After being dropped by her modelling agency for being too big, Charli Howard wrote a rant on Facebook that would change her life. She is now spearheading the All Woman project, a movement to redefine the fashion industry’s view of beauty. In her words, she reveals how she learned to love herself, just as she is.
It’s odd to think that had it not been for Facebook, I would not be writing this article, and my career as a model would have well and truly been over.
I was just another average model working in London, trying to make ends meet. I had around 7,000 followers on Instagram and was pretty nameless in a sea of beautiful faces.
I’d felt an incredible sense of pressure from my then-agency to conform to fashion’s standards. If my measurements had increased, they refused to send me or my pictures out to clients. This led to my obsession with being thin; my entire livelihood depended on it.
So when I was dropped in October 2015 for not being thin enough, it felt as though years of deprivation had been in vain. As I listened to my booker who was delivering the news, I stared at my body in the bathroom mirror in complete disbelief.
I was furious and overwhelmingly disappointed with my agency. I am 5ft 8 and wear a UK size 6 on top and a size 8 on the bottom. For too long, I’d felt like a fat, undesirable, monster.
I thought my career was over. I told my friends how ridiculous being dropped for my size was. For the first time, I believed in the words coming out of my mouth. I believed in me. That evening, I typed an unapologetic rant on my Facebook page. The moment I pressed ‘post’, my life changed.
Within 24 hours, I had 15,000 new followers on Instagram alone. Each time I refreshed my feed, the numbers shot up. I was inundated with thousands of media requests from Vogue to the Mail Online.
Other models were experiencing the same issue with their agencies, yet had been too afraid to speak up. Women from all walks of life, reached out to say how they had felt pressurised into looking model-thin. I saw that being a model was not only influential but also damaging.
Social media platforms like Instagram are unifying us. Through sharing, we’re realising that we are all struggling with the same pressures, daily struggles and loneliness.
For too long, models were associated with so many negatives – extreme dieting, excessive partying and drugs. Gone are the days of the mannequin, where models were nameless clotheshorses without an opinion; we now have the opportunity to influence others.
Social media is more than just collections of pretty, overly-Photoshopped images; it can shift society’s perceptions of beauty and help make a difference in the world. As the most searched on Instagram, models hold a significant amount of influence over beauty ideals. This position carries a responsibility to use their presence on social media positively.
Beauty is everywhere, and while the industry is on its way to representing more diversity, a lot more can and should be done.
That is what motivated me to create the All Woman Project with fellow model Clémentine Desseaux. It is a multi-platform campaign designed to promote diversity in the fashion industry.
So many girls don’t feel their body shapes are represented in the media, we want young girls to love their bodies and have strong female role models to look up to.
The girls we’ve chosen are all renowned for speaking up about diversity in some way, whether that’s body shape, colour or LGBT rights. We want women to embrace the flaws society teaches them to be ashamed of.
Today, I can model at my natural weight and clients will still book me at this size. Most impressively, I have been signed by an agency not only for my looks, but for my beliefs. Would this have been possible, had the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter not allowed my voice to be heard? I don’t believe so.
Social media is creating a shift in the way we see the world, and in turn, it is helping us redefine beauty standards. Beautiful women of all shapes, colours and sizes are now littered across Instagram, speaking about what is important to them, including; body image (Iskra Lawrence), feminism (Adwoa Aboah) and climate change (Cameron Russell). Speaking out loud has never been more en vogue – and clients know it.
Whether you’re a model or not isn’t important; social media allows you to change society’s views and ideas. We can all be the change we want to see. And my experience proves that it is always worth speaking up and what you believe in, you never know who could be listening.
Charli Howard is represented by Muse Models NYC