If you’ve ever scrolled through Instagram looking for a body-positive boost, odds are you’ve come across the Healthy Is the New Skinny movement. As the brainchild of Katie Willcox, a curve model with over 15 years of experience in the industry, the goal of the HNS movement is to empower women to live a healthy lifestyle and love their bodies at any size, as well as help everyday gals navigate the tricky world of traditional and social media with self-love and compassion. As a lady with a bazillion awesome projects on the go at any one time — she’s the CEO of Natural Model Management, the founder of the Healthy Is the New Skinny social media campaign, and mom to an adorable one-year-old — Katie Willcox is a force to be reckoned with in the body positivity space. We recently got the opportunity to chat with Willcox about everything from health-related New Year’s resolutions to social media negativity to the future of the HNS movement.
Brit + C0: With 2017 officially behind us, we’re ready to kick our butts into gear and start living a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. But instead of making a list of health-related New Year’s resolutions, you advise folks to stop making health and wellness resolutions this year. Why do you think that ditching New Year’s resolutions is the first step to embracing a healthier you in 2018?
Katie Willcox: I want to be clear that health is essential, and when I say we should ditch New Year’s resolutions, that doesn’t mean ditch the concept of health and wellness. I am suggesting that we replace resolutions with healthy habits. Resolutions tend to be based on the “I am not enough,” or “I need more” frame of mind that can justify unhealthy actions or behavioral patterns in the pursuit of “health.” If we switch to a mindset of gratitude and security within ourselves, we can focus on cultivating healthier habits for long-term authentic health and wellness for a better quality of life.
B+C: What are a few ways the average gal can practice self-love in 2018?
KW: The first thing we as women need to do to create a foundation for self-love to flourish is to educate ourselves and ask a lot of questions. Why do the majority of women feel this way? What do I get if I look how I am told I should? Who benefits from the shared self-loathing among women? These are all amazing questions to ask, and when you shift your focus away from your body and start to examine our society, you begin to realize your sense of self has been manipulated. We have to acknowledge that we are born loving who we are, and that self-loathing is a learned behavior, so it isn’t about learning how to love yourself. You know how to do that already. This is about challenging and questioning any programming that fosters self-hatred. That is an incredibly empowering position to be in, and one I encourage every woman to explore.
B+C: Let’s talk a little about social media. You’re a social media guru with a massive Instagram following, so we’re assuming you spend your fair share of time scrolling through the ‘gram. With both inspiring and intimidating #fitspo popping up on our feeds constantly, how do we stop comparing ourselves to others online?
KW: To be honest with you, I have an unfair advantage in dealing with the social pressures from perfect images on social media because working as a model I have seen behind the proverbial curtain of perfection. I have seen far too many people in person that look nothing like their social media images. I have personally been photoshopped working as a model, and I am a wiz at Photoshop myself and know exactly how these images are constructed. That being said, there are beautiful people in real life, and there are people who create a beautiful image of themselves online, and neither of them has anything to do with me. I stay in my lane and focus on what I need to be doing for myself to feel well versus looking like a stranger on the ‘gram.
B+C: Can you tell us a little more about the social movement Healthy Is the New Skinny? What inspired you to start this inspirational movement, and how has it taken off?
KW: I started HNS after being frustrated with the pressures being placed on models to be extremely thin. Even though I was a curve model and was being told I was not large enough, I would speak with straight-size models who were already underweight and were being told to lose more. Logically, it didn’t make sense to me to have these standards within the industry that physically, emotionally, and mentally harmed the models as well as the girls that look up to them. That is when I started my blog Healthy Is the New Skinny. My understanding of beauty ideals, psychology, and the power of social influence has grown exponentially. As I continue to evolve my understanding of what it means to be a woman and healthy human being, I share my journey and findings with my followers.
B+C: What are a few problematic trends on social media that you would like to see get nixed in 2018?
KW: Social media in itself creates a value system for girls and women based on physical appearance and sexuality. I don’t believe either of those qualities is bad or wrong, but we are creating expectations and beliefs about women and their value that I think will have harmful effects for future generations of girls. Social media has created a points system with followers, and when you post positive content or share something you are passionate about, and it gets one like to the one thousand likes on your bikini picture, that result creates personal programming that affects your decision making and alters your sense of self as a woman. I don’t think we can stop this from happening, because women will always be able to sell sex and their bodies. But I do think we can start a meaningful conversation and provide girls and women who are unfulfilled by the current value system to consciously choose an alternative way to live and feel valued as a whole person.
B+C: In your modeling career, you booked more jobs as a size 12 than a size six. Can you describe how the industry is changing in terms of diversity and inclusivity? In your opinion, what areas of the modeling industry still need improvement?
KW: Yes, that is true, because at a size 12 I was more ideal for the plus-size market and at a size six I was neither small enough to do straight size modeling nor large enough to do plus size. You might be thinking, “a size 12 isn’t even plus size!” You are correct, and that leads me into a few ways I think the industry can continue to evolve. When it comes to size diversity, we have seen the plus size market shift toward a positive body mentality. This is partially due to customers’ demands to see a more realistic representation of a plus-size woman, and I feel partly because it was only recently that the plus-size customer was allowed to be included in the style and beauty market, thus making them more accepting and all-inclusive. That being said, we haven’t seen the mainstream brands follow suit when it comes to using a spectrum of size. What this does is create the belief that only plus-size women struggle to love themselves or have body image issues, while these other beautiful women we see in ad campaigns do not and therefore we should aspire to be like them. I hope to see that change because I think all women deserve to be able to see a realistic representation of beauty and size to achieve a healthier culture for girls and women.
B+C: Taking all the lessons you’ve learned throughout your modeling career, you’re now the CEO of Natural Model Management, a West Coast agency for curve models that represent health and an attainable reality for the average woman. What motivated you to create your own company?
KW: I was frustrated with my career as a model and the industry in general, and instead of complaining or being bitter and quitting, I decided to create something new. Don’t get me wrong — I was incredibly naive, but I also feel that is what allowed me to take on such a huge project and be successful. Had I known all that was required and all the moving parts of what we have built I would have never believed I could do it. I went into it with the idea that I could change the industry, and now I laugh at that thought. It was a beautiful intention, but I have a much more realistic view of business and people. I no longer try to change an industry or even the minds of models I work with. Instead, I work hard to create opportunities, set a positive example, and be an ethical and honest person, because at the end of the day, the only thing I can change or alter is myself. Working from that mindset has been empowering.
B+C: How has the industry embraced Natural Model Management?
KW: The industry is always going to be a little behind, because marketing is based on revenue. We are asking a lot of big companies to take a risk and change something they have been doing one way with significant success. But we have also seen more curve models in print than ever before, and the diversity and range of beauty within the curve market has grown exponentially. The power is in the hands of the consumer, and the more women who support brands that do make the shift to an all-inclusive image of beauty, the more diversity we will see in the media. The future looks bright, and we believe in the power of passionate women.
B+C: What’s next for you in 2018?
KW: OMG, great question! I have so many amazing things lined up for this year. I started hosting my own media influence workshops that cover the content in my book and examine the skinny beauty ideal. We sold out of our first two events, which is so exciting. I am speaking at Wanderlust Festivals in West Virginia and Whistler, and I am hosting my first women’s retreat in Mexico this April, called the Soul Seeker Retreat. My schedule gets a little hectic, but I have an awesome husband and employees that help me to function and do great work!
What do you think of the Healthy Is the New Skinny movement? Tweet us by mentioning @BritandCo.
(Photos via Bradford Willcox)