Louise O’Reilly is arguably Irelands’ most recognized curvy model on the international scene. She’s represented by some of the most prestigious agencies in the fashion world including models 1 in London and D&A Models in Cape Town, most recently she has just won “Best International Fashion Blogger” at the Cosmo Blog Awards, so she’s busy gal…
In our “Big Interview” this issue we caught up with Malahide native Louise to find out more!
You’re most famous Irish plus size model, particularly on the international scene, how does that feel and was modelling something you always wanted to do?
To be honest modelling wasn’t something I’d thought of growing up as I had always struggled with my weight. Out of my group of friends I wasn’t the pretty one and in terms of boys I was always ‘the friend’. I had been approached by an agency from Paris when I was 16 because they liked my face but I just laughed it off as they asked me to lose a significant amount of weight. When I went to college I fell into modelling by fluke and I’m so grateful to have the career I have today.
Was it difficult to combine studying for your degree and combining a modelling career?
I studied for a BA in International Relations, so it was quite demanding and I had to work hard to strike a balance. I would literally be sitting in hair and makeup on shoots in Germany with books on my lap and listening to online political topics on my iPhone. It was worth it though. I think it’s really important in the modelling industry to have a back up plan, I tell that to a lot of girls.
How has life changed for you since you’ve become a model?
I’ve seen parts of the world that I would never have had the opportunity to see and worked with incredible people along the way. It’s changed in so many ways and I think I’ve grown up a lot too.
I read recently that you suffer from M.E. I’m sure that makes things extra challenging, how does it affect you in your daily life?
I’m doing really well at the moment. It began around the age of 16 and it took a really long time to narrow it down and diagnose it as it’s basically known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was put on a low sugar, low salt diet which also means no wheat or dairy. That really helped me balance out my energy levels so if I’m having a bad week I keep an eye on my sugar levels. I also try to exercise, like swimming or going to the gym when I can because that really helps to get the oxygen to all the muscles in your body.
Because you’re a plus size model does that give you a little bit more wriggle room in terms of watching your weight etc?
Well I do have a weakness for chocolate! There’s definitely not the same amount of pressure as there would be if I was a size a model, but even as a plus size model it’s important to keep my measurements and keep fit as you can working some really long days.
Have you encountered negativity about being plus size?
Some say ‘oh size 16 isn’t plus size’ then I feel like I have to explain myself and how plus size clothing starts from a 12/14 in some cases. I’ve met people from magazines that have said they really want to use me but they don’t know how their customers would react because I’m plus size.
It can be hard sometimes but I just think of my clients I work with regularly and all the nice people I’ve worked with so I don’t dwell on it too much.
How important is the plus size modelling industry in the scheme of things in the fashion industry? Do you feel it’s taken seriously or is it just tokenism?
That’s a really good question. There’s definitely a divide. The plus size industry is worth a hug amount internationally and brands are starting to take note. There will always be those, however, like Karl Lagerfeld who don’t feel like we belong in the fashion industry which is extremely sad. Hopefully in the near future we’ll be able to convince more designers to use plus size models on the designer catwalks which will ultimately create more of a positive attitude towards our work.
You always look amazing, so you must have a great beauty routine! What are your fav beauty products, the products you cannot live without?
I have dry and sensitive skin so I’ve been sticking to La Roche Posay cleanser, Vichy Thermal Spa Water as a toner and Vichy Idealia moisturiser. It’s the best moisturiser I’ve used in years! For travelling Carmex lip balm is my best friend and my recent product addiction is from Ken Boylan’s makeup range called Sheer Glo. It’s a high quality illuminator that you can blend into your makeup or just wear it on its own to create a gorgeous complexion.
Working on shoots and spending hours in Hair & Make up, what’s the timeframe for getting ready of a Saturday night? 😉
Well I’ve picked up a few tricks of the trade along the way, so I manage to get my makeup done in about 15/20 mins but my hair takes a good hour because there’s so much of it! 🙂
You’ve worked on some fantastic campaigns and with amazing brands. What campaign or shoot really stands out for you?
My trip to Cape Verde in Africa. I was working on an editorial for a Dutch magazine. It was an amazing experience, the photographer had just shot the Tommy Hilfiger campaign in the Netherlands. She was so lovely to work with and the whole team just got on brilliantly.
If you could pick a dream brand and a dream location for a shoot who would they be and where would you shoot?
Chanel or Victoria Beckham and to shoot in some beautiful part of Japan or Thailand. Asia is a beautiful part of the world with some stunning natural locations which I think would make an interesting high fashion shoot.
You write a great blog “Style me Curvy”, how did that come about and what advice would you give to anyone else thinking of starting one?
It started about two years ago. Mainly because the more I began to model in shoots and on TV, the more women would email me inquiring about clothes and if I had any recommendations. A friend suggested that I should start a blog and so, Style Me Curvy began! 🙂
I would always sayd write what you love and ensure you’re passionate about your subject. It can be anything from cooking to shoes or even gardening. It’s about writing quality pieces not quantity and your readers will quickly see that. 🙂
How amazing was it to win “Best International Fashion Blogger” with Cosmo Mag? You must have felt like you’d achieved a major milestone…
It was just amazing. I was the first plus size and curvy blogger to win a Cosmo blog award and I was the first blogger to win the International award. I was just delighted that a magazine like Cosmo would highlight my work on body image and acknowledge that beauty really does come in all shapes and sizes.
So the Louise O’Reilly without her model halt on, on her days off, what do you do to relax?
That’s a really tough question! Haha. I would say the best way for me to shut off is to go to the cinema with my boyfriend or meet a friend for coffee. It’s the only time I won’t end up checking work and blog emails! 🙂
We hear you’re a movie buff – what’s your favourite movie?
It’s hard to narrow it down. It have to say Argo, The Blindside and of course The Devel Wears Prada! I have a diploma in film studies from before my BA but I tend to favour easy watching movies after a long day. 🙂
What’s your favourite treat, are you a sweet or savoury girl?
Definitely sweet! It has to be Lindt 70% dark chocolate (which is also brilliant for people with M.E.).
You’ve achieved so much in the past few years, is there a 5 year plan? do you have a bucket list of people you want to work with in the industry?
To be honest I’ve gone with the flow of things these past four years and I’m going to keep that going. There are still lots of places I want to see, people I want to work with and things I want to achieve. I made the final selection of girls for the cover of Elle Canada a few months ago and the final 3 to be the face of New Looks plus size range this winter. So to land something like either of those in the next year or so would be a dream come true for me “Just be yourself and embrace your body”
How do you feel about being a role model for many women?
I feel extremely grateful and flattered. When I won the Cosmopolitan award I was really surprised about the amount of bloggers who told me how much they wanted me to receive the award with many telling me stories of eating disorders in their family. They said they wished my blog had been around years ago for their sisters or cousins to read. It really hit home that night.
We meet women every day who maybe struggle with their weight and lack confidence in themselves because of how they feel about their weight (and that isn’t all about size, it can be women who are a bare size 16 or women a size 28, its how they feel about themselves) have you any advice for them?
Confidence is something that grows gradually. It’s something I never thought I’d have. I used to think I would never have a boyfriend or find someone that loved me unless I was a size 10, but I was so wrong (and young). I now have an amazing boyfriend who loves my curves. Just be yourself and embrace your body because there’s someone out there right now wishing they were you. I worked with a German model who was a size 24 and had the most incredible confidence and grace about herself. She walked into a room and lit it up. Everyone adored her, she oozed confidence she said it came from her grandmother who never cared what other people thought or did, she just embraced everything in life. This always stuck with me.
“Confidence is something that grows gradually”