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Conversations on Confidence with Pioneering Model, Felicity Hayward

Conversations on Confidence with Pioneering Model, Felicity Hayward

Breaking barriers in the beauty and fashion industries, Felicity Hayward is a British curve model, social media influencer and activist. Today, she is one of the most recognised curve models and was an early pioneer of the plus-size industry in the UK through her ground-breaking collaborations with a multitude of world-renowned fashion brands.

With her mission of spreading body positivity at the core of everything she does, Felicity is no stranger to showing stretch marks, cellulite and scars in global campaigns, championing real bodies and ensuring all shapes and sizes are represented in the media. She has worked with major brands such as Missguided and The Body Shop, hosted Channel 4’s Naked Beach and has just launched her fourth collaborative lingerie collection with Playful Promises.

Q: What is confidence to you?

A: I think confidence is comfort because once you feel comfortable within yourself that’s when you feel most confident, and you can’t fake that. Deep down, true confidence is from being comfortable within yourself.

Q: You were one of the pioneers breaking down industry barriers. How did you decide that modeling was something you wanted to do?

A: I was actually training to be a primary school teacher, specialising in autism and behavioural difficulties. And I got scouted in a pub. So, this industry wasn’t something I ever thought I’d get into and as far as I knew, it didn’t exist. If something doesn’t exist, how can you think that there is a space for you? So yeah, I kind of got thrown into the deep end with quite a well-known photographer.

Q: Was this your big break into the industry?

A: Definitely. Who knew, just dancing in an East London pub to Diana Ross would lead to all this. And this photographer had never used curvy women before. His work is primarily very, very slender, thin women. So for him to use someone like me was quite ground-breaking at the time. And that went viral. After that, I got an email from an agency and I thought I was being punked, that it was a big prank because I didn’t know any plus size models back then in 2011.  For me, a plus-size model should be the size of the UK average, and we weren’t seeing that.

And it’s inspiring! If you see someone of your size, someone you can relate to, on this beauty campaign or that fashion brand, that’s encouragement for people. It’s moments like that that I realise this isn’t just for me, it’s for other people like me. Opening the doors within the industry, it’s so important in promoting diversity.

Q: Have you seen changes within the industry since you started modeling?

A: It’s definitely taken a while. It’s taken 10 years really, at least, but it’s been nice to see the progress. In some cases, it seems more like people are jumping on the trend of diversity rather than truly believing in it. I always say that I don’t think the term diversity should even exist. We are a planet full of different people – why is there a word to determine that, it should be a given. Everyone should have been represented from the start.

Q: Do you think you yourself have impacted the industry?

A: I mean, when I first started, everything was heavily photo-shopped. I have stretch marks, I have scars, but that would all be taken away. It’s like they were ticking a box of having a diverse model, but then removing the things that make you individual. I remember receiving the brief of one campaign that stated they wanted a curvy model, but they don’t want anyone with cellulite. I felt like, okay, well 90% of curvy people, or probably women in general, have cellulite! It was like they were taking a step forward, but then a step back.

Now, I see that same brand showcasing women of all shapes and sizes, all backgrounds, different skin tones and textures – it wasn’t like that before. It’s almost like diversity and being your authentic self has become popular. I’m just hoping it carries on that way rather than being a trend that will pass.