Credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Photo: Whitney Thompson at the Hope Gala

Whitney Thompson, Cycle 10 winner of America's Next Top Model (the first plus-size contestant) and a model for Wilhelmina, explains why she decided to open her own business.

I initially created my jewelry and candle company, Supermodel, because I wanted to be in control of something. Modeling is a fun job and I love it, but you don’t get to make any decisions. Someone tells you where to be, what to wear, how to look, what to do, and more, at every gig.  I’m not a control freak or anything but when the biggest decision you get to make in your career  is how you take your coffee, you might want to rethink what you’re doing.

I have a good friend that has a jewelry company and she suggested that I start working on something similar. She really pushed me into it, picking out all of the pieces and constantly mailing me samples wherever I was in the country. It didn’t click until I moved from New York to Los Angeles that it was something I should get into. That's when I really dove into starting up the company. One of the other cool products I decided to sell were massage candles, which turn into massage oil as they melt. I had never seen anything like that before!

Suddenly I was designing logos, naming new scents, picking out containers, talking to lawyers, and creating a real company. It felt good to have something in my life that  I could control every aspect of, while continuing to model in my spare time.

When I started the company the recession had just hit and I decided that I wanted everything to be made in America. Sure, it would cost a lot more money, but it would be worth it for the quality of the company. As a model, you have to put your name on things that you don’t like sometimes. My company would be something that I could be proud of. Everything is handmade in New York City and we ship orders all over the world.

I knew that once Supermodel.com was up and running I would want a way to give back to the reason I had been able to create it in the first place. I didn’t win America's Next Top Model Cycle 10 because I was pretty. I won because I had a message. I wanted people to feel better about themselves.

Unfortunately, the media has made us believe that “skinny” is the same thing as “healthy." The average American woman is a size 14, but size 6 is considered plus size — some agencies even consider a size 4 too fat to model. With all of these unrealistic expectations swirling around us all of the time, it’s no wonder that anorexia kills more people than any other mental illness. I had my father contact the National Eating Disorder Association to tell them that Supermodel would be donating a percentage from all candle proceeds to them. They responded by asking if I would be a spokesperson for them and I, of course, was thrilled to accept.

Modeling is still my number one priority. I love traveling to exotic locations and shooting with interesting people, but it’s nice that even when I come home I have Supermodel waiting for me. I love to make people feel more beautiful! I love that I sell good, quality products and that I get to be involved enough to send autographed pictures along with my orders (what other company does that?). I look forward to expanding the company to a lingerie line as well as a shoe company and who knows what else from there!  What’s most important to me is helping people look, live, and feel like a Supermodel.

In addition to her thriving modeling career, Whitney also designs and sells candles and jewelry on her website ShopSupermodel.com, where a percentage of the proceeds go to the National Eating Disorder Association. You can also follow her on Twitter @WhitneyANTM.

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