Nodel Life

No, it’s not a typo.

euphoria-rachel-083
…am I a nodel?

Yesterday, waiting for a coffee-to-go in busy Gisborne, I flicked through the local rag.  I saw an article ‘Brands Waking to the Appeal of Real Women’ about recent research into fashion marketing.

[I don’t use the word ‘real’ myself, because all women are real women, regardless of size. I prefer the term ‘regular’].

The studies focused on the relationship between the type of models brands employ and people’s buying behaviour. The specific focus of the research was the use of diverse models. The article referred to these recent entrants into fashion circles with the slang term ‘nodels’  as in, ‘not-models’.  Pictured was one of the most iconic plus size models in recent years, Tess Holliday.

Research uncovered a desire for brands to promote images that reflected greater diversity and signalled that they felt this would lead to greater brand trust and longer-lasting consumer relationships. The media and brands are waking up to this…
from Suzanne Winfield, New Zealand Herald 26th December, 2016

‘NODEL’ stuck in my brain. I didn’t consider the ‘nodel’ label offensive; it’s just another nonsense word. But I mused for a bit about how I must be a nodel, and about how close the word nodel is to nodule, a very unattractive thing, or to noddy, something I am, often!

The word also made me think about the modelling work I have done.  Was I ‘not-modelling’ during those shoots?  Was the photographer ‘not-shooting’ and the makeup artist ‘not-making-up’? Was the job ‘not-selling’ clothes? No.
So the ‘not’ part must refer to the industry aesthetic attached to the word ‘model’.  To how I look, not what I do.

euphoria-rachel-102

I don’t look like a typical straight-sized (ie. size 6-8) model, I look like a regular woman.  I’m grateful to, and I don’t think nodels like me need a different label. Can we not all be models if we do modelling work? A simple thought to thunk, as my friend Pooh would say.  A mannequin is a mannequin regardless of it’s size. Come on fashion aesthetists, get with the program.  We all buy fashion, all sorts of bodies, it makes perfect sense that we want to see fashion modelled on bodies like our own.

euphoria-rachel-243

Today when I got home from our long Christmas road trip I was greeted by a package from Euphoria Design (thank you Monique and crew).
This beautiful New Zealand fashion label design clothes for women size 10-24.
Earlier this year they ran a model search called ‘Confidence is Beautiful’. You may have seen my post all about it. The shoot was about showing the relationship between inner confidence and beauty. It was about people like you and me. It was such a great concept! I was lucky enough to be selected along with nine other gorgeous kiwi women. We were from all over the country and all walks of life, we were many variations of ‘woman’. I made some wonderful friends that day, was spoilt rotten and enjoyed a glamorous shoot in a new season Euphoria Design dress.

Today, in that parcel was a cute framed shot from that day and a memory stick with all my photos, I’ve been waiting for them since our shoot and it is so cool to be able to at last share them properly on here! My Nodel Life! Haha! Seeing the pictures again brought back all the fun of the day and made me feel proud to be a nodel/model (whatever!) and a regular female of the human species.  I couldn’t be happier about being part of the movement for greater visibility in fashion media. We need to see more regular bodies. Our daughters need to, too. Desperately.

euphoria-group-2596

PS. How gorgeous is this print?  The photos are black and white and don’t show the Navy and Milk white print in it’s true form, but it is such a fresh summer print. I love it, and unlike most ‘nodelling’ jobs, this time I got to keep the dress! I know!  Lucky!

euphoria-rachel-013

Do you like seeing bodies like yours in fashion media?
If you do, let your favourite brands know!

Confidence is Beautiful

 

At thirteen years of age, I thought confidence could be bought and worn.

It was a black dress with an attached tartan ra-ra skirt that held all the power.
I knew it was the key to social glory at the upcoming school social. I knew that if I could just wear that dress, accessorised with carefully scrunched long socks and black karate shoes (de rigeur in 1987) …every person in the room would sigh with envy. Marvel at my meteoric rise to uber-coolness. Like in the movies. I knew that in that dress, all my adolescent problems would be solved.

My mother hated it. She thought the dress was cheap and nasty, too short, altogether wrong on every level. Somehow, I convinced her. The dress was bought. My social success was assured.

