Charli Howard from The All Woman Project for diversity in fashion speaks to ELLE:
Isn't it a shame to say I spent years feeling embarrassed by my femininity?
It was as though the things that made me womanly were something to be ashamed of, or to be eradicated. Pinches of skin left me wincing in disgust; the curves on my stomach - revolting.
I truly believed the more fat I lost around my hips, the more beautiful I'd be.
And yet, even when I hit that 'magic number' on the scale, I felt no more beautiful, or happy.
I had such little love for my body that I almost enjoyed the deprivation I inflicted on myself. It was, in my mind, what I deserved - though to this day, I still don't know why. When the likes of Daisy Lowe and Myla Dalbesio are regarded as 'curvy' models in the press, it's no wonder how, as a straight-sized model at the time, I viewed my body with such contempt.
And if I felt that way, I dread to think how many other girls, whose bodies are nothing but normal and perfect, often feel, too.
So, when I first met Clementine - a successful, ambitious and fiercely intelligent plus-size model, also represented by my New York agency (MUSE) - she opened my eyes to an entirely different idea of beauty.
It sounds silly, but until I went to America, I knew nothing about plus-size modelling. And why would I? As a straight-sized model, I'd never been on castings with plus-size girls, let alone modeled alongside them.
Like me, Clem had been made to feel bad about her size, but far worse. Growing up in France, she too dreamt about being a model. 'It's too bad you're fat, otherwise you could be a model,' she was often told.
'It's too bad you're fat, otherwise you could be a model.'
As a result, she fantasised about cutting off the fat in between her thighs, to be 'perfect'.
'It's a bittersweet feeling to hear you can't make it as a model, just because of your body shape,' she told me. Yet Clem ploughed on. As the first plus-size model on French TV, she'd received death threats and even been told to 'kill herself,' because she didn't fit the traditional, Parisian definition of beauty.
To this date, there are still no big agencies representing curvier models in Paris.
Clem instead chooses to live in New York, because she isn't judged there - one of few territories she books work, by being herself. It wasn't until she arrived in America that she finally stopped dieting, a practice she'd followed since the age of ten.
'I left France and decided to move to Miami to follow my dream,' she adds. 'That's when I truly found peace with my body."'
And so, in our first meeting, as we munched away on a (rather pricey) slice of avocado on toast, we discussed how we'd like to create a video that celebrated diversity. We questioned why we rarely saw plus-size and straight-size models together in campaigns. After all, we were both models. We were both women. So why did our body shapes stop us from starring in the same shots?
We wanted to produce something that showcased women as just that - women - using models of different shapes, sizes and colors; un-Photoshopped and, above all, authentic.
'I truly believe our negative thoughts are because of the images and pressures engraved in us growing up,' Clem says. 'So, by teaching girls their body is fine - flaws and all - is how you make a generation of happy, strong and powerful women.'
Over the next few weeks, Clem and I began calling upon friends in the industry, champions of diversity, to get involved, making a few new friends along the way. It was a completely female-led campaign: everyone, from the videographer, to the stylist, to the designers we chose, were all women.
It was girl power at its finest: women coming together to create something uplifting and positive, encouraging one another, in a world that often tries to undermine us.
As I took a step back on the last day and looked at the women around me, I got a sense of what diverse fashion campaigns could truly look like. From our body shapes, to our skin colour, to our sexual orientation, we were different - and that's cool.
Starring in images with girls of a variety of shapes has been therapeutic for me. I see it as a step forward in loving myself; accepting that I'm never going to be as lithe as some girls, but actually, my body isn't that bad. In fact, I actually rather like it.
Modelling aside, on a pure friendship level, it's been lovely to work on this project with Clem, who lifts me up and encourages me to love myself - just like women should. Being around someone who isn't super thin has broadened my idea of what beauty means. She's not only been a part of a joint project, but in my own personal progress.
The All Woman Project has taught me that being you is enough. And whilst we're not saving lives, Clem and I will continue to create more All Woman Projects until other women realise how special they are, too.