Fashion Rule Breakers

At 3 Foot 4 Inches, This Model Proudly Plans To Take The Fashion Industry By Storm

"I hope to show that you can be any size or height to be fashionable and rock clothing like a boss."

Fashion Rule Breakers is an original A Plus Lifestyle series: Each month, we profile a fashion designer, model, organization, or icon who is a fashion rule breaker — someone who acts outside mainstream industry standards to make a positive difference.

In recent years, we've seen the fashion industry make positive strides toward expanding its definition of beauty. Boundary-pushing models have been a huge part of that change. While there are still mostly tall, extremely thin, young, White, and able-bodied women walking iconic designers' runways, more and more models are showing they're done putting up with ridiculously strict beauty standards. From the first Black model to ever open one of Louis Vuitton's shows, to a 63-year-old woman who accidentally fell into modeling, to a model who walks in both male and female shows, diverse models are taking their seat at the table. 

Now, Dru Presta, 22, is ready to be a fashion rule breaker by shattering another beauty standard: height.

The Los Angeles-based model is 3 foot 4 inches and was born with achondroplasia, a common type of short-limbed dwarfism. "I have the dream of breaking all barriers of beauty, to have a unity and equal opportunity to become part of the fashion world," Presta told A Plus. 

Presta is from a small town in Reno, Nevada. Growing up, she was often bullied because of the way she looked. Many people have a strict idea of beauty, and thought Presta didn't fit the mold. 

"Growing up as a little person is something only a handful of people get to experience. The challenges that I had when I was younger made me grow up quicker than most children. I had to understand the judgement. I had to understand control and picking and choosing your battles," she said. "A lot of kids didn't understand why I was so short. I didn't really see a difference until I would look in the mirror and realize the differences." 

Presta is the only person with dwarfism in her family, so her parents had to learn a lot along the way, too, but these challenges only made her better. 

"Growing up as a little person taught me strength, endurance, understanding, patience, and living with no judgement of others. You never know what that person is capable of."

Once she graduated from high school, Presta decided to move to California to work toward achieving her dreams in the fashion industry. She enrolled in college to get her degree in fashion marketing and management. Along the way, Presta became drawn to the modeling industry after realizing the positive influence it could have on both herself and others. 

"I first became interested in modeling when I noticed the impact it had on others — my strength and my attitude on life," she said. "I believe in a healthy mind and body to have a positive outlook on life. I wanted others to feel how confident I felt when I was behind the camera, so I decided I wanted to incorporate my photos with my message." 

Presta has now been modeling for almost four years. 

"I started with a music video that had aired on MTV. I then landed a photo shoot with a start magazine called SundayMorningView (SMV)," she said. After that, she decided to launch an Instagram dedicated to her modeling photos. 

"I had a little over 1,000 followers, and then gained over 15,000 followers within a two week period," Presta said. "I started getting media inquires and launched my first documentary with a company from London called Barcroft." 

She credits her college with helping her develop skills to brand herself and her message. She hopes to be a force for positive change in the fashion industry and show people you can be beautiful at any size or height. 

"I can fit into chic and trendy clothes and model them just like any cover girl, and know that I rock it while doing it. I can wear the same thing a plus-size girl could wear and we both can walk in with the confidence and rock the same outfit," she said. "It doesn't have to be the same faces on every magazine. Show more diversity with both women, men and children." 

"I have gotten messages about others' experiences of being bullied and not believing in themselves, and when they come across my page or watched my documentary, they express how much it helped them. And if I can do that for one child or person, I have no problem continuing to share my message."

While the fashion industry has become much more inclusive in recent years, being a model with dwarfism is not without its challenges. 

"Many challenges I face are a lot of discrimination on size," Presta said. "I get called the word midget a lot which is very offensive. A lot of egos play a big part on how I look childlike, how I look different, or my limbs and fingers look odd." 

Hearing these comments can be painful, but Presta tries not to let them affect her. "I've learned to let things roll off my back and know I'm blessed with the support of my family, friends and supporters." 

However, she does wish that people in the fashion industry were more open-minded when it comes to casting calls, and that more diverse people will get the opportunity to be represented in fashion, beauty, and media. 

"Everyone deserves to have a voice. We have so many cultures different types of beauty everywhere around the world, and I believe everyone should be represented and respected," she said. 

"I see all types of beauty in everyone I meet. There should be no judgement just because you don’t understand something."

Presta hopes others who may be struggling with their self-esteem will realize that fitting into the fashion world's rigid standards isn't what makes you beautiful. 

"Confidence is what carries you forward, to be the leader and boss of yourself, to have the respect and love for yourself is the biggest beauty standard you can set for yourself. Keep believing in yourself and surround yourself with those that only want pure respect and support for you and your career," she said. "You don't have to have a thigh gap. You don't have be 5 foot 8. You don't have look like other models to feel beautiful." 

Presta knows she's not alone in the fight for inclusivity in the fashion industry, but she has some advice for anyone who hopes to shake up the fashion industry for the better. 

"Please keep fighting and we will be represented in this industry!" she said. "I hope for the audience to never feel intimidated because of a certain body type. Curves and stretch marks and height don't define you and what you think you can't do. Believe in yourself and share your voice!"

As for what's next for Presta? "I have a couple projects coming up and new contracts looking at. I can't say more, but I'm very excited on where my career is going and I'm looking forward to new adventures ahead." 

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