Less Fast, More Sass: The Fashion Revolution

Less Fast, More Sass: The Fashion Revolution

Hi , my name is Jessica Davies and for 10 years I have been a slave to fast fashion. Phew, it always feels better when you say it out loud. For as long as my bank account can remember, I have been a whore to cheap online stores who lined my inbox with flash sales and 50% discounts. From splashing my Saturday job wages (all £15 a day of it) on Boohoo when I was 15, to Missguided hauls as a skint 18 year old student and right up to my present ancient 25 year old self, panic-buying cheap last minute festival garms’ on PrettyLittleThing; it may come as a surprise to some of you but I am a huge bargain hunter when it comes to fashion. 95% of the time I’ll only ever buy if there’s a sale on or if I have a discount code. Seriously, has anyone ever sorted their browsing by Price High>>>Low?! I am constantly scouring the internet for 20% off coupons and a last minute under £20 night-out look that I can spruce up by painting a decent face and throwing on some trusty *bigger the hoop, bigger the hoe'” hoops.

My flat is filled with Ikea bags over-flowing with clothes, clothes that I barely even like, clothes that I brought because I would rather spend £15 on a dress I tolerate than upload a picture on Instagram of me in the same dress I wore out two months ago. I will openly admit that I have bought more clothes than I need, more clothes than I could ever use. And the problem is, brands have made it so fucking easy for me to do this, I would even say they encourage it. Enticing me with secret sales and infiltrating my phone with their apps and early access codes; paying influencers to front their campaigns and flooding my social media with promotions and celebrity “edits”. Instagram has exploded fast-online fashion to astronomical sales, but what may have been on-trend this week, can end up in the basement bin by tomorrow morning. Because as soon as Kylie Jenner stops wearing it, we all move onto the next style like an army of cycling-short baring, corset-wearing disciples, desperate to grasp on to some sense of celeb’ luxury without the burden of luxury prices. So where does all our unwanted, throw-away cheap clothes end up? The answer doesn’t lie in fobbing’ off all our shitty items to charity shops anymore because well, they’re just shitty. The cool kids that shop in thrift stores are searching for garm’s worthy of an Instagram post, not a faded graphic tee adorned with last months phrase of the week (RIP to all the Love Island T-shirt’s, but srsly, please stop buying these) and unfortunately the reality is, most of our £3 tee’s end up in swanning around in landfill. In fact, it is estimated that £140million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year. So exactly what burden is this forever changing, cheap fashion having on our World? And what can we do to help change this?

The other week I watched Stacy Dooley’s new documentary, where she investigates fashions dirty secrets and dives into just how much damage throw-away fashion is having on our planet. One of the most-shocking finds in the doc’ was that fashion is the second most-polluting industry in the World, alongside the oil, coal and automotive industry. Another staggering statistic from the show was that it could potentially take over 15,000 litres of water to grow the cotton need to make a single pair of jeans. An insane figure in which I could never fathom when I ‘throw’ on (I wish it was this easy to get a pair of jeans over this ass- and those cankles) my pair of £20 ASOS jeans. Toss in some breath-taking imagery of a dried up sea-bed in Kazakhstan due to water being diverted to fend for cotton fields, and visiting one of the World’s most polluted rivers in Indonesia which runs alongside some of the most in-demand clothing factories used by top High-Street brands, and it is clear to see the substantial impact our desire for low cost, seasonal fashion clothing is having on the environment. So what are the big brands doing about this? Well, unfortunately not a lot it seems. Many of the top names including Primark, ASOS and Topshop all refused to provide a comment on their commitments, or lack of, to help maintain a more sustainable fashion industry. And this is where our call to arms comes in, folks.

After this aggressive wake-up call to the impact my shopping habits are having on our planet, I’ve tried desperately to cut down my purchases on the sites mentioned in this post. I’ve turned off notifications to the apps and forced them into a small folder on my phone where they’re not constantly staring back at me (No, I haven’t completely deleted them yet- baby steps). I’ve revisited my wardrobe and picked out some of my favourite pieces I already own- some which still have the tags on them- and started wearing them more than once. I even posted an Instagram pic in the same outfit this week- BIG MOVE MY FRIENDS. And you know what? No one batted an eyelid.

Outfit Recycling. January 2018, November 2018.

