Body Activist, Photographer and Model: Emma Breschi
Body Activist, Photographer and Model: Emma Breschi
We sat down with the face that is currently everywhere, and for good reason. Body activist, photographer, filmmaker and model Emma Breschi discusses with Editor-in-Chief Tahmina Begum about sending out positive images, the current uproar of having a personal brand and fitting into your own standard in the modelling industry.
Tahmina Begum: So tell me about your last project.
Emma Breschi: I did a short film profiling lots of different women in London. But my intention wasn’t to make a feminist point – these women have their own stories, so let’s just celebrate them for who they are as opposed to making a statement about what it means to be a woman.
TB: You didn’t need to say the obvious.
EB: I don’t even know what that means.
TB: And after all, isn’t everyone? Sometimes, I see a Twitter bio and it says “Tea drinker. Feminist”. What is the need? The tea drinker bit is fine.
EB: I feel like a lot of people want to categorise everyone else. Even when I was at university, people were like “Oh, you’re a feminist” and I was like “What? Just liking Disney movies with a strong female lead doesn’t make me a feminist.” And I don’t know why I found it offensive, the way people would say it. Well, what is that?! You cannot tell me what I am when I don’t really know what it is. Feminism is a huge topic with so many different layers.
TB: Do you think you are naturally a feminist in the sense that you are all for “girl power”?
EB: Absolutely. It’s funny, because when I was younger, I didn’t like hanging out with girls. I was always with the boys, but not necessarily dating any of them. I was one of the guys. Now that I’m older, I have more girlfriends than ever. I think it’s because as you get older, you start to realise what it is to be a woman. Finally discovering yourself allows you to appreciate other women. Especially in my line of work, I naturally gravitate towards working with other women, because I can see bits of me in them. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect men. I’m not just like “No to dick!”.
TB: You’re like, “Please, I had it yesterday, what are you talking about?” But really, when I see women actively trying to include men, there shouldn’t be a forceful need. However, do you get any stigma from the work you do or the photographs you take? For example, the “Bad Flower” editorial for F Word Magazine [replacing pubic hair with flowers]. I think your work is subtly controversial. “I’m going to give it to you and you can take it for what it is.”
EB: I think that with the editorials that I do, people enjoy looking at them and they take them for what they are. The film “Nothing But Her” did have a feminist theme and even guys messaged me saying that it was beautiful. My dad even said it really touched his feminine side and I was like, “Er, OK”. Men probably appreciated it as there were lots of pretty girls in it. It was rather soft. I’ve gotten more mixed feedback on the more personal projects I do, like self-portraits or anything with nudity in it. For example, I posted this picture of me with a towel on my head and I was sitting on my bed, semi-naked and chillin’, cause I like to send out positive body images…
TB: I was literally about to ask you about that next.
EB: Oh, really?
TB: When I was explaining to everyone why I wanted to shoot you, I said that I think you’re a positive body activist in the same way your work is. You’re not shouting out “Look like me!”; you seem happy in your own skin.
EB: Even when I was younger, I was skinny but always had boobs. I was one of the first girls to develop and I would be teased about it. People used to laugh at me and say, “You momma big boobies”, and that’s so funny ‘cause at the time, I was like “Wahh”, but now…
TB: Now it’s like, “I won!”
EB: “Suck it, guys! Look at me! You wish you had my boobies!” It’s so weird because I don’t actually care. If I want to diet one day, fuck it, I’ll diet! But if I don’t, then I don’t need to – as long as I’m doing things I’m happy to do and I’m proud of. I get the weirdest comments from men. Sometimes they say “Wow, you really keep your sexy down with the way you dress. With the way you hide it, you dress like that, when you are really like that!”.
TB: But I feel the same if you’re a bit too “fashun” – for example, if I wear a sequin dress, a different coloured shirt, turban and pom-pom earrings, no one hits on me. It’s funny that even if you’re androgynous, you get backlash; and if you’re the other, you get it, too. You can’t be too much of anything.
