When I was 15 years old I was scouted at a pop festival on the south coast of England. I was a middle class girl from Hampshire who had her sights set on being a fashion photographer funny enough, behind the camera. But who could resist an opportunity to see the world and make money?
The problem with modelling is that while it clearly offers hugely exciting opportunities, it gets hold of young adults when they’re still developing emotionally and often feeling very fragile. I was packed off to New York aged 19, which was exhilarating.
But I found myself surrounded by erratic eating behaviours. Mental health problems were very common. Like many, I felt isolated and alone - when you’re emotionally maturing that can lead to deeply dark times, which can last a lifetime.
On top of all that I always had this niggling sense that the images fashion was pumping out were in themselves, somehow negative – it’s very confusing to find yourself at the heart of all that when you’re still a teenager and feeling quite unworthy of the attention you might be attracting.
Looking back it seems almost incredible that there was nowhere to turn for objective, professional advice , given how endemic mental health issues are in modelling. The super successful aren’t immune either. Jodie Kidd told me that anxiety about her modelling career and how she looked, caused her to stop eating, to the point where she had to leave modelling for good. Supermodel Ajak Deng took to social media in 2019 to speak out about how at one point, she’d been close to suicide. There are so many more young men and women who are at the beginning of their careers and whose voices aren’t heard.
In 2014 I left New York for London to study human nutrition, I knew I wanted to make a positive change in the fashion world – and help change the way its perceived on the outside too.
In 2018, once I’d graduated in nutrition, I founded the Be Well Collective. It’s the only charitable initiative in the UK which works to reduce the devastating effects of eating disorders, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues in the fashion and creative industries. So far we’ve helped 10,000 young adults online and over 500 people face to face in mental health struggles. When I started the Be Well Collective, it was extremely hard to gain trust and recognition within the industry, but today we’ve managed to create a safe space and community for thousands of young adults.
This year, isolation, loneliness and job insecurities are at an all-time high with so many young people frightened for the months ahead. According to The Centre For Mental Health, one-fifth of young adults in Britain considered self-harming or suicide during lockdown. This has been made very apparent from the young people we work in the fashion industry with and our resources have needed to increase to meet the demand.
Thanks to some very supportive board members and people within the fashion industry, today we’re launching an online auction with lots from that include a slick Ralph Lauren watch, a one week stay in the luxury Uluwata Estate in Bali, a signed Peter Dundas illustration of Beyonce at the Grammys as well as 4 VIP tickets and house seats donated by Gary Barlow to a two week internship at the tailoring house The Deck on Savile Row. There’s also an affordable prize draw to enter for £20, where you could win a host of prizes including £300 to spend at Harvey Nichols. I’m crossing my fingers it raises lots of money. One model said that if she’d had Be Well Collective’s support when she was 15 years of age, her life may be very different now”.