November 2013, whilst being on the judging panel for the Ms Curvaceous UK final, I had the utter delight of meeting Saffi Karina. This beautiful lady – whose smile resembles melted chocolate – is a highly successful model having been booked by clients such as John Lewis, Speedo, Bravissimo, Marks and Spencer and Boohoo.com (to name but a few!) Starting out as ”straight size”, Saffi was always aware of the pressure to maintain the typical size 8 -10 frame required to carry out fashion work. After her body began to change, she was dropped by her agency for being ”too big”. After being introduced to the ”plus size” market, she never looked back. Off the back of her success, Saffi founded the CURVE PROJECT LONDON – the UK’s first body confidence master class and intensive curvy model workshop. I’m delighted to share my interview with this inspiring woman.
How would you describe your relationship with your body as a young girl?
As a young girl I would most definitely describe the relationship with my body as a positive and practical one. The influences around me placed emphasis on maintaining strength and health. I was always quite sporty at school, and enjoyed running so understood the importance of this. Also, growing up as a nineties kid, social media was non existent, so there were no added pressures of having to meet a sensationalized media ideal.
How would you describe your relationship with your body today?
Today as a woman the same ethos still applies. Health and how I feel has paramount importance over how much I weigh and what my measurements are. Just like any other woman I also have my down days, and in that instance I make it a point to remind myself of what I am happy with. Make sure I eat healthier and up the ante at the gym if I’ve been slacking!
What inspired you to create the CURVE PROJECT LONDON?
As a straight size model in the early days of my career I was constantly met with the pressures of having to “get my hip measurements down” or told to wear a “minimizing bra” to castings so I didn’t appear so busty to clients. It was always about having to conform as opposed to embracing my natural form. It was my own personal experiences that motivated me to want to inspire other women on the importance of size acceptance. As well as educating them on the opportunities available within the modelling industry to women of diverse shapes and sizes. It’s a pioneering movement that empowers and instils body confidence using skills that are relevant in all areas of life. Whether you have aspirations to be a model or become a Corporate CEO, The CURVE PROJECT LONDON really does have something for everyone!
What’s the best thing about running the CURVE PROJECT LONDON for you?
The most fulfilling aspect of running the CURVE PROJECT, is seeing the overall transformation our workshops make to the confidence of women and more importantly in how they view themselves. They really blossom throughout the day and leave a more confident, self believing, polished version of who they already were when they arrived. The potential is always there, its just about instilling that self belief permanently!
You’ve been a very successful model for quite some time now. How do you feel about being given the label of ”plus size” and do you think a model’s career can be affected by being labelled as either ”straight size” or ”plus size”?
I’ve been in the industry long enough now to look beyond the labelling and understand that within the fashion market that’s all they are, “labels”. A means to categorizing shapes and sizes. In particular for clients needing to meet a specific brief. Fashion has always been that way, and it no longer bothers me as I’m well aware of the positive impact that plus models are making globally regardless. The opportunities and pay for curvy models are just as lucrative as our straight size counterparts. So in no way do I believe that being labelled either hinders a career.
That said, many of the world’s leading agencies such as STORM, IMG and JAG now no longer categorize their models by size and have all their models represented under the same board. That definitely represents progression!
Has anyone ever given you some advice or have you read a particular quote which inspires you?
Fashion activist and icon Bethann Hardison for me is the ultimate role model and game changer within the industry. As a model of colour she broke barriers in the seventies by appearing on covers for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Since the eighties she has fought to diversify the world of fashion and has won numerous awards for her advocacy. A quote of hers that I strongly identify with is; “To not accept diversity hurts everyone. It hurts the Fashion industry. It hurts society.”
What would you say to any young person currently experiencing self esteem issues?
The first factor I would stress to anyone struggling to accept who they are is that there is NO such thing as a beauty ideal! Despite what warped perceptions of beauty are presented to us on a daily basis, we have to remind ourselves that those are just “opinions” of a chosen few and don’t in actual fact represent our reality! Nor should you allow it to. It’s about being your own role model sometimes and making that conscious decision to wholeheartedly accept your unique qualities. Be they physical or certain skills you were blessed with. Self acceptance is vital to ones overall confidence. When you believe in yourself, everyone around you has no choice but to believe in you too! The CURVE PROJECT LONDON‘s Instagram and Twitter pages make a daily habit of posting positive body image quotes to encourage women to start their day off with an affirmative state of mind.