We first met Amelia Zadro as a 16-year-old who was taking her first steps into what would soon be an incredible modelling career. Brilliant eyes, perfect skin, and a smile and attitude that lit the set as soon as she stepped in, Amelia was one of the faces that defined an era of Oyster that we always look back on in total fondness. While we’re being way corny, allow us a major #tbt moment to a very early (2012!) shoot with our gal:
Seven years later and still a complete angel, we’re stoked to chat to Amelia about who she has become. Turns out she’s a dream: Amelia has opened herself right up for the world to see, and with that she has also allowed herself to see who she really is (and what she really wants). She ditched an agent after they made crap comments about her body — a ballsy move — and went public with her journey discovering her new and improved form. Through broadcasting improvised dancing and vulnerable text posts, Amelia lets her 88K followers in on a really deep level, which is pretty inspiring and important.
On top of being a model (and legit the best role model) Amelia has been working on something super fantastic. Linking up with photographer Amy Hibbard and artist Yoland El Khouri, she is curating a project titled ‘Celebrating the Feminine’, which does exactly that in the most earnest way. The three have been bouncing their creative prowess off one another, capturing Amelia’s free body against the natural landscape, lit by natural light, and interpreting the shapes into uninhibited illustrations. And, while the works are to be exhibited formally later this year, we are so happy to share a taste alongside an interview with Amelia.
I first met you on set, so let’s start there. When did you start modelling?
I’ve loved modelling for fun since I was a little kid, but I started doing it professionally eight years ago, when I was 16.
So, you always wanted to be a model?
Yeah I did. I loved modelling when I was growing up, I used to make my little brother take photos of me around our house and garden. It’s really nice to think about that phase, because I feel like now I’m finally coming back that kind of playfulness with it. There was also a stage in my early adolescence when the idea of modelling was too anxiety-provoking to be appealing because I felt so self-conscious.
And what was it that finally got you into the industry?
I got scouted by model agents during this self-conscious adolescent phase, but as I got older I started to think about all the exciting things — like the travel — that could come with a modelling career and so that was when I decided to give it a go for real.
So what have you learned about yourself, good and bad, during the years working as a model?
So much! One of my biggest lessons has been about how I perceive ‘success’. I achieved many of my goals in modelling when I thought that money, fame and fitting into the fashion industry’s image of beauty was what success was — I walked in runway shows, I worked for big brands and magazines, I saved a lot of money, lived in all of the major cities around the world and kept myself at a very low weight to make it all possible. Achieving these things when I was 21 made me realise that this isn’t actually my definition of success, it’s what I learnt growing up. I was proud of what I had achieved, but I didn’t feel fulfilled — there was still a kind of longing and emptiness inside me and feeling like there had to be something more. Since then I’ve started seeing how success is so different to every person, and I’ve realised that what truly fulfils me is actually quite simple — it’s being in my body so I can actually appreciate the present moment, it’s also living life like it’s an adventure, exploring new places and chilling in nature, it’s taking time to reflect and learn from each step as I grow, putting my energy into projects that I’m truly passionate about and it’s from deep connection with myself and others… oh and great food, chocolate, wine and dancing.
If I was going to say a ‘bad’ lesson that I have learned about myself during the time working as a model, it’s how hard I used to be on myself. Through having big dreams and ideas of what it was to be a model and to be successful, I really pushed myself and beat myself up inside, and experienced the suffering that came from that… and this is what motivated me to develop a different kind of relationship with myself and so it’s all perfect in the end.
And now you’ve kind of come into a new form — I’ve watched you discovering yourself a bit on instagram, through dance and movement, but you had a bigger moment recently when your agent made some particular comments about your body. Right?
Yeah I do really feel like I’ve come into a new form — mentally, emotionally and physically. My physical form isn’t drastically different, I am just healthy now. I’m still lean and fit, but my measurements no longer fit the tiny fashion industry norms. I went to work with an agency in London last summer and I tried to talk to them about it in person — I said that I still wanted to try to get modelling work in my ‘new form’ and I wanted to be supported in that. They seemed uncomfortable with the topic, like they didn’t know what to say, and then during that time in London they didn’t book me any work. I made just enough income to live off with some of my old clients who re-booked me, and I booked some freelance jobs myself. So when I left, I asked them what was going on and why they weren’t booking me any work, and they said it was because of my weight, and that to work in the London market I would need to tone up and lose a few kilograms.
