Charli Howard went from being a little known British model to an international ambassador of body positivity this week, having cursed out her agency for labeling her “out of shape” and “too big” to do her job.
The waifish 23-year-old did not mince words when biting the hand that feeds her in a now-viral Facebook post: “Here’s a big FUCK YOU to my (now ex) model agency… I will no longer allow you to dictate to me what’s wrong with my looks and what I need to change in order to be ‘beautiful’ (like losing one fucking inch off my hips), in the hope it might force you to find me work.”
Howard is blessed with high cheekbones, pillowy lips, caterpillar eyebrows, and a willowy figure—though apparently not willowy enough at 5-foot-8, and an American size 2.
Without naming the agency, she paints a damning picture of the people who controlled her portfolio and put her down “whilst shoveling cakes and biscuits down your throats and slagging me and my friends off about our appearance… I cannot miraculously shave my hip bones down, just to fit into a sample size piece of clothing or to meet ‘agency standards.’”
Howard did not return a request for an interview from The Daily Beast.
Biting the hand that feeds you has become an increasingly popular and effective strategy for models.
In doing so, a young model showcases a rebellious, strong personality and perpetuates body positivity, distinguishing herself from the herd of gaunt faces on the runways.
She sets herself apart from the walking coat hangers, taking cues from supermodels like Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner, and Gigi Hadid, who have built their brands on social media.
“Cara Delevingne and [model] Ashley Graham have brought agencies’ treatment of models to light and the stress they can cause,” Howard told the Daily Mail.
Indeed, Howard joins a slew of young models who have publicly taken up cudgels against the fickle fashion industry, airing their grievances alongside images of their slender figures on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Last week, 23-year-old Rosie Nelson, an Australian model, claimed a London booker told her she needed to “get down to the bone.” Nelson moved to London a year ago and was encouraged that she had “potential” but needed to lose weight.
“I know the industry standards are 35-inch hips and about a 25-inch waist,” she told the London Evening Standard. Having shed inches off her hips, she returned and was allegedly told that her hip bones “needed to show.”
Nelson has accrued more than 90,000 signatures on a Change.org petition calling for legislation to protect models in the U.K. (Spain, Italy, and Israel all adopted laws in 2013 banning too-thin women from catwalks, and France made strides in that direction last April.)
Last month, Agnes Hedengård, a 19-year-old Swedish model, posted a video to YouTube and Facebook claiming she’d been rejected from multiple modeling jobs for being “too big.” The video instantly went viral.
These models describe tyrannical agents in great detail but rarely expose names.
In Howard’s case, a woman named Annette-Marie Kjean suggested the model had misrepresented their falling out in a comment on her Facebook post. “You are quick to fat shame the women in the office yet you claim that this is the precise reason why you feel hurt,” she wrote. “Perhaps now is a good time to reflect upon the facts of how and why we truly decided to end our management relationship with you…”
According to Kjean’s Twitter bio, she is Head of Women at Wilhelmina, an international modeling agency with a branch in London.
Kjean did not return requests for comment over email. (A spokesperson at Wilhelmina’s London office told The Daily Beast that employers are “not allowed to comment on the phone.”)
Howard has vowed to continue modeling without an agency. Writing in The Huffington Post, she argued that the overwhelming and supportive response to her Facebook post is “a sign that the industry needs to change.”
Models like Howard are spearheading that change—and the publicity that comes with denouncing evil agencies may do more for their careers than the agencies ever could.