We’ve all done it. Looked in the mirror and doubted some aspect of our physical appearance. With the media portraying unrealistic ideals and forcing them upon us for decades, it’s no wonder we’ve come to a confused state of self-image. What is sexy, attractive, or desirable? Model, founder, and the undeniable force behind EveryBody is Beautiful, Megan Babee, has been working hard for almost three years running to prove that beauty truly comes in all forms. What started out as a group of passionate industry insiders, some of which the subject hits very close to home, has grown into an annual project that eventually, Megan hopes, will turn into an annual event that will change the face of media. We had the chance to catch up with Megan and hear a bit more about the EveryBody is Beautiful project, her goals, and her fall fashion musts.
Tell us a little about EveryBody is Beautiful. Where did the initial inspiration come from?
The project began as a fun shoot that was different from the average fashion shoot I was used to, a shoot to celebrate the amazing diverse models that Vancouver has. We had such great feedback from the first shoot and while we weren’t planning on anything coming from it we ended up having such a response to it that EveryBODY is Beautiful was born!
Do you see a sort of revolution happening in the modelling world or in the media in general when it comes to image?
I do. I see it in the response to our project and similar projects happening elsewhere in the world. People find our images refreshing. After being bombarded with images of only one specific body type over and over, people want to see images of people who look like them. You can still have the glamour and fantasy that fashion images have [while still including] diverse body types. In fact studies have shown that if you show someone a model similar to their general build or race, still retaining that “fashion” edge to the image of course, people respond positively and are more like to purchase the item the model is selling. People still want to see aspirational images, but they want a dream that is attainable. It is not attainable for everyone to be a 14-year-old Swedish girl! I genuinely believe that positive marketing equals profit and I see a trend already in that direction. I am hoping that with campaigns popping up all over the place that maybe in 5 years or so this kind of advertising will be more prevalent. It is just a matter of showing that it can be done.
It is quite a task to take on and with the strength of the media I’m sure at times it can be quite exhausting to ensure your voice is being heard. What do you do to keep your head in the game, and stay inspired?
I talk to my models! Or really anyone who supports the project. The people I have met over the last three years have made this project so worth all of the stress and frustration. I have learned that body image issues truly do affect everyone, from body builders to accountants. Everyone has a story to tell and an issue they are working on. People really love what we are doing and that keeps me focused and encouraged.
Also on the opposite end of the spectrum, hearing negative stories keeps me motivated. I try not to let myself get brought down by upsetting stories, but instead use them as motivation and proof that what we are doing is needed. Body image is something that seems so simple and has a bit of a stigma [attached to it], no one wants to be perceived as weak, but body image links in to so many other things. Resolving body image issues can lead to someone really unlocking their true potential. In particular I often wonder what teenagers, girls in particular, could accomplish if the main worry in high school wasn’t appearance and trying to attain an idea of perfection that doesn’t exist.
It seems you have quite a team that has banded together. Was it difficult to get people on board at first?
Yes and no. It wasn’t hard to find people who were passionate about it, but it was difficult finding certain people we really wanted for the project. For example plus size models the first two years, we could hardly find anyone willing to pose as a plus size girl/guy. This year was a far different story as we had so many amazing people apply to be in the calendar and the majority were plus size ladies.
It is also hard to find a reliable creative team when you are doing a non-profit project. We have been so lucky to have found some really wonderful photographers and makeup artists, who have donated so much of their time to this. We had a real issue with finding reliable stylists this year, but it ended up being my own personal challenge to style almost the whole thing myself with a very limited time frame, and I am proud of what I pulled together! It wasn’t perfect but it was fun, and I had some amazing designers lend me items and some great people there to assist and support me. This year we had so many phenomenal people on board, I really am so grateful to all of them for their help.
What is your background?
I have been a petite model for a few years now, that was how I got my start. It was also partially the inspiration for the project. I found it frustrating that photographers wanted to work with me or book me for a job but wouldn’t because of my height (I’m 5’6). I have been told by several agencies that they would have signed me in a heartbeat if I were 5’9. I love modeling and it was heartbreaking to be told no for something I literally couldn’t change. I hope that one day the only requirement for a model will be that they have a unique look, that they are dedicated, and know how to model. Right now you have to fit in to a very specific set of measurements to be a fashion model and I have seen so many amazing girls get turned away because they are one inch too short or tall, and yet they have portfolios full of stunning images.
What are some goals you have for the fall?
As far as “EveryBODY” goes, fall will mean marketing the calendar as much as possible and trying to get the word out and make our sales goal. I also have some things in the planning stages that I will be working on in the fall. More announcements closer to January!
Personal goals would be figuring out my next steps as far as going back to school, trying to decide which program to take and if I am ready for it yet!
Person you admire the most?
I would say Canadian Entrepreneur Ben Barry. He started his own modeling agency at 14, which has an amazing roster of diverse and beautiful women. He has since received his PhD and continued to further research body positivity in marketing. He played a pivotal role in the original Dove campaign for real beauty. I hope to one day get the chance to meet and learn from him.
A day in the life of Megan Babee, what does it look like?
Well it depends on the day, things change pretty often. Most days I work evenings at my day job in a restaurant. I am extremely lucky to work with amazing people and we are right overlooking English Bay – so can’t beat the view. I spend a lot of time working on the project and hanging out with friends, and I try to fit in a shoot or two every month if I can!
Best thing that happened this year.
I would say the calendar shoot, so far anyhow! It was stressful and crazy, but so much fun and so rewarding. It was 72 hours of my life I would gladly re-live.
What is in the future for EveryBody is Beautiful?
I have some big plans in the works! I don’t want to give too much away but I do plan on changing the project quite drastically in 2014, I believe for the better. I hope that the changes will mean we will be able to provide a better product for a wider audience and really be able to open up discussions regarding body image and all it encompasses while also bringing more and more people on to our team!
How can people get involved?
There are quite a few ways, obviously buying the calendar is a great way. All of the proceeds go directly back into building the campaign to be bigger and better and we appreciate everyone who purchases a calendar! Also we have many volunteer opportunities, including modeling of course! Also just talking about it, liking the Facebook page, getting the word out there. The whole point of the campaign is to start discussions and challenge what we see everyday in advertising and media.
The 2014 EveryBody is Beautiful calendar will be available October 1st. Keep up with the initiative via Facebook. Also be sure to check out the True Fashion Show and Fundraiser that Megan will be modelling for this Thursday to benefit Project True. Get your tickets here.