The Dish: Q-and-A with Buns and Bites

Instagrammer Laura Afonso and friends at @bunsandbites celebrate local food businesses alongside behinds of all shapes and sizes.

Laura Afonso is Buns and Bites, a Providence model turned food Instagrammer who unites her love of food with a tongue-in-cheek approach to body positivity. Follow her on Instagram @bunsandbites to see local food businesses celebrated alongside behinds of all shapes and sizes.

How long have you been modeling?

I started modeling about five years ago, but Rhode Island isn’t exactly the place to become a model, if that’s what you want to do full-time. There’s Boston and New York, and if you are not willing to move, it’s difficult. I wanted to get into an agency and do more professional modeling, but I was met with a lot of resistance. I do not exactly have a “model figure,” because they are all looking for very tall, very slender women. I didn’t fit the build, but I made friends with a lot of photographers in Rhode Island who now help me with photography for Buns and Bites, and I have been able to model locally for shops like J Marcel. I started to realize that modeling wasn’t for me when I didn’t find my niche. I signed up with a modeling agency in Boston, and I am still with them, and they are great. I am in their curve department, which is in between traditional and plus size. It’s something I do in my spare time now. I absolutely adore it, and it’s a great way to express myself.

When did the idea for Buns and Bites come into play?

Going back to modeling, I realized that maybe I couldn’t do it professionally. A couple of years ago, someone asked me what I would do if money wasn’t an issue. I said I would either be a model or a food critic because I love going out to eat. I wanted to be involved with food and modeling. I thought why can’t I do both? I thought about all the negativity when I was first trying to model. I had a modeling professional say “she’s too chunky.” It threw me off, so I really wanted to bring the two together. I should be happy to eat and be proud of myself and the way I am. I wanted to have a food blog, but the food blog world was oversaturated with images of just food. I wanted to have something else that I could make completely my own.

It definitely gets noticed way more than static food pictures.

One day, I was on my explore feed on Instagram and I saw tons of pictures of food, and tons of fitness photos, and I realized everyone loves a butt. It stood out to me as a good way to get my message across: you can love yourself, you can love to eat and you can like your butt. It’s a full package.

So the theme is also body positivity. Can you tell me a bit about the different models and regular women that you feature?

I wanted to have a reflection of every body type on the page. That way, girls who are on Instagram seeing tons of photoshopped and airbrushed photos, and thinking “why don’t I look like that?” can look at Buns and Bites and see a girl who has their body type, and she’s modeling. I want them to think, “I can enjoy eating and still love my body.” I wanted to show that there is a diverse variety of bodies that should be celebrated rather than just the typical Instagram model body types. It’s all cookie cutter, and we all know that’s not reality. I wanted to showcase all different shapes and sizes, all different ethnicities, and have a representation for every girl on there.

Modeling is a hard industry to be in. It’s nice that you’re able to mesh your two passions: food and modeling, and put it together in a positive light.

Most times food and modeling don’t go together, but I think that they can. In this instance, yes, food and modeling can go together and we can have a lot of fun doing it.

How do the other women get featured? Do they submit photos or do you approach them?

Both. Sometimes I come across a girl on Instagram or in person. Once, I approached a bartender and gave her my business card and told her I’d love to have her model for me. Other times, I reach out through Instagram. I have also had girls reach out to me, and I think that’s what makes me happiest. They’ll say, “I just had a baby and I’ve been working really hard to get back into shape and I am really proud of myself, so I want to model.” That makes me happy. I had a girl from California reach out and she said, “I love your blog.” I was so surprised to have someone from the West Coast follow me, so she’s going to send me pictures.

You are based in Rhode Island, but I could see it becoming a nationally known Instagram.

I hope so. More so lately, I had two girls from the West Coast reach out. I have had girls from outside Rhode Island like Boston and Connecticut. It’s starting to trickle outside of Rhode Island, but Rhode Island is my home and slowly but surely, I’ll get out there.

I am viewing it as an Instagram account where women can have ownership of their bodies and take back a stigma. Was that your intention when you put it together?

It wasn’t in my thinking when I first started it, but it became prevalent especially when #MeToo came out in the media. I think that if I am proud of myself, I should be able to share the way I look, no matter whether I am a size two or a size twelve. I think it’s empowering for a woman to self-promote body image. I want to have everyone from a skinny-skinny girl who has a little butt to the curvy plus-size girl and everyone in between.

How has this helped you connect to other local businesses?

For the longest time, I was making lists of my favorite restaurants and I have friends who would ask me where to go to eat. I thought it would be a good way for me to keep track of my favorite places. I already had some relationships in place, but I really enjoy connecting with the local businesses and with people who have a passion, like Shane from the Burgundian. It’s amazing to work with people who have such a drive for what they are doing.

You promote them, and they promote you. It’s a hand-in-hand relationship. In terms of Instagram tips, how do you make your photos look so great?

At first, I was taking my own photos. I bought a camera and I was trying to learn how to use it, but I have since had a lot of help from local photographers who have been excited to work with Buns and Bites. They come out to eat with us, they have a good time and they’ve also helped me learn how to use my camera. In terms of making a picture look good, you have to make the food look good. But for Buns and Bites, we have a lot of moving pieces; we have to make the food look good, we have to make faces clear and make the angle look good. We get a ton of shots and I’ll say this is my favorite one.

Are you able to make money from it yet, or is it still a work in progress?

It’s a work in progress. For me, it has always just been something I wanted to do. I am not ready to take money for it yet. I am more than happy to monetize this eventually, but it’s important to me that I am sound and secure. I wouldn’t want to have someone pay me before I can guarantee what they are looking for. I am hoping that the more followers I have, the more credibility I have. Once I gain more, then I would be ready and willing to monetize it.

Where do you see this going in about five years?

In five years, I hope to have a substantial number of followers. Right now I am on the cusp of 7,000. I am coming up on one year in April. In five years, I hope this will have exploded and I am nationwide with girls all over the country working with Buns and Bites. I hope to be traveling to L.A. and New York and getting to sample food all over the country. I am a Rhode Island girl, and I am able to sample food all over Rhode Island, but I haven’t been around the rest of the country as much as I’d like. I would love to immerse myself into the foodie lifestyle.

Have you encountered any negativity?

Nine point eight out of ten has been positive feedback, but with anything you do on the internet, there’s going to be somebody that has something to say about it. I have heard from a couple of people who don’t like it, which I understand because it may not be for everyone, and that’s okay. I find it best to meet negativity with positivity. I tell people to please read the blog, because it’s going to explain how this is actually a body positive movement and it’s empowering women to love themselves, to love eating and to love their bodies. I am trying to reinforce the message when I am met with negativity.

What’s your favorite thing about running the Instagram?

My favorite part of this is how many new girlfriends I have made. I have met people on Instagram who have become good friends. A lot of it is building relationships and friendships. Not just with the models, but with businesses, too.

Do you eat everything you photograph?

That is the number one most asked question I get. Yes, I do eat everything that I post. I only post about things I like. If I am going to talk about it, I need to try it and taste it. However, people will say, she didn’t eat all twelve of those doughnuts! And of course, I don’t eat all twelve of those doughnuts. Did I eat one? Yes. I also lead a balanced lifestyle, so when I am not doing Buns and Bites, I am eating healthy and I have a great workout regimen. That has always been a part of my lifestyle. I grew up as a figure skater, so I have always been very active, and I lead a healthy lifestyle. If I know I am going to have a waffle doughnut, I might not have ice cream before it!


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