Photography by Maya Sherwood

Meet Tia Duffy: The Model and Activist Behind #BeBodyAware

Duffy approaches body confidence from an academic perspective.

Two words: body diversity. While these words have slowly squeezed their way into our everyday conversations over the last few years or so, there is no doubt that when it comes to body diversity in the world of fashion and entertainment, we still have a long way to go. This is where Tia Duffy comes in.

Taking advantage of her social media following as a model, just last year Duffy launched a global social media campaign tackling the issue of body diversity: #BeBodyAware. Since then, the movement has racked up over 34,000 followers on Instagram, not including the 85,000 followers on her own account.

This social media following and the success of her campaign most recently snagged her a feature in Vogue Italia, using 100% untouched photos – which is kind of a huge deal for multiple reasons if you ask me.

With a massive campaign and a fresh feature in Vogue under her belt, it’s safe to say Tia Duffy is slaying left, right and center.

Read on for 4 questions with Tia Duffy.

Photography by Maya Sherwood

In what moment did you decide that you wanted to start #BeBodyAware?

I decided in January 2016 that I was going to found a project that really challenged the fashion industry’s beauty standards through action. As part of an academic research project, I discovered there were no real organizations or initiatives to bridge the gap between diversity, designers and advertising. At the time there were little or no projects reaching out to designers first hand and addressing the diversity issue. I started contacting designers to collaborate with Be Body Aware and with enough persistence – and a lot of patience – the movement gained momentum and designers started to respond. Be Body Aware created an environment for designers to come on board and explore diversity through imagery and runway. I knew as a plus size model it was a risky move to reach out to designers but my passion for diversity took over.

Photography by Maya Sherwood

Why do you think so many designers continue to use a specific body type?

Through Be Body Aware research we have come to discover that there are several reasons for the one body type that we see represented with designers. We visited designer colleges throughout Canada and examined the mannequins they worked with while making their garments. Although many fashion colleges have now implemented diversity into their curriculums, for years they favoured sample sizes only which heavily influenced the “one size fits all” attitude. George Brown College of Fashion has the Be Body Aware diversity policy and philosophy on their classroom walls as a reminder that garments should be made to fit all bodies. The question of size zero and when it became the norm is a thesis in itself and one which we continue to study here at Be Body Aware. There are many designers that believe sample sizes save fabric and the smaller the dress the cost of production will be reduced. True size standards didn’t start until the 1940’s and since then the confusion around sizing from country to country still remains a mystery. Sizes have a changed over the years leading us to believe Marilyn Monroe was not as curvy as we all thought she was according to todays size chart and measurements. Taking all of this into consideration, we are a lot more educated on size today and have advanced technology so designers, brands and the media in general need to change and reflect society which is diverse by nature.

Why did you choose social media as your main driving force for the movement?

Based on research we found the internet has 3.17 billion users and 2.3 billion of them are active social media users. 91% of Brands and Designers use social media for advertising. I worked as a teacher and social media was an obsession amongst my teenage students. Instagram in particular stood out as a very popular app and the obsession around imagery and a “perfect life” portrayed by bloggers etc was concerning to me. I decided to start an Instagram account that was educational and gave some insight into the education and psychology of body image.

Photography by Maya Sherwood

Have you always been confident in your own skin?

No. I went through stages of my teenage years when I battled with my body. I looked at models in magazines and wondered why my hips were always bigger and it damaged my confidence. I dieted for years in my later teens and was always under the impression that I needed to lose weight to feel good or look good. It wasn’t until I started studying body image in my twenties on a psychological level when I realized how important body image is and how I had been conditioned by the medias beauty standards. I start studying advertisements and how brands use models to try and attract the consumer. I founded Be Body Aware to educate people – especially teenagers. Today I am confident but never always 100% confident. Everyone has their insecurities and its important to me that my followers know sometimes I struggle with my body just as much as anyone else. The relationship you have with your body is a journey and it’s forever changing through different stages it will always have ups and downs but you should always love it unconditionally.