Fashion Forward: A Conversation Between Charli and Leomie
The first time I met Charli Howard was on set for a Pat McGrath x British Vogue shoot in 2017. I was captivated by the her warm smile, impressive bone structure and big brown eyes; also the fact she was English was a real winner for me as I hadn’t heard an English voice for weeks! Stunning and smart, I knew that I had to ask her a few questions so you could all get to know the force that is Charli Howard.
Leomie: So Charli, I know you’re a London girl like me, tell me about where you grew up and how you were scouted?
Charli: My dad is from South London and my mum the north [of England] and because of my Dad’s job, we had to move around a lot. When I was 12, I went to boarding school which was really tough for me, but I began getting scouted a lot by agencies from the age of about 15 in places like Topshop in Oxford St or in Camden. Whenever I’d go to agencies, I was always told I needed to lose weight to get signed. I didn’t get signed properly until I was 21 (quite old in model land!!).
Leomie: I’m from South London to, I knew I liked you! Everyone’s signing stories are so different. When I was scouted at 14, I knew nothing about the modelling industry, just had an interest in fashion; what did you think of the fashion industry before you were scouted?
Charli: I began to learn what fashion was after the older girls stuck photos of Kate Moss on their wall. And honestly, that’s what I thought fashion was – Kate Moss and partying and no rules, which appealed to a rebel-like me. When I finally signed and experienced the industry, I saw it as this untouchable, wonderful fantasy land and was obsessed with trying to fit in with it. Social media didn’t exist in the way it does now, so in order to be successful, you had to be thin – no exceptions. As much as I started to see faults within it like late payments, horrible bookers, creepy men, I really wanted to be accepted by it.
Leomie: The industry is definitely not what it seems from the outside, no one really prepares you for darker side of things. But I’ll definitely say that things have improved from when we both started, I don’t even think we would’ve worked together even five years ago.
Charli: I think it’s becoming healthier because there’s a more diverse range of women in it nowadays, but I wouldn’t recommend joining it if you’re easily misled or feel like you have something to prove. You have to work on yourself first!
Leomie: This is definitely not an industry for the faint hearted mate. I’ve experienced so many crazy situations as a young model that I’ve spoken about a lot. It’s like people forget that most of us are young women. What was the most poignant experiences you had?
Charli: I’ve had a few, but I think the main issue I had throughout the early years was the fact that no matter how much weight I lost, I could never be small enough. Even at my lowest weight (7 stone) I didn’t have this magical 34 inch hip everyone wanted. I abused myself in every way possible wondering why my body just wouldn’t become what I wanted it to. When I got dropped for being “too big,” I think it was the first time I really asked myself if I wanted to do it anymore. I’m glad I didn’t quit though because to cut a long story short, I got picked up by a US agency and became a curve model instead.
Leomie: I hate the fact you went through that, but I’m so happy that you managed to turn that negative experience. I’ve read your book, Misfit and love how honest it is when it came to discussing your mental health and body issues. How did the process of writing help you?
Charli: It’s helped me become stronger and not feel as alone. I thought admitting to my mental health issues would destroy my career, but actually it’s strengthened it. The fact that my book has helped other people makes me feel so proud too. I believe that most eating disorders develop from childhood and teen issues, yet there are no books available for these people struggling. So I wanted to write one that explains the path and reasons behind getting them, in a light hearted and funny way!
Leomie: The fashion industry has definitely become more conscious when it comes to body positivity and diversity, how has it been being part of this change? Do you think it’s enough?
Charli: I’ve seen it change DRAMATICALLY the last few years, especially in New York. Nowadays, when I see campaigns that don’t feature models of colour, for example, it seems so archaic and odd – you just think, “wow.” A few years ago, it was an oddity to see a person of colour in campaigns, so that goes to show how far we’ve come in that sense. I love seeing curvy women in campaigns too because it’s so important for young girls to go see different sizes!
It’s clear that Charli is a female force to be reckoned with, and the fashion industry knows it. With a newly released Agent Provocateur campaign under her belt and a Podcast coming soon, it’s only up from here for this queen is owning her curves!
Written by Leomie Anderson
All looks worn by Charli and Leomie available here
Purchase Charli’s other book, Splash It’s a classic underdog story that displays the importance of friendship, body positivity, and celebrating who you are.
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