Sure.

School socials were hot and steamy affairs in the tropics. The air was thick with the smell of Impulse body spray and teen sweat. Palm fronds decorated the breezeway under the stilted classrooms; our makeshift dance hall. Beats and synthesized riffs pumped out of the speakers. A swarm of coral colours and pimply faces hovered around the sound system. It was high excitement. I could feel my pulse fluttering in my neck as I walked into the crowd of teenage energy.

“Carrot!” rang out from the cool girl huddle as I walked past. Laughter from the gaggle of girls buzzing around the Queen Bee.
“Carrot!” she hooted, staring straight at me. I was confused. I leaned in,
“Are you talking to me?” I asked loudly, over the music, my smile hovering. I was unsure but a little eager to even have airtime with Her Social Highness.  I didn’t know what she meant by ‘carrot’. She laughed like I was the stupidest creature ever born.
“I’m going to call you Carrot from now on, because you always look like you’ve got a carrot RIGHT UP YOUR ARSE!”.  She and her friends fell about laughing. One mimicked my walk. I tried to evaporate away into the shadows of the palm leaves. Suddenly ridiculous in my dress, my socks, my attempts to fit in. And conscious for the first time of the way that I walk. Wishing I could stand stock still until they were all gone. Knowing I couldn’t enjoy the dance floor, or life itself, with a theoretical carrot up my arse.  It didn’t matter what I wore. A dress wasn’t enough.

 

13912569_10154505966280815_1621903137902060954_n

By my forties, I’d discovered that confidence is a choice.  Yes, it took me that long.
I discovered it when I did something well out of my comfort zone. I entered an Australian plus size modelling competition. The prize was a contract with Vivien’s Model Management. I didn’t win that competition, but I did win a contract; it was the start (or perhaps just a part) of the life-long process toward feeling confident in my own skin. It seems that mature, curvaceous, giraffe-ish ladies are needed in the fashion world. My speciality seems to be showcasing clothing for mid-life women with a bit of hip and sass. And doing that has built something beautiful in me. I am confident in who I am. Confident that I can be beautiful; me. With all of my flaws and all of my failings.

Working as a model has taught me so many things. But above all, I have learned that feeling beautiful is an inside job. It’s just a choice we make. A decision to believe that everyone can see the best of us, to let it shine even when we feel insecure.  So, for me, confidence is just self-belief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In the face of those millions of reasons why I feel unworthy about calling myself beautiful, the same reasons that cripple so many women. It’s listening instead to that small, insistent and compelling voice that tells me we all are beautiful. And that means, me too.  If I could go back in time to my thirteen year old self on that night of adolescent embarassment, I’d whisper to her:

“-fake it, baby.  Stand up tall, flash that mean girl a brilliant, dismissive, smile. Stride away, don’t skulk in the shadows. Just fake it til you make it, until the only person you need to impress, is you. Because one day, you will make it to that place. And it is going to feel amazing’.

On Saturday, I spent the day in that place. We were in the studio and design space of a renowned New Zealand fashion label, Euphoria Designs. We were shooting beautiful clothes from the new summer range, in a campaign that has me all excited about the future.  Euphoria Design’s campaign selected ten ladies from their competition, ‘Confidence is Beautiful’. The entries were put to public votes, and between those (thank you if you voted for me!) and the judges deliberations, we were chosen. They were looking for a diverse group who would represent their customers, their world of wearable design. Our world, as fashion consumers.  It is rare to see ourselves reflected in fashion media, regular & irregular women, diverse women. Women of various ethnicities, ages, heights, sizes, social status, health. Some fashion houses are ahead of others. Some fashion houses get it.

Monique Angus (designer of Euphoria clothing) is a woman who understands how important it is to show it. She herself is effortlessly elegant. The archetype of a classical beauty. And yet she comprehends the significance of diversity in fashion media. On Saturday she swished about the studio, quietly supporting all the girls, explaining her pieces, listening …and even clearing away our dishes. She is a thoughtful soul, with an eye for detail and a commitment to all the things that make New Zealand fashion great; quality, superb cut, beautiful construction and unique prints. Her clothes are simply gorgeous: drapey, elegant, quirky, interesting. And her campaign was simply lovely: inclusive, affirming, generous and encouraging. She made us all feel so special, so much a part of the Euphoria philosophy. I hope our pictures might encourage others to explore Euphoria, too. Monique has something for everyone, even when the budget is tight. I found such treasures in her outlet racks!

