The passing of time gets a bad press, but it has its upside. If we’re lucky, the older we get, the more we learn to appreciate what we’ve got and let go of the notions of what we should be.
If we’re lucky – and, in that regard, Vogue Williams has been lucky.
“I’ve got to an age now where I’m quite comfortable with myself,” says Vogue, now 33. “There are probably a thousand improvements I could make, but I’m happy.
“I look back now at pictures taken at times when I worried so much about how I looked, and I see myself and how I was, and I think I was mad. We’re all so hard on ourselves, but, you know, there are enough people who will be hard on you and do that for you. I’ve just come to realise that there’s no need for you to do it to yourself.”
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This tendency to be hard on ourselves and critical of our appearance arises as Vogue explains how she came up with the idea for the photographs on these pages today. “I get emails from people all the time saying how much they love the product,” Vogue says of her Bare by Vogue self-tan. “And that made me think we needed to do something different, something that responded to how people felt about it.
“You know, you could do a campaign where you shoot me, on my own, wearing the tan, but that’s predictable and boring,” she says. “And everyone does models, and even though the modelling industry has changed, I still think it lacks diversity. There’s regular-model size and there’s plus-size, and there’s nothing in between. You don’t see regular body sizes.”
In order to find women like you see today, Bare By Vogue ran a competition. They wanted a “diverse range” of real women to enter and model the tan. It was as simple as that. The prize was to be one of the stars of the campaign, but also an all-expenses-paid trip to a European destination for the shoot, and to spend time there with Vogue. There were a lot of entries, as you might expect, whittled down to the women you see today.
“We wanted to take them all to Ibiza,” says Vogue, laughing at the idea of the fun that might have been had on the Balearic party island. “But we ended up in Marbella. We had a villa, all staying together. We did the shoot the first day, me joining in, and then dinner and probably a few too many drinks, and then the next day was me on my own and, oh my god, I was really feeling the night before.”
Vogue delivers all of this with her characteristic breeziness, which makes it sound like it was a weekend away with her friends, rather than work with strangers. That, however, is probably Vogue’s gift. She comes across like someone most women could imagine as their pal. Despite having blessings and privilege aplenty, there’s a down-to-earth, girl-from-Howth quality that is Vogue’s charm, and the key to her success.
How she remains thus is also quite an achievement. Latterly, in particular, the blessings and privileges seem to have multiplied, while her celebrity star has risen to match. Her marriage to Spencer Matthews seems to be thriving, even in front of the cameras on their reality-TV show; they have a gorgeous baby, Theodore, who is the star of her social media; and they enjoy, as is well publicised, buckets of sun-drenched holidays. Vogue spent the New Year in St Barths, where the in-laws have a hotel, with Pippa Middleton, for god’s sake, who is married to Spencer’s brother, James. Not that Vogue brags about such things, however.
Instead, she’s all about the beauty of keeping it real with the ordinary fans of Bare By Vogue on these pages.
The four women arrived in Marbella with varying degrees of trepidation and self-consciousness, she says. Some were really confident, but others were shy of the almost-naked shoot.
“They may or may not have had a glass of wine with lunch,” Vogue says with a laugh. The wine helped with any nerves, and even with all her years of experience, Vogue understood how they felt.
“I still get nervous about being photographed,” she says. “I think with Instagram and whatever, people are much more used to posing and how their face and body look best, but in some ways, that has made it worse.”
It has made us worse in terms of being hard on ourselves, she explains. We see so much apparent perfection online that we aspire to project that, too, and it’s just not possible.
“But people use so many filters and photoshopping and stuff, so it’s not real,” says Vogue. “I never do. I never use anything. I try to be as honest as possible with my pictures, but I think so many people aren’t, and it’s hard not to be influenced by that.”
There are people whom Vogue has decided not to follow, she explains, because the way they present themselves makes her feel bad. Not actively bad, or filled with self-loathing, they just don’t make her feel good.
It’s a completely human reaction, Vogue says, to compare, but it’s important to be proactive and not put oneself in the way of that feeling of discontent with oneself.
“It’s not just your body,” says Vogue. “It’s the parenting stuff, too. Even with that, you compare yourself. You look at some people and the photos of their kids and think, ‘How did they get their child to do that, or look like that?’”
She went through a phase of hating social media, Vogue explains, but having Theodore, just over a year ago, opened up a whole new online world to her, and it’s mostly good. People are mostly kind and nice and helpful, she says.
“Trolls are always there,” she adds. “And I respond to the odd one and block the odd one, too.”
For example, in August, when Vogue was holidaying in the South of France with Spencer and Theodore, someone suggested online that she should get herself a boob job.
“Thank you for all the lovely comments about my pancakes,” she replied, in a post on her Instagram. “I’m all for the people who want [a boob job], but I don’t — me and my pecs are delighted with ourselves.”
It was a cheerful, good-natured reply that, again, was very relatable. Vogue’s reaction to the comment also illustrated to her just how far she had come in terms of her relationship with her body and her self-confidence.