But perhaps my favourite (definitely my favourite) conscious fashion change I have made so far is my switch to shopping in vintage stores. Dye my hair pink and call me a #hipster, for I have sinned against the high-street giants. I’ve always loved vintage-esque’ clothes: oversized printed shirts, floral dresses and baggy Levi’ jackets are all staples I have adopted into my wardrobe over the years but the popularity of #retro garms has seen the price for anything listed as “vintage” soar on sites like Depop and Ebay to levels my tight-pocketed self could not correspond with. This is where my new found love of kilo-sales comes in. Kilo sales are where you pay per the weight of your items, instead of each item holding a value. This is the holy grail of my fashion whore-ness. Low price, staple-making fashion which is sustainable and recyclable. UNHHHH. These take place in pop-ups around the country, and as more permanent stores. Also, don’t rule out charity shops to find some hidden gems. The great thing about clothing is that it can be washed *shock face* so buying something second hand really isn’t the end of the World. It’s time for a Fashion Revolution. Raid your parents, your grandparents (it’s okay, this is cool now), your siblings wardrobes. Swap and switch your clothes with your friends. Say au revoir to the shaming of wearing clothes more than once and welcome the feeling of falling in love with your clothes again. I’m not declaring that I’m going to stop shopping in high-street or online stores anymore because well, I’m a realist, and I’m a sucker for on-trend fashion and good deals. In fact, *confession* time, but whilst researching some flash sales for this blog post I was drawn in by NastyGal’s 50% off store-wide offer and ordered two dresses well, just because I liked them. I’m an addict in recovery guys, I haven’t made it over the hill yet. But next time you buy something off these sites or high-street stores, especially in the thrill of Black Friday season, buy it because you love it, and because you’re going to wear it until it falls apart, and not because it’s a quick fix outfit for a Saturday night, or just because it’s on sale. Those trends wear thin pretty fast.

Keep an eye out for my posts on my vintage finds coming soon.

Check out wrap.org.uk for more information on sustainable fashion.

Advertisements

“Not another mean comment”: What makes you press send?

“Not another mean comment”: What makes you press send?

The phrase “trolling” is one in which we’ve all become accustomed to since the rise of the 14th district we so lovingly call social media. It’s meaning has seasoned like the funk off some old cheese, tangled in a web of twitter spats and matured through countless blockings on Instagram. It is described by both Wikipedia and the Urban dictionary as an act which see’s people (dickheads) start quarrels and cause upset on the internet by posting “inflammatory and digressive, extraneous or off-topic messages” with the intent to start an argument and provoke a totes-emosh response. Or in simple terms, it’s people being dickheads. But what about when people aren’t saying mean stuff to start arguments or provoke a response? What about when people are just saying mean stuff to well, be mean?

A couple of weeks back I wrote a piece on here about my Life as a Glamour model and accepting your career is over at 25. I dived into the deepest pits of my stomach and laid myself bare for the World- or to the thousand odd people who read this blog- to see. And come thru Miss Worldwide because this led to me being contacted by a Welsh online News site who wanted to run a feature on me about my blog post and what I was up to now. Never one to seize an opportunity to talk about myself (jks my friends, I’m trying to re-brand myself here, a girl needs press) I was more than happy to oblige. Fast-forward to last week and a reporter and photographer showed up on my door. We chatted away casually whilst I overshared my life and once again laid myself bare for the World- or some of Wales – to see. I spoke openly about being a young woman struggling to find my way in life; I delved into being a proud feminist and how we should encourage women to do what they like with their bodies and I boldly discussed how upsetting online abuse and judgement from strangers can be. In fact,the exact words I poured over in the video coverage were:

“The worst bit (about my career), is you do get, you know, a lot of people judging you which people will say well you kind of expect it but it’s one of them things that when people are commenting on you as a person when they’re just strangers, it’s hard to kind of just, ignore it and you kind of take it to heart”

My feelings sprawled across this article as if I were opening up to my closest friends and I eagerly awaited my story to be shared as to find comfort in the hope that I am not the only one out there trying to find my way. But as the post went live this “worst bit” in which I had shared my fears and tried so often to ignore came flooding back in written form.

