Project WomanKIND is shining its #bodylove spotlight on model, presenter and writer, Phoebe Ghorayeb...
Originally from the UK, Phoebe took a chance in her early 20s to pursue modelling in Australia, and it paid off. She quickly became a popular fashion talent and found success working for clients like David Jones, Sportsgirl, Baku and Stylerunner.
But it wasn’t just Phoebe’s career which blossomed Down Under. Three weeks after arriving in Oz she met her now-husband, photographer Georges Antoni, and after some dating and a spectacular fairytale Italian wedding (really – it was like fairytale, you should see the pictures!) the pair settled in Bondi.
While Phoebe is very much in the prime of her modelling career, in the past she’s talked about how her struggles with eating disorders threatened to derail her work, and her life.
But as she tells it, “through sheer will power, support and determination” she overcame those body demons and has in recent years used her talent for writing (Phoebe has a blog, Model Appetite and also contributes to other publications) to become an outspoken advocate for loving and respecting the skin your in.
We sat down with Phoebe to have a chat about her relationship with her body and how it’s changed over the years.
Talk to us about how you see your body these days…
My relationship with my body has been very up and down. And still is. When it comes to body image and how we look, being a woman is hard. Being a woman in the fashion industry can be even harder.
Sadly, in my past I've succumbed to the pressures of needing to look a certain way but nowadays I think I have a very healthy and happy relationship with my body. It took me a while to get here, and some days still present new challenges.
Unfortunately, I know I’m not alone with my experiences. I think the society we live in will continue to torture woman and skew their perception of beauty and perfection unless we speak up and do something about it.
You've spoken in the past about your battles with an ED but now you run a food blog, Model Appetite, and seem to really embrace yourself. How did you overcome those body issues to be in this positive place now?
I am very open about my history in coping with an ED. It began when I was 18 and heading off to Uni. I wanted to continue to model whilst studying so I could work and pay off my student loans. I became quite depressed during my first year at Uni and that teamed with wanting to keep modelling developed into a controlling obsession to be extremely thin.
Living away from home I began picking up bad habits, which eventuated into something more serious. This continued for a few of years until one day I broke down and opened up to my mum about my struggles. It was through sheer will power, support and determination that I managed to overcome it.
My blog gives me an outlet and helps me find and share the adventures and joy I experience with food and eating well. I also want to show women that you can be happy, do what you love and eat what you love and that they are not all mutually exclusive. There’s that awful saying “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, well I reckon nothing tastes as good as my next meal!
What does being healthy mean to you?
Gosh, who knows what being healthy means nowadays! There are so many rules and opinions on what is good for you and bad for you. We are inundated with so much information. Just the other day I read an article stating that #cleaneating is out and #foodporn is in. Basically that carbs are cool and kale is kaput. We are continually rebelling against or indulging in the next craze or fad and that’s not healthy.
Something I’ve learned since my years of suffering with an ED is that healthy is a state of mind. I use my common sense and listen to what my body needs or is craving. As long as I am happy and my waistband isn’t getting ridiculously snug then I think I’m doing alright.
What would you tell your teenage self?
Believe in yourself. Believe that you were made to be great. Believe that you can do anything and achieve your dreams. I say this not because my parents didn't tell me the same things, they did, but regardless I still struggled with self doubt and low confidence. As a teen I wish I had the inner strength to believe it too.
As you said, you have good days and bad days, how do you deal with days when you're feeling not 100 per cent ah-maaaaazing?
Those days are hard. They can be draining and damaging. I look at those feelings like a little gremlin, an evil creature that takes joy in seeing you suffer, a voice in your head that tells you you’re ugly, fat, not worthy.
The only way to beat it is to stand above it and don’t give it ammunition. Don’t fuel the fire by eating stodgy, energy draining food, or wearing baggy, unflattering clothes. It can be difficult but I try to put on my best outfit, do my hair and make up, do something that makes me feel good and remind myself of all the things I should be happy and grateful for. I think of all the things I'm good at, all the things I've achieved and the things I have to look forward to. I remind myself there is more to life than how I look and the world will not end just because I'm bloated.
You’re now a contributor The Journal Mag, as well as writing on other online sites – why has it been important for you to add writing to you resume?
I have modelled since I was 14, it's played a huge part in my life, for which I will be forever grateful but I've been told for years how beautiful I am. I’ve been told how my looks will get me far, how life is so much easier when you look a certain way. I'm sure to some extent that might be true but I don't want it to define me.
That's why blogging and writing have been such an outlet for me – it’s work that doesn't revolve around my looks but my passion and talent as a writer.
Do you have a life mantra?
Well it’s not mine to pass on but I like to remind myself that: ‘You only live once'. It kicks my butt into action when I’m feeling lazy or not good enough and reminds me I have nothing to lose. There are things I regret and things I’ve missed out on all because I didn’t grab life by the balls. Failure is a big fear of mine so by reminding myself that you only live once it gives me the courage I need to go out there and do what I need to do.
What's your favourite part about your body?
I love my nails because they are strong and healthy, my neck because it’s long and elegant and my ankles because they are slender and look great in a pair of heels. I know these are not typically the parts of our body we praise but I think it’s just as important to embrace and recognise the little positives in ourselves.
Who do you admire?
I don’t have to look far to find women I admire for all different reasons. I admire my friend Sali Sasi for her unwavering strength and determination to succeed, my friend Chloe Rose for taking the giant leap and following her dreams to become a stylist, my friend Joanna King for her kindness and loyalty to her friends, my friend Jen Bailey for her never ending support to all those around her, my mum for her selflessness and always putting me first. The list goes on. There are so many women I admire who have all impacted my life in one way or another.
If you ever had daughters, what would you like the world to be like for them?
All I want is for the world to be a safe place for them. There is so much fear, hate and negativity from body shaming to bombings! I just want them to be able to grow up in a world where they don’t have to be ashamed or afraid of who they are. That might be too much to ask and I know the world won’t change overnight.
I guess all I can do is instil courage and goodness in my children and hope that they use this to make a better world for themselves and those around them.
What's your favourite book?
Can’t say I have a favourite book. I’ve read so many good ones and each was a great read at the time. I’m sad to admit that I don’t read nearly half as much as I used to, however I have recently jumped on the podcast bandwagon and am really enjoying Freakanomics. It’s an awesome podcast about everything and anything but done in a really interesting and digestible way.
Phoebe Ghorayeb is a model and writes for her blog, Model Appetite, as well as The Journal Mag, Bloggeration, and other publications. While she's working towards a career in presenting, as an avid tennis fan she’d settle for winning Wimbledon, just once.
You can follow Phoebe on Instagram at @model_appetite