“Years ago,” she says, “I would have thought I’d love a boob job. I never had a massive chest and I was self-conscious about it. Five or six years ago, I’d have been upset if someone said that, but now, I just think it’s a ridiculous thing to say.
“And what kind of world do we live in that people think they can say something like that?” she asks.
Being pregnant and having a baby has played a part in that maturing, Vogue believes. She has always placed huge store in eating healthily and exercising a lot, but having Theodore really showed her what her body was capable of, and she valued that enormously. She felt proud of her body, you could say, in the best possible way.
The day we speak is the day after Theodore’s first birthday. Vogue marvels at how quickly that year has passed, and says that it was a lovely birthday, for which the boy himself was mostly a little “grumpy”.
He’s standing up, Vogue says, and cruising around, holding on to the furniture. It won’t be long until he’s walking and then, Vogue says, sounding like an Irish mammy, “He’ll be into everything”.
Also the day we speak, she and Spencer are filming the second season of their reality-TV show, Spencer, Vogue and Baby Too. She’s extremely happy with how the first season went, Vogue says, and really loves the whole process. It is, she concedes, everything she hoped it would be, and it also means, as a bonus, that she gets to spend even more time with her husband.
“We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it,” she says of
the TV show. “We never spend too long apart. When you have a baby, we think it’s important for one of us to be there as much as possible. We have someone 15 hours a week when we work. When she’s not there, I like to do the whole thing myself.
“Then, a lot of the time, Spenny’s mum will be here or my mum will come over. But they both live away from us, so we don’t have that family base around us. Lizzie, who works with us, is a granny herself, and she’s like a part of our family at this stage, so that’s amazing.”
When she first had Theodore, admits Vogue, she wasn’t sure about going back to work. She certainly felt a bit wobbly when the time came to plunge back in, full-time. “I didn’t really want to leave him,” she says.
“But I’m so lucky with my work, and I really wanted to keep that part of my life, too.”
They would like to have three children, ultimately, but Vogue wonders how work would have to change in order to accommodate that.
London has become a second home, she says, not only because it’s where most of the work is, for now. “I’d love to do something again with RTE in the future,” Vogue says. “I’d love that, and I always try to keep my finger in at home.”
Speaking of home, Vogue’s campaign to convince Spencer to move to her native Howth remains ongoing. She’s not sure it’s going to be successful, however.
“We’re looking for a bigger place there,” says Vogue, who has an apartment in the north Dublin village. “And I’d love to spend more time there. It’s my happy place.”
“Spencer says if Jeremy Corbyn gets in, he’ll consider moving,” Vogue says, with a laugh. “I wouldn’t be very happy if he got in, obviously, but at least it would mean we could move to Howth.”
The local girl is always in there somewhere, not that Vogue ever pretends to be doing anything other than keeping it real.
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Kelly Doolan, Kildare
I believe Bare By Vogue has completely changed the game with this campaign, and I think it’s truly amazing what the Bare team has
created through their use of a diverse set of models of every shape and size. As a curvy girl myself, I know how easy it is, especially with social media these days, to compare. Every second picture is a girl with what is deemed a ‘perfect’ body in today’s society. Of course, these girls are beautiful, but so is the girl who is three dress sizes bigger, or 10 or 20. Beauty shouldn’t ever be about size, and that is something this campaign really puts across. Beauty comes from within; everyone is simply beautiful in their own way, and their is no ‘right’ size to be. I cannot thank Bare by Vogue enough for their use and celebration of different-sized girls.
Samantha Marlow, Askwith, England
Being 40 and a mother of three, I was understandably nervous being photographed in just my bikini. But self-love and body positivity is so important! As we age, our bodies change and other people’s perception on what is age-appropriate to wear, particularly with swimwear, can impact your confidence! But women should wear exactly what they want at any age. I’m more body confident now than I was in my 20s, and I encourage women to not let their bodies hold them back from enjoying themselves and [to] live life to its fullest.
Simone Fagan, London, England
It was such an honour to be asked to participate. I think it’s great what Vogue and her company, Bare By Vogue, are doing for body confidence. It’s amazing what can happen in the world when people support each other. Everyone just wants to feel accepted and validated. The beauty myth and obsession with physical perfection is, frankly, boring. There’s so much we have to offer the world — our brains, our kindness, our compassion. We only get one shot at this life and it’s a beautiful thing to have a body that does what you ask of it. It’s a shame that sometimes we don’t realise that being healthy and happy is enough.
Tracey Collopy, Limerick
Being involved with this amazing brand was such an honour. I applaud Vogue and her team for using girls of all different shapes and sizes. It’s so refreshing to see things moving in a positive direction, and seeing so much diversity. To me, body positivity is to be the strongest possible version of myself. I can’t help but feel there has been societal pressure to go to the gym and walk on the treadmill. It’s
amazing to see women going into the gym lifting heavy weights, getting strong and feeling empowered. This campaign did such an amazing job on showcasing how different we all are, and I could not be more honoured to be involved.
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