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Brielle Anyea Opens Up About Race, Diversity & Modelling | Glamour UK


Representation matters. For GLAMOUR’s September digital fashion issue we wanted to celebrate the changing face of fashion, the people who are ripping up the rule book and those who are showing that fashion is for everyone.

Brielle Anyea is a powerhouse. There was no seat at fashion’s table for her as a size 20 plus-size Black model, so, five and half years ago, Brielle went and built her own table, making up her own rules – and breaking industry standards – as she went along. She became the first plus sized Black model to shoot for Sports Illustrated and then after feeling shut out of the fashion conversation she decided she wanted to cater for women who want to, “define their own beauty,” and for those who “break rules made to silence them,” by creating her own curve fashion line, MissesBrie.

Keen to open up the fashion world to more diversity, Brielle, 25, has now even set up her own online modelling course, launching The It Girl Model Experience, earlier this year, which, she says, teaches “how to model in the new age,” including everything from building your own personal brand on social media to posing and wellbeing.

If anyone is trying to change fashion from the inside, it’s Brielle. In the spirit of GLAMOUR’s September fashion issue we wanted to put her in control of self-shooting her own cover – including styling, hair and make up – to show her authentic self at her home in Texas, USA.

Here to celebrate one of her first ever cover Brielle opens up to GLAMOUR’s Josh Smithabout her experiences as a model, how under-represented she felt growing up and how designers need to work harder to be more inclusive…

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Who are your favourite designers and why?

I used to have a massive list of favourite designers until I realised they don’t correctly cater to women of my size or shape. I love Victor Glemaud. His designs are so beautiful, and the fit is fantastic. I mainly design my own clothes and recently created my inclusive brand, Misses Brie to make more options available.

What’s one thing you wish more mainstream designers would do?

I wish they would see the beauty in genuine inclusion. There is so much more power in love than hate. I think if they would show some real diversity, they would find out how much more everyone would love them. I hope to see more Black plus-size models in mega campaigns, runways and on TV. We need this moment to arrive and show our community that we too are worthy of great things.

How do you see yourself as changing the face of fashion?

I never really see myself as changing the face of fashion, but changing the perspective of who is allowed to be involved. The fashion industry is very strict with trends, ideals, and who is allowed to be a part of it. I would like to see it become a more inclusive world and not an exclusive one.

How did you first get into modelling?

I’ve been modelling for five and a half years and have modelled for just about every plus-size brand. It’s been an interesting journey, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s been a long time coming. I stumbled into modelling after living in LA as an actress. Hollywood was super discriminative towards me being a Black plus-size woman. I was told I would never make it as a lead actress because of my size, shape and skin tone, so I should try plus-size modelling. I submitted to an international curve model search with MiLK Model Managementin 2015 and ended up winning. I was instantly signed to agencies all over the world and got my start from there. I’ve now modelled across the world and feel incredibly blessed to do this full time.

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How do you feel aboutretouching for perfection and filters on Instagram and beyond?

Editing or retouching doesn’t bother me at all when it isn’t extreme. I know for some people it does. But my plight is with brands that use edited imagery to pull on the insecurities of young people.

In your time working as a model, how far have you seen the fashion industry progress in terms of reflective representation, and how much further do you believe it has to go?

We’ve seen significant change for plus-size and in-between-size white and bi-racial models. Quite a few have reached what’s considered ‘supermodel status’ by walking in multiple shows, being a part of high fashion editorials and snagging magazine covers. Unfortunately, I’ve seen little change for visibly Black plus-size models. If you pay attention to who is considered plus-size ‘super models’ with mega followings, editorials, magazine covers, endorsements, TV time, etc, you will not see us.

Have you ever been made to feel ‘different’ or ‘othered’?

It seems like the industry only needs us for smaller campaigns and as a token check. I’m usually the only Black model or the only plus-size Black model on set. I’m usually the only Black person on set too. So, I’m used to feeling like the outcast on display. It’s very disheartening, of course. But Black models and creatives have been discussing this for years. It’s time for brands to implement real action instead of creating endless conversations with no viable solution.

Which boundary shattering moment of your own are you most proud of?

It has to be modelling for Sports Illustrated. That was a mega moment for me, as Black plus-size models rarely get booked for such huge projects. It was a major boundary broken, and I’m so glad it will make space for more to come. But now I’m on the cover of GLAMOUR magazine – this has been a dream for years! It’s such an epic moment.

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How much do you think younger you would have appreciated flicking through a magazine and seeing the present you in that magazine?

If only you knew how heartbreaking it is to be a young chubby Black girl, looking at every high-end magazine cover and NEVER seeing a model that looks like you on it. Watching TV and the only time you see yourself is when you’re the sidekick and the butt of every joke. Listening to every song and hearing nothing about the women like you. No one talking about real body image issues.

