Can you remember when and where you were scouted? How old were you?
I was 13 years old and down in London with my mum visiting my sister. On two occasions I bumped into the same scout who asked if I would be interested in modelling. Due to the fact he was brave enough to ask me in front of my mum, (not because she’s scary!) it felt more legitimate than some man willy nilly telling me he could change my life. After that initial meeting with the scout we then arranged to meet with him another day in London and visit all the agencies to find the right fit for me, and sure enough that meeting did change my life!
What is the earliest memory of a model burnt into your mind?
Probably my mum! She gave up modelling when she first got pregnant with my older sister but did it for 6 years prior. I loved it then and still love it now going through her old portfolio, sometimes laughing at the poses/outfits of the 80s, but also falling in love with the glamour and beauty of it all. There’s something really quite unique and special about seeing a parent in a different light, it’s something we should all remind ourselves-our parents had a life before us! It’s sort of come full circle now that my mum is represented by the same agency as men the Classics board! We’re dying to do a shoot together so if anyone needs a Mother/Daughter shoot send them my way!
Can you tell me an iconic model whose work you got very fascinated by? — What did you feel when looking at images of them?
I remember first subscribing to British Vogue, probably when I was around 11/12. Of course back then it was less about fashion and trends to me, rather just beautiful imagery. Much to my Mum’s disappointment I would tear out pages and pages from it, making a collage on every surface I could in my room, even painting red lips on the black and white imagery! One model who used to standout a lot to me was Daria Werbowy. I still really admire her, not so much for her career highlights, but for how she’s dealt with her career. Somehow she’s managed to stay under the radar, she’s never done a tonne of press or promo stuff. It’s really refreshing and so rare these days.
Do you think the “male gaze" is a myth?
It depends on what your definition of the male gaze is. I like to think that there is a “male gaze” justas there is a female gaze. I remember shooting with Pamela Hanson for the first time in the UK edition of Glamour magazine. It was one of the first times I was on an all female set and it was just the most comforting and relaxing atmosphere. Everyone knew each other (now whether that’s because there aren’t many women in the industry at that level is a whole other matter!)and were just catching up and sharing memories together. I’ll never forget Pamela saying something along the lines of, ‘why do we always have to say, “oh wow look at this amazing woman doing this amazing thing”, if we just accept it as normal, then it won’t continue being such a big deal.’ And whilst yes we must raise each other up, hopefully someday soon we won’t have to keep having this same conversation.
What was your first fashion shoot?
My agency, Models 1, were really great about organising plenty of test shoots and editorials for smaller magazines before getting you out into the wide world! I think my first proper paid job was with ASOS; this was way before they were the enormous behemoth they are today! I remember watching Kirsty Bennet on set, who was ‘the’ ASOS model, she made it look so effortless whilst I was so awkward and rigid. Thank goodness ASOS were patient with me, as they ended up being one of my longest serving clients! Whilst shooting e-commerce can feel soul destroying to creatives at times, it was my first proper 9-5 job and taught me how to gain an adults respect in a work place (even though I was a child!) and build up a solid work ethic.
What do you love most about being a model?
Well of course the travel is just astonishing, I will forever be grateful for that. But possibly what I love most about modelling is the rare opportunity it gives you, especially at such a young age, to collaborate with people from across the world, each with their individual talent and rustle up something beautiful, come rain or shine in a day or two! There’s something magical about that element of it and I can’t think of many jobs where you bond in such a short period of time and get so close to a team of people who perhaps speak 5languages collectively. There is of course an obvious brevity to modelling and the fashion industry, but the memories and experiences you form last a lifetime.
What do you most hate about being a model?
You’re not always perceived as a human being but rather as a commodity which can feel pretty soul destroying. I think it’s even worse in the high fashion/ catwalk side of the industry, but luckily that’s not one I’m fully immersed in. What I’ve always reminded myself though is that essentially everyone has showed up foryou, so obviously you are of extreme value, even though sometimes people might not make you feel that way.
