THE OUTNET’S Head of Content, Claudia Mahoney, got to spend some time with model, author and Founder of SQUISH beauty Charli Howard. In case you missed their live interview, we made sure to save some of the best bits…
Charli: Hi! I’m very excited I’ve got my tea at the ready I hope that’s ok.
Claudia: Oh my god yes! Maybe your cup of tea could be your signature prop or something.
Charli: Yorkshire tea. Yeah that’d be great, I like that.
Claudia: I wanted to say thank you for joining us and giving us your time. And I wanted to ask how are you? How are you coping with this new normal that we find ourselves in?
Charli: Umm, you know, it goes up and down. Sometimes I get really anxious, other days I feel great, you know? I’m really excited for what’s to come after this, it’s given me a lot of perspective on certain things and situations.
Claudia: I guess you’re originally known for being a pretty face, but you’ve used that to create a platform and become an author and activist and pretty much a voice that you’re known for now. And obviously you’ve now launched your own beauty brand SQUISH. So, take me back to the beginning and how it all started.
Charli: I always dreamt of being a model, I thought it was going to make all my dreams come true and all the people that had ever turned me down would suddenly fancy me and everyone would be my friend. I had really really low self-confidence so for me, this was like the pinnacle of what happiness was. Then I got signed and I slowly realized, modelling can be a really tough industry and it can be really brutal and back then size 0 was the norm, and you know being white and super skinny was what you had to look like. I did absolutely everything I could to keep those measurements down, I had a really bad eating disorder and I just felt awful within myself, it was a really traumatic time.
Claudia: Especially because you thought this validation was going to come from this job. It must have been properly impactful for you.
Charli: Yeah. Absolutely. I constantly wanted their approval. You could never be thin enough and that was what the problem was. To cut a long story short, I got dropped for being too big. I got dropped on the phone and then I wrote a status on Facebook saying that I wouldn’t put up with this anymore. I just realized that there was so much more to life than food and this acceptance of needing to be beautiful. So, I wrote that, and the privacy settings were public, so it started getting shared and shared and shared and shared.
Claudia: Because you obviously hit a nerve! How did it make you feel when you saw your post being shared? Did it make you feel anxious and think ‘oh god! I’m never going to be booked now!’ or did you think ‘oh, good. People are agreeing with me’?
Charli: Umm, terrified. It was like I was having an out-of-body experience, like everything was happening to me but I wasn’t aware. And then someone messaged me the next day because my photo was just blown up in the papers like in The Times and stuff, which is really scary. It was all on Radio One and all these news channels and it was on this politics show. It really showed that this was like a much bigger issue than wanting to look pretty, like women wanting to look pretty, it was about body image as a whole.
Claudia: You’ve almost created your own category of modelling because you’re not plus-sized by any standard. How would you describe what sort of model you are?
Charli: I’d say I’m an in-between size model, that’s kind of the correct term. When I turned up to New York there were two categories which were plus-size, which I’d never even heard of, and straight-size. So, I would turn up to some castings and they’d be like ‘what the hell are you doing here? This is offensive that you’re at a plus-size casting.’ And then I’d go to other castings and they’d say ‘oh, you’re too big.’
Claudia: I’ve mentioned SQUISH. You launched your brand when exactly?
Charli: Launched back in August, and we really just rolled with it from there. It’s very Korean inspired, I absolutely love Korean beauty products, the best in the world for your skin. We kind of took inspiration from that and they’re just really playful but the word SQUISH comes from the fact that the mask that I first designed is squishy.
Claudia: Is that the cherry? They’re so cute.
Charli: The cherries, yes. They go underneath your eyes and they just de-puff your cheeks and undereye because I couldn’t find a mask that did that. So, the word comes from that and then of course, I love squishy bodies – I always post pictures of curvy Hollywood girls and things like that. I want it to become bigger than just products, I want it to be about celebrating all sorts of women, I’m really proud of how diverse and inclusive we are.
Claudia: You can see that! Anyone who just logs on to the website and sees the women, they’re so representative of different skins tones, sizes, ages, it feels very inclusive and warm as a brand.
Charli: Oh, thank you. Well that was really important because we always said that for every white model we had, we’d use a black model or person of color. So, yeah, we don’t photoshop our images at all. What you see is what you get. You see acne, you see cellulite, you see stretchmarks, there’s one girl that had scars on her arms and I just think there’s something really beautiful in that.
Claudia: You’re absolutely celebrating the beauty of those women and it’s very interesting that it was basically part of your mission statement from the get-go to have inclusivity.
Charli: Yes, absolutely. That was just so important because, as we’ve been saying, seeing yourself represented can do wonders for your confidence.
Claudia: If you had to give advice to yourself, looking back on your career and such, what advice would you give to yourself when you were about 20 years old?
Charli: This too shall pass is my favorite quote – whenever you think things are really bad, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s been some really dark moments and I always try to remember that this too shall pass. When you realize how insignificant the human race actually is in the grand scheme of things, it just goes to show that you’ve just got to live your life and you’ve got to just do what makes you happy, do what you want because we’re not going to be on this planet forever.
Claudia: It’s not a dress rehearsal.
Charli: Yeah, it’s not. So just do what you want, don’t hurt people along the way, but just do what you want.