This Stunning Model Was Told To Gain Weight In Order To Be Successful

Horror stories of models starving themselves sick to reach lower weights to stay employed are unfortunate norms in the fashion industry.

Leah Kelley represents an inverse of this reality.

The model began her career nearly a decade ago at the age of 19.

Kelley was a size 8 and knew her body would not stand to be starved down to a size 0, so she aimed for a career as a plus-size model.

Kelley told PEOPLE,

I knew losing weight was not an option for my body shape. But if I gained weight, I was told I could travel the world – and I did.

At 25 years old and 200 pounds, the size 16 model was booking gigs with Calvin Klein and Vogue Germany, but her routine was far from sustainable.

She recalled,

I discovered penne alla vodka and I would eat that almost every single day. Then I would end every single night with a Häagen-Dazs quart to myself.

In addition to her excessive diet, Kelley avoided the gym to maintain her jet-setting lifestyle.

The 5'11” model claimed,

I wanted to not be winded when I went up the subway stairs and feel like I was going to pass out. Even sitting up was hard. I didn't want to sacrifice my health anymore for the chance to travel the world and make money.

Kelley changed her lifestyle completely, finding her way back to a size 8 and starting a fashion and fitness blog, Thick and Toned, to keep herself and others inspired.

She shared,

Now, I enjoy it and I stop when I've had enough. I know that there's a certain balance in everything.

Back at her natural weight, Kelley is proving wrong anyone who told her she could never be successful at her size by scoring more work now than she did when she was binging.

Wilhelmina Models snagged Kelley campaigns with JC Penney, Target and Robyn Lawley's line of swimsuits.

This woman is happy, healthy and killing her career more than ever before.

Leah Kelley has to be the best example of the good that comes from trusting your instincts.

Citations: Model Leah Kelley Says She Was Forced to Gain Weight to Make It In the Plus-Size Industry (PEOPLE)