REDMILK MEETS A SPECIAL MODEL TO TALK ABOUT FASHION, BEAUTY STEREOTYPES AND MUCH MORE.
Describe Sophia Hadjipanteli in five words.
Ambitious, Loyal, Strong, Different, Kind.
What was the hardest thing about breaking into the fashion industry at a time when full-figured women were far from being considered mainstream?
The most frustrating thing about the fashion and beauty industry is that at times it feels as if we need thousands and thousands of people to come together and fight for even the smallest change. The hardest thing about the fashion industry is that there is a massive disconnect between the people who run fashion companies and the people who shop at them. There are not enough people working for these massive fashion houses who also want the change. The hardest thing about rejection in the industry is that it is quite silent. If they do not want to use you they won’t necessarily tell you that. This, unfortunately, leaves a lot of models and creatives fighting for jobs and dreams that a lot of people have already decided no on. There are major people in this industry that want to celebrate differences, and there are others who don’t. For me personally, I never wanted to pressure someone to want me – I want them to be obsessed with me as soon as they see me! We are worth more than feeling the need to explain our worth every day to people who are unworthy!
What propped you up in moments when you felt down about yourself or your body image?
The people who support me give me the best advice. I love to be transparent with the people who follow and support me about my struggles with my body image at times. No one is perfect and no one loves everything about themselves all the time. It is definitely not as perfect as social media projects. My favorite thing to do is talk about how I am feeling with people who usually look up to me. It is hard to manage your demons when you are supposed to be the beacon of light for others. I appreciate the love I receive from people around the world when I tell them I am struggling, they usually tell me to do the things I love and have a day where I appreciate myself. Thrifting is my favorite ME thing to do.
Was there a particular turning point when you felt you were really reaching people with your messages about body positivity?
Every day I am still so in shock at the number of people who have messaged me saying I have changed their life. Growing up all I wanted was someone to look up to that was cool and had their own unique thing going on. When I was young the body positivity and beauty acceptance movement in the industry was not really prevalent in a lot of mainstream brands and designers. I can remember scanning through magazines looking for someone who I felt I could relate to. Fast forward to today it makes my heart so full when people say they children look up to me. That is all I ever wanted. A big thing that has recently happened for me was becoming the face of the new GCDS beauty campaign. MY face has been all over the world in Milan and Vogue and it’s so crazy to think that people cared enough about my message to include me as part of such a revolutionary and unique brand. It is all so special for me, always.
What is the mission of #UnibrowMovement and how would you like to empower women through it?
Social media is at times quite a scary space for people who are quite different. I created the #UnibrowMovement as a safe space on the internet where like-minded individuals can support each other. Instagram is an extremely large and wide-spanning platform, and sometimes we feel quite lost. From my experience there will be more trolls at times than kind people, so the #UnibrowMovement is a hashtag anyone can use that will transport their picture to a group where there are other people using the hashtag also. I like to think of #UnibrowMovmement as a safe place for the rejects of the world – for the people who seek inspiration – for the people who don’t know where they belong. I see people from all over the world, of all demographics, with and without a unibrow, using the hashtag to share their thoughts and art with people who want to see it.
What does your Greek heritage mean to you and what do you love about it?
I am a very proud Greek Cypriot American. The culture of Greek Cypriots is quite unique in that they have quite a heavy influence of many different countries and traditions (from over the centuries when different countries came to settle there). I like to think that similarly to Cyprus, I am heavily influenced by many people, places, and eras – but the one thing that remains constant is my love and strong greek Cypriot roots. As a daughter of Greek Cypriot immigrant refugees, I am extremely close to my heritage. I speak, read, and write Greek fluently, and was a Greek dance performer and instructor for many years. I am so proud to tell people I am a Greek Cypriot because I believe it connects me with my family who always hoped I would be this close to my culture as I grew up.
Tell us your first experience as a model and how did you feel about it?
Ever since I can remember my mom has been taking the most incredible photographs of my brother and me. To this day my mom is the best photographer I have ever shot with. I was so young I never really remember my first experience with modeling. The experiences I have shared with my mom behind the camera honestly make me feel invincible when I shoot with photographers today that I have never worked with before. She would always tell me to “give her a good picture.” I ALWAYS remember that when I am in front of the camera.
How do you challenge beauty stereotypes and how do you handle offensive comments on social media?
I challenge beauty stereotypes by being myself. There are a lot of people these days who try so hard to be different because they assume it is ‘trendy” or “in demand.” When in reality, being different is something that transcends clothing, makeup, and art… it is an attitude- a mindset. The most revolutionary thing anyone can do these days is to just be themselves. You are never too simple, and definitely never too over the top. Who cares anyway! The people who criticize and judge are often projecting inner frustrations that were there before they even knew of your existence. Offensive comments on social media are like ants. Sometimes you see them, sometimes there will be a lot at once, but they are usually all moving in the same general clustered direction – just ignore them because their effect on you is so insignificant. Pay attention to the butterflies – never the ants.
You write your own beauty rules! What is the message that you would like to send to many girls like you?
There are people who will find something wrong with even the most perfect of people in your opinion. So if you try to constantly chase this idea of perfection, you will be doing it for others. Other people’s opinions do NOT matter when it comes to you and what you like. Don’t live your life pleasing others – make them mad and have a blast doing it and being unapologetically your imperfect self <3
Who is your favorite fashion icon?
Is there any brands/designers that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Jean Paul Gaultier has always been at the forefront of change. Before anyone in the industry was even thinking of it he was already planning his collections around differences. It would be the biggest honor to collaborate with JPG because he really understands that fashion is not separated based on your gender or appearance. I love how he creates gender fluid collections and really thrives off of unique individuals. I really hope I get to work with him one day!
What was the biggest challenge of your life and how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge of my life has yet to come.
What’s coming up for you in 2019?
Hopefully, I will be working with more designers and photographers! I honestly just want to meet as many inspiring and artistic people as I can! It really makes my heart smile when creative people come together to create magic.
Interview Myra Postolache
Photos courtesy of the artist