How do people react when they find out you are a model?
Normally they instantly feel a bit sorry for you and can turn quite patronising. I can see it on their face thinking, ‘poor girl, when’s she going to get a real job? Little do they know I have my own flat in London and have built a career out of it! Taxi drivers especially are the worst! When I was younger I used to lie to people or completely avoid the topic of what I did, but now I say it proudly.
What is the most common question you get asked as a model?
“Do you get to keep the clothes?” and the answer is “No!”
If you would start out now what would you be doing, how would you go about // who would you work with and where would you be aiming?
The industry has entirely turned on its head compared to when I first started working in it, for example social media and fashion were not interlinked at all(imagine a world without Instagram!) and shopping online had only really just begun. Fashion was far more creative before but with the dawn of the internet, has become a sudden interest in fashion, it’s opened up the field to everyone.One of the best things about the fashion industry is that anyone from any background can get involved with it. If I started now I’d probably have to be far better at Instagram than I am now and probably be a lot more vocal about my opinions and beliefs than I ever was as a teenager. No teenager should be expected to have fully rounded views on politics or what is right and wrong. I’m by no means disregarding a young persons opinion, but I do feel like people are just saying things a lot of the time for the sake of it, regardless of the fact of whether they actually believe in it or have researched it. You ARE allowed to sit on the fence with things and you don’t have to transform yourself into a‘likeable’ brand! Just be you, that’s the most beautiful of all.
Statistics show that only 1 in 10 of the big money jobs i.e. womenswear- beauty and perfume campaigns are shot by women. Is there just no qualified female fashion image makers out there?
Hell no! Like many other working fields, I think the only reason why this could be the case is because when a young woman doesn’t see a female in a lead role, then almost immediately it’s off the cards for them. If they don’t see it, they won’t believe they can do it. I guarantee if we get more women at the top there will be a huge spike in female interest for certain roles. If anything, female photographers are far more qualified than male! The amount of times I’ve seen a male photographer rely on his tens of assistants to set up lighting/equipment for them because they don’t understand what they’re dealing with, whereas a female photographer often knows exactly what is needed from the lighting/equipment to get that perfect shot. Female photographers unfortunately have had to prove themselves doubly to get to where they are today, but the benefits of this is that their knowledge is impeccable!
How does it feel to be shot by a female photographer vs a male photographer — is there a difference, if so how?
It’s funny, I am hands down a feminist, but sometimes I can feel slightly more judged by a female photographer than a male. Hear me out here! This is purely because, we are the same sex, therefore most of the time we know what each other are thinking/capable of, it feels more intense and intimate. Whereas with a male photographer, it’s two completely different roles, you’re not only photographer and model, but also a male and female, there’s less expectation I feel there. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a sweeping generalisation and doesn’t apply to every case. There’s more pressure with women because ultimately I hold a females opinion in higher regard. It would be a good exercise though, to flick through a magazine and see if you can tell if a male or female has shot a story.
What makes you feel comfortable in front of a camera?
Music definitely helps! I feel most comfortable when I feel valued and trusted. When the direction is too specific, it can make you feel like an object to be moulded. Having the freedom, safety and confidence to be completely open and honest in front of the camera always creates the best, most memorable shots.
Besides modelling what do you do?
For the past 3 years I have been working as a freelance journalist whilst also modelling. Writing has always been my sole passion but I was always too afraid to venture into it as I had turned my place at uni down, so I didn’t think my writing was good enough. Then I just got to a point where I thought fuck it! I have this great collection of contacts in the industry, it would be stupid not to try and use them! That’s not to say it’s been easy at all. Journalism is not dissimilar to modelling in the sense that there’s a hell a lot of rejection and even more bullshit, but I love it, so nothing will stop me trying to pursue it!
