We chatted to Tia about the importance and power of embracing your individuality and diversity.
Tia, we are so grateful you've taken the time out to chat to us- thank you so much! For those who may be unfamiliar, could you please give us a little intro?
Hey guys, my name is Tia Provost, I’m 29, from a little coastal town in Australia called Ulladulla. It’s a beautiful part of the world but not much goes on there.
I’ve backpacked around the world on and off for 3 years before I moved to London where I stumbled upon modelling. Turned out to be my dream career as traveling and meeting new people is a massive part of it! I lived in London for 4 years using that as my base while flying everywhere, before moving back to Australia for a year and then to the USA in 2017. I love cooking up feasts (and I mean feasts! I struggle to cook for only 2 people) The kitchen is my happy place and very meditative. I love being out in nature and surrounded by animals - and I can never say no to salsa dancing!
You're a well known figure in the modelling industry, particularly for bringing body diversity to what was originally a very exclusive industry in terms of the body types represented. When did you first start modelling and what was your motivation?
Technically I started at the end of 2012, so I was 22. But I was starting from scratch so I was still testing and building, so in my mind I see myself as really starting beginning of 2013. Funnily enough I didn’t have a goal or motivation to go into modelling - far from it! I grew up in retail with my mums clothing stores for 13 years, so I saw the industry from that side of things, dealing with suppliers, looking at the gorgeous catalogues, seeing the posters displayed. I would admire the stunning locations and the images, but I knew that for me, I would never look like these gorgeous slim tall girls I was seeing. Also I smiled WAY too much for the images I saw! I knew that I loved traveling and meeting new people. So whatever I did had to allow for that to happen. Once I graduated high school I backpacked on and off for 3 years before eI moved over to London - where I stumbled upon adds for ‘Plus Size Model’. I was thoroughly confused as I’d never heard of it before.
After a week of debating, I finally woke up on a Friday morning thinking what the hell, what’s the worst that can happen? They say no? They don’t respond? Big whoop, I’ll be in the same place as I am now. So I sent off 4 emails - heard back from all of them by the afternoon, and the rest is history!
What have been some of the biggest challenges in breaking into the industry and building a large profile like you have today?
Definitely my size has been a bit of a challenge. When I first started I was bigger than what I am now, and even then I was asked/encouraged to gain more weight. Told that the client would be ‘guaranteed’ to book me this job if I was the next size up. But in my mind I’ve always thought that I’m going to be alive a lot longer than what I’m going to be modelling, and I want to set myself up now health wise while I’m still young and its easy for my body to bounce back.
So being the size I am I’m too ‘big’ and not tight enough for slimmer/straight size brands, and I’m too small for curve brands. I’ve got the broad shoulders, the boobs, the hips - but a little waist. I knew when I moved to the states that my size would be one of the things I had to contend with.
The other thing I knew I’d have to contend with is the fact that I am so natural and holistic in my approach to life and ageing. I have been asked multiple times to get botox/fillers/dye my hair (I have virgin hair, its a term in the industry that means my hair has never been touched, I have only ever gotten it cut or trimmed but never bleached or dyed it) and I simply refuse.
At the end of the day I am a person, a living soul, and this is my body and my life. Yet even I find myself questioning my decisions when I’m being told that clients don’t want to see me because of my ‘crows feet’ at my eyes. Luckily that’s where having such an amazing support system comes in, that will snap me out of any daze I find myself in.
Consistency is key to building your brand. I always remain honest on my platform and hold true to my own personal beliefs. I feel that’s what my followers connect with because there is a lot of pressure out there, especially on social media, to look a certain way, wear certain brands etc.
I don’t use hashtags (except for the one I created) I don’t promote my page out there and nag people to follow me, I’ve never brought followers. If someone wants to follow me then that’s 100% their choice, and while it definitely takes longer, I always wanted to do it the organic way and to be able to proudly and honestly say that whatever number is following me - is because those people wanted to, for whatever reason. I have always worked for what I want and paid my own way, nothing was handed to me, and I didn’t want my social media to be any different.
Do you really feel there is substantial change happening in the industry or that there are still an overwhelming number of barriers preventing women in larger bodies from making a career out of modelling?
You can't look at the industry and tell me that there isn’t. Look at where it was 5 years ago…10 years ago. We’ve come so far but still have a far way to go. Like everything it takes time.
I think with the progression of the internet and social media, there are more and more companies starting to fill the void that was around for so long. With social media clients have a direct line to their customers voices. A lot of brands are also extending their sizes, there’s a lot that aren’t - but that’s ok! Because that’s their choice as a business. Just like its a curve brands choice to only represent from a size 14 up.
You're currently over in LA and are represented by agencies around the world, though you're an Aussie girl at heart! Where is home for you most of the time?
Ahhhh…thats a great question! Australia is and always will be home, I love being back there and spending time, it’s a beautiful country and a great way of life…but I also see the USA as my home now too. I’ve created an amazing life for myself here. I do tend to make wherever I am home…but the states feels right in a way that London never did.
