I was a giant growing up, so I know what it feels like to be different. Feeling like you’re ugly because you don’t see anyone like you is quite isolating. Even in modelling, I was told I was too tall. I’m 6' 2", the same height as Karlie Kloss, and we joke that we’re 5' 14". I had to lie about my height in modelling for a very long time. I can’t be bothered lying anymore.
Having been in the industry for more than 12 years, I have seen the pressure put on young
girls to be thin and look a certain way. Modelling is based completely on how you look, so your appearance is always up for discussion. I have been called Australia’s top plus-size model, but I would never use that label to describe myself. I find the term detrimental and damaging because girls will compare their bodies to mine and think, “If she’s plus-size, what does that make me?” Some brands only go up to a size 12, which is ridiculous because the national average women’s size in Australia is 14-16.
American model Tess Holliday was on the cover of Cosmopolitan UK in a swimsuit recently, and
I think many women would look up to her. Piers Morgan body-shamed her for “promoting morbid obesity”, but she’s just promoting loving who you are, as you are. Seeing normal women of different sizes and ethnicities is what’s going to drive change.
Becoming a mum [in 2015] has made me care less about the way I look – mostly because I don’t have time. I think it’s more badass to say, “Fuck it, I’m just going out as I am, without make-up, because I’d rather spend my time with my kid.” It’s really strong seeing a woman as she is.
I was diagnosed with lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome following the birth of my daughter Ripley [now three], and it really put things in perspective. The condition means my body is basically attacking itself. In June I had a seizure on my staircase and fell more than two metres, landing on my face. I was lucky I didn’t break my neck, but I was left with permanent scars on my face. I suppose it’s ironic that I’m a model.
I posted a photo of my scars on Instagram [as] I didn’t want to feel ashamed. I was very much aware of them and I didn’t want them to be a big secret. I decided I didn’t want to laser them, so now when I go to castings, I’m like, “I’ve got a bunch of scars now, you can either book me or not, your choice.”
I think we focus way too much energy on our exterior selves. People get so wrapped up with trying to take the perfect image and find the perfect filter. We need to teach girls at a young age that it’s within their own power to self-love through meditation or volunteering. The easiest way to feel body positivity is by helping your community. My mum used to take me tree planting every Sunday and it was so fulfilling.
Go plant a tree.
My daughter is on track to be my height, so I know what it’s going to be like for her. When she comes home and says, “I’ve got big legs, Mum,” I tell her that she has perfect legs, strong legs. Words are important. I do tell Ripley that she is pretty, but also that she’s smart and creative.
When it comes to body-shaming, we as women need to demand change. We need to band together, encourage each other and empower ourselves.