We all like to look good. However much you deny it or claim you “couldn’t give AF” about the summer’s bikini pictures, we’re all aware of the real truth, so why not just be honest about it? Personally, I can’t stand my make-up free selfies and have been perfecting the art of lighting-enhanced boob-illusions since mum bought me my first (and sadly, not last) AAA bra. It’s an unfortunate, but very real consequence of centuries of a patriarchal, sexualised culture and whether we agree with it or not, taking pride in our appearance is something most of us encounter daily.
And so we come to the modelling business. An entire billion pound, air-kissing, stiletto clad industry purely devoted to the way in which we physically present ourselves. Not that I am against it, having spent the best part of my journalism career documenting the multiple fabric variations of the jumpsuit. What does grind my bones, however, is when the powerful and influential use their well-respected voice to preach a message which does little more than make us feel shit about ourselves. So when a successful model decides to call out a widespread body-shaming culture at the risk of being blacklisted from every agency in the industry, naturally I want to seek out this woman and give her a high-five.
Charli Howard is co-founder of the All Woman Project and alongside Clémentine Desseaux (also recently featured on NOT PLANT BASED), the 24-year-old British model is striving to make the fashion industry a place for ALL women. After a Facebook post she wrote about being dropped from her agency went viral in 2015, it became apparent that the damage of body-shaming is a worldwide issue. Women all of the world, from size 0 to size 24, told of their similar stories and the lasting effect it had on their self-worth – and for some of them, their health. Hence, the All Woman Project was born. A campaign of short films and photographs celebrating the diversity of women and the beauty that radiates from each and every one of you glorious girls. Clémentine and Charli recruited a handful of their fellow models, including Iskra Lawrence and Denise Bidot, and set about spreading their message of body positivity through the – now famous – hashtag, #IAmAllWoman.
So, if you’re gonna fan-girl after a model, let it be this one. Not only is she beautiful, effortless and fierce as fuck, she was also kind enough to chat to us about her relationship with her body. Oh, and THOSE BROWS???
What are the toughest challenges for cracking into the modelling industry?
Making yourself stand out and staying true to your beliefs, whether that’s your natural body shape or even your ethical beliefs (like wearing fur, going topless etc). It takes a very strong person to not bow to those pressures.
What would you say to people who accuse models/ fashion of being shallow and superficial?
“We’re human beings underneath all of that”
Well, there is obviously an element of vanity that comes with the profession, as your job is based on looks and image. But we still hurt the same as everybody else and have the same insecurities, no matter how well we can hide them. What you see is merely a polished image—we’re human beings underneath all of that.
Has your relationship with food changed as you’ve grown happier and more confident in your body?
Yes, but the both have had to go hand in hand. As I began eating more (which was incredibly difficult, by the way), I began loving the extra curves. I realised that food wasn’t the devil—that it was actually enjoyable and fun. I couldn’t believe I’d missed so many social occasions, simply because of fear of food, and I don’t want to miss out on anything again.
Do you have tips for coping with weight gain? Is it even a bad thing?
The fact is, people rarely gain weight over the holiday period—you need to eat 3,500 extra calories to gain an actual pound of weight, so that would actually be quite difficult to do. Just remind yourself you’re allowed to have days, and if you can’t celebrate at the holidays, when can you?!
Why do you think we are so obsessed with thinness as a society?
I think we find illnesses like anorexia fascinating because we can’t believe people would restrict themselves so heavily, all because of a voice in our heads. Visually, when you see someone with an eating disorder, you tend to look at them in ‘awe’ and in shock. But we’ve come to associate thinness with success—the more you restrict, the more control you have. We also associate it with privilege: if you have the option of turning down food and the ability of controlling what goes into your body, you clearly have money & power to decide that, unlike families on the breadline who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.