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Power Players: Body-Positive Activist Charli Howard

We’ve partnered with one of the raddest publications in the game, PAPER magazine, to bring you Power Players, a series celebrating powerful ladies—trailblazers across art, music, fashion, and social advocacy—and their inspiring stories and out-of-bounds style.

 

 

Two years ago, when model Charli Howard was dropped from her UK-based agency for being “too big” at a size 2, she did what any rebel millennial with something to say would do: she penned an angry open letter to her agency, calling them out for body-shaming, and posted it to Facebook. In a matter of moments, her virtual middle finger went viral. She signed off with this call to action: “Until (and if) an agency wishes to represent me for myself, my body, and the woman I've become, give me a call. Until then, I’m off to Nando’s.”

Since then, the Brit, armed with a pair of commanding caterpillar eyebrows and unapologetic curves—because, well, what’s there to apologize about?—moved to Brooklyn and created the All Woman Project, a foundation that aims to increase body positivity and the representation of real women (regardless of age, size, or color) in fashion. “I love the female body, and it should be celebrated,” she says. “I feel powerful knowing I’m in a collective of women who want to change the way we’re perceived by men, the media, and society.”

Fist-pumping alongside her is a 101K-strong Instagram following, her new Manhattan-based modeling agency, and fellow model activists like Gigi Hadid, Zendaya, and Ashley Graham, all who share her anti-bullying, body-pos vibe.

 

 

Describe a moment in your past when you felt supremely powerful.

“You know, growing up, I’d always be the person defending others from bullies, but when it came to myself, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the confidence. Once I told my ex-model agency to f*ck off, I realized that defending myself wasn’t as scary as I’d thought it’d be, and that I owed it to myself. I was pushed around by a lot of people during that time, so I stood up to everyone who made me feel less of a person, and I’ll continue to do that.”

What gave you the inspiration to put yourself out there online?

“I found that followers responded better to me when I was true to myself.”

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Where did the idea for the All Woman Project come from?

“I really felt that there was a divide between traditional skinny models and plus-size models. You never saw those two very different body types photographed together, nor did you see someone in-between those sizes, like me. Every woman, no matter her race, size or age, deserves to feel represented in the images they see. Just because you’re not a size 0, you don’t have to be photographed in a cheesy or commercial way.”

Who are your own body-positive role models?

“Crystal Renn was such an inspiration to me. She really paved the way curvy women were photographed. But honestly, I see a heap of body-positive role models coming through on social media, owning their bodies, and I respect anyone who stands up for her true self.”

Along those lines, is there any advice you’d like to offer women about owning their power?

“You’re not on this planet to please other people. It’s not selfish to put your health and happiness first. And you have more to offer than just your outward appearance.”

 

 

"You’re not on this planet to please other people."

  • Charli Howard
     

If you were feeling in need of a recharge, what would we find you doing?

“I love cooking for family and friends. Food had been an issue for me throughout my late childhood and teen years, so getting to cook for people and nurture them makes me feel powerful.”

What about getting-pumped anthems? Any go-tos?

“I love a bit of ’90’s hip-hop and R&B—all about TLC! I hope this isn’t too cringe but ‘Feelin’ Myself’ by Nicki Minaj gets me ready to do anything!”

How does your personal style make you feel empowered?

“I used to shy away from anything tight-fitting, or anything that emphasized the things that made me womanly, like my hips and boobs. Now I love wearing form-fitting clothes. I showcase the things that I used to try and shrink. Those types of clothes make me feel powerful. My go-to is a Reformation dress, a leather jacket, and I’m done!”

 

"I love the female body, and it should be celebrated."

  • Charli Howard
     

What classic sneaker do you always have on rotation?

“My Adidas Stan Smiths, so I’m so excited to get a replacement pair. And you can’t go wrong with Reebok Lifestyles.”

What’s your most boss lipstick shade?

“I love makeup! A red lip can boost my confidence if I need it, and I love Pat McGrath Lab’s LuxeTrance lipsticks in McGrath Muse and Strange.”

And we know you’ve just written a book. Congrats! Tell us about it.

“Yes! I’ve written a young adult book (and yes, I did write the whole thing!) called Misfit (Penguin) coming out in February 2018. It’s all about my childhood mental health struggles with eating disorders, anxiety, and how I thought becoming a model would change my life for the better, which, of course, it won’t. And I’ve written another book for children, being published next summer, about body positivity. I love writing and want to continue doing that. I’m also continuing to model at my true size, and people can either take it or leave it.”

 

"Every woman, no matter her race, size or age, deserves to feel represented in the images they see."

  • Charli Howard
     

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Written by Julie Vadnal. Photos by Tory Rust.

 
 

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