People’s Choice award for model rejected 20 years ago


Two decades ago, Sonia Farquharson enrolled in a Cosmetology and Fashion course at Humber College with the aim of becoming a model.

The euphoria of graduating, however, was short-lived as she soon found out that models back then were expected to be pencil-thin.

“I was 5’9” and weighed 140 pounds,” recalled Farquharson. “I tried all kinds of things to get my weight down to the 110 pounds which was the industry standard for someone with my height at the time, but I could not do it.”

A second shot at pursuing her passion for modeling came this year and Farquharson seized the opportunity, winning the People’s Choice award with 282,467 online votes at the inaugural Canada Plus Size Model Search that concluded last week. The fan favourite secured a $1,000 wardrobe from the plus size divisions of Reitmans Fashion Group – Addition Elle, Penningtons and MXM – and opportunities to make personal appearances at upcoming LOULOU Fashion parties that kick off on March 31 at the Addition Elle store in downtown Toronto.

Farquharson was one of 10 finalists and the only African Canadian selected from nearly 4,000 entries from across the country. She was also the oldest finalist at age 43 with the second oldest being 28.

“I remember it was early January when I received the call on my cell phone at work, informing me that I had made the Top Ten,” recounted the corporate secretary and visual artist. “I asked the person at the other end of the line to repeat what she had said and my mind went blank for a few seconds. I became very emotional and I fought hard to hold back tears.

“Here I was, getting another opportunity to so something that I wanted to do 20 years ago and was denied because I was told that I did not have the right body. I was in shock and in disbelief, yet very excited. No too many people get a second chance to pursue a dream and I made a commitment that I was going to do my best.”

Farquharson plans to use the success to model part-time.

“It’s something that I like and being voted the fan favourite is like a victory for me even though I did not win the event,” she said. “To finish in the Top Ten out of such a large field and to be held in such high esteem by the fans is quite an accomplishment.”

Before acquiring another opportunity to pursue a vocation in modeling, Farquharson fashioned a successful career as a visual artist. Born in England and raised in Toronto, she started painting at age 10. In junior high school, she painted murals and took part in art contests before selling her first painting to her English teacher in 1983, and winning the art award in Grades 12 and 13.

After graduating from York Memorial Collegiate, she attended The Ontario College for the Arts part-time and received a certificate for Editorial Illustration. Her paintings have appeared at various shows and exhibitions in the Greater Toronto Area.

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