Louise O'Reilly: "There can never be enough diversity, but it needs to be genuine" 4 months ago

Louise O'Reilly: "There can never be enough diversity, but it needs to be genuine"

Her's digital cover star for July is Irish blogger and model Louise O'Reilly.

"People of all sizes, celebrating who they are at all sizes."

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Louise O'Reilly has taken the fashion world by storm, from runways to blog posts, there's nothing she can't do once she sets her mind to it.

But Louise's journey is something that can resonate with most of us, overcoming body image issues and learning to love the skin she's in.

"I think for most people with body confidence, it's always a journey," the StyleMeCurvy blogger tells me.

"We didn't have anything online, we didn't have people to look up to insofar as there wasn't a huge amount of role models, even cast in TV or in magazines. There was no one girl that looked like me. So I really kind of struggled with my own kind of body acceptance, that was a big thing."

Louise's confidence oozes through the phone while speaking to me, and the way she presents herself, it's hard to imagine this ever being an issue considering how bubbly and outspoken she is.

Heading into a career in modelling wasn't always sought after, with people telling her she always needed to lose weight to make it in the industry.

Louise began modelling over 10 years ago, but with an almost non-existent plus size fashion industry in Ireland at the time, Louise was snatched up by the German market and her career took her across the world from there.

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"I was always kind of asked, you know, would you be interested in modelling and with that would come with, but you would have to lose weight," she says.

Despite constantly hearing this, Louise found an Irish agent and began jetting off to shoots around the world, working as a plus size model.

"And then I guess my confidence grew more and more and more through there. With body confidence, it's fashion more specifically because it's something you don't always see."

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Originally from Dublin, Louise always felt there wasn't a place in the fashion world for curvier women, and as a teenager, there wasn't as many people in the industry that looked like her, or brands that made clothes in her size.

Louise admitted that she often wore tracksuit bottoms as that was all she could find to fit as a teenager, and it around this time she found her agent and discovered that there was a whole world of fashion made for her body type - she just had never been exposed to it.

 

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Louise has been running her blog StyleMeCurvy for over 10 years, winning Cosmopolitan's Best International Blog two years running.

But what started it all? The Dublin native says that growing up, she never felt there was a place for her in fashion, and didn't want anyone else to feel that way.

"For my blog, I never wanted anyone to feel that way I did. That's ultimately why I started it, I never wanted anyone to feel the way I did growing up, that helpless feeling. So I wanted something that really helped people. So I wanted to create something that blended everything for all sizes, that was accessible to everyone.

"Because there was nothing there that existed at that time. It's about fashion for all sizes. And then I think just slowly but surely, it just grew and grew and grew.

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"It's still growing with me. And I'm just thrilled, it just means that it's reaching more people and helping more people, because that's all I ever wanted to do was help people. And I still want to keep doing that, help people in any way I physically can."

When it comes to body confidence and acceptance, Louise recalls the time she met a former Victoria's Secret model who strutted the runaway and was celebrated for having stretch marks.

"There was no question in fashion about her that she had stretch marks, it was a great eye opener. And I think we're seeing this more and more now that stretch marks are being celebrated in fashion.

"It's meeting people like that, and people of all sizes, celebrating who they are at all sizes."

 

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Diversity within fashion is something Louise strives for, and something she continuously pushes for in the industry.

"There can never be enough diversity, but it needs to be genuine."

"We need all aspects of diversity, both in size, ethnicity and gender. And where it's important is that we don't see a manipulation of it, that it becomes tokenistic.

"What we need is to get into a situation where we're seeing diversity at all different aspects, from sitcoms, TV shows, presenters, even music videos, it's filtered down through all aspects of what we see in media. For it to be celebrated naturally and organically."

Pointing out that a lot of designers carry up to sizes 18, and high street brands with sizes up to 24, Louise feels that there is no reason diversity should be excluded.

 

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"If you're a fashion brand, and you, for example, feature sizes eight, all the way up to 24, then your fashion brand should have an inclusivity naturally of various size models. That's just how it should be. And I think it's something that we can't stop campaigning for until you achieve it at that correct level."

While Louise has overcome her fair share of bullying, she knows that there are children bound to go through the same thing, especially with it being so easy to be targeted online.

"It's really important that you don't validate the negative comments or give them too much headspace. And I know that's easier said than done. You can't change someone else's standard of beauty, but you can rise above it.

"It comes with, you know, getting older and getting a positive group of friends, being surrounded by positive people. It wasn't easy, you know, bullying. It's something to be taken quite seriously.

"You just kind of realise that life is too short and dwelling on these things, it really does only rob you of time and life experiences."

 

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Louise will be judging the Her Best Dressed at the Galway Races this month, and with her experience in the world of fashion, she's got a few things she's keeping an eye out for.

"I'm just looking forward to seeing what outfits people put together be it whether they're upcycling something from the wardrobe they have, or getting something new. The other side for me is, I'm a huge hat lover. So I'm a big fan, more specifically of Irish designers, Irish milliners. So I'll be keeping an eye on that as well to see if people are going to be wearing Irish designer hats.

"I like to see things flow, people share their own individual sense of style. It can be anything really, it could just be colour blocking interesting colours, I love pops of colour. So that's one thing I really really love to see.

"But then I'm also a real fan of classic styles, really nice tailoring, and seeing how they balance their outfit. Colour, for me, is always key."

To keep up with Louise O'Reilly, follow her on Instagram, Twitter and her blog.