Photography Heather Hazzan Words Charli Howard Model Marte Boneschansker at Muse
Charli Howard catches up with model Marte Boneschansker to discuss empowerment through modelling, and the joys in embracing one’s body
Hi Marte! So we’re both represented by Muse in NY and we’ve met each other at that casting! They’ve been great for me and have really helped me embrace my true shape – rare for modelling agencies.
Yes we are! I met you at that jeans casting, that was fun. I love the Muse board, I think they really showcase every type of bigger girl and are pushing the curve board to mix with mainstream fashion, which would be the ultimate goal to me
How authentic do you feel you can be on Instagram?
Haha ok good ol’ Instagram! I love the platform, it is a great way to connect and reach out to others. You have to be really open and vulnerable to make Instagram authentic, and that takes guts. But I believe you absolutely can be authentic on Instagram, you just have to be bold and give zero fucks to what everyone else is thinking. I recently started to combine my model and artist Instagram and now it feels so much more myself, now it feels like I’m actually using the platform as I want to. It is a mood board, body positive platform and feminist community to me. My pics are un-photoshopped & unedited! I do this because Instagram is great, you can find lots of inspiration on there, but it is also dangerous, looking at a dream that is photoshopped, at a life that is unreal. Especially young girls nowadays grow up with this unrealistic image of what a beautiful girl looks like or acts like. (as young as my 3 year old niece taking selfies… I mean..). That is a very dangerous thing, it causes many mental health problems, it makes girls and women permanently insecure and feeling like they are not good enough. I want to go against that. For me the art I show is the dream, the illusion, the beauty we can admire and be inspired by. And with the pictures of myself I’m researching the female body both as art and as real life: creating shapes, discovering curves, but also showcasing that I am bigger and at ease with my body. I show quite a lot of skin on my Insta, not in a sexual way but in an almost ancient, earthly way. This is what my body looks like. This is me being free and embracing every shape my body has to offer. Look, I have rolls, cellulite, stretch marks, scars. That is normal and beautiful. If I can love my body, so can you. Because life is too short to try to look like a photoshopped picture!
How have you found working in fashion because of your body shape?
It has been both amazing and sometimes frustrating, haha. I started as a straight size model but could never fit the measurement requirements, so when I moved to plus size it was a whole new world: wow, I can just be my own size. It was very up-lifting. But it isn’t always that way: As a curve model, you need to look a certain way too: big boobs, big ass, small waistline. A belly isn’t considered an asset and you can’t be too big in the face – no one loves a double chin. Also, let’s be honest, both straight size and plus size are still very white and young. I feel that there is still a lot to gain there, truly showing all types of bodies, skin types, age, but i’m positive it is moving in that direction. More and more brands are starting to open up to all kinds of beauty, and I feel this isn’t just a one season thing! Diversity is here to stay.
Do you feel times are changing and fashion is becoming more accepting of body shapes and diversity?
YES! So much. There is still a lot to gain (hello beauty brands) but I feel more and more brands are opening up to the curve board. I think because of social media, customers have a stronger voice and can connect with brands more easy than ever, demanding a more diverse view on beauty. I think it also depends on where you are looking. I try to make ‘my bubble’ as positive as I can. Following & purchasing only from eco-friendly, beauty diverse and women loving brands. Surrounding yourself with women who build up other women and celebrate their successes. Creating space to talk about beauty, inside and out and empowering women to feel confident and strong. I want women and especially young women & girls to know they have all the right to love themselves.
I’m now working on a podcast series called ‘Blush’, interviewing women between 10 and 100 about intimacy & sexuality. I spoke to some very powerful ladies in their, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s (even 90s!) that still feel very beautiful, loved, strong & sensual. No matter what shape, size, age, colour they are. Their stories show us that being a women, feeling attractive & sexual energy don’t end at 30 (as the fashion world wants you to believe). Such stories need to be heard. Representation is so important! You can’t be what you can’t see. I saw Wonder Woman the other night and it was the first time I felt connected to an action movie. It was the first time I felt I could be a super hero too. I can only imagine what it is like for minorities of colour (especially women of colour!). The fashion world is the perfect space to make people feel connected with society in a visually exciting way, by showing a diverse and open view on beauty.
Do you think we’ll ever reach a point where plus size models will ever just be considered “models”, without needing to almost over compensate themselves, their bodies and their ability to model?
Well that would be ideal, a time where we don’t have to demand equality anymore. But then again, that goes for anything worth fighting for. It is like climate change: it will always be something to work on. There is no: ‘ok, job done, planet is saved.’ New challenges will keep on coming every day, some small (like please: stop using plastic bottles) and some big, like the Paris agreement. With body diversity for plus models it depends on the job, the place, the time. On the cover of a magazine? Great. But if it also screams: ‘curves curves curves’, maybe we still got some work to do. Will it ever be completely normal? Who knows. I certainly hope so. But as long as brands still try to make money of women’s insecurities and women don’t start to feel confident about their bodies, it is a vicious circle. How to break that circle? Empower women. Find your tribe. Lift each other up and be confident about yourself, no matter what you look like. Confidence is a muscle anyone can train. If all women would love themselves & demand representation, the industry would have to respond to that request. But I think most women still want to be something they are not. So the best way to start a revolution is to love yourself all the way. For me the plus industry has really helped me accept and love my body. Yes, all curve models say the same thing over and over again, but it’s for good reason. When I moved from straight size to plus, I felt awful. Fat. Ugly. A b-category kind of model. Then I started following some plus size models and I thought hey, if they can love their body, I can love mine. If they are good models and working well with their size, so can I. Plus is not an insult. It is just a term from the industry. Looking at their bodies being confident and gorgeous helped me love my own body. It was very empowering and I still follow them whenever I feel low on the model/body abilities.
I’m curious as to whether you see a difference in plus modelling in Europe and America…
To me, America is more daring when it comes to plus modelling, the movement is bigger here. In New York most photographers have worked with plus and are not shocked when they see bigger bodies. Magazines will mix up girls more easily than in Europe without having to say there is a curve girl between them. And they are not afraid to show a little skin (although I feel it sometimes get’s a bit too sexualised in New York). New York is taking the lead when it comes to straight size brands using curvy girls. On the other hand, Europe uses more different sizes – some brands going from size 0 up to 18 – where in the US plus means plus, I think it is much harder for the in between girls to find work (except for you Charli you stunner!). A lot of small European brands love to use curvier girls of all sizes and I also worked with a Belgium website showing designer clothes in both a size 6 & and size 12. I hope both Europe and the US embrace diversity. As far as I’m concerned, the revolution can start anywhere.
Finally, what would you like to see in fashion in terms of moving forward? Do you have your own message you’d like to stand by?
The dream is and always has been an inclusive society, in politics, on the work floor, in the fashion industry, in life. Equal rights and equal representation for everyone is very important to me. I feel the fashion industry could take the lead showing other work fields how diversity can make our world brighter, richer, more interesting. People who feel connected with society will do their best to contribute. So to the industry i’d like to say: Make people feel like they belong, like they are good enough. Build your brand on people their strength, not on insecurities. And finally, for us ladies (& men): work on your confidence every day, no matter who you are or where you are at life. Be both confident and humble. Surround yourself with good people, find your tribe, connect.