Shared online without a care in the World was judgement after judgement, comment after comment of unnecessary opinions and hurtful words. I don’t believe you should “expect” people to say mean shit to you online just because your in the public eye of some sort. The job role doesn’t come listed with a mandatory kick in the teeth for every three positive comments you might get. I am not superhuman, and as I told you time and time again in the article in which you’re barrage stemmed from, this hurts. Now, I don’t live in la-la land. Everyone has an opinion and everyone passes judgement. I get that. But what I don’t get is how having an opinion in your mind or bitching amongst your friends (we all do it, again I am not superhuman) has transformed to beholding a sense of entitlement that you can share this opinion so fucking openly online, direct with the one you’re bitching about, with apparently no conscience. Did your mum never teach you that if you haven’t got anything nice to say, then don’t say it at all? Or at least have the decency to say it behind my back? The internet has created a safe space for bullies to share their inner saboteur to the World with no consequence or compassion. If people said this kind of stuff to your face in a public place they would be called out and vilified for being a crappy person. But because these comments are made online you’re expected to take them as part and parcel of the job, or of life for that matter. It’s all part of the game. But neeeeewsflash, playing with somebodies emotions is not a game that entices most humans with a moral compass.

After having an online presence for 6+years, being on the receiving end of mean comments is nothing new to me. Whenever I discuss trolling with people, friends, journalists; I laugh it off and take it on the chin. Everyone tells me I deal with it so well. But the reality is that I don’t have much choice. If I didn’t, I’d be a shell of a person. Being judged and having your flaws pointed out to you by other women whilst the World rides the wave of Girl Power and Self-Love is a beautiful blanket of bitter-sweetness. Comments from men about my looks can relatively be tossed aside with the excuse that they’re just being jerks because they can’t get in your pants, or because they just fucking hate women 🙃. But the remarks from other females seem to cut deeper within, carving out the memories I’ve pushed to the back of my brain of girls in school scrawling my name alongside the word slut on the bathroom walls. These fellow women are all facing similar battles in life as me and yet take the time out of their day to stamp out these words on their keyboards with no other possible outcome than to make me feel shit, or to what, make them feel….better?

They’re just jealous” is a saying in which many have tried to comfort me with over the years. But I don’t believe this is ever really the case. I have scoured the internet for some “professional” explanation of trolling, some sort of psychological justification in which to prove their actions anchor from deep within. But I can’t really seem to find any. Joe Boyd, a writer for Huffington Post describes it as a “virtual road-rage“. You feel safe to say whatever you want within the comfort of the four doors which armour you, but would you really go that extra-step of getting out of the car and saying something to them in person? Some of the other reasons he gave where that it is comforting, it is free entertainment, it is power, it is boredom, and ultimately- it is natural. For unfortunately, some people just can’t help themselves from being dicks.

A comment I received on one of my blogs recently.

A few weeks ago as I was trying to relax in the the bath with a glass of red and £4.95 Lush Bath Bomb (I had planned this bath for days honey) I was interrupted by my phone and the sweet sound of a notification. I opened up my emails and was confronted by the comment above staring back at me. As I sat there alone in my flat, I honed in on this attack of my body, my personality, my feelings that I had so honestly shared with the World. I read them over and over again until, I just cried. These words had invaded my personal space and I had no option but to engage with them. I tried to salvage what was left of my relaxing bath plan- thanks a fucking lot those bath bombs aren’t cheap- and attempted to pull myself together, sending the email to my junk mail and disapproving the comment on WordPress. But as I settled back in with a much needed sip (gulp) of merlot, my phone pinged again with another infringement on my inbox and those words greeted me once more as the poster so desperately attempted to make his feelings known. This time I sent the comment straight to the trash, only for my phone to be infiltrated once more, forty-five minutes later with a third attempt at leaving the same comment about my (once) very fat tits. But now I just laughed. Your life seems great, hun. Best of luck.

All it takes is a simple scroll. A scroll in which would preserve your dignity and keep my emotions intact. But so many people choose not to scroll. Why? The internet has become a thief of reality for those who are lost and those who are lonely. Their boredom lines their hateful words which acts as a coat of arms to their inner collaborator of unhappiness. They spout about freedom of speech as if these three words give them a get-out-of-jail-free card for having the human right to comment on how your weight loss has made your tits saggy. Well guess what Karen* (insert standard ‘Can I see the manager’ name to fill this role) the Freedom of speech isn’t there so you can spend your lunch break spouting shit online to make people feel bad. I don’t know what else I can add, but it really isn’t rocket science folks. Mean comments hurt people’s feelings and there is a human being behind your screen who will carry those comments with them a lot longer than the thirty-seconds it took you to write it.

I’m going to leave you with this inspiring comment which unfortunately *cough* was not made about me but one of my friends, because trolling does not discriminate, we are all fair game to these people. I’m all of a sudden peckish for some pudding, you in?

