Welcome back to the second instalment of RUSSH Weekend, our two-day digital festival of classes, talks and events for creative minds. Featuring an impressive lineup of Australian educators, activists and people who inspire us and our community, this intimate and inspiring experience gives you access to some of the most unique voices in Australia.
Ahead of the online event, which is taking place on the weekend of December 5 and 6, we're chatting to some of our RUSSH purists and festival talent, beginning with model Shimma Marie. Here, we talk beauty standards, what it means to be a model in 2020 and modern beauty icons.
What has your experience been in the modelling industry so far?
I’m really lucky to be able to say I’ve had an amazing experience in the modelling industry so far. I’ve been full time for three years now and have gotten to work with incredible creative minds who inspire me to keep loving what I do. Not to mention I have an incredible team of agents (who feel more like family) who support me every step of the way.
What does it mean to be a model in 2020?
Being a model in 2020 is a powerful thing, especially coming off the back of the BLM movement which is both so powerful and so long overdue. It’s been amazing to see a shift in the representation of models of colour which we have been fighting for and will continue to fight for in years to come. Initially, I was quite busy but was subjected to questions like “wow you’re so busy do you think it’s because of BLM?” These questions really bothered me at first. It was as if I was being tokenised in the eyes of others even though I was so proud of what I was achieving.
I eventually had a chat with one of my agents who reminded me that not only do I deserve the work I’m getting but also any representation of models of colour was a step in the right direction regardless of what anyone one thinks. I couldn’t be more proud to be the face of change, whether that be for racial equality or changing the ideal standards of beauty one curve at a time – 2020 is a year for change and it’s great to see fashion embrace that.
What does representation and diversity mean to you and how can the industry continue to build their relationship with it?
Representation and diversity aren’t just words anymore, they’re necessities. Growing up in Australia being one of maybe 10 people of colour at my school, I always felt different and never felt like I was beautiful; but this didn’t just stem from school. I would go home, read a magazine or watch television and hardly ever see anyone who looked like me. When the media is constantly feeding you what "beautiful" looks like from a young and impressionable age, you start to believe anything else is not.
It makes me so happy to see people of every race, age, disability, weight, or gender are finally being represented in mainstream media. I feel so blessed to be apart of this revolution. If even one young person sees me in that magazine or that store window and they feel that if I can do it they can too then I’ve done my job.
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Who is your modern beauty icon?
My modern beauty icon would be Jill Kortleve. She changing that runway world one fierce step at a time and it is truly inspiring to see.
Have traditional beauty standards evolved during your time in the industry?
Traditional beauty standards have definitely shifted throughout my time in the industry. When I initially signed, I was your stock standard sample size and but I definitely wasn’t healthy mentally or physically. As time went on I let my body do its thing and be a woman instead of fighting that.
It was intimidating to begin with because I had never worked that way and was really unsure of what this change would mean for my career. But I am so lucky to be able to say that throughout every change my body has experienced, My Kult family has supported me and worked with it and not once asked me to change. As result, clients were given the option to do the same and they have really loved and embraced the change. If this was a few years ago that probably wouldn’t have been the case, so it's definitely a sign that the industry is evolving and I’m thrilled to see it.
How do you think we can create healthier and more equal standards of beauty?
We can create healthier standards of beauty by dismantling the idea that there’s an "equality" quota that needs to be filled. Instead, the industry should be using a model because they’re a great model, an inspiring model, a muse and every beautiful difference that comes with that is embraced not manipulated.
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Who was your biggest role model growing up?
My biggest role models growing up were my parents. My father moved here from the Caribbean when he was a teenager and was one of the first models of colour to grace the pages of Cleo magazine. It wasn’t easy for him and he faced a lot of racism but he pushed through and I can’t begin to imagine what that must have been like. My mother is a beautiful Norwegian woman who moved to Australia when she was young also but has always been a lover of all. When her and my father started dating almost 30 years ago, she faced so much hatred and negativity from friends and family for dating a black man but it never stopped her.