It was a very special day for me.

It’s a while since I’ve been booked for any commercial modelling, and my day with this campaign felt like a quiet confirmation. Whether it is over, or still beginning, I can do this. I love to do this.
Representing women of a certain age, women with curvier form, women who have taken a long time to discover their own beauty, women for whom confidence has not come easy… that lights me up.
(And if you, too, would like to see more diversity in fashion media, more women like the ones above modelling clothes on websites and in magazines; let your favourite brands know!)

A dress isn’t enough. Confidence comes from an active choice.  And when you choose to step into your own kind of beauty, to own it, well then… that’s when a dress can truly do magic.

Recently a dear friend of mine told me her favourite quote. It is now one of mine.  I hope it will resonate with you, too.

“We are not meant to be perfect, we are meant to be whole”
-Jane Fonda.

Let’s not waste a moment more on self-doubt. Whoever you are and whatever your story, you are beautiful. Just the way you are.  Maybe you, like me, have moved on from that ‘carrot’ feeling. Maybe instead you’re in the unhappy-pear-stage, or feeling like an apprehensive-apple, or any one of the body shapes stylists love to group us into. Whatever it is, it’s sweeter than you realise. Stand up, square those shoulders, put a grin on your face and move that body like only you can. Listen to the voice inside you that speaks the truth of your beauty, not the many that speak only to bring you down.

Because when you are confident, it is a beautiful thing, it showers all of your inside sparkles onto the people around you, like glitter, like confetti. Like a celebration of something amazing.  It would be a shame not to share it, right?

I’d love to know what gives you confidence.

Do you have it? How did you find it? Did it take you as long as me?

 

fruit

 

Deep End Stuff

She was a tough nut sometimes, my Mum.

Brought up in the Bay of Islands, she lived down by the water beside a picturesque bay. I don’t think it was as idyllic as it sounds. Survival in the post war years, off grid with five kids can’t have been a walk in the park for her parents.  She spoke of having to go in the rowing boat around to the mouth of the river once a week so they could wash the clothes in fresh water. Neither she nor her four siblings could swim, and one terrifying day, her baby brother fell over the side. She recalled seeing his blonde curls just above the surface of the water, the rest of him below. Her mum managed to get him back into the boat and on they went to do the washing. I think it haunted my Mum, that memory.  So even though she wasn’t a strong swimmer herself, she was determined that we would learn to survive in the water.

Our introduction was at our neighbours swimming pool. It had a very deep end, and after splashing about in the shallows, one at a time, Mum took us along the outside pool deck to the deep end. “In you go!” she said. In I went, clinging by my fingernails to the shiny squares of the edge.  “Now-” she said, “push off from the side and use your arms and legs to keep your face out of the water” showing me the doggy paddle action with her arms.  I was so afraid.  I wanted to keep my tenuous grip on the tiled lip of the pool. But I trusted her. And in one crazy, better-not-think-about-it-moment, I pushed off. I paddled like she said.  My legs pushing against the water beneath me. Around in a big arc, the deep blue beneath me seemed to stretch down endlessly.  But I was moving! And as long as I was moving I was staying up near the top! I craned my neck and panted with the effort. I was exhilarated! As far I was concerned, I was swimming! I remember that moment because it was one of my biggest. I was afraid. I did it anyway. Some moments just stay with you. Do you remember when you first got into the deep end?

