NetChat Sessions:Minowa Norton
Updated: Jan 12
All too often we let our opinions lead and don’t get the chance to really listen to others' voices. NetChat are monthly sessions where we talk to inspiring women in and around the Bristol community. This series offers the opportunity to hear the voices of inspirational young women in the industry- who are killing it btw!
This month’s discussion is with Minowa Norton: we talk about the focus of steering young people towards solidarity by celebrating our differences, how different things empower different women and Minowa’s lived experiences in the modelling industry.
It was a great opportunity to be able to connect to Minowa this month and to listen to who inspires her, along with discovering some amazing independent brands she’s worked with...
What do you think needs to change in media/Society to allow people the opportunity to be comfortable in their own skin?
More representation of diversity; including different sized models, but not just a size 12/14 woman being classed as plus sized. More representation of models with disabilities, stretch marks, acne, using untouched photos, making sure it’s being normalised instead of just ticking the boxes to be classed as diverse.
Less marketing of products which can give people unrealistic expectations of beauty standards, such as quick fix dieting products, instead of encouraging healthy eating and exercise, but promoting natural health products instead. As these products can make people feel as though they need to consume more beauty and diet related products, to look like influencers on instagram, in order to be happy and desirable. Instead we should be lifting each other up, to think positively about ourselves without guilt or feeling “vain”.
Another issue that can arise when trying to include diversity is that they can end up making people feel like they are only being praised for their differences because it might seem “in” right now. Instead of it simply becoming the norm to include diversity in all parts of the modelling industry.
This year I think, in particular, people have been checking in on each other and sharing tips and reminders for self care, acceptance and it has helped create a sense of togetherness. That being said, there is still a sense of people feeling like they should be productive and be bettering themselves during lockdown and not “wasting this time”, but it’s important to remember that it’s up to us as individuals how we use this time and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to each other, especially during a time that’s stressful enough on our mental health, without us putting more pressure on ourselves to appear to be making the most of this time.
Have your experiences of modelling been positive?
In terms of the independent shoots I have done, they have almost always been really positive as they are usually super grateful for you, especially when they can’t afford to pay you a lot. However, something that can be frustrating are shoots with make-up artists and hair stylists who struggle to match my skin tone and have struggled to style my hair, but that partly could be due to there being fewer models from the BAME community in Somerset for local shoots. I do tend to worry or am expected to bring my own foundation which is difficult for me as I have never bought my own foundation, and if they don’t match my skin tone I wouldn’t want to use the photos for my portfolio, if I don’t feel confident in them or look like myself.
In general, my experiences have been positive in modelling, especially as I luckily haven’t been with any agencies who have made me feel the pressure to lose weight or change my appearance in any way, I’ve met a lot of models who have been with bigger agencies and been put under these pressures. The main issue I come across is people expecting you to do shoots for free or very little and it can be very frustrating when you would never ask if you could take something for free from a shop, so why do people still think it’s acceptable in the modelling industry? When it’s friends I am happy to help, or some photographers who have a good portfolio and can offer me some good headshots for my portfolio can also be worth it, but any other jobs should at least offer their models a piece of clothing or jewellery from the shoot, make sure they are well fed and travel is at least paid, and anything you can offer is better than nothing.
My most recent shoot for Farhath (@Siddiqui_media) was so much fun, she made me and Rachel (@Rachelannkiley) feel super comfortable and confident, and she looked after us so well, which made me realise how much i often settle for jobs that are either low or unpaid, but Farhath paid us fairly, and provided us with food and drink and made sure we were happy, and offered us breaks as much as we needed. As it was a video portfolio too it meant we could choose our own outfits and would be great for our portfolios. These sound like simple things to ask for but you’d be surprised with how many don’t always tick all these boxes. It’s understandable with small businesses starting out, may not have a big budget, but travel and food should be the minimum.
What’s your favourite independent brand you have worked with?
In terms of the shoot itself and the photos I’d probably have to say burnt soul as we have worked together a few times and every time I have had so much fun and the photos have been great, particularly the one in Thailand! I happened to be on the same island as the photographer, (Nicki silvanus) when she was shooting for them, so we shot together on the beach, which was so much fun, and they are still some of my favourite shots to date from my portfolio! I also loved working with Shop Easy Tiger, Dr Banana and Jess Woodley’s brand; We are Rose Collective, were some of my favourite shoots.
Different things empower different women. Do you feel empowered by the work you do?
I feel empowered when I help Black Minds Matter with their work and know I am helping with an amazing charity, who are offering free therapy to members of the BAME community matched with therapists from the same community. In order to feel more understood and help them work through their black trauma.
I am also learning to drive which also feels very empowering to have a sense of freedom, once I pass as I never used to believe I would be able to do it and sometimes felt a lack of support from others who said they couldn’t imagine me driving either, but how much I’ve enjoyed it and already progressed has helped me feel so empowered and proud that I am learning to feel confident in something which used to scare me so much!
The Shreddy App has also given me the motivation to do more exercise at home, and seeing the progress I made in the first lockdown was empowering. It’s becoming harder to stay motivated as we begin the third lockdown and during winter, but sticking to a routine can really help during these times.
Before the first lockdown I also went travelling round Guatemala solo (for the last month, I travelled with my mum for the first month) which also felt empowering to do by myself. I also felt very lucky to be able to travel and get back just in time before England went into lockdown.
When modelling, I also feel empowered when the women in particular make me feel confident, and the clothes I’m wearing also make a big difference to how empowered I'm feeling. It can be hard to feel good in clothes you don’t think suit you, but having the opportunity to feel and look confident in clothes you love can feel amazing.
What’s your day to day been like during the pandemic?
I’ve been working in hospitality when we were out of lockdown, and the majority of customers have been super grateful and happy to be back, but the stress of the pandemic has sadly caused some conflict between some people with different opinions, but hopefully people will start to respect everyone’s difference in opinions and not let this cause a divide between us.
During lockdown my day to day usually consists of helping with emails for BMM, sometimes i’ll do some yoga or a workout, go for a walk with a friend, catch up with friends on the phone, watch tv and try out making new recipes.
Who inspires you at the moment?
Tala is a brand I am totally obsessed with as they are sustainable, affordable and make clothes which can make you feel so confident, and they also use a diverse range of models. Tala’s activewear even encouraged me to get back into exercising at home in the first lockdown, as they made me feel so confident! When i introduced friends and family to the brand they often thought it was too expensive, but I think we’re so used to being able to purchase clothes so cheap, that when things are made sustainably, ethically and with recyclable material we forget how much much this must cost compared to the fast fashion brands we can get sucked into buying because of the bargains.
My mum is also a big inspiration to me as she's so strong and caring. She rarely complains even though she's in a lot of pain, from her arthritis, which can mean making her ceramics @Elementalceramics can be difficult. I feel very lucky to have her; especially to live with during lockdown and when we travelled together round Guatemala, as we get along so well and she makes me laugh so much!
The Black Minds Matter team are super inspiring with all the hard-work they've been doing in 7 months since they began, they have managed to raise £800,000 and fund 1500 courses of therapy. I feel very grateful to be involved, and it’s great seeing the responses of people expressing their appreciation, for what the charity stands for and what they have been working so hard to do, to offer free therapy to the BAME community.
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