Friendship: A love letter to my friends.

Friendship: A love letter to my friends.

I glance across the table as you take a sip of your drink, red wine of course, we’re adults now. We catch up as we swap stories of our adventures and glee, of beer fear and the hangover anxiety that claimed you last week, as it does after every heavy night. Laughter engulfs your face from your mouth to your eyes like a thief of sadness, and his merry men take over mine too. I bask in this happiness, the reliable waterfall of sun rays between us as we reminisce on old times and dream about the future ahead. This is joy. This is friendship.

I have spent so much of my time joking about having no friends, feeding into this gag of being alone and offering myself up as the jester. Yet somewhere amongst all the satire I have regretfully bypassed the ones who are right there. The ones who have always been there. I have, perhaps selfishly (most definitely selfishly) watched my friends grow whilst expecting our friendship to stay the same. As priorities change, then people change too. This is something I did not understand, or perhaps more something I did not want to understand. Why don’t you want to come get drunk with me last minute, on a school night, when you have an exam tomorrow? I convinced myself that my friends were dispersing, abandoning me to enthral themselves in lives of boyfriends, and jobs, and new friends, and new cities. In lives where I was not invited. But it seems the invites were always there, I just forgot to RSVP.

They say if a friendship lasts 7 years, then you will be friends forever. I have several of these friendships. I have friendships that span nearly twenty years, built on the basis of fear as a six year old in an unfamiliar town and grown as my own personal comfort blanket of warmth and familiarity. I have friendships that started on the cusp of my freedom, formed at a burly block of student flats and made between jäger bombs and the-day-after-the-night-before chats where we would all accumulate in one bed to eat pizza. I have friendships that grew from a friend-of-a friend to a deep intimacy and companionship of understanding where no secret, or story is withheld. I have friendships that evoked in an old town pub, between 80’s hits, Cointreau and a love for getting pissed. I have friendships that have formed from bra-shedding, nipple flashing and a complacency for each other’s nudeness. I have friendships which are less than 7 years old, but feel like they have been there my whole life. I have friendships founded at work, and tested in a Karaoke bar in New York. I have friendships I can call upon in my hour of need, be it for a drag show companion, a moan down the phone or a prosecco gulping Saturday afternoon, to moan a little bit more. I have friendships with those who are older, wiser, whose life experience both provokes and galvanises me. I have friendships where months and years pass by without seeing each-other, yet we always seem to pick up where we left off. I have friendships who have seen me cry over a boy and overlooked as I ignored their advice, Friendships who were still their to hug me a week later when I cried again over the exact same thing. I have friendships which have made me laugh until I couldn’t breathe and cry through tears of happiness and disbelief that these are my people, and these are mine. I have friendships.

I don’t know if this appreciation for those around you grows as you get older, but as I roll in after another night out, another quick drink, another walk with the dog, another VK, another city break or another shared tray of chips, the completeness in which runs through me feels like an ever expanding infinity pool, with no end in sight. A text, a WhatsApp, a ‘liked’ picture or a voice note. Every expression of affection soars through me like a bird of prey and sometimes, usually after three tequila shots, I feel like I could fly. The high you get from receiving love from someone you care so deeply for is a drug I wish I could be addicted too forever. The feeling of love from like minded people, from your chosen ones, from your extended family, is a love which I will to never disappear. As your lives change, I hope I will change with them, adapting and bending to keep these special people entwined within this new family tree I’ve grown. I may not have enough friends to fill a church, but I have enough friends who fill my soul. And so, I would just like to say to you and to everyone here, “Gracias para vivar en la casa, en la escuelas, en… en la azul… “markada”. Tienes con “bibir” en las Fortuashla?”. You are my best friends, and I treasure you. ❤️

Life as a Glamour Model: Accepting your career is over.

Life as a Glamour Model: Accepting your career is over.

Accepting your career is over is something you never want to have to face, not this early on in life anyway. All the long lusted ideals of what your life will be like, the high hopes that you’ve hung your dreams upon and the promised land in which you never got to travel disappear from your eyesight. It’s over. I am no longer a model.

