Meet Rachael Sealy, a fashion and beauty blogger who joined us at the GFW19 Talent of Tomorrow campaign shoot. As a plus sized influencer and woman of colour, Rachael is driven to break the stigma around black and plus-size fashion and beauty.
Sitting down with digital editor Megan Doyle, Rachael discussed the growing awareness of diversity and inclusion in mainstream fashion and beauty, as well as how, as an influencer, this impacts how she collaborates with brands. She also shares some amazing advice for fashion students — having been one herself — and young women looking to follow in her footsteps as an influencer.
Megan Doyle: Can you tell me how did you get involved with Graduate Fashion Week and this photo shoot?
Rachael Sealy: One of the biggest reasons I agreed to do the shoot is because I’m a fashion graduate as well! I studied over 10 years ago, and coincidentally my first catwalk show was in the building that we’re in now. This experience made feel of going back to my roots and I feel very inspired after seeing all the creative designs students have made.
MD: So you must understand exactly what students are going through, having studied fashion yourself. What would be the best advice you can give to fashion students?
RS: What I learned about fashion industry is the importance of staying creative and following your passion. My main advice here would be: if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. A lot of designers feel like they have to fit into a certain box, because of all the trends and brands telling them what to design, but fashion really should be about your own aesthetics and your own feelings. Breaking the limits and rules is how the magic happens, how amazing things are being created.
MD: How did you get into working as a beauty and fashion influencer?
RS: A long time ago, before blogging what a thing, I had a blog where I was writing about different catwalk shows I attended, my label (I had a brand at the time, when I was in university), photo shoots I was organising or attending, etc.
People were reading it, and even commenting, but a lot of them kept asking me about my haircare routine. That led me to YouTube and starting my channel where I was uploading hair and make-up tutorials. It felt so easy for me, just doing it in front of the camera. Then after a while, a brand approached me and wanted me to use their products in exchange for money. That’s how my influencer journey has started; I’ve been doing it for 4 years now as a full-time job!
I’m driven by stigma about black and plus-size fashion and beauty. I feel like I’m taking part in normalising the industry, breaking that stigma and encouraging inclusion. A lot of times, especially in last few years, brands are campaigning for diversity and inclusion, but not enough is being done to shift social paradigms.
For me, the whole point of these campaigns should be letting people that not necessarily fit into standard beauty brackets to have a platform and to feel good about themselves. I’m a huge advocate for posting ‘real-life’ images online – I never re-touch any photos on my account; I want people to see more than just pretty pictures of perfect lives that don’t actually exist. I want my followers to feel good about themselves and feel good about their bodies.
MD: Have you noticed how this conversation about diversity and inclusion of different bodies has been more present in mainstream media recently? Do you think it will eventually become the norm and not the anomaly?
RS: That really depends on how far brands can and are willing to push it. Many fashion brands are joining the movement purely for financial profits, and it’s quite damaging for this conversation in the long term. However, there is also a lot of other brands that are in this movement because they want to change the landscape and contribute to the cause.
If there are more of the latter brands, then the change could be more impactful. What’s really interesting, in last few years we developed these ‘acceptable’ standards for plus-size fashion, and still so many people are not willing to accept it as norm. My size ranges from 16 to 20, so I feel quite well represented in mainstream, but there are a lot of consumers above this size that have no role models, no one to look up or to relate to.
This is also applicable to race. I often hear about black girls whose looks and body does not fit into mainstream black standards, and who feel underrepresented. If brands really want to change this, if they care more about how people feel, and not just about following mainstream trends, then we can definitely see the diversity becoming a norm across industries.
MD: When a brand approaches you for potential work, how do you make sure they’re being genuine about their message they’re trying to communicate through a campaign?
RS: I usually research brand and what are they trying to convey with their products. I like to look at brand’s history to see perhaps how their views change depending on what’s on trend.
If it happens that the brand is not quite supportive of inclusivity, I would take the job because I think if I can be part of the campaign, I can change their audience and make it more inclusive. I always believe that you have be the change you want to see.
When I research brands, I also like to know what the end goal of the campaign would be — being part of a campaign as an influencer is like collaborating. I want to make sure my own brand is aligned with the brand I’m working with.
MD: What advice would you give to other plus-size, young women from minority backgrounds who would like to emulate your career path or work in social media?
RS: If you follow me, you notice that all my content comes from my heart and it’s authentic; I think that also helps keep my self-confidence up.
I used to be a bit self-conscious during the events or photo shoots, it felt odd to be for example the only black women there, but I changed that mentality years ago. I always keep telling myself that I do thing for a reason, I’m being approached by brands for a reason, my work is valuable, and I should keep going.
I often talk to brands and give them advice on how to be more diverse and inclusive. Not necessarily to get more jobs for myself, I often recommend influencers and models for different campaigns. I often feel, a lot of people in fashion industry live in a bubble and have no idea how to communicate certain messages to big audiences. I know a lot of influencers, scrolling through all the amazing events and campaigns that they were not invited to be part of, and that has impact on their self-esteem.
What I always say though, keep doing what you’re passionate about, don’t try to change who you are, meet with different influencers, create your little network and eventually jobs will come. People love to see different content, so it’s important to believe in everything you’re doing, because that’s what makes it unique.
Check out our other stories from the 2019 Talent of Tomorrow campaign below!