. We’ll see where it goes.”

Speaking Out: While Stephanie says that there are more opportunities for plus-size models than in the past, she’s disturbed that the criteria for plus-size models have changed. Designers and retailers are “using size 10 and size 12 models for clothes that aren’t even made in sizes 10 and 12. They use size 18 for their fit models, which is curious,” she says. “I could see it coming, though. Once Kate Dillon turned around and decided to lose weight, everybody followed suit. It doesn’t seem correct.”

Inspiration: “God has a lot of dreams for me. If I bug Him long enough, maybe he’ll let me do a couple of them.”

Q & A with BBW

BBW: What’s the most fun, funky item in your closet right now, and when was the last time you wore it?
SZ: A gold tank from Lane Bryant. Gold beads hang from the front of it. I wore it about two weeks ago.

BBW: If you were chief of the fashion police, what would you outlaw?
SZ: White pumps – it’s my own personal shoe phobia, I suppose.

BBW: If you had a magic wand and could change one thing in this world, what would it be?
SZ: Ignorance

BBW: Which historical figure do you most admire?
SZ: Marilyn Monroe – need I say more?

BBW: Which living person would you most like the opportunity to meet?
SZ: Elton John

BBW: What legacy do you want to leave to the world?
SZ: That I was a tenderhearted, loving person who knew how to have fun.

BBW: If you were to design one article of clothing that most truly reflected your personality, what would it look like?
SZ: It would have to be a jewel-encrusted ball gown. I love extravagance!

BBW: What’s your most treasured childhood possession that you still have?
SZ: My twirling baton

BBW: With what movie character do you most identify?
SZ: Queen Elizabeth from the movie Elizabeth because she was such a strong and determined woman.

This article originally appeared in a 2000 edition of the print magazine.

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