I was afraid, but I trusted her

Tonight I had a wee panicky moment, thinking about what lies ahead of me on Monday. I’m going to what is called a casting. A big retailer is going to check me out and take some test shots to see if I am a good fit for their brand. I’ll be there in front of the cameras, having a go at posing and trying to look natural instead of petrified!  I was initially feeling really excited about it, just kind of zen, you know? Then Kelly, the lovely girl I talk to at the agency, asked me if I had any questions. Um,
“Should I take my suck-it-all-in-pants?” I asked. She giggled. I think I surprised her with that question, I guess she deals with a lot of girls who don’t need suck-it-all-in-pants. But Bridget Jones and I, we are kind of attached to them. They help with the jiggle and give me a better contour. She asked me again what size I am. “18-20”, I said.  When I got my contract from Vivien’s I wrote my sizes down, and I noticed that my contract states that I can’t change my size. And, you know, I’m such a good girl, that for the last few weeks, I’ve been studiously maintaining my booty!  “Hmmm”, she said, “I wouldn’t have picked you for an 18-20, their sample size is 16”.  Ah. “Guess I’d better take the suck-it-all-in pants!” I laughed. “It’s a plan!” she said, and I began to imagine myself squeezing in to pants two sizes too small. This rumptious rear might find that a bit challenging!

So since that little exchange, I’ve been feeling a bit more nervous.  My hubster came home and asked me what was up.  I must have been chewing on my lip. I explained it all and he smiled that Bobby Dazzler grin. “Babe,” he said, like he was talking about an irrefutable fact, “it’s just deep end stuff. We’re good at deep end stuff!  Just get out there…and see what happens!”.  He’s good like that. Reassuring. Believable. And he’s right, we are good at ‘deep-end’ stuff. We’ve had lots of practise! So I am letting go of that safe space I inhabit on the edge of the unknown. I’m pushing off, regardless of how frightening this new world of modelling is to me. I’m just going to think of my mum, showing me that paddle action, I’m going to keep my head up and give it a go.

What’s the scariest deep end moment you’ve had?
How did it work out?
Did you keep your head above water?
Oh please, tell me encouraging stories!

Post Script:  it went well!  I fitted their samples by some miracle of brand-size-variation and the suck-it-all-in pants were not required.  Phew!  Just have to wait now to see if the brand manager thinks I am a fit for their stuff.  It was fun 🙂

Inside Out

 

_Take off the jewellery.Just be you_ she(2)

I wrote about doing something way out of my comfort zone the other day.  You can read here about how I submitted my photo to Autograph’s online curvy model search. And got a call about being shortlisted (eeeek! At last, an appreciater of the curves!) I wrote all about how I was getting ready to go and have my photos taken yesterday.  It was all a very welcome distraction from some of the other stuff that is going on for me at the moment.  You can read about that too, here if you are interested in lady-business.  All’s well that ends well.  I had my surgery this morning and happily had zero problems with the anaesthetic.  I’d like to thank my six months of stability for that.  Woohoo!

So while I am lying here post op, letting my lady-business recover, I thought I would tell you the story of my day yesterday… thanks to those of you who messaged me to say you wanted to hear all about it!

I was awake hours early, staring up into the darkness and wondering how it could be that I was seriously going to rock up to a modelling agency, big butt and all, and have my photos taken. It filled me with terror and delight and self-doubt. But I let it all the feelings wash over and through me, proud that I am big enough and old enough to know that feelings are fickle.  I reminded myself of the facts.  I did this to myself. I want to try this. They want my photos. I’m me and that is enough.  And I went through the poses in my head, trying to remember everything Tyra Banks ever said about modelling. Ha!  I lay there in the dark smizing at the ghosts of insecurity dancing around my bed. They weren’t impressed that I wasn’t listening to them. I lay there humming in my head “I’m a MO-del, you know what I mean…?”  and hamming it up for the imaginary camera.

I had an early appointment up at our local salon so my hair would look like I was naturally bouncy.  My lovely hairdresser Eff, sent me out with one of those “oh, this hair? I just showered and tossed my hair in the breeze… ” hairdos.  Good hair makes you feel so confident, doesn’t it?  I came home so full of it that I thought I’d take a selfie. I looked up at the light to see where would be a good spot to take it… and just as I was thinking ‘over there…’ my equilibrium woogled it’s wiggle and I took a very inelegant skate along the muddy ground. In my fancy hair.  And my ‘outfit number one’. Because pride does literally cometh before the fall!  Thankfully, the fall was small. And there was loads of time before I had to leave. I cleaned myself up, dusted off my pride and all the grass stains and mud (how ladylike) and took myself up to bed for a little rest.