Growing up I felt so ugly and not wanted in this world. I felt like there was something wrong with me for simply existing. So many Black women feel unattractive because we live in a society that has done everything in its power to make us feel so small. Yet every trend and aesthetic is created off of the backs of our insecurities. It’s time to change that. We need more brands, magazines and artists to show Black women’s beauty without exploitation.

What kinds of everyday prejudice and negativity do you still come up against, both in real life and online?

Online it’s the trolls commenting on my size, shape, skin colour, etc. It just doesn’t bother me any more. I’ve learned to practice grace in the midst of being someone’s insecurity target. I’m focused on being a better version of me to encourage someone else to do the same. In real life it’s racism. That part, I’m not over and will never be over it until racists take a rocket to a different planet or learn to be a kind human to everyone.

How have you used fashion and your platform as a force for change?

I encourage women to gain confidence in every aspect of their life through style. A lot of us are still insecure about our bodies, mindsets and capabilities. Sometimes all we need is a fly outfit to help us see how amazing we are. I help women start there and work on seeing their worth through everything else.

How do you think the fashion industry can come together to build a better future?

It’s honestly straightforward. The industry will have to rid itself of racist strategies, become more sustainable and create a loving atmosphere by welcoming inclusive fashion.

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What are your hopes for the future of fashion and what change do you want to see?

I have hope that more indie brands will grow and be the new face of inclusive fashion. They will demonstrate how amazing the industry can look if they open their hearts to everyone.

What have been some of the biggest obstacles/stumbling blocks you have overcome in your career to get to where you are now?

The biggest obstacle is getting big opportunities as a Black plus-size model. We still face discrimination, but I know it will change as more inclusive brands grow. I dream of walking for more shows, being on many covers and gracing a fragrance ad!

How have you learned to become at one with your body?

Through lots of tears, affirmations and mental training. I realised that how I feel about my body has everything to do with my programming. I’ve had to train myself to think highly of myself. Now I treat myself with the utmost respect. Healthy living, many compliments and treating myself like a queen.

How do you feel about the terms ‘plus-sized’ and ‘curve’ and if you believe in those terms how do you think they should be defined?

It doesn’t bother me because I’ve been a plus-size woman all of my life. I think these labels are beautiful because I trained my mind to believe so. Label or no label, I’m still a fantastic, sexy woman, getting things done!

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How positive do you think the body positivity movement actually is?

I find the body-positive movement very whitewashed, commercialised, and unauthentic in a mainstream light. However, there are still many advocates who are a part of the movement who aren’t given as much credit that are amazing. I feel like it’s changed a lot. It was a very safe space for women of colour, Black women, and plus-size women who didn’t fit society’s beauty ideals when it was growing on social media. It was a community that embraced everyone for who they were and whatever they chose to do with their bodies.

But since mainstream media and brands have gotten a hold of it, now we mainly see barely plus-size white women as its face to sell products. Many women bash other women if they edit photos, get work done, gain or lose weight, or be too much of anything. I would love to see it for what it once was: a warm, loving and open community for everyone.

How side-lined do you think Black plus-size models are by magazines, modelling, the fashion industry and culturally?

All the time. Suppose Black plus-size models were considered for more significant projects? We would have 3 million followers, TV deals, design collaborations, magazine covers galore, and everything else the other supermodels have. We have to work 30 times harder for everything. But I truly believe it’s changing. We are just taking a very long time. I know if we keep working collectively, we’ll see true change. I’m a patient woman, and I never stop working. I’ll continue to put love into this field, and it will eventually come back. It already has in many ways.

What have you been working on during the pandemic? How have you been keeping your spirits lifted and grounded during this incredibly difficult time?

I have no choice but to slow down and really shift gears on what matters most in my life. For me that is healing my inner child and focusing on my inclusive business, Misses Brie. I feel so good! Once the distractions disappear, my mind is finally getting to the REAL mess inside my head. I had no idea I was carrying so much baggage. It took a pandemic for me to be in the moment and heal. I recommend slowing down in your free time, make sure you understand your purpose, where you’re headed in life, and what needs healing.

Are there any goals you wish to achieve within the next few years?

Yes! Growing my online modelling course and my clothing business. I’ve been working really hard on my brand as I hope to one day be a leading inclusive company made by a woman for all women. I realised the plus-size industry is heavily monopolised by slim men – Google the owners/execs of a lot of these plus-size brands! Which makes perfect sense as to why our concerns as curvy women are NEVER heard in fashion. There aren’t enough designers that genuinely care about plus-size, curve and inclusive fashion. It would help if the owners and designers were plus-size women. So, I’m hoping more people will give me a chance to design some awesome collections for them.

You have such an amazing confidence. What’s something you would tell someone who doesn’t feel great about themselves?

I would tell them that it’s OK not to feel good, but not to stay there. We are all so uniquely beautiful and powerful that we were given this blessing to be on earth. We have purpose that goes beyond our outer beauty. So, remind yourself of your grace, your power, and how significant you are. You’re perfect! Now start acting like the queen you are.

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