India Haylee Barton on bullying and her experiences as a curve model
Growing up, I was bullied through pretty much my whole schooling experience; from pre-school all the way until I left. Kids can be mean, and often, they home in on the things that make you unique and different – the things, a bit later down the line, you will come to love and appreciate. However, I think the negativity I experienced might have made me into the person I am today. It made me want to succeed. It made me ambitious. It made me want to prove them all wrong. Trust me when I say, success is the best revenge.
I started working in the fashion industry in my early teens; my first experience was volunteering at a Mercedes Benz fashion festival in Brisbane, where I worked behind the scenes dressing models and helping set up the runway. After that first show, I started working at all the fashion shows in the city from Myer pop-up runways to Chanel cruise shows. At 18 I moved to Sydney to pursue my dreams and make new contacts to further my career. I started working at the runway shows in Sydney but I wanted to get more involved with the business side of things, so I applied to intern at a few modelling agencies. I heard back from an agency called Bella Management and went to their office in Manly a few days later for an interview. I walked out of their offices with a modelling contact – which was something I really hadn’t thought possible.
Around the same time I went for an interview at AVA model management and got a job as an intern there. A week later, they formally hired me as a junior agent and scout! After about a year, I still felt ambition burning inside of me. I loved my job but I wanted more out of it; luckily, things were really picking up for the company I worked for, and they sent me to LA to intern for their sister company. I’ve been here ever since!
My favourite part of modelling is shooting editorials – it’s like playing dress-up for adults! I have had the pleasure of working with some super-talented people on some really interesting concepts. I also love the idea that there may be girls or women out there who are inspired by these photographs; if I can feel happy in my own skin, and they can see that in the image, maybe they will find some comfort in that and start to feel good about themselves too! I have been getting a lot of messages lately from young girls who want to get into the modelling industry, some have cited me as the reason why and that is just…the best reward. It feels incredibly empowering.
Of course, modelling can be a very tough industry – it’s definitely not for everyone, but rejection is just par for the course. It might feel more personal because the rejection is based on your appearance, but you shouldn’t let it get to you. Don’t let it bring you down and realise that you are much stronger than you think. I highly advise to never listen to anyone who doubts you.
Because of the bullying I experienced in my younger years, I grew into a very shy teenager, but modelling really helped improve my confidence and brought me out of my shell. I think in some ways, it must be harder for young people now, especially in the age of the internet where bullying goes beyond the school gates. Also, we have such crazy beauty standards being pushed onto today’s youth, and as a consequence of that, young people are seeking to alter the way they naturally look. Conversely, I feel like curvy women are finally gaining positive representation in both the media and the fashion industry. It is really exciting and refreshing to see so many bad-ass, curvy babes like Ashley Graham, Geo Burke, Robyn Lawley and Barbie Ferreira breaking barriers and succeeding in the industry.
I know it’s not easy to love yourself all of the time, but always try and remember to believe in yourself. I think if you believe in yourself, your confidence will rise up.