It’s a tough pill to swallow. Especially when you are still so in love with your craft. Of course, everyone knows that there is a time limit to this career path, no one stays young forever they say. But the problem is, I still am. Whilst a lot of things in my life felt uncertain, my career was not one of them. I knew exactly what job I wanted, and I was as determined as anyone could be for success. I fell in love with modelling, fuck I fell hard. I loved every single moment of it. From the 5am Megabus’ to London and the castings in office cupboards, to the dodgy locations (yes FRONT mag) and even dodgier styling. The good always outweighed the bad when it came to this profession, always. I knew I was never the prettiest, the tallest, the skinniest, but I was adamant that I could make up for this through my boldness and fortitude in my love affair for this role. I faced off time and time again with rejection, yet each battle played a collective part in my story, building up a beautifully tragic puzzle of euphoric dreams and delusion.

Image by Harris Nukem

Being booked for a photoshoot was my Apollo 11. I was being paid to live out my childhood fantasy. I could never quite believe my luck. Each job was a journey, navigating at different stops. The first station would be hair and make-up, boy I loved this one. I would carefully soak in the craftsmanship, absorbing as much detail as I could on how to create the perfect smokey-eye. Each time without fail my eyes would water, their glazing blue-ness too sensitive for all the poking and prodding. I would sit there apologising, all red-eyed and irritated, clenching my fists praying that the tears wouldn’t fall and ruin the masterpiece which had adorned my face. The next stop was wardrobe, which usually consisted of various items of clothing spread out on the floor. “I hope I get that one” I’d think, waiting patiently for my look to be pieced together. I very rarely got “that one”, but I didn’t mind. I observed the stylist’s moves, their precision and eye for detail. Pinning and tucking, clipping and steaming. They minded every tag and seam with such an air of responsibility. The last stop put me in front of the camera. The holy grail. This is what it all came down too, this is what it was all for. Stepping on set always set off a wave of imbalance within me, a convulsion of hysteria and a dreaded feeling of don’t fuck it up. It was always in the back of my mind that this one shoot, this one job, could get me noticed and lead to my big break. That was both utterly terrifying and wholly spine-tingling. The photographer embeds their knowledge within you; chin up, back curved, towards the light, mouth a tad open. Their ability to execute an image in their mind to a living, breathing artwork in front of them is a demonstration of pure excellence. Anyone can pick up a camera, but only these select few are artists. Stepping off-set I would feel excited and drained. What if the pictures aren’t good enough. But as always, the good outweighed the bad, and I would leave the shoot feeling as if my dopamine levels had burst out of my brain. I want to feel this happy at work forever. I wish I hadn’t taken those days for granted.

Image by Matt Comer

Your life begins to build up around this path you’ve chosen. Your best friends become girls that you model with. Your travelling buddies become the make-up artists and stylists. Your agent becomes your second mother. Your drinking companions become the photographers. You meet up outside of work just because you want too. These people know all your secrets and your stories, your desires and your ambitions. You’ve shared life-changing experiences and travelled the World alongside them. You’ve created this whole family dynamic around you, and then one day, it’s just sort of, gone.

No one really warns you when your World is about to come crashing down. It doesn’t all happen at once. Much like a cliff repeatedly battered by the ocean, it silently erodes away piece by piece until one day you look up and nothing is there. This final stage of rejection is not one that I can accept so freely. I never fell out of love with modelling, but it fell out of love with me. The glamour industry evaporated and the other sector’s turned their back. You don’t fit the bill anymore, your job does not exist. I wish I had done more. I wish I had put myself out there more instead of spending so long feeling shy and uncertain of who I was. I wish I had spoken up and shared with my colleagues how much I really loved this job, this role as their fellow companion. The one thing left behind from my modelling days are my social media followers. But unfortunately this means I have to face trolling and negative comments about my looks, whilst no longer reaping any of the benefits that come with the job. I imagine it to be much like the career of a sportsman, through injury or old age (if you can call it that!) their time abruptly stops and they’re thrown back into the deep-end to try and forge a new path. Except when you’re a model, your passage has become blocked. Companies and brands don’t want to work with ex-glamour girls, and you’re once again running against the wind, trying to catch a break.

I’ve built up a plethora of knowledge through my experiences in this industry. I can, and have executed entire projects for brands from on-set shoot management, sourcing and casting, to client liaison, styling and production (you can check out some of my work here btw). But gaging respect from others as an ex-model is still something I struggle to find. The support network does not exist whilst the judgement unfortunately does. Life sometimes feels like an uphill battle and facing that your career is over as a 25 year-old, whilst feeling like you have so much left to give, is a hard wound to heal. I wrote this blog whilst tearing up, this really was my world. To many this may seem a bit silly, but starting from the bottom when you were so close to the top is a scary thing to face. I hope that I can be the exception and break away from the mould that us ex-models are forced into and forge a career behind the camera. But until then, I’ll continue to blog about my experiences through a new series I’ll be featuring called ‘THE MODEL DIARIES.’ Keep an eye out!