My best friend Flo arrived to pick me up. She’s so wonderful.  By then my nerves were rising and I was wondering if I should abort mission.  She’s not gushy that girl, so when she said I looked good; I felt a million bucks.  Good hair and compliments you can trust. Essential components for feeling great! She had made me a coffee to-go and so off we went.  Have I mentioned how wonderful she is? She’s deep in the thick of planning a triple birthday party for her kids, and she took time out to be my wheels. I loves her.

62 Models is in a beautiful brick building surrounding a little courtyard. Access to the agency is up two flights of narrow, steep, stairs.  If you are a Dysautonomiac, you will understand why I stood at the bottom of those stairs, quaking in my ankle boots.  I had been warned.  A friend from my online patient forum is a model with 62 Models (the tall, slender kind).  Helena had already messaged me with reassurance, parking tips and stair warnings.  I stopped at the top and used my phone to snap shots while I caught my breath and un-dizzied myself.

Voila!  The door!  Can you imagine, standing at the door of a modelling agency, how much hutzpah it would take to open that door? It swung away from me and inside were five huge flat screen computers around a large table.  Transparent furniture and a funky chalkboard wall. NZ Fashion Week and other campaigns scrawled across it in white grainy chalk.  Behind each screen, an impossibly gorgeous person;  among them, Katie of the groovy glasses, Kelly with the brilliant white smile. And behind them, a wall of more gorgeous-person-photos.  All their eyes seemed to turn in my direction at once.

“Hello!   I’m Rachel Cox”
Kelly, a model, mum and marathon runner, smiled at me and I felt instantly welcome. I’ve seen her in so many catalogues,  but she is even more beautiful in real life than in print. Wow.  I felt like I knew her just because her face was already so familiar. It put me at ease. And I guess we both run marathons, just of different kinds.  😉

She introduced me to the others and explained that the willowy, auburn haired stunner to the right would be taking my photos.  Her name was Marijke. The bits in between the introduction and the end of the photos are all a bit of a blur!  I didn’t feel afraid, just wanted to do the right thing. I stared down the barrel of that camera and thought ‘…here I am.  This is me’. Marijke gave me excellent feedback and advice. It was fun and self-affirming. It was good for my soul. If you are wanting to look your best in photos, here is some of Marijke’s advice… ‘think friendly thoughts and it will show in your expression’ and ‘being natural is beautiful, so just be you’. She was so lovely.  After an outfit change I had to make a little intro video.  I’m not very comfy being on video, are you? Yikes.  I think I managed; I hope they will see my enthusiasm in my short few words.

_Take off the jewellery.Just be you_ she

I told Autograph that I would love the opportunity to represent New Zealand in their curvy model search. That’s it.

But for me, doing this thing is about overcoming all those inner voices of limitation. No, you can’t. No, you’re not enough, no you shouldn’t put yourself out there, no. Just, no.  Women, especially curvy girls, do themselves such a disservice by remaining hitched to those voices. They’re just insecurities. We know we are far more powerful, interesting and significant than those voices tell us we are. We are much, much more. Those little, insignificant mewlings that we have listened to for so long have become loud and insistent because we let them. Well, I’m here to tell you that those ridiculous little voices are actually very small when you stand up to them. They shrink. They scatter.  And what they leave behind is the kind of person I want my daughter to see me be.  Bold. Beautiful. Brave.  And maybe just a little bit bonkers!  Tee hee!

_Take off the jewellery.Just be you_ she(1)

If you are a curvy girl and are thinking about entering Autograph’s Model Search, you can do it here. Do it for you.  Do it to send those insecurities scarpering. Do it because you are beautiful, just as you are. Exactly the shape and size you are.  Not because of your body, but because of who you are. If I can do it, you can too.   Marijke’s photos arrived this afternoon and the woman I saw in them surprised me. I’m wearing my inside, out.  And I like it.

(thanks Michelle for sending me this song the other day!)

