With the astronomical rise of social media, the idea of beauty has been inundated by the influence of Instagram. For those in the fashion and modeling industries, while social media has proved beneficial in countless ways, its drawbacks have seemingly created body image issues for many models. But for 20-year-old UK-based model Freya Haworth, her life is defined by more than just her modeling career.
Despite the success she’s found as a model, Freya remains grounded in her values, as she continues to challenge the status quo of her profession. With deep interests in human connection, culture, mental health and anthropology, Freya’s aspirations go way beyond the world of modeling.
While she fully appreciates and enjoys the opportunities she earns as a model, Freya looks forward to seeing how her modeling career will segue into career consisting of depth in culture and human connection. During a recent trip to Marfa, Texas for a modeling gig, Freya opened up about her journey as a model and how determined to not let her work in the fashion industry define her as a person.
London Daily Post: How did you get into modeling?
Freya Haworth: I got into modeling at the young age of 14 when I was scouted at a clothes show event I attended with a couple of my friends. Being scouted at a young age is usually the typical way girls unexpectedly fall into the world of modeling as you are approached by an agent with the classic line, ‘Have you ever thought of being a model?’ For me, the answer was no, but at the age of 14 I was sold instantly. I felt excited as I imagined the cool lifestyle of being a model would consist of.
LDP: Outside of modeling, you studied social anthropology. Why and how did you get interested in this subject?
FH: Fortunately, I always put my studies first during my early teen years from 14-18 and modeling was always something on the side at that point. I would definitely say this was a result of the encouragement and values my parents drilled into me from a young age. Looking back, I was extremely academically driven and performed well during high school then sixth form. Also it goes without saying that I was very fortunate to attend two very high performing secondary schools, an opportunity not everyone has available to them. Regardless I still juggled the role of developing as a model with attending endless castings and jobs in London whilst being in full time education, which at times was difficult when school deadlines became more serious balancing both was a challenge.
Throughout high school I had a profound interest in all the humanities subjects, especially human geography, sociology and Spanish. Further, growing up I had been fortunate to have the chance to travel to many diverse areas of the world visiting a range of societies from favelas in Rio, communities in Gambia and even spending time rainforests of Borneo. I believe from these experiences, mixed with my curious personality it developed a profound interest of the study of people across all cultures, what causes different societies to function as they do and generally the formal study of people from small-scale societies to civilians in big cities. How did we all become so different? I left high school and took a gap year. I gave modeling a go, but then decided this was the only opportunity before university where I could go travelling for a few weeks. I went to Ecuador for a month and visited numerous countries in South America and even visited the Galapagos Islands. After my gap year I attend London School of Economics university for a term to study Social Anthropology; however during this time, modeling really started to pick up. I didn’t want to go to university to come out with a degree where I would be unable to give my full 100% so I made the difficult decision to drop out in order to focus on my modeling. I am so glad I made this decision for myself despite going against what society expects us to follow, as I have been so invested in my modeling to the point where I have experienced so much through this industry. I know in my heart one day I will be ready and in a better place to go back to university and graduate.
LDP: What are some parallels between the modeling industry and social anthropology?
FH: Working as a full time model has given me the opportunity to meet and work with so many people from all over the world. This is one of the many benefits of never having a structured schedule, where in most jobs you are limited to where you can work and what hours, whilst with my job every week is different. One week I could be working in my home city then find out the following week I will be shooting an exciting job in the States. This unpredictable nature can seem stressful at times but for me I look at it as a chance to encounter a whole new city, which comes with its own culture and mix of people. For me this is an exciting part of my job because I can experience what life is like in the most random places, which if I did not have this job I would probably never think to visit. Social anthropologists seek to understand how different societies live; it is the comparative study looking at a range of aspects from how people vary in their social relationships, to what makes their lives meaningful.
I am currently in Marfa, a small isolated desert town in Texas, with only 2000 people; it is like no place I have ever been before. The transition from a big city to an isolated mythic town is crazy. I am constantly pinching myself, as it is crazy to believe I am here for work! I am being paid as a model to travel to these unknown locations for a shoot, with a whole week here I have time to engage in what life really consists of here in Marfa such as why people are attracted to this deserted village. For me this part of the job is so fascinating I am learning about completely new cultures that I would have never heard of before, never mind having the time to explore and engage in them.
Within the modeling industry I have made so many friends who likewise are models working all over the world, which is so exciting. I am so curious in finding out where and how people have been brought up to which has led them to be where they are now. There is always an explosive mix of personalities within the modeling industry as it encompasses a wide range of nationalities all working together, everyone brings something different to the job. It is rare to be working with someone who has even heard of the small town you grew up in, therefore I love sharing and learning with other models or colleagues the journey of getting to where I am now.
LDP: Being a model, you deal with high demands and stress? How do you deal with the pressure?
FH: The pressure of feeling as though you should look a certain way to fit someone else’s idea of beautiful is an endless waiting game and constant battle with ones idea of self worth. I will admit that throughout my teen years I have been too hard on myself as a result to the pressures that inevitably come with modeling, there has always been a voice that restricts me or makes me feel guilty over what I now view as such stupid things.
