POPSUGAR Australia: First off, can you tell us about your career path, how you got started and how you got to where you are now?
Laura Wells: Sure. So my name is Laura Wells and I've been working as a curvy model for 11 years full time now. I graduated from university and did a marine biology degree and a law degree. Then, I started modelling in Australia and soon moved to New York and worked as a model. Once I moved back to Australia, I continued on that path, but I really wanted to pursue my passion and my education, which was around the environment and protecting it for the future. So I've worked on a number of different environmental campaigns in Australia and then ended up being thrust in front of a camera as a science communicator.
PS: Such a cool title!
LW: Yeah. I know! I never knew it existed. I would have never known that I could become a science communicator. And it's amazing because I've been able to merge my passion for the environment with educating people on how they can change their behaviours to protect our future. And that not only means the environment around us but also our health as well. So, I've had a very nonlinear career path and one that was not intended as well. I never expected to be a model. I fell into being a model. And now I've been able to merge two completely opposite ends of the spectrum - careers in science and the fashion industry - to educated people exactly on how they can help.
PS: Yeah! It's really cool. Who are some of your mentors, both personal and professional?
LW: I guess I found mentors later in life, in my thirties. When I was younger, especially being a size 14 as a teenager, I never really saw anyone in the media that I could see myself in. It wasn't until I got older and more comfortable with my body that I realised that I don't have to look like someone for them to be my mentor or to feel that I'm accepted.
PS: It's funny how that's what we look for when we are younger, isn't it?
LW: Yeah. You really look to find your place and where your niche is, but you really don't need that. It's more about your mentality. So, for me, the people that I look up to are people that are really going out there and changing the world. And there's a lot of women that I'm friends with now that I look up to because they have gone out there and made a difference and helped other people to know that they can do that too.
PS: Would you share some names with us?
LW: Yes! So there's a whole bunch of them in Australia especially. Natalie Isaacs from One Million Women, Susie Crick from Surf Rider Foundation, Nan Hauser, who's a whale biologist. And then people like Sylvia Earle who's a National Geographic explorer-in-residence and oceanographer. She's been amazing to change the tide about women in STEM and how if you just go out there and set your mind to it, you can really achieve what you want.
PS: Do you feel like you've found a really good community of like-minded women?
LW: 100 percent. When you realise what you're passionate about, where you want to take your life and the ways you want to live, you do find a community of people that think the same way, feel the same way and they become your little tribe.
PS: Your support network.
LW: Yeah. And because of that, I've met some of my best friends later on in life because we share similar interests, similar hobbies and we've been able to connect through mutual love, especially for our environment and our oceans. So it's been great.
PS: That's really nice. What are some of the biggest challenges that you've faced in your career so far and what did you learn from those experiences?
LW: I guess I haven't seen challenges as negative. I've always seen them as a platform to bounce off, to learn from and move forward. But, if I look at the modelling side of my career, being a plus-sized model when I first started, it wasn't such a well-known industry, so people would look at you and judge you straight away off your size, which is a size 14. And that wasn't to my detriment, that was more to their's because they soon realised that I could work, that I was a good model and I was there to really sink my teeth into it. So, for me, being a curvy model does limit you in some of the jobs, but it has started to change now, which is great. People are wanting to see more diversity and are more accepting of all different shapes and sizes, which is fantastic. But, back when I first started, the jobs were definitely limited. But you know, I've used that to my advantage and really taken that as a positive because it allowed me to understand just what my body can do and to love it for what it is and not worry about what other people are saying.
PS: How do you feel about the term 'curvy model' or 'plus-sized model'? Obviously, everyone has a different take and opinion on it, so we'd love to get your thoughts.
LW: To me, I've always been indifferent about it. I have been happy to say that I'm a plus-sized model, but I also realise the negative connotations, even though the word plus is a positive word.
PS: Yeah, it's such a weird concept.
LW: Yeah. And I understand that. You know, I'm not in an obese category and people wouldn't look at me and think of me as plus-size. I just look like a healthy, normal person.
PS: Yes, of course.
LW: Sorry. I don't like to use the word normal because we're all normal. But I just look like a healthy person. I can understand why people that are bigger, look at me and say, "Oh, she's classified as a plus-size model, what does that make me?" But, I'm not plus size in terms of everyday society, in the modelling industry, I am. You put me next to a standard industry size model and I am a lot bigger. So, that's where it comes from. It does differentiate us within the modelling industry. And yes, I am a model. And yes, I am just as capable of working as those girls are, it's just quite often the clothes don't fit.
PS: That makes sense. And I guess, to be empowered to do your job properly you need the clothes to fit and look great.
LW: Yeah. And it's more just the sample sizes. Clothes that we shoot are samples that haven't gone into production yet and they often make their sample sizes in a smaller size. So, it's just catering for the diverse range of bodies, and a lot more people are willing to do it now.
PS: Which is so good. You seem to have a great perspective on it.
LW: To me, it's just a job title. It's like being a specialist as a doctor. I'm a specialist.
PS: That's actually a pretty cool way to phrase it, and it makes sense. What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
LW: I think the best piece of advice that I've been given is just to go out there and get it done. You know, if you're passionate about it then follow it and don't let the thoughts or worries of other people stop you from doing it. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but their opinion is based off their experience and if they haven't had the same experiences as you or the same mindset, then that is going to hinder you from doing what you want. So, just go out there and get it done. If you believe in it, you'll achieve it.
PS: Yeah. That's good advice. I know it's hard focusing on the negatives but any experiences of terrible advice?
LW: It's funny cause I tend to not listen to it. Probably something that was negative early on in my career was a stylist saying, "Oh, she's so big. I don't know what to do with her. How can she be a model?". And, that stuck with me. It didn't stick with me to make me change my body or change my ideas, it just stuck with me to make sure I proved people wrong.
PS: So you turned it into a positive?
PS: On that note, what self-care practices do you put in place to help you achieve your goals?
LW: Exercise! Exercise is like the best thing for my mind. If I don't exercise, my mood changes. Exercise is not for me to become thinner or anything. It's really just to have a clear mind and be happy and content with myself and to challenge myself to do things that are hard. Other than that, I really love stretching and yoga, but the one thing that really is the best for me is getting in the ocean - getting salty!
PS: Oh! It feels so good, doesn't' it?
LW: Yeah. It's so good for your mental health and your clarity in general. So, for me, getting salty is one of the best things I can do.