In the space of five years Louise Varns has gone from a stay-at-home mum to a make-up artist, modelling agency manager and plus-size model. We wanted to know how this whirlwind came about...
So, how did your life change so dramatically?
I've always had a love for make-up, even as a teenager. I used to do any after school club that was about beauty and make-up. Originally though when I left school I went on to study law and business because it never actually occurred to me that make-up could be a career choice. In 2006 my aunt got married and asked me to do the make-up for the bridesmaids. That's when I re-discovered my love for it, and I started studying again. Being in the industry as a make-up artist gave me an opportunity to see how things worked on shoots. I loved watching models pose and then seeing the end results of it all - something I contributed to making. In 2014 we moved from Leicestershire to Birmingham and I took the opportunity to reinvent myself. Having always been the person behind the scenes, feeling a little invisible, moving gave me the freedom to try new things. When a friend of mine suggested doing a photoshoot, and even went as far as to post a status on her Facebook profile looking for photographers, I made the jump in front of the camera. I figured that it was now or never to finally swallow my insecurities and wing it. And I've loved it ever since. The agency came into being so to speak, this year. I felt that the public, and more importantly the industry, still wasn't getting the message about diversity. There is more to the fashion industry than just waist size! And the fashion industry is still excluding so many people. So I came up with The Naked Agency, dedicated to promoting every kind of model, for one catwalk, one industry.
Which of your new roles do you enjoy the most?
That's a hard one. Each of my roles gives me something unique. Make-up and modelling allow me to express my creative side, whereas the agency is business driven. I enjoy the challenges of the agency, coming up with new ideas to push us off the ground, get attention and help promote our models in whatever way we can. I love helping the models, being a part of a team.
How have your kids reacted to mum’s glamorous new life?!
The boys are completely oblivious to it, though one of them thinks I'm going to be rich and famous one day! My daughters though, they ask a lot of questions. Where am I going today and what is it I’m doing? And they like seeing the things I do. But they're all incredibly supportive.
Being mum to a daughter, do you worry about the effect of the media on young girls’ body image?
Always. Luckily though my daughters have never really had issues with their image as yet. But I have friends whose daughters are struggling to find that acceptance. It's hard these days for any young girl at school. Girls are no longer allowed to just be girls and enjoy their youth. They're in constant competition to be accepted by other kids, to keep up with the latest trends and look the "norm" and especially when it comes to body size. The media has played a huge part in pushing kids away from their childhood and pressuring them to be more grown up.
I heard you suffered some very cruel bullying as a child which affected your confidence. What advice would you give to other women who have low-self-esteem?
I was bullied from the age of four right up until I was 15. I suffered badly with dyslexia which back then, schools weren't very discreet about. So I was always branded as the thick kid. Plus having a cooler older brother made it worse, people always asking why I wasn't more like him. When I became a teenager it got worse. I already had issues that made me want to be hidden and invisible, but when my boobs started growing I started struggling with my own emotions which led to self harming (not that it was related to the boobs) I really just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me up. My advice for any young girl (or any boy for that matter) is it's OK to be you. You might feel alone, like you’re the only one. But if you raise your head, look up from the ground, you'll see there are more out there just like you, all struggling and desperately wanting to be accepted. Never be someone else just to please someone else, life is too short for it. Find the genuine people, the people who accept you for you, that celebrate your uniqueness and personality and supports it.
Do you feel you’ve had the last laugh now?!
I try not to focus too much on the past. I only hope that they've learnt to be happy, and accepting of other people's differences.
What are your top make-up tips?
Less it more - always. Make sure your foundation matches your chest! Otherwise you'll get what we call the 'floating head' look. Cleanse and moisturise every day. It's the key to making sure your make-up sits perfect. It's far easier to prevent skin problems than to have to cover them up. And lastly, leave the dark hard eyebrow look in the past, it never really looks good on anyone. Natural eyebrows that are filled and defined looks more striking.
What do you think of the term ‘plus-size’?
I think I'm one of the few that isn't really bothered by it. Yes I can understand why some may feel singled out by the term or insulted. But me personally, I think of it as just another description. Like me being petite, or blonde. I'm not skinny, I'm a plus.
What item can you not leave the house without and why?
My mobile phone. It's my life. I'm sad I know. It has everything on it, my work diary, my emails for my personal account and agency. Allows me to stay in touch with my family. And when I'm travelling long distance, it provides me with my entertainment.
What upcoming projects do you have that we can look out for?
The Naked Agency will be participating with Alt Fest in their next four shows for the Sophie Lancaster foundation, something we are very proud of. As well as that, I'm currently in talks with a very big events company to allow us to have our very own show next year! It's all very exciting. Modelling wise, I will be in Wales next week doing a conceptual style shoot with Louise Thomas, it's a style I don't get much chance to explore but one I love very much.
Finally, where will we find you in 10 years time?
Hopefully I will be owning the catwalk as an amazing mature model! And The Naked Agency has become an international agency. I'd love to work on London Fashion Week too. But more importantly, happy. I hope to be happy and my kids to be happy. A vacation wouldn't hurt either.