With the BOPO world taking social media by storm, it can be very easy to fall into “trend” and follow something so popular, without knowing what it truly means, what it’s for, how it works, and why it’s so important to everyone. Explore through Instagram, for example, and you will find endless amounts of BOPO hashtags, posts, and profiles dedicated to the body positivity world and its countless BOPO warriors. But behind all the natural selfies, the unedited body shots and the cutesy quotes, is the backbone of body positivity, and the driving force behind change.
Healthy is the New Skinny is one of the, what I call, original BOPO forces behind such a needed push to body positivity. Since 2011, HNS have been spreading the knowledge and confidence that society was overdue, through online confidence boosts, educational events, and meditations. Since then, it has helped thousands of people overcome body issues with something so simple, yet incredibly important – body love.
FROW speak to Katie Wilcox, founder of HNS and Natural Models, to find out exactly why she had the thought of stepping in and making a world of positive body knowledge, and a modelling agency based on healthy women to inspire the everyday woman.
Healthy is the New Skinny started as a blog back in 2011. How did it escalate from a blog to the inspirational and powerful brand it is now?
Since we started in 2011, HNS has grown exponentially from a blog, to a social media movement! We began sharing stories from followers who snapped pictures in our HNS tanks, and we gained traction from there. Now, we have thousands of girls sharing their stories and their pictures in our gear from all over the world. We’ve gotten a dedicated following over the last few years, and we work hard to continue keeping everyone engaged and in the loop! It’s become a whole community and it’s something that I’m really proud of. We work tirelessly to create awesome content that really resonates with our followers, so that we can continue the conversation that digs much deeper than the topic of body image.
You wanted to install your knowledge of the modelling industry into the HNS. What negative experiences did you receive from modelling that you wanted to let others to learn?
I wanted girls to understand that modelling is a job first and foremost. Girls tend to associate models as having more value or influence in society, but that isn’t the case. I want girls to know that they don’t have to be models to make a difference in the world.
From your experiences of modelling, you created Natural Model Management. What was your ethos?
I wanted to create an agency where girls can model in their natural healthy size, but also create an environment where girls can learn and thrive after their modelling careers have concluded. We have so many girls with different passion projects, and we really encourage them to explore what that means to them.
At Natural Models, we specialize in scouting and development of new talent. Because I’ve had the experience of being on the industry from both sides, I wanted Natural to able to cater to the needs of each a new model: give them the coaching and time needed to develop their portfolio, their understanding of the industry, and their modelling skills on set. We want our models to be well prepared and confident when working for a client to ensure that they will be rehired, and have the best chance at a long lasting career in the industry.
I am passionate about creating social change inside and outside of the fashion industry. We hope to see our models fully understand the opportunity they have to become role models for thousands of girls and women. This is a heavy responsibility to place on young girls who are just discovering who they are themselves, and that is why we have created a friendly, positive, and professional environment for our models and staff. Every modelling agency is different and has a different working environment. At Natural Models, we are looking for models who are not only beautiful but also have beautiful personalities, and have synergy with our brand message.
How does Natural Model Management differ from other modelling agencies?
Natural Models differs from any other agency because it encourages our girls to be at their natural, healthy size. We have amazing, beautiful women ranging from a size 6 to 18. We are currently one of the only agencies to have women who are considered “in-betweeners,” meaning they are neither straight sized nor the typical size 14 plus model. I feel that these girls represent a solid portion of the female population, and it’s amazing that we can help our clients represent that in their campaigns.
What does a Natural Model need to have?
We represent curve models so anyone between a size 6 and 18 who is at least 5’7 (with their shoes off) can submit to be a Natural Model!
HNS has taken social media and the body positivity movement by storm. Did you ever think it would kick off like this?
We’ve been working hard for years to get our message out, and I am so proud at how well it’s taken off! We try our best to put out strong content that keeps our followers informed and engaged, and through that we’ve created our own little community!
What has been the best moment so far?
What I’m proudest of so far is giving life to my daughter, True. She has instilled a whole new understanding on my purpose as a woman on this Earth, and I’m happy to be able to guide her as she begins to navigate through life.
We LOVE HNS and its message of health. What do you consider healthy?
A lot of what we talk about with health and wellness is about discovering true, authentic health. Contrary to what we see in “health” publications, authentic health and wellness is NOT about your physical appearance. Health and wellness is a combination of different aspects of your lifestyle that affect the wellbeing of your mind, body, and spirit, including: nutrition, being active, stress management, rest, maintaining healthy relationships, creating a positive environment, and doing things we love each day, just to name a few! None of those aspects have anything to do with looking a certain way, and no, you probably won’t see those as headlines on health magazines because as a culture we are obsessed with attaining a desired “look”, and that is what sells! Health does not have a “look.” Health has a feeling, and the more we can focus on how we feel by caring for ourselves, the healthier we will become!
