Bright, radiantly positive with a penchant for doing whatever the f*ck she pleases, Felicity Hayward is the bombshell we all need dropped into our lives. The beautifully curvaceous model is a trailblazer for the plus-size modelling movement and an inspiration to young girls who desperately seek representation in the fashion industry. We caught up with Felicity on all things girl power, self-love and where it all began… down the pub.
If you haven’t yet heard of Felicity Hayward, you sure as hell won’t forget her after reading this interview. The British bombshell is like a modern-day Reuben painting with a doll-like face only seen on the like of Marilyn Monroe. To top it off, her personality is fun and her laugh is dirty – what’s not to love?
“My grandfather was an avid photographer and so I was always comfortable being in front of the camera. I actually have a first-class degree in photography, so I understand how to be a subject and I always had it in my mind that I’d work in the creative industries,” Felicity explained, when citing her journey to her now career. “My friends and I used to dress up and shoot, but I never imagined myself being a model.”
While the plus-size modelling industry now seems to be getting the spotlight it deserves, it hasn’t always been this way, much to the determent of young women and men globally. “Why would I think that I could be a model when there was nobody out there representing me? If there’s nobody to identify with or inspire you, then why would you think that something is possible for you?” Felicity asked, explaining how the lack of representation of plus sized girls in the modelling industry meant this wasn’t a career path she’d aspired to.
Dancing to Diana Ross in a Shoreditch pub, Felicity was scouted by the person who would eventually introduce her to photography icon Miles Aldridge – and so the journey began.
Day one, twenty hours, one cake, many diamonds and an Anna Nicole Smith lookalike later, Felicity had completed her first modelling gig. “It was with Miles Aldrige. I couldn’t believe it – this was major!” excitement still filling her voice, years on. “One of the shots was me dressed in a wedding dress as Anna Nicole Smith, eating a huge wedding cake. After the shoot, Miles said I could take the cake with me,” she begins to laugh cheekily as the story comes to its peak, “so the next day my friend and I took the cake to the pub where I was discovered and shared it with everyone!” Her humble attitude was virulent as, despite her huge successes, she still gets excited about the little things.
Known as the first plus-size model to shoot a MAC campaign and a Curve ambassador for ASOS, Felicity was marked to be an innovator in the industry from her early days in modelling. “It was the 2012 Olympics and our landlord was kicking us out so that he could make more money renting out the flat to tourists. My best friend Lois and I borrowed a trolley from a supermarket to move our stuff out and into a room above a local pub,” she laughs, “when my I got a notification on my phone reading ‘Cover Star Felicity Hayward – ID Magazine!’” Life swings in roundabouts, right? Her frantic scramble to Brick Lane to pick up her copy of ID – sans trolley – left the model in a state of awe. At this time ID didn’t put models on their covers, but instead movie stars and music industry icons. Remembering the moment Felicity said, “I stood there with the copy in my hands and thought, I’m broke, I’m moving house in a shopping trolley, but at least I’m the face of ID!” We looked it up together and saw that the title was selling on eBay for £50!
A positive mental attitude emanated from Felicity on Brick Lane that night and continues to do so to this day. The plus-size modelling industry, although expanding, is still an uphill battle for Felicity and her peers. “It’s great that high street fashion brands are investing in plus size ranges, but there are a lot of people who don’t feel that plus-size models are worth it,” Felicity explained, “we’re just not treated equally.” For everyone rail that a plus-size model has on a shoot, a ‘regular’ model has three. The discrepancies are infuriating for plus size models who feel like they’re living in the shadows of skinnier models.
“It’s fashion week next week and I want to look good and dress well and feel good about myself. I don’t need a PR emailing to say they’d love to dress me, then upon realising my size saying, ‘Oh we only stock size 8 – 10, but we can dress you in accessories’ – I am not an accessory to the fashion industry, nor is any other plus-sized woman.” An empowered statement from a prevailing woman, Felicity actively uses her voice and her platform to stand up for plus size woman, and others who are underrepresented, calling time on the fashion industry’s bullshit.
The disrespect of women’s body’s, big or small, in the modelling industry is rife. Photoshopping perfect imperfections is the norm, as is criticising health and weight to achieve the ‘ideal’ visual aesthetic. “Some brands just don’t get it!” Felicity said, “I shot a campaign and e-commerce for a brand – I look like me in the campaign, yet they photoshopped me in the e-commerce images. They’d shaved my hips right off,” she laughed. While a serious matter, Felicity manages to come out the other side positively, highlighting the failings of the brand, not for her, but for young people. “They are doing damage to young minds. People know that it’s me in the campaign, but when they go to purchase the dresses, the brand is selling the idea of ‘look, she looks smaller in our dresses and you will too.”
It’s an insecurity in those who retouch the photos, or interviewers who focus on weight and health rather than campaign success of plus-size models, to tell and show the truth in all its beauty.
Frustrations such as these are felt by many who are unrepresented in the world’s leading industries, so Felicity decided to start the Self Love Brings Beauty movement in 2015. Believing that those who prey on or disrespect others who don’t represent the beauty or lifestyle norms that they’re used to are lacking in self-love, Felicity began an inclusive movement. Many plus-size movements only include plus-size people, but Felicity wants people of all shapes, sizes, colours, genders and sexualities. “If we continue to segregate ourselves, we’re separating ourselves from the world,” she explains, “Instead, we should be making a movement for everyone and pushing it into the space of those people who are uncomfortable with what they consider not normal – we’re going to stand here loud and proud and filled with self-love.”
Reminiscing on the day when her face was adorned across Piccadilly Circus, it was obvious that this is a woman whose dedication to self-love has gotten her to where she is today. Her individuality is something to fall in love with, as is her resilience when it comes to hardship. In a moment when she thought she needed to change her appearance to truly ‘make it’, Felicity remained true to herself, leading with her gut instinct (and no doubt a little piece of her heart), not sacrificing her happiness for a job. Sure enough, things turned around.
Now, as I said before, you’re unlikely to forget Felicity Hayward. Essentially because she will go down in history as one of Britain’s leading, game-changing fashion icons.
Louise Seymour using Smashbox Cosmetics
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