One says it takes 10’000 hours to become a master of a craft, how long in hours/days/years did it take you to feel like a master of a craft?
What a great question! I can’t put an exact time on it, but I think you know you’ve nailed a craft when you have total faith in yourself that you can do something, without any doubt or hesitation. My mum is a music teacher, so inevitably throughout my childhood I was constantly practising music. That was a great lesson for me, through music I learnt that for something to be beautiful and joyful, you really have to really work at it, and sometimes that work isn’t exactly enjoyable! The amount of tears and arguments I had with myself (and my mum, sorry mum!) over not being able to play a bar of music perfectly is too many to count, but it really does pay off! The pride you get from completing something to your highest standard is an incredible feeling. Whether it takes hours, days or years to master a craft, just go for it I say!
Who is your female fashion image maker icon and who is your the one to watch?
Tough question as I truly admire so many but the one that stands out for me the most is Julia Margaret Cameron. I first came across her work whilst studying History of Art at school. Her imagery is so raw and powerful, and for a woman to do what she did back in the 1800’s is just remarkable. On a similar theme, I love Sarah Moons photography. I suppose they’re both quite romantic but yet at the same time haunting. When an image brings up conflicting emotions, they’re the ones that stay with you, because it shows nuance in things and that’s what life is like. If somethings too perfect, you gloss over it. Life isn’t just beautiful or ugly, it’s everything in between too and that’s why I love Julia and Sarah’s work so much. My one to watch is a friend of mine called Honey Bellvedere. She used to model and still does a bit, but she is a most talented photographer too. The colours in her imagery really tickle the sense.
Who is your female designer icon and who is your the one to watch?
My female design icon is Stella McCartney. Against all the odds, she has proved that a woman can not only design and run a hugely successful fashion brand, butshe also made high fashion good for the planet; making the impossible possible when she combining the two. Like her mother, she is leading the path for abetter future for us all. My one to watch is Grace Wales Bonner, her tailoring is second to none and like Stella McCartney, she is entirely changing our approach and limitations to how we dress.
What do say about the charge that all fashion imagery is predominantly sexist?
I struggle with this concept, not only because my work is predominantly at the centre of it, but I would like to think that women aren’t completely dependable to men’s desires. I dress to feel great about myself and if I am to take a compliment on my clothes, I hold a women’s opinion in much higher regard than a mans because they are far more educated on it. Just like I would take a woman’s insult far tougher than a mans.
There is a big surge of feminism at the moment - do you think that will affect fashion image making?
Absolutely! Just look at the reception of ‘Girls Girls Girls’ magazine ‘Be a Lady she said’ video! Bring it on I say!
When I look at your work as a model, my favourite shoot is one from a few years ago – it was for an Italian magazine, cant find it online anymore, was it for Flair or Marie Claire or ELLE Italy or something?!. What is yours?
This is a tough question! Similar to what I said earlier, my favourite imagery comes about when I don’t have a box to tick. I love shooting with Cameron Hammond because he does film photography like no other and you know you’re always going to be in a most beautiful location and at the end of the day have a good time with him and his wife Rachel-win, win, win!
What was your relation to design/fashion prior to modeling? Has it changed?
As an avid fan of ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ I thought fashion would fall into that frivolous and fanciful category, and whilst yes of course there is an element of fantasy involved, now I can see it is a multi billion dollar industry-it is in fact a very big deal indeed!
What qualities do you value in an agent or booker?
When they care more about you than the money. You get a feel for that pretty much straight away. That is why I am so loyal to my mother agency Models 1. I couldn’t praise them higher!
What is the most valuable piece of advice you were ever given and what advice would you have wished for earlier on in your career?
On a practical level-save! Modelling is unlikely to be forever but it can opening credible doors for you. Make money whilst the hay still shines, and let modelling build you a wonderful foundation for the future. Don’t ever be afraid of when the phone stops ringing, you have a whole other new adventure to honour and experience!