Was it easy for you to share this information?
I felt vulnerable in sharing it publicly, because I was scared that I would be judged and that it would affect me being able to work again. For most of my life, the industry norms have really made me think that I could not be beautiful or model if my body is softer. I decided that although I didn’t know what the outcome of sharing it would be, I just needed to speak honestly. We need to expose these kinds of situations to generate an honest discussion that can lead to change.
What was the response like?
Amazing — it’s one of my top posts ever. So many people voiced similar experiences and appreciation for my share and I felt incredibly supported. It’s experiences like this that help me trust my intuition more, because even though it was scary to share, I could still tell it was the right thing to do and the response confirmed that. The only people who haven’t talked to me directly about it are the model agents.
I feel like we’re slipping into a new phase of social sharing, one that’s a bit more ready to be flawed. Or, rather, it’s opening up about flaws and insecurities in a way that’s constructive. Why do you think this is?
I believe this is part of the new wave of feminism. It doesn’t matter if you are in a male or female body, ‘feminine’ expression is more sensitive, receptive, compassionate and open to sharing vulnerability and emotion. Society has been dominated by the celebration of ‘masculine’ expression for so long, which presents with confidence, and overt clarity and strength. Over time, the negative effects of this imbalance have become obvious — it breeds competition, stress, burnout and feeling like we have to hide the softer part of ourselves or that being seen in them will make us weak. Personally, I’ve experienced that reclaiming my feminine expression has allowed me to come back into more balance within myself and find confidence in my voice. It’s not the norm I see on social media, but this is why I choose to include shares that are more vulnerable, so people can see that it’s okay for them to be vulnerable too. ‘Be the change you wish to see’.
I wish these conversations were happening when I was coming of age. They’re meaningful still to me now, but there’s a lot to unlearn in regards to how I was taught to express myself and my needs. Has publicly opening up like this been cathartic? Does any part of it stress you out?
It has been cathartic, yes, and stressful at times too, but overall breaking down these barriers around what I can and can’t be seen in has been incredibly empowering – it means I don’t have to hide any parts of myself, I can just be me. This level of authenticity is liberation and it naturally magnetises people, this what ‘true power’ and ‘healthy leadership’ looks like to me.
Do you follow any other people on insta that are inspiring in this way?
I find authenticity and aliveness inspiring. I love Jameela Jamil, Charli Howard and Tilly Lawless. I also love Joanna Halpin, who doesn’t share many words but makes simple and mundane images into a beautiful collection of artwork… I find it fascinating and there’s a good metaphor in there.
Can you tell me how your day-to-day is different now, compared to the time before you freed yourself from your agency?
Now I choose the projects that I truly want to work on, yay! I can plan my days in advance — with agencies you have to wait until the evening before to get your castings and jobs for the next day so you can’t really plan your own life outside modelling. Now I also spend more time studying, planning events and working on the other side of my business (supporting people to develop a healthy relationship to their physical and emotional body or ‘inner feminine’) and just spending more time playing and doing what I love.
I also want to add that I still work with my agency Chic in Sydney — they have been supportive of me throughout the shifts in my career and still book me great jobs in Australia and we have a more collaborative approach with my schedule. Thank you Chic! I’d love to find more agents around the world who want to work in a similar way.
Do you have any words of advice for women who’re searching for themselves?Your body has all the answers — slow down, breathe, feel. What is your body telling you? Trust yourself. You are most powerful when you are your own highest authority. This sense of self-trust is not something that I grew up with, it is something that I have consciously cultivated. You can too.
Finally — what’s the future looking like? What are you working on and achieving this year?
I’m taking it one step at a time. Right now I’m living in Thailand studying to become a Yoga teacher. I think I’ll head back to London after this to run more events and work on creative projects… maybe I’ll find a new agency there too. This year I’m rebuilding the foundations of my career to revolve around what I love doing naturally. This means finding more of ‘my team’ — people who are on a similar wavelength and want to work and create together, and doing more training in the healing modalities that I’m passionate about and so I can offer them to others.
Photos: Amy Hibbard
Illustrations: Yoland El Khouri