In the real world, native Wichitan Emma Craig isn’t really “plus-size.”
She’s 5 feet 6 inches and wears a size 12 – a body type Wichita would consider pretty normal but a size that New York City, where Craig has lived since 2010, doesn’t always see as so, especially during its famous Fashion Week.
“I’m in a really bizarre position,” said Craig, a 2006 graduate of East High School. “I’m too tall to do petite modeling and too short to do other print stuff,” she said. “I’ve gotten a lot of, ‘You’re too small. You don’t represent plus-sized women.’ On the other end, I’m a size 12, and in the entertainment industry, that is like the fat best friend, and there’s no way around it.”
But Craig, an aspiring singer and actress who says she’s always been reasonably comfortable in her own skin, recently was able to use her average curves to her advantage, landing a gig working as a runway model for a plus-size fashion show during New York City’s famous Fashion Week, which happened Feb. 6 through 13.
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Craig, 25, was recruited to model one outfit, or “look” in fashion show speak, in the plus-size show, which was put on at the Pennsylvania Hotel. She wore a romper over a long-sleeved turtle neck that was made of Lycra and had spikes on the shoulders.
“The whole line was really fun, modern stuff that girls my age would wear, things I would go to a store and want to buy,” she said.
Craig doesn’t model very often, but she does pick up modeling gigs here and there while trying to break into the music theater scene.
She grew up in Wichita, the daughter of Kit Craig and Michelle McGowan. She attended Buckner Performing Arts Magnet Elementary School, which set her on her theatrical path.
Craig was active in drama during her time at East High and served many seasons in the cast of Music Theatre for Young People. She also was an ensemble member for Music Theatre of Wichita and performed several seasons at Mosley Street Melodrama.
When she graduated from East, she decided to pursue a more serious career in politics, but drama was too much a part of her. She decided to move to New York four years ago and has been finding new opportunities there ever since.
Craig was home for several months last summer to star as 1960s teen queen Tracy Turnblad at Crown Uptown’s production of “Hairspray,” but her home is in New York now, she said.
She makes ends meet working in a high-end seafood restaurant in New York City but has many interesting side gigs. In addition to occasional modeling, she’s a member of the latest incarnation of the Glamazons, a burlesque group.
The group first came to fame on season two of “America’s Got Talent” and still performs all over the country, promoting the message of beauty at any size. Craig joined the group in 2012 and uses the stage name “Angel Cake.” A connection she made through the Glamazons got her the runway gig.
The fashion show was fun, Craig said, though it caused her to reflect on the body-image issues most girls face at some point in life.
“I struggle with it every day to some extent,” she said. “I am confident in myself and confident in my talents, and I don’t think most people would say I have a self-esteem problem. But at the end of the day, I do, I struggle with that. Every audition I go into, every social situation I’m in, I’m programmed to think something is wrong with me because I’m a size 12 and not a size four.”
But the experience with the show left Craig feeling good about herself and the progress she’s made in her New York City life, she said – confidence she will take with her when she starts auditioning for music theater jobs around New York again this spring.
“It was very surreal when I got home that day,” she said. “I kept thinking to myself, ‘When I was 16 and overweight in my bedroom in high school, these are things I fantasized about, the things I never thought I would ever be doing or succeed at. It was this lovely day of feeling very confident.”