headshot of Rosalie

London model calls for greater wellbeing support in the industry

Meet Rosalie Nelson: a London-based model and body activist who is championing the rights of models and advocating the protection of their health and wellbeing.

Five years ago Nelson, 30, made a petition for a law to be put in place preventing models from being pressurised to lose weight. Currently, Nelson’s petition is on 382,649 signatures. 

Having moved from Australia where models are expected to have a young, fit and healthy look, Nelson, a size eight, was shocked to be told by a top fashion agency in London that they wanted her ‘down to the bone’.

She said: “When they asked me to have my bones sticking out, it kind of switched in my head, and I realised that they don’t want me to be healthy and they had no regard whatsoever about how I was losing the weight or what I was doing to myself and they never checked up on mentally.

“It took me a few week to realise the damage I was doing myself, I didn’t look myself anymore and I wasn’t happy or healthy but I’d been ignoring it because I was so fixated on signing with this top agency.

“It’s been quite a long journey to get past that and it’s still one that I’m on to fix the way that I think about myself.

“I’ve been told for so long that being thin is beautiful and its taken me so long to realise that’s not true. 

“I wouldn’t say that being thin is beautiful now, I think being happy is the most beautiful thing.”

This past month has seen crowds of fashion-lovers flock to New York, London, Milan and Paris to watch the world’s most notorious designer brands prep their models for the runway. 

Whilst the industry has seen a vast improvement in its diversity, with more models of different races, ethnicities, genders, sizes and shapes, it still has a long way to go. 

Behind all the glitz and the glamour of the event, there is still an extraordinary amount of pressure that weighs on the shoulders of the models to look a certain way. 

Nelson said: “A big part of the modelling industry is behind closed doors and the public really assume that we live that supermodel life and that’s not the case at all. 

“The majority of models like me are poked and prodded at work, get their hair ripped out, get eye infections because people aren’t washing their make up brushes properly.

“You’re expected to just be a canvas for people to play with and you can’t speak up about it.”

Whilst her petition is continuing to gain lots of traction, the Hackney resident has struggled to be taken seriously by higher authorities such as the British Fashion Council. 

Reflecting on the progress of her petition, Nelson said: “I never thought I’d get as far as I did, or for the story to go as far as it did.

“I wanted to do a lot without much backing. It was just me. I felt like no one else was standing up for us.

“People are afraid to speak up because you are seen as a rebel of the industry. 

“I’ve had people say that they won’t work for me because of the story that’s associated with me but I’ve also had people who do want to work with me because of it.”

Whilst admitting that the industry has made dramatic improvements in terms of representing more plus-size models, Nelson would now like to see an official body such as a Trade Union or HR, to safeguard the interests of models.

A body that they can rely on for issues of work-life balance or even assault. 

Currently, agents or agencies are seen as the equivalent to this, however, Nelson pointed out that most models are afraid of their agents as they hold their career in their hands. 

She said: “There is no comfort in knowing that someone will back you when you’re a model.

“Agencies are aware that they’re putting their models in potentially dangerous situations but are happy to do that.”

Featured image credit: Rosalie Nelson

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