The Bold and the Beautiful

I’m getting older, aren’t we all?  And as the years tick over I become ever more conscious of how fleeting life is. Or maybe that is because my kids are growing older and seeing them grow up makes me reflect on how that was me, what seems like just yesterday.  Or perhaps dealing with being sick for so long has given me a better appreciation of the importance of doing what you yearn to do, because tomorrows are unpredictable. They are not to be relied on. That’s what I figure.

Michael Leunig understands Life.
Michael Leunig understands Life.

Speaking of figures, I’ve wasted a lot of my years feeling ridiculous about mine. Have you? Like, embarassed, ashamed, exasperated. Even before I had reason to. In various ways over the years I have castigated myself for the shape I carry.  Too this or too that. And if you added up all the kilos I have lost on various diets, I think I’d have lost my entire body weight. But lately, it’s just been gains. Chronic illness and my medication side effects have made weight control difficult for me.  If it’s not the tummy cramps of my pyridostygmine and motilium, it’s the insatiable appetite and trademark round cheeks I have acquired on high dose steroids. The delayed gastric emptying, chronic constipation, dizziness and especially, the ever present fatigue. ‘Just Do It’ is a huge mountain to climb. Any one of those issues pretty quickly puts exercise at the bottom of my priority list. And, um, I love cake. So, slowly but surely, I’ve gotten rounder.

o-TESS-HOLLIDAY-facebook

And that roundy-ness has made me feel less beautiful. Fat does not equate with beauty in our media; most of the time. But that is changing.  There are women like Tess Holliday, above, who are changing things. She is so gorgeous! Then there are others, it’s a new frontier. Just google ‘plus size model images’ and you’ll be wowed!

In spite of all the reasons why my fat sits there on my frame, I haven’t been good at looking at myself as though I have beauty. I look at other curvy people and I think they look beautiful, but not at myself. Lately I have been following a curvy stylist on facebook. Seeing her daily looks has been inspiring to me.  A fellow roundy girl who celebrates her inner self; on the outside.  She’s bold.  She’s sassy.  She’s awesome. I really like Jenni, from Styling Curvy for her down-to-earth approach to life.  As a cancer survivor (she calls it being a cancer thriver) she sees life for all it’s imperfect beauty. She knows it’s for embracing. And she has changed the way I look at my wardrobe, my body, my self. And I think I’m ready to do this ‘being me’ thing a bit differently. I’m ready to feel beautiful, anyway.

 

blogprofile-300x300
Jenni, from Styling Curvy

I’ve been shopping for plus sized clothing online for years. My inbox receives updates from all my favourite big girl stores, and the other day, one of those newsletters caught my eye.  I love Autograph clothes, they have sensible price tags and comfort, not to mention flattering styles. And they’re online. Half my wardrobe comes from them.The women in the shot were women like me. Women wearing life on their frames.  But they were confident.  I saw them and I thought I want to be like that. And a small voice in my head scoffed at me. It told me to get real. After all, I’m forty. And probably too big even for a plus-size model.  And I’m sick.  Yeah, don’t forget that bit, Rach. I clicked through to the Star Now website. I made a profile. I sent it to Autograph, anyway.

 

Autograph Model Search graphic
The 2015 Autograph Model Search is open all August. Get into it!

And last Friday, in the midst of my downward spiral about my diminishing treatment prospects, I got a call from Vivien’s model agency in Sydney. A very sophisticated scandinavian-sounding guy told me I need to get myself to their partner agency 62 Models, here in Auckland.  I’ve been shortlisted. So on Thursday, I’m off for a bit of a shoot and an interview. Can you believe it?!

It’s probably a foolishness on my part, but you know what?  I don’t care. It has been a wonderful distraction from the upcoming surgery on Friday.  I’ve had my nails done! I have some outfits to take along, it’s been fun having something exciting to look forward to.  I hope I can do this thing, but I have no idea if I can.  There is just this belligerent part of me that recognises how short life is, it calls me to be bold.  I’m not sure if my boldness will equate to the beauty they are looking for, but I’m going to give it a shot. It’s already given me such a boost.

Wish me luck!  Do you wanna see me in my outfits?
I’ll let you know if my boldness becomes something beautiful. x

who am i to thinkI can put myself out there_(2)