#ProjectWomanKIND is a refreshing new web series that features models Sophie Sheppard, Margaret MacPherson, Stefania Ferrario, Olivia Langdon and Jessica Vander Leahy having honest conversations about body image, health, femininity and womanhood.
One of the models and the project’s producer and director Jessica Vander Leahy, tells Cosmo that the idea came about after she and other models had discussed getting letters and emails from young women who were really struggling with loving their own bodies.
“Basically I’ve had girls reach out to me and say that they really weren’t coping with the way they looked and felt this intense pressure from society to look a certain way,” Jess explains.
“Some had spoken of being hospitalised for anorexia and other eating disorders and these were often girls who were teenagers or in their early 20s who were just feeling down on their bodies and wanted advice and for some reason thought I could help them.”
Jess says that a lot of these girls had got in touch via social media and while she sometimes had exchanged messages and texts, there wasn’t a real platform to truly open up and have an open conversation about some of the issues being raised.
“I wanted to find models – who are so often looked up to as these pillars of confidence and beauty – to have this honest and vulnerable discussion about what we as women all go through with our bodies, and health and pressures on what we think it means to be a woman.”
Jess and her team interviewed each model – herself included – and asked about things like how they felt about their bodies as teenagers, and if they felt they were sexy, and what were the bits they liked, and what were the bits they didn’t find amazing and what resulted was five intensely candid episodes.
“I’m so happy the girls I interviewed were brave enough to talk about things like their teenage hang ups, their history of extreme diets, their once wavering confidence in the bedroom – all of these issues they associated with their relationships with their body. But I’m also glad they talked about how they f**ked off most of those issues too.”
The girls also agreed to get into their knickers and approve a no retouching photo shoot – totally committed to being raw, real and honest in order to spread some messages of body acceptance and body love.
Jess says the name #ProjectWomanKIND actually came about post-interviews after she observed something in all of the model’s answers.
“When I asked them – myself included – ‘What is one word you would hope people would use to describe you?’ not a single one used an adjective that could be associated with the physical.
“They all said things like ‘caring’ or ‘funny’ or ‘kind’ – all of these soul describing words. Interestingly all these women have a really considered view of themselves and when it comes down to it they don’t seem to weigh their physical blessings over those important qualities that you can’t see.”
So what does Jess hope this series does for people struggling with their bodies?
“I guess want to shift the conversation around body image from a negative one-dimensional focus on what we see in the mirror to a more meaningful understanding of our deeper selves.
“I think that our real self can only be reflected in the words that come out of our mouth, the help we offer with our hands and the warm hugs we can give to embrace the unique qualities in every single individual on the planet because we aren’t a cookie cut species – and thank goodness for that!”