Please introduce yourself, what you do, why you do it, and what you want people to know about you.
I am Claudia Floraunce Fortelka, an international Model and Body Positive spokesperson. I have a brown belt in Martial Arts and love to paint as a passion. My story is one of humble beginnings as I was born and raised in a small town, St. Florian near Linz, Austria. At the age of 19, I decided to come to America to pursue my dream of becoming an actress and a model. At 5’ll” and a size 4/6 I was ready for the fashion world, received the blessing of my family, and headed to California.
Shortly after arriving in the United States, my weight skyrocketed, I was then diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. I chose not to let this disease keep me from pursuing my dreams. In my home country Austria at that time, it was unacceptable in our culture for women to be curvy, with only 20% Austrian women versus 50% of Austrian men being overweight.
PCOS has been a large part of my adult life and has also been a driver in creating the woman I am today. According to Womenshealth.gov PCOS or Polycystic Syndrome affects 1 in 10 women causing issues with health, appearance, and infertility. This is an imbalance of reproductive hormones and metabolism. Struggling with this disease has driven overall life changes to cope and deal with the implications that arise with this type of problem. Implications include unexpected weight gain where I went from a curvy size 4/6 dress size to a 24/26 dress size. With a fear of a lack of acceptance in Hollywood and as a model. I then began to try every diet pill causing further health problems that led to an aortic aneurysm surgery from damaging my heart tissue at the age of 33.
My disease has become a learning experience I can share with others on how being a plus model is more than my size. While being a plus model and role model is important, exercise and eating healthier are just as important. I have turned the negative energy from this disease into positive by loving myself more and spreading that message to others.
I was discovered as an overnight online approximately about 10 years ago and became a YouTube sensation. I took the place of a model who did not show up for her scheduled photo shoot and sprung at an opportunity to follow my dreams and passion. From there my career began to propel to the next level. I was contacted for photoshoots, fashion shows, and numerous other fashion and public events and traveled throughout the US and even back to my home country Austria.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
My message is one of self-confidence and with that confidence comes the strength to be more, to do more. When negativity comes one’s direction, one’s self-confidence can turn that negative into positive and that situation does not define you. Modeling takes faith, perseverance, and above all self-confidence.
Through my own passion to spread the message of body confidence and acceptance throughout social media outlets. To inspire others to learn to love your body, because if you don’t love yourself, how do you expect others to love and accept you? In the competitive world of modeling, necessary ingredients for success include faith, perseverance, and most importantly self-confidence.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you wanted to do what you do now. Who did you tell first? What has it been like since that moment?
I first realized that I wanted to be an actor after watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in terminator. Of course, I shared my Enthusiasm for becoming the female version of Arnold in Hollywood with my family and at the time they were not impressed lol. Since it took me such a long time to obtain a green card, I gave up on that dream until now.
Especially during the pandemic, I realized that even though I absolutely love Plus size modeling and being an influencer and an inspiration to so many people all over the world, that it was time for me to go after my ultimate passion which is becoming an actor. Definitely have my work cut out for me since I have my heart set on an Oscar and BAFTA award.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?
My size and shape have definitely been my biggest challenge. A lot of the mainstream designers do not accept anyone above a size 16. And even tho Hollywood is offering more opportunities for Plus Size roles but there is still to this day not a lot of opportunities for my size of 24/26. So I decided to create my own lane and keep growing my following until Hollywood and the Mainstream designers have no choice, but to work with me! After all, I am a Taurus and failure is not an option!!
If you had to pick the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could take your career (or business) to the next level…who would those 3 people be?
Definitely Arnold Schwarzenegger,
Beautiful Ashley Graham and Meryl Streep