Tits up: The Rise (and Fall) of How I became a Glamour model.

Tits up: The Rise (and Fall) of How I became a Glamour model.

Surprisingly, I hadn’t always wanted to be a Glamour model. For a good chunk of my childhood I wanted to be a pop star. God I loved singing. Problem was, I’m bloody awful. I could do a whole blog post on the embarrassing mishaps my cursed voice has brought upon me. Getting laughed off stage at my 10th birthday party when I attempted an Sclub 7 classic on the Karaoke. Being ordered to mime in the school choir. And my personal favourite, being told by my teacher at 9 years old that “If I was a good friend”, I would let my best mate (who could actually sing) duet with someone else at the Eisteddfod. HEARTBREAKING. Anyway, it soon became apparent after constantly (honestly, could people not just lie to protect my feelings?) being told that I couldn’t sing, that I needed to find another way to “make it”.

Then it came to me. I was going to be a model. God bless my teenage confidence, I don’t know where it came from, I didn’t exactly look like Cindy Crawford at 13 years old. But I was pretty damn certain I could do it. I was scouted” at the Clothes Show in Birmingham for one of those Teen Queen competitions when I was about 14. I was seriously excited at the time, but it soon turned out to be one of those happenings where you pay £500 for the photos (chrz Dad) to then be told “you didn’t get through this time”. But nonetheless, having my first real photoshoot only stimulated my desire to be a model even more. THIS WAS MY PATH. There was only three things standing in my way. My height (obvious). And these two huge things that had grown on my chest (even more obvious).

One of the self-timer images I sent off to agencies

I applied to agency after agency, and even took part in some beauty pageants (come through Miss Wales Finalist 2010), but I kept getting the same response:

You should try Glamour modelling”.

They all enthusiastically pushed my eager, just-turned 18years old self towards the world of Glamour. And I wasn’t mad about it. I loved Jordan in her Peter Andre, braided hair days. Maybe they were right, maybe this was my calling. I sent a few amateur pictures off that I’d taken on self-timer to a Glamour model agency in London, and after getting a call back I dragged my friend down on the train and I met who was soon to become my agent. The wheels were finally rolling.

Serving up beauty queen realness at a Teen Pageant

My first real breakthrough in Glamour modelling came a few weeks later when I was on the train from Cardiff to London for a casting with Nuts magazine. I hadn’t even reached London yet when my agent called “Nuts want to shoot you today!” What! I couldn’t believe it. “They’re not going to bother casting you, they want to shoot you right now for their Next Top Model feature. There’s going to be a car waiting for you at the station to take you to the location. Have fun!”. Fuck. This was it. It’s happening! I’d never had a driver pick me up before. I don’t even think they have those kind of services in West Wales. I was so excited. I had a boyfriend at the time. He was less excited. In fact, he was fuming. He thought I’d lied and that I knew I had a shoot all along. I hadn’t of course, but I didn’t even care, I’d wanted to be a model for so long and it was finally coming true.

I spotted the driver in Paddington station holding up a sign with my name on it- (SO cool) – and he drove me to a huge townhouse in London. “We’re here, Miss!”. Erm, yeah thank you. Did I have to pay this guy? I couldn’t afford too. I just shuffled off quickly and hoped he didn’t follow. I remember what seemed to be a hidden garage doorway opening, and being greeted by a few guys who worked for Nuts. “Come in! We’re just having pizza.” I will never forget the site that I was met with that day when I walked in- all bushy tailed and bright-eyed. There in the kitchen were three, maybe four, beautiful models eating pizza in just a thong. This was every teen boys fantasy. I COULD SEE NIPPLES. I don’t think I’d ever seen another woman’s nipples. I didn’t know where to look. Am I supposed to make eye contact? God, keep cool Jess. It was like being the new kid at school, but luckily everyone was so friendly and welcoming. I barely said a word. I think there was a mutter of how I’d come all the way from Wales. Welsh girls very rarely leave the valleys you see. I was sent straight upstairs into hair and make-up. I’d never had my make-up done before. I felt like Béyonce. This world was so new to me. It was all so g l a m o r o u s. The house was spread across three floors and everything was painted white. How very minimalistic. These Londoners knew how to decorate. The photographer was a woman, phew, that eased my nerves a bit. I was decked out by the stylist (honestly, it just gets fancier) in black lingerie- suspenders n’ all, and thrust, quite literally, into the spotlight.