EB: People will say you’re dressing to impress or dressing to get attention, but I don’t even think that’s what it is for me. I’m just wearing whatever the hell I want to wear. I get asked if I do the things that I do for male attention, when in reality, I get more female attention. I get more women messaging me on Instagram saying, “I love what you do” than men being like, “Yeah, you fit”, which is great to see.
TB: Do you think anyone has inspired the attitude you have?
EB: I’ve had the privilege to travel and meet lots of different people and I think these experiences shaped who I am, so it’s not anyone in particular. Even now, I’m still trying to figure out who I am. I think I’ve become more relaxed. I take anything as it comes, I don’t overthink anything. When you’re younger, you think, “I don’t want anyone to see me in a bikini” and as you get older, you learn to let go. Whatever, who cares, I’ve got no one to impress other than myself. I don’t take anything too seriously – weirdly enough, I think it is why people want to work with me more.
TB: The confidence you have within yourself shines out more than what you wear or even what you say sometimes. Because you’re in front and behind the camera, a bit of a chameleon, do you think there’s anything in the modelling industry which needs to be changed?
EB: I’ve been modelling for not even a year now and before that, I started off with photography. And even before that, I was acting, so I was never really in fashion or modelling. I always had friends who were models and I thought there was no way I was going to be a model; those are my model friends, I’m not going to be like that.
TB: But why did you think you weren’t like that?
EB: My friends were working models and we were all young girls and I thought to myself, “Oh, that’s a model, that’s what a model looks like, I’m not even going to consider it”. But when I got older, I was just doing my own thing and someone asked if they could take a picture of me. My instant reaction was, “But I’m not a model”. Their response was, “No, but I just really like your face”. Ever since then, I feel as though I’m just doing it for myself. The industry is slowly changing and there is a lot that could still change, but if everyone does their own thing and contributes, it will have to turn and change.
TB: I think you’ve come into modelling at an interesting time. Whether it was at the Roberta Einer show or with the Theodore Golan girls, if you were to group models, women that have personalities or have a look that is individual to them are the ones who are doing well. I guess it’s because they have their own personal brands to bring to the game.
EB: But I feel as though even that should change. I’ve got lots of people coming up to me and asking for some advice to get into the industry, and I don’t know what to tell you other than be yourself and just do it no matter what anyone else says to you. After all, people would tell me, “You’re not big enough to be a curvy model or small enough to be a ‘normal’ model”.
TB: Normal being the operative word.
EB: Well, I’m just doing it for fun. I’m not out here saying I want to be a supermodel. I’ve got girls that are even the ‘normal’ model types, whatever that means, and they’re saying they are not getting anywhere in the industry. It’s not really about size anymore. I know it’s a big thing, but you just really need to own it yourself.
TB: And not to fit into everyone’s sample sizes, from a mental perspective as well. Obviously, they always say a good model is someone who can change and be a different character. But I think, especially nowadays, it’s important to be yourself – but authentically yourself. I was having this analytical moment the other day, as many others do. I was sitting down and thinking whether the person that I’m portraying is me or if it’s just another caricature of my personality. This is something people need to think about more.
EB: I think you need to have your own things and you need to be open and curious to learn. When I started acting, I was kind of thrown off from the acting world as I was surrounded by [upper-class accent] “I just want to be an arc-tress” or [high-pitched voice] “I will be an actress, I’m going to be an actress!”. But there’s so much more to life than just being an actress. If anything, it’s going to make you a better actress to involve yourself in newer things. Don’t just set yourself to be one thing. I don’t know if that made sense.
TB: It did make sense. Similarly, we both have careers that are multifaceted and my favourite thing about my role is that every day is literally different. I think it’s an exciting time, the industry is on the cusp of something and it is moving ahead.
EB: And people say you can’t be a jack of all trades – you have to perfect one thing before you move onto another. I agree with that, but this is the time to learn lots of different things. If you want to do it, do it. It is a very competitive industry, but don’t compete with anyone but yourself and how you fit in this space. It’s a weird industry, it’s… weird.
TB: But addictive.
EB: Super addictive.
Words and direction by Tahmina Begum
Photographs taken by Kavita Babbar
Location and looks: Emma Breschi’s apartment and own