When you look at fashion ads, who do you see? Likely not someone who looks anything like you. And, models Jess Lewis, Madison Schill, Erica Krauter and Sasha Exeter think that’s just not right.
So, these women worked together (Lewis as producer, and Schill as associate producer) on the Straight/Curve movie, which is a documentary that examines the fashion industry and what the heck is taking so long for more diversity with models in sizes, races and ages. (The movie premiers Wednesday June 21 at 8 p..m. ( 7 p.m. CT) at epix.com.)
The four gave Best Health some insight on their heart for this passion project and how the modelling industry affects them personally.
What made you want to make or be a part of this film?
JL: “I was becoming bored with seeing the same aesthetic of women. And, to be honest, I was also feeling twinges of guilt toward friends and family of varying body types. [And after getting into] ‘curve’ modelling, I was so inspired by the messaging. When I was approached by director Jenny McQuaile to produce this film. I was immediately inspired and knew it was the right project for me.”
EK: “I wanted to share the struggles and the achievements I had with the fashion industry and myself. I am so grateful to stand next to the women behind this film, as we step into a new generation of the industry.”
MS: “My own experiences with the fashion industry, and the incredible people within it, drew me. I have existed in both loving and being afraid of my body. And the former brings so much joy, fulfillment and positive change. I’d like more young women to be convinced and embracing of these truths.”
How does being a model affect your own body image? How do you take negative feedback and put that in perspective?
JL: “I’ve been categorized as plus-sized, straight-sized and in-between. My value doesn’t lie in what I look like or the size I am. It lies in the person I am. I’ve realized that negativity coming from another person is just relative. The only thing that matters is what you think of yourself.”
EK: “I view my career and my own body image as healthy and balanced. I take criticism lightly and I don’t care about what others think. I found self-love for myself. I am happy and content, and that’s the main thing. I believe this comes with age.”
SE: “don’t feel as much pressure to keep my weight at a certain number. My body is that of an athlete. My perspective is probably different than majority of the others in the film. I don’t consider myself to be a traditional model but rather a personality. I often get booked as a spokesperson and for the occasional modeling project/gig. Although, I am often overlooked and lose out to traditional ‘straight models’ for fitness gigs. That can get to me from time to time. I just try to remember that if the brand or company wants to portray their product or service with a model who doesn’t appear to be fit or healthy, then that’s not really something I want to be associated with, anyways.”
MS: “Being a model has forced me to define and commit to my own concept of beauty. It’s an essence, a feeling, a way you are in the world and how you treat other people. If I feel good about who I am, then I feel great about what I am.”
What age did you become aware of your own body? How has that shaped who you are today?
MS: “In January 2013, I walked into my New York City modelling agency. At size 4, I was told I was disgusting, fat, and that I must have drank butter for water. I distinctly recall feeling every atom in my body sink. It breaks my heart to even think about my younger self and the pain she felt. I later learned that my agent at the time was showing my photo to other girls and telling them to look more like me. It confused me, but most importantly made me very aware that we need stronger role models leading our industry.”
SE: “As a former high-level athlete, I have always been aware of my body. But does that mean I necessarily like what I saw in the mirror? Absolutely not. In high school and college, I was conditioned to think that men preferred waif-like women and my muscular frame wasn’t attractive. As I matured, I realized that if it wasn’t for my build and muscles, I probably would not have been as successful in my sport. And looking back now, I have a lot to be thankful for. Also, with society becoming more health conscious and strong being the new sexy, I am getting complimented on my muscle tone and development more now than ever before, which has made me so much more confident.
Just checked out one of the trailers for @StraightCurveFilm and got a little reminder of my pre-baby body and how badass this documentary on diversity in the modelling industry is going to be that we shot last year. The film premiers in just a couple weeks and tbh I'm still in shock to be apart of this amazing project and hope it serves to be an inspiration for #BabyBean in the future. Catch a little sneak peek on my IG stories ⚡️⚡️⚡️ ⠀ Photo: @anastasiagphoto shot in NYC Wearing: @Chromat MUA: @angelinaangelina Styling: @jeneseeutley
The Straight/Curve movie is about body image through different lenses. What lens did you find to be the most surprising to you?
JL: “I was touched by the stories of the people we featured. I am overwhelmingly happy that we’re getting these stories out there for everyone to see so they can find some element that they can relate to and be empowered by.”
SE: “I find it very surprising that the common misconception within the industry and society is that women who are skinnier are healthier. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. We all come in so many shapes and sizes, and what you see on the outside should not necessarily allow you to determine how healthy someone is.”
MS: “Sasha’s story in the film is particularly beautiful. Hearing her open up about the lack of representation not only in women of colour, but in athletic bodies was incredibly eye-opening. She’s amazing.”
What big change would you like to see in society in regards to women’s body image? What small changes would you see in society?
JL:” I want all-inclusive diversity. It just makes so much sense from social responsibility and marketing perspectives to make this the norm.”
MS: “I just want everyone to be happy, to feel freed from the restrictive beauty conventions of our time, and to understand that we’re all just as justified in loving ourselves as we are in spending our lives looking for validation.”
For more about the Straight/Curve movie, visit straightcurvefilm.com.