Of course, approaching this “high demand model” lifestyle from the outside everything looks sweet and easy- workout, eat well, live clean and take selfies? Surely it can’t be too demanding? I know I am not speaking for all models in the game, some naturally fall into a journey of constant high’s through this industry and can find their success without worrying or putting too much pressure on themselves. However for the most part, I have learned that you go through a lot of set backs before finding your begin to discover your confidence and what you stand for.
This pressure on oneself can lead to an unhealthy and unkind way of treating yourself. I don’t speak up about it often and the way it has affected the way I view myself growing up – as from an extremely young age you are filled with all the promises that you will make it as a successful model. Growing up I have had endless body image issues and obsessive worrying over my weight; to which have all been a consequence to the brutality of being told in this industry (no matter how old you are ). “You don’t look good, your face is too fat.”
It is without a doubt that so many models will face rejections, which too is obviously based on their appearance. Therefore I have learnt that the way to carry on is through building a resilient personality, believe in yourself and don’t let these knock your confidence. Set backs are all part of the journey through modeling therefore I constantly tell myself that this job just wasn’t right for you- it doesn’t make you any less worthy. Letting anything affect your emotional state and confidence will only bring you down, so I deal with it by resisting any negativity by avoiding self criticism and in fact, remind myself that I am capable of a lot more than just having a pretty face!
At the age of 20 now I am now capable of dealing with the demands. Whenever I feel as though it’s affecting the way I view myself, I am able to stop being too hard on myself, I take a step back and reflect by questioning ‘Why are you letting someone else’s opinion of me matter?’ It has made me grow so much as a woman allowing me to learn more about myself and what really matters—much more than my appearance.
The process of self-love and appreciation for everything that I am, aside from modeling too has helped me regain my value of self worth is vital for everyone. For me I feel guilty when I think about the time I wasted being too self critical as I see it as being part of this ‘self absorbed’ industry where appearance dominates. I actually have to check myself and sometimes now I just laugh at the comments, which I used to take to heart!
LDP: Despite the fact that it is never discussed, why do you think mental health is such an important value, being in the modeling and fashion industry?
FH: The fashion and modeling industry is renowned for its savage nature and requires one to have thick skin to deal with it. I strongly believe that mental health in the fashion industry is not spoken about or registered enough. This may be due to my empathetic and at times overly sensitive personality; however for me what is lacking in this industry is the importance of feeling good not just because someone says you look hot one day, but really feeling appreciative of who you are within. The influence of the fashion industry can be toxic as the psychology behind the fashion industry is narrow-minded; there is no focus on how happy people are.
In our society today the influence of modeling and the fashion industry on social media has fuelled a generation of comparison. Young women are bombarded with glamorous images on Instagram from models, celebrities and influencers. The whole idea of ‘Instagram vs reality’ has triggered people to set unrealistically high standards for themselves. It results in the feelings of rejection from society and loss of confidence as they are constantly comparing themselves to one another. I have seen so many girls, models too, that feel as though they have failed if they do not get that perfect photo. Further, the rise in editing apps, filters and even face tune are becoming so harmful to peoples own self worth. For all ages there is this addiction with feeling as though one could always look more beautiful and I believe that the highly edited glossy photos the fashion industry public everywhere on social media has really led to a degradation in the way people view themselves.
Thankfully there has been a rise in some Instagram accounts which are celebrate ways in which women and men, should feel proud and appreciate everything they are rather than all that they are lacking, which they are constantly reminded of by the influence of the fashion and modeling industry. For example ‘i_weigh’ by Jameela Jamil, a platform which encourages women self worth is full of women posting a selfie along with all they value of themselves aside from their appearance e.g. careers, talents, interests and skills. I believe as a generation we are in desperate need for more inspirational sites and platforms that remind people of all the accomplishments, achievements and characteristics that make them who they are.
LDP: Beyond modeling, what are some of your goals and aspirations?
FH: Before I started modeling full time, my interests in extreme diverse social and cultural values have always made me want to follow in the line of journalism; I would love to one day see myself as a documentary presenter following individuals around the world and exploring what life means to them. I am so grateful for all that my job has allowed me to do. I have travelled to the most magnificent places and gotten to navigate my way around completely new environments with their own mix of cultures and norms. Therefore in the future I hope I can combine my job now to give me a head start in the world of TV and documentaries.
The industry I work in opens up so many different pathways. I would love to use my platform to help young women both in and outside of the industry feel empowered, worthy and capable to do anything they set their heart on. At such a young age I am at a point now of self acceptance and have come into myself finding my feet within what can be a cruel industry at times. My wish is to help inspire young women to look within rather than at external reference points in order to find value in their lives, to follow their passions and go on to navigating their own career with what truly matters to them. We are more than just what we look like, society can easily manipulate us making us feel small and unworthy; I want young girls to feel beautiful and powerful from within. A quote that has always stuck with me; ‘men are told to be successful enough to marry the supermodel, where women are told just to be the supermodel’. I aspire to be a role model one day for young women to always hold a high opinion of yourself against others, not in order to feel more superior but to never forget that you are more than worthy and everything is beautiful about your existence.