If there's anything we have Instagram to thank for other than amateur iPhone photography and a bottomless pit of memes, it's the transparency it's provided its users with when it comes to speaking out about critical issues. It's had a transformative effect on industries, like fashion and entertainment; the impact has been particularly tangible in the modeling world. Nowadays, being a model requires heaps of followers, in addition to a publicly well-defined personality; some sign-in sheets at castings even require hopefuls to jot down their follower counts. (Yes, seriously.) Yet many models do use the platform for good, like Muse model and #AllWomanProject co-founder Charli Howard, who's mastered the art of sharing — well, oversharing — and it's amazing.
In 2015, Howard made headlines when she penned an open letter to the fashion industry after being body-shamed. "I will no longer allow you to dictate to me what’s wrong with my looks and what I need to change in order to be ‘beautiful’ (like losing one inch off my hips), in the hope it might force you to find me work,” she wrote. “I refuse to feel ashamed and upset on a daily basis for not meeting your ridiculous, unobtainable beauty standards.” Just a few days ago, Howard took her activism to the next level and posted a photo of her backside with a caption that not only claps back at body-shamers, but took an amount of courage that, as she put it, was a bit scary.
"They say do something each day that scares you, so re-posting this is mine for the day. Despite the fact I speed walk everywhere, squat, run and occasionally do @pure_barre, I'm still left with cellulite. I went to an all-girls' boarding school and really used to envy the girls in my class who seemingly had none, and whose bodies looked, to me, nothing less than perfect. Whenever I opened magazines, the models and celebrities I saw didn't have cellulite either - and if they did, they were shamed in the tabloids because of it, or knocked off their perch by nasty journalists who probably have it themselves," she wrote.
"As a result, I felt like my cellulite was shameful, or an oddity. It wasn't until I got older and saw other women's bodies that I realized HOW BLOODY NATURAL IT IS. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Your boyfriend isn't gonna care if you have it, and if he does, dump him for his mate... Don't get me wrong — my cellulite isn't my favorite part of my body, nor is it something I shout from the rooftops about. But I know it doesn't make me any less ugly, or is something I need to feel embarrassed about. So don't let it make you feel that way, either!" Howard went on to quote a Kendrick Lamar lyric: "Show me something natural like ass with some stretch marks."
As far as magazines and runways are concerned, the fashion industry (still) has a ways to go when it comes to following through on promises to include all types of women in their clothes. With every diversity report comes another inch or two toward a more inclusive runway spectrum, but, unfortunately, we're still not there. But it's models like Howard who are taking matters into their own hands and creating the change they want to see in the industry. This movement of breaking barriers and ushering new standards of beauty is what makes a model — at least these days — so influential, after all.
Howard expanded on her message, telling Refinery29: "As much as it's fun to look polished and perfect on Instagram, there's absolutely no shame in being yourself. I think as much as women want to see beautiful images, they also want to see reality. It's a shame that despite cellulite being so normal, it almost seems 'groundbreaking' when someone shows it off," Howard said. And she's right — the more we hype the presence — and absence — of cellulite, the further we distance ourselves from the idea that it's just a small part of who someone is. And maybe once we stop talking so much about women's bodies, we can get back to talking about the clothes. Because, after all, shouldn't that be the primary focus when it comes to, you know, fashion?