HNS also puts on events to help re-educate people about body image and health. What sort of events can we look forward to?
HNS host a variety of amazing events, ranging from school and university presentations, to group workouts and meditations, summits and so much more. We’re always looking for new and creative ways to bring our community together, and I look forward to exploring different avenues for this movement! Our upcoming events can be found on my website at katiehwillcox.com/events
You also speak to a range of audiences, including school children. What has the reception been like at the schools? Were you surprised by children’s/teen’s opinions on body image?
The reception has been fantastic! It’s a topic that resonates with so many, no matter what age group. I’ve spoken to mixed groups before, and quite often many of our younger audience members (some as young as 9-years old) really speak up and participate! It’s not surprising at all to hear their reactions because they come from an innocent mind-set that is working extra hard to process the information they are receiving. A lot of times, we don’t give kids enough credit, but they are super intelligent and absorbing so much information at their age. I want to be able to make sure that they process everything in a healthy way.
How do you speak to young audiences about the effects of advertising on body image?
When it comes to our younger audiences, I keep the content and questions very similar, but I try to break it down in terms that are relatable for them. For example, when we have younger girls, I try to tie in what they’re experiencing in school. Unfortunately girls start becoming conscious of their bodies and have already experienced some form of body shaming by the end of elementary school. I like to question the girls on how ads make them feel and a lot of them say things like “weird” or “gross.” I try to help them examine why they feel that way so that they can digest advertisements in a way that is not harmful to their spirit or self-image.
Have you had any negative reactions to the HNS message?
There are always instances where you’re going receive negative reactions. I personally have had experience with winning a few trolls over. Once you actually make time to talk to a person and really talk as human beings, you can come to a whole new understanding of something you may not have known before. A common misconception of our movement comes from our name. We often take heat from people who say that our name is detrimental because people think it is breaking down one body type, but that isn’t the case at all. We want everyone to be their healthiest selves and that is something that can be achieved by everyone, instead of aiming to look like the limiting beauty ideal.
You speak about advertising and media manipulation in your talks. What kind of damaging characteristics should people recognise?
The first question I like to ask is “what are you being sold?”. My prime example that I use in all my presentations is a clip from a Victoria’s Secret ad where Adrianna Lima is featured in lingerie and wings and says, “The first time I put on wings, I felt so empowered. It was like a dream.” That’s the only thing the commercial said. I ask the audience what was being sold and at first try many people say they’re being sold a bra and underwear. Then I replay the commercial, but ask them to close their eyes this time around. When their eyes open I can see light bulbs going off! Empowerment. The key word is empowerment. Advertisements take key words that spark our interest such as love and empowerment, and sell it in the form of a product. These kind of tactics need to be identified so that they can be processed in a healthy way. This is just one example, but there are so many out there like this! This is what I feature and bring to light in my talks and presentations.
Body positivity has spread a lot over the last couple years. Do you think the media has changed at all?
Media is constantly evolving and as consumers, we have strong say in what we want to see. While I do see some strides, I feel that there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. Currently what we’re seeing is a band aid being put on the issue of body image that tells us all we need to do is love ourselves. So much of what we’re seeing is surface level and there are much larger issues at hand that aren’t being addressed.
You released your debut book “Healthy is the New Skinny” back in January last year. What did you put into the book that differs from social media?
In my book, I use key experiences from my upbringing and my time as a model to shed light on issues that are still prevalent today in the topic of body image. In addition to talking about the power of media advertising, my book dives into the psychology of our subconscious needs and wants, and how these are being manipulated to sell us products. In addition, I share some really awesome exercises that encourage self-care through self-love!
What can we look forward to from HNS in the near future?
We’ve teamed up with an amazing team of researchers from The Body Project to create a more hands on way to get involved with Healthy is the New Skinny. We’re currently working on a curriculum where people can come and get trained and begin to implement our messaging at their school or organization! That’s our next step and we’re excited to see where it goes!
The genuine passion and guidance Katie has for healthy change in not only the fashion industry, but in general life as well, is not only something we at FROW stand by, but something we actively promote. Thanks to Katie and Healthy Is The New Skinny, the real BOPO message is getting out there, teaching people that the beauty ideal is no longer bones, but a healthy range of sizes, unique to everyone.
Make sure you follow HNS for all the positivity and body image boosts you need: Healthyisthenewskinny.com, Katiehwilcox.com or Instagram & Facebook – @Healthyisthenewskinny