Journalist and SUNY Schenectady County Community College graduate Gianluca Russo chronicles the battle to make fashion more size-inclusive in his debut book, The Power of Plus.
Russo interweaves interviews with 80 models, influencers, advocates and others with his own personal experiences to create a compelling narrative that can relate the issue to people inside and outside the fashion industry. increase.
A native of Guilderland, his road to writing has been a winding one. Growing up, Russo was interested in the theatrical arts, but after graduating from Guilderland High School, he decided to pursue a paralegal degree at SUNY Schenectady. Although he completed his degree in 2017, he knew his legal career wasn’t for him and instead he felt compelled to write. While studying journalism at the University of Albany, he started blogging about local theater. There, Russo gravitated towards fashion and his journalism.
“What fascinated me at the time was watching from a distance how Teen Vogue was making a very public revolution. It was meant to bring an identity to the coverage that was actually being done there, and I resonated with it,” Russo said. “I love theater journalism, but at the time I felt unprepared for tough conversations. was there.”
Russo found it possible through fashion journalism. While taking classes at UAlbany, he began writing for media such as his Teen Vogue, GQ, Glamor, and Nylon.
“I felt like I was coming to journalism when I was craving this conversation about size inclusivity and diversity, and I was able to comment on it,” said Russo, who later became a columnist for Nylon. said.
The idea for “The Power of Plus” came from a broad series of articles he wrote about size inclusiveness and New York Fashion Week.
“I spoke with more than 60 people on behalf of all of them and approached this issue from all angles,” he said.
Russo tweeted each story in a thread, stating that he wanted to write a book on the topic.
“I’m going to take everything I’ve done in the last four years and turn it into a book that celebrates us and pushes fashion where it still has to go.
That is exactly “The Power of Plus”. It begins with a little history of the movement, including the story of Lane Bryant, a company founded in the early 1900s that became a leader in providing clothing for curvy women.
Russo also touches on how plus-size people have been insulted and criticized over the years. It is told through an interview with pioneer Aimé Aronson. During a photo shoot early in her Aronson modeling career, her photographer initially refused to photograph her.
“It was frustrating. I was hurt. I took it personally and I knew it was wrong. This is not how you should talk to women or people,” Aronson said. She was named one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People and has become a size-inclusive advocate in the fashion industry.
“It’s just incredible to see how far she’s come since the 1990s,” Russo said. I felt like that set the tone for the book, which is why I wanted to open the book with her story, because for me, she turned to this.”
Another notable interview from the book is with model Hunter McGrady. After being featured in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue, Hunter McGrady was told he had to lose weight to continue working as a plus-size model.
A body positivity advocate, McGrady refused to live up to the “perfect plus” idea, even if it meant losing her job. I turned down over 30 jobs that I felt didn’t include McGrady’s determination struck a chord with Russo, who talks about fighting diet culture in the book.
Russo said his experience helped him connect with more than 80 people he interviewed while researching the book.
“I’m also kind of influenced by the fashion industry norms, so I’m someone who’s personally invested in this topic, and I’ve been since I was a kid,” Russo said. “It really helped us connect and find that common ground.
One of the challenges Russo faced in the early stages of covering the size inclusivity movement was choosing the right labels. Russo identified with terms like “plus size” and “fat”. But when he was writing his one of the features that inspired the book, he discovered the controversy behind those labels. Russo wanted to call the feature “fashion’s fat rebels,” but some of the people he wanted to interview refused to be published unless the word fat was removed from the headlines.
“It was tough because I didn’t want to be lumped into this conversation because I wanted to include some people that I really admire and look up to,” Russo said. And I said “why don’t you want to support this?” ”
But while researching this book, Russo began to understand where those people came from. Some were afraid of losing their jobs, others didn’t want to be labeled as such.
“The intricacies of understanding how fashion works and why labels are as important as they are today were something I had to learn through this process. Everyone is fat or curvy. “It’s not that they want to be labeled as beautiful,” Russo said. Some people want to be in those boxes, they find community in those boxes, I’m one of them, but some people don’t, they want endless opportunities. They don’t want to be labeled because being labeled means being limited to them.”
Though the book is less than 200 pages long, Russo also delves into the intricacies of fashion brands like Old Navy and Target, helping plus-size customers feel supported and included. is expanding to a plus size.
“The Power of Plus” explores the struggles of the size inclusiveness movement and the triumphs of big name brands. Those victories were noticeably slowed during the pandemic when Russo wrote the book. With a scheduled release on Tuesday, Russo, who now lives in Arizona, hopes the book will gain momentum.
“It’s been two years since we got into this pandemic, and unfortunately I think the industry has lost a bit of momentum on size inclusivity. We’ve come this far, let’s celebrate it, but don’t stop it.”
“The Power of Plus” is published by Chicago Review Press. It will be available on BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon and other bookstores starting Tuesday.
Russo will be hosting a book signing and discussion at the Guilderland Public Library on Wednesday, September 7th from 6:30pm to 8:00pm. The talk will be moderated by Times Her Union journalist Steve Burns.
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Categories: Life and Art, Life and Art, Schenectady