A shot from my first Nuts magazine shoot

God, I loved it. I felt so sexy, so confident, so beautiful. That feeling that comes over you when you’ve had your hair and make-up done, outfits chosen for you and been pampered and primped to an inch of your life whilst being told how great you look by a whole team of people is indescribable.

At that moment, you really believe your hype, and it shows through the lens. I guess that’s how they get great pictures. But then all of a sudden the hype came crashing down. “Okay, can you take the bra off now please?” What? Fuck. I hadn’t agreed to go topless. I hadn’t really discussed anything, it was such a whirlwind morning of excitement that I hadn’t even asked what the shoot would entail. Naive as it may have been, I was only eighteen and new to this whole world and didn’t know what to expect. I’d told my agent when I first signed with the agency that I wasn’t going to do topless, and I naively assumed that they would have relayed this slightly important detail onto the client.

“Um, erm, I, um don’t do topless sorry” I mumbled. Awkward silence. I continued to tell them how I couldn’t do topless as I was scheduled to take part in another beauty pageant in a couple months, and they had banned anyone who had posed nude or topless. Power to all females, right? *eyeroll*. The team let me take a break to call my agent who assured me that this was a huge opportunity for me, that they’d booked me without even seeing me, that I should just do it. But I stood my ground- Rule #1.

I learnt very early on that if you were going to survive in this industry, you needed to be strong and assertive when it came to marking out your line of what you will and won’t do. I think this is where some girls went wrong and ended up having bad experiences. I know of a few who were too shy or embarrassed to say that they were uncomfortable doing a certain shot or pose on set, and then would contact the photographer or client afterwards asking them not to use those shots of them. This would piss the client off because they’ve just wasted their time getting pictures they can’t use, and have to sift through thousands of shots picking out the ones you don’t approve. It was much easier, however awkward it may feel at the time (and it really does feel awkward standing their practically naked trying to explain yourself to a group of strangers), for you to just to say “Sorry, I’m not comfortable doing that” and then you could all move on and find a different solution together. This is what me and the team at Nuts did. We met at a compromise of implied topless, so bra off, nipples covered. This reluctancy to show everything right away actually proved to be a positive and became my main selling point in the industry, leading to me being offered lucrative deals from mags for my “first big reveal”.

I have to point out that the level of mutual respect between everyone on set, not just of this particular shoot, but every professional lads mag shoot I’ve worked on, was unquestionable. This is one of the reasons why I think the loss of Nuts and Zoo is such a shame and a danger to aspiring models who don’t have that support network or safety net around them. I still shoot with this same female photographer six years on, which is testament enough to how comfortable and respected I felt on that day.

Another shot from my first Nuts shoot.

So that’s it. I was now a fully fledged Glamour model. I was so pleased with how my images came out, although there was one issue. The main pull quote on the article read “GETTING MY CLOTHES OFF IS NOTHING NEW TO ME” WHAT. I hadn’t said that. This is where I learnt Rule #2 of the Glamour modelling world. Never say anything in your post-shoot interview that could be twisted into something suggestive. What I’d actually said was that I had done a swimwear round in a pageant before, but of course that wasn’t juicy enough for the male readers. From that day on my interviews were as boring as I could make them. I remember Zoo mag once asking me what I wore to bed. “Pyjamas”, “Well what kind of pyjamas?, “Fluffy ones”. I wasn’t giving anything away.

After a couple of shoots and losing out on one of Zoo mags’ new girl contracts because I wouldn’t go topless, I soon realised if I wanted to try and make a career in this industry, that I would have to free the nipples. By now my relationship had fell apart and I was being promised big bucks and opportunities if I would just throw caution to the wind and bare all. Everything came to a head when an uncensored aka nipples out image of me in a pink mesh swimsuit was published in a Nuts Summer Special Issue. I had been promised by my agent that my nipples would be photoshopped out- and I again, naively assumed this would happen. I remember seeing the image circulate online and I cried for hours. What have I done. But my family and friends were hugely supportive. To this day it’s actually my mums favourite picture of me (she’s not a regular mom, she’s a cool mom). So instead of wallowing in my own titty-pity party, I decided to take control and own my title as a topless model. I signed an exclusive retainer contract with Zoo magazine for my “big reveal” and claimed it as a big F U to any comments or judgements that I’d been on the other end of.