But honestly with my schedule I fly back and forth so much between Aus and the US that I cant keep up, not to mention Europe as well. This year there's only been 1 month that I haven’t had to fly back and forth.
Being such a jet-setter, is it a struggle to maintain relationships and have support systems in place, particularly when your career can often be both mentally and physically challenging?
With all the different apps and sources of communication out there now…no. With FaceTime, FB video Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram - I can talk to my loved ones, we can both see what each other is doing and keep up to date.
If anything I find with social media now that it’s so ‘easy’ to follow what your mates are doing that people forget to actually contact them, write a message, have a phone call, because you already feel so up to date with their lives.
I will say that who you choose to allow into your inner circle matters greatly. I have always had a lot of people around me that I knew, when I was younger I would call them all my friends, but there’s many different levels. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learnt the difference and how important it is to only have people around you who truly love and care about you. In every essence - quality over quantity! There is only a select handful of people that truly see the real me, who are truly there for me.
How about making sure your mental health doesn't suffer too much when you're being pulled in all different directions, all over the world, and working in what is so often an intense environment?
I am extremely lucky that my family has always kept me very humbled. There’s no way that they’d let me get a big head! I am also very open with myself - why I backpacked on my own when I finished high school, I wanted to make sure that I had a solid foundation of a relationship with my body and mind, that I would listen to what it was telling me when I needed it.
I take no apologies in saying no to things and having that time to myself - whether at home or in a hotel room, to regroup and reenergise. It could be a beautiful sunny day outside but if all I want to do is sleep and watch movies then I’ll do that. Between travelling and being on set you expel a lot of energy out, so I make sure that I do things to bring it back to me.
Do you ever find your morals or values get challenged from time to time in your industry and you have to make tough choices about who you choose to align yourself with?
Oh 100%! It can be very easy to all of a sudden feel like you’re not a person anymore but an object that the client can do with as they please.
Over the years I’ve been encouraged to gain weight, to dye/colour my hair, to get more ear piercings etc. I’m lucky that I’m strong enough in my knowledge of my self worth and who I am as a person - also lucky with the support system I have around me, that I don’t feel guilty when I say no to certain requests from clients.
I feel that a lot of people can get lost in this industry. I have always realised that there’s no point in changing who you are for a job/client because its like chasing the rainbow - you’re never going to get there. As soon as you change what it was that was ‘holding you back’ your hair or your size - the next instant they’re going to want what you previously were. You can never please everyone so you should only worry about pleasing yourself as that’s who you spend the most time with. I learnt to live by a motto very quickly in this career:
"Don’t change yourself for the industry, make the industry change for you."
Finally, what advice would you give to young girls wanting to enter the industry who don't fit the traditional 'mould' of what a model has previously been expected to be/look like?
There is so much diversity out there now and it’s only growing and getting stronger. If you grew up never seeing yourself represented then I can guarantee you that others around the world are feeling the same - so why not be there person you wish you had growing up!? My first piece of advise that I give to anyone who wants to start a career in modelling - prepare for rejection. You need to haver thick skin being a model because you are going to get rejected from clients, agencies, peers, a whole lot more times then what you’ll be accepted. And you need to realise not to take it personally.
If I walk into a casting and the client has in their head that they see a red or blonde doing the job - its going to take a lot for me to change their mind. Also it can literally come down to measurements and that the product just doesn’t work on you. You need to realise that that’s all ok! It’s not the end of the world, don’t take it personally. Also you’re picking a career in front of a camera - and digital photography is harsh. It doesn’t hide anything! If you are feeling uncomfortable that will show.
So test test test! Get used to be in front of a camera, get used to moving. Don’t stand still, one of the worst things you can do. The client doesn’t want to take 10 frames of you all in the one spot - move! Even if the shots don’t work out they appreciate that you are trying to find that perfect effortless moment.
Look at why you’re wanting to join this industry. If it’s for ‘fame’ or the ‘Instagram followers’ you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Modelling is a lot more taxing and tiring than what people realise.
I also cringe when I hear mothers talk to me about wanting to force their daughters to do modelling so that they gain confidence and self esteem, honestly this is the worst industry for that. You need to have that already, along with thick skin, before you come into it. When it comes to signing with and agency - meet as many as you can! Research them, see who’s on their boards, if they have girls with your measurements and looks already, don’t get bedazzled by what’s said in the interviews. Feel the vibe of the different ones you meet and pick from there. You want to be able to get on with your booker as that’s who you’ll be working closest with. You want to join an agency that is not only going to work for you and push you, but believe in you, respect you as a human being.
Carve your own pathway, now you have the ability to self promote. We live in a really exciting time where the industry is changing daily, but especially models are able to create their own career on their own terms easier than before. You don’t have to starve yourself, you don’t have to be with an agency that doesn’t respect you, you can find people that align with your views, you can collaborate with positive role models/photographer/stylists etc. You also don’t have to work with the people you don’t feel comfortable in this day and age. Which is the biggest difference between today compared to 20 years ago. Models are now treated as multifaceted individuals rather than just cattle pushed down a runway.
"Embrace your difference. Embrace your power. Embrace your creativity."
You can follow Tia @tiaprovost