As the star of Marie Claire’s first ever virtual beauty shoot and CEO of her own beauty brand Squish, body positive model Charli Howard has managed to keep herself surprisingly busy over the last few weeks (check out her Instagram for the impressive isolation shots she enlisted her mum to take, too). But despite outward appearances, even she’s struggling.
“I’m doing OK,” she says. “At the beginning of the week, I was really anxious and quite down, it took me a couple of days to try and snap myself out of it. I think the most difficult thing is that no-one knows when it’s going to end. The days I’m creative are the days I feel a lot better within myself. Whether that’s doing an adult colouring book, writing or thinking of new product ideas for my line.” Here, we spoke to Charli about isolation blues, that infamous ‘body positive’ label and how she copes with pressure placed on her to stay ‘bigger’…
What’s been the hardest part of the pandemic for you?
The human contact, I think everyone’s missing that. I think it’s nice to have a routine and that’s what I miss most. It’s the not really knowing what’s going to happen next. I find colouring books really calm me down. I know it sounds really weird, but I thoroughly recommend it.
What else have you found helpful?
I’ve been staying off social media for the last few days, that seems to be helping as you get trapped in this loop of scrolling. I’ve been listening to music and speaking to my friends every day, even though I haven’t really felt like doing it. Facetime really helps.
Have you learned anything about yourself during this time?
I think it’s taught me that I’m a lot more patient than I thought I was. And the value of family time and just being a bit more appreciative of that. Because I don’t really get to go home very much.
The pandemic has proved especially problematic for many people suffering from mental health issues, and eating disorders specifically. Has it been triggering for you at all?
I’ve actually had the opposite where I’ve been feeling quite good, but I know for a lot of people it must be really freaking them out. It goes back to what I was saying about routine – you’re losing that and people who have eating disorders rely on routine to keep that going inside their head. I don’t know what I would have done a few years ago, being this position. My anxiety has been up and down.
As a model, your body is constantly up for discussion. Does that ever get tiring?
Yeah to a degree, but because it’s the job that I’ve chosen I can’t really get offended if that’s what people want to talk about. I’ve posted so much about my body that I don’t have any hang-ups about it now. But people are always going to comment on my body – people were commenting on my body when I was a teenager when I wasn’t a model. They were commenting on it when I was 12, and they’re going to comment on it now. I think women have that pressure to deal with, unfortunately.
How do you feel about the body positive label?
I definitely feel pressure. Sometimes if I lose too much weight, people get funny about it. They seem to think that unless you’re really curvy you can’t possibly have had issues in the past and that you should always be confident if you’re thinner. But it just doesn’t work like that. Sometimes I’ve lost weight because I’m feeling sad. There’s sometimes an element of trying to stay bigger, which is quite difficult. In the early days I thought I was the only one struggling with my size and trying to be thin, but you meet all these models and pretty much 98% of them are trying to stay thin. Then on the curvier side, you feel pressured to eat more and wear padding to look bigger in pictures!
As somebody working in the fashion industry, does it feel more diverse than when you started? Have you noticed a shift?
Yeah, I think social media has really helped. I think now we’re seeing a more diverse range of bodies. I think we’ve still got a long way to go in England especially, we’re still a bit behind but we’re progressing, which is what needs to happen.
Do you still have confidence wobbles?
Oh my god, absolutely. I think everyone does, it’s just part of being a woman. Your hormones are changing every month, that really doesn’t help. You’re going to have days where your cellulite is worse than other days when you feel great, it really goes up and down. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to constantly be happy and live this ‘fabulous’ life and life isn’t really like that.
How did Squish come about?
We launched last August and since then it’s blown up and it’s been amazing. I’ve always wanted to run my own beauty business and I thought ‘OK let’s try it’. It’s based on Korean beauty because their products are really amazing and they really work. We’re trying to incorporate that kind of fun feel into it, but it’s also something you can use with really good ingredients.
Who are your beauty icons?
I love all the Hollywood icons from the fifties and sixties – I love looking at old vintage pictures. I did a lot of modelling for Pat McGrath and I think she’s really inspirational as a makeup artist and now a makeup CEO. I know Bobbi Brown as well and she’s taught me some amazing things about how to run a business.
Now you’re a fully-fledged beauty boss, what does beauty mean to you?
You don’t always have to be the most aesthetically beautiful, but if you’re nice to people that really radiates through.
How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who stood their ground and did what made them happy.