One from the Zoo magazine archives

Obviously it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, the professionalism and fond memories I talk about are directly in reference to the main lad mags that I shot with. Outside of that, I’ve had some dodgy experiences, bad advice and done things that I regret. But I’ll delve into that another time.

Of course, the big bucks never came and all the amazing opportunities I’d been promised never materialised. Truth is, I started my journey at a time when the industry had already started to decline. Protests had began against Page 3 and a new-wave of feminists began speaking out about how Glamour models were bad role models for women. I was angry. They were wrong. This wasn’t my industry, my peers, my employers that they were describing. I could think of nothing that encapsulated feminism less than telling me what I can and couldn’t do, how I should and shouldn’t feel. These individuals were taking away our dreams because how they thought we felt, instead of actually engaging in conversation and celebrating our sexuality alongside us.

Attending a Nuts’ Magazine Birthday Party

Fast forward six years from where it all began, and all the lad mags have died. Big Brothers been cancelled. Donald Trump is President. Boris Johnson fucked us over. Toblerone’s have bigger gaps. Oh, and we’re now living through a movement where women are being encouraged to be more open, embrace and own their sexuality, and to free the nipple. I’m all for it, anyone that follows me will know that. However, I wish it wasn’t such a selective celebration of womanhood; but a unity of women supporting women in finding empowerment through which ever form they see fit. Whether that is in the pages of a glossy magazine, or at a political protest.

Image by Haris Nukem

Is it Naked time yet?

Is it Naked time yet?

All I’m writing is just what I feel, that’s all. I just keep it almost naked. And probably the words are so bland.” – Jimmy Hendrix

Pussy Power via LappTheBrand.

So this is it. Time to lay myself bare to the World. Or at least to a couple of stragglers who stumble upon this blog on the Internet- Hey you guys! And I’m not talking bare as in, butt naked, no- that happened along time ago (Chrz google). We’re talking bare in terms of actual words and actual feelings and sharing who I actually am.

Starting a blog is something I’ve wanted to do for years. Not to try make some dollahhh, or promote skin products that make your skin all dewy like those Instagram models (how do they look so perfect all the damn time), and not even to share my plethora of knowledge on any given subject (limited). I just have a lot to say, I guess.

I’ve tried to use social media as a tool to share my views and opinions, my thoughts and the things I love, or don’t. But an Instagram caption rambling on about gender equality and why the freedom of nipples are important underneath an image of me in minimal clothing whilst guys commented emojis along the lines of 😍👅🍆😈 or “stick to getting your tits out”, wasn’t exactly hitting my g-spot when it came to wanting to share how I really felt. Sorry boys.

I’ve loved writing since I was young. I used to write stories in my spare time when I was a kid, piece together crappy poems, and write apology letters to my parents when I knew I’d effed up. I didn’t even mind taking on extra story-writing homework for a boy I fancied in school. UR WELCOME BTW. But then University came along, and writing became a chore, and social media was so easy, that I just sort of, stopped. I’ve wrote a couple articles here and there over the years, but I really started getting back into it last year when I was tasked with writing blog posts for a female-led women’s underwear company. Perfect!- I thought- I can write about women’s issues and fun but important things like tampons and periods and yay, you get the picture. But I had to send all my articles over to be checked and edited, muted and corrected, fuck I hated that. So yeah, that job’s now a distant memory.

So all of this, plus a quarter-life crisis, an impending fear of WTF am I doing with my life and a love for oversharing my opinion- *Does anyone remember that “Hey Andrew, why do you hate poor people?” Meme? Well that’s me after two glasses of Malbec* has led me here today.

By here, I mean sitting in a luke-warm bath typing away on my phone like Rev Run whilst avoiding any given thing I’ve tasked myself to do. Ahhh procrastination, I’m pretty good at that. But we’ll get to that another time. Or will we. I guess you’ll have to wait and see. I’m not promising life-changing content, I’m not even going to promise interesting content. In fact it will probably be more like a bin – or more nicely put – a filing cabinet – for my thoughts, opinions, experiences and anything in between. A place to jibber jabber with myself and share it online in the hopes that someone, somewhere might be feeling or thinking the same thing.

So here goes nothing, Is it Naked time yet?