I received an email in August letting me know I was a finalist in the InStyle Digital Influencer Awards #Project13 for my Fashion Illustration work. I'm not going to lie, I burst into tears. If that wasn't bad enough I replied to Hannah at InStyle (who at that point I had never met) telling her I'd burst into tears. I was 100% Gwyneth Paltrow in that frothy pink dress at the Oscars. I know. But that week I'd just about had it with offers of free work and was having a true crisis of confidence. Living alone, being responsible for the bills, for the shopping, for the decisions, for the everything and then having to be creative AND keep on top of emails and social - it can take it's toll. When friends who don't understand so well what I do, ask me what my plan B is, I tell them there isn't one. But even I was starting to wonder if I needed a reality check. And then here this news landed, like a little golden butterfly.
Years ago I'd have acted cooler (perhaps). But I took to all of my social channels and begged for votes. I got pretty close to videoing myself doing that painful 'vote for me' thing they do on X-Factor. I really really wanted to win.
And win I did. And I'm writing this in September, but you won't be able to read this until November. So AARGHH I won! I won a competition because I'm great at communicating information fast and in a unique way....and here I am having to keep this all a secret. This oversharer was asked not to share.
And so the title. About being out of your comfort zone. WOW.
So as winners we were all invited to London to take part in a photoshoot. We weren't given any more info, but I've worked in fashion for the last 16 years I have been on a few shoots and knew pretty much what to expect. Slicker hair maybe, perhaps a smokey eye, jeans and a cute blouse on top? Yeah I could cope with that. I'd never been in front of the camera before but I knew from working with pro models that the key was to be relaxed and calm. And I thought they are bound to make me perch on a stool or something if I look like an idiot (I have a tendancy to do the double peace sign in full length photos. not the most editorial of looks).
I had no idea how wrong I was. I was picked up by the lovely Anthony from Upton Park Tube Station (somewhere I hadn't stepped foot in years. I used to live there but then I got mugged, I had police escorts home for days, it went to court, I ended up with a regular taxi driver for a while who told me I should be Prime Minister and then went on to present me with a gift of an engraved trophy....it's a different story, and for another time). Anyway, we then drove not to a white bright photography studio, but to a Working Man's Club, frozen in time. Amazing tiles, a sweeping dark wood staircase and well worn patterned carpets.
I soon met the Senior Instyle Team, saw the creative moodboards for the shoot and was whisked into hair and make up (in the bar). I've never had anyone do my make up for me before and was excited to see a transformation. But the brief was 'natural'...so I still just looked like me. And my hair? Again natural, just a glossier version of how it was when I'd arrived. I was expecting an ephiphany I guess, a 'WOW look at me no-one is going to even recognise me?!'. But eek, I was still me. People were going to know!
Outside I could see AJ Odudu doing cartwheels for two photographers, wearing an incredible red silk dress, looking like a total goddess. I started to seriously develop the fear. I felt like a fraud and wondered why anyone would really want to see a photo of me when it's my artwork that is popular. My biggest worry was that they hadn't been able to find clothes big enough to fit my size 14 body (which I'm aware is ridiculous). And despite having welcomed turning 40 recently, I suddenly felt old. The cartwheels weren't helping.
Soon enough I was with Stylist Robyn and her team in a dark wooden room, surrounded by clothes and shoes. I was given an amazing MSGM coat to wear over my underwear (yes, JUST my underwear, wit woo), one earring, and some gold Jimmy Choos. It took two people to get me into the shoes and when the photographers Luke and Nik were ready for me it took a team of people to move me. It was like watching someone who is 94 years old walk for the first time since they had both hips replaced. And they wanted me on the roof. Yes, on the roof. ON THE ROOF IN MY PANTS.
But despite all of my worries, once I was there, in front of the cameras I felt fine. Everyone was friendly so I felt at ease, and I thought what's the worst thing that can happen (I mean I guess falling off the roof COULD have happened, but it didn't). And so here's the result! Not my usual style and no smile allowed, but still I think the photos are fun and it was great to be part of someone else's creative vision for once. And being in the printed mag is just SO exciting, I'm really chuffed.
And on that note, the December issue of InStyle is it's last in print. It's such a shame to see this great mag head 100% digital, but times are changing. And so good luck and thanks a million to the Instyle team, who chose me to be a finalist in their Project 13 Digital Influencer Awards, and to all of those who voted, for making me the winner. Also a big thanks to Luke and Nik for allowing me to be part of your creative dreamworld for the day.
I stepped out of my comfort zone for sure, but I reckon now I can do just about anything. I've already been approached to present a video for a retailer and am painting live at the Global Gift Gala (hosted by VB no less) soon, and I don't feel phased. Maybe this shoot has helped to get rid of some of my inhibitions? I can't wait to see what opportunities will come to me in the coming months....I'll keep you all posted (for up to date news the best place to head is Instagram Stories).
But for now, please head on over to the InStyle page to see me being interviewed about all things Fashion Illustration and do pick up the magazine to see who won the other categories.
If you've enjoyed following my work over the years and would like to support me further (because sadly Instagram likes don't pay the bills) then please head to my new Patreon page or buy a few Christmas cards . Pledging to help me progress on this creative road will help me no end. Thank you thank you thank you.