We are thrilled to introduce our new campaign - a curated series of portraits and interviews with 'Responsible Adults' who make a positive impact in their daily lives by empowering others and being considerate of the planet. To kick things off...Grace Woodward.
If you like women, you’ll love Grace Woodward. With her latest project Body of Work she’s riffing off Instagram’s reputation as the over-sharer’s platform of choice to challenge the rules around censorship and fetishisation of the female body. She’s tired of feeling “confused and crap” and is on a mission to fix it. Sound familiar? Good news. She’s taking us along for the ride.
I’ve been working in and around fashion since I graduated from LCF at least a thousand years ago. My first and only PAYE was doing PR at Agent Provocateur, I left to become a stylist 20 years ago and the rest, as they say, is hysteria. I did a ton of consultancy, TV presenting, had my own radio show and now do a mix of all of those things if the ethics of the project are in line with my own.
My day starts when I wake up - any time between 5am - 6.45 naturally, which is kind of a blessing and a curse. In the week I’ll stay in bed for 20 mins and see what news and socials are saying. Then I wake my son and we do breakfast, school prep and drop. Every day is different, either I’m working on my personal project ‘Body of Work’ which can mean driving all over the place and throwing myself into situations like freezing lakes, naked for the sake of womanity, or working with clients with my clothes on (thankfully for them). When I’m working from home, I wear ‘ath-lazy-er’ aka various slogan T-shirts with my very old running leggings in the vain hope I find the inspiration to go running. On London days I venture out of my sport pyjamas, and into something appropriate to the client I’m working with that can go from day into evening, with a comfortable waist line!
My first job was at Agent Provocateur - to me this was a feminist statement. At the time, my head was a total mess with my mum’s mental health slipping down a vortex. I was estranged from her, alone in London and hell bent on success at any cost as means of escaping the horror show. I tried and failed to write my dissertation on the representation of eating disorders in the media. I didn’t know what I know now so it was tragic. I also made a film called something like ‘The A-Z of Women Succeeding at Doing Men’s Jobs’ and how I met the ‘A for Artist’ Jemima Stehli and shot my first nude (in the style of Helmut Newton). This was the beginning of my current project. I eventually want to help women face what they think are their biggest fears but really they just need to look at stuff with different eyes and kinder mindset.
Body of Work is me putting an ‘average’ body into celebrity-style photographs. It’s a 42-year-old post cesearean body without the armour of clothes, without retouching and without a ridiculous pre-shoot diet and exercise programme. To achieve my aim, I’m re-visiting photographers I’ve worked with in the past and creating a portrait, based on an iconic image, in this new way. So far I’ve thrown myself into a freezing pond, climbed up an electricity pole and dropped my clothes in front of a male friend. Honestly, it’s been equal parts terrifying and liberating but somebody’s got to do it! I’m slowly starting to understand that all of this body image stuff is conditioning. Every woman has an issue with her body but how about we just re-set the button and say, this is OK?
Being in TV comes with a lot of rejection, and that sticks for an oversensitive, historically insecure type like me - but I’ve also had loads of success that I bulldozed through not stopping to count my blessings. It’s taken me a long time to recover from the universe crushing me, but I now realise why it happened. When I hit ground zero, it taught me humility I hadn’t managed to acquire in my thirty-odd years on the planet. My ‘must-cope’ persona fuelled by the insanity of the fashion industry made me a bit of a monster. Fast forward five years when I started to lay it all bare and the response I received from the Body of Work was overwhelming. I realised where I’d been going wrong all this time. I can only describe it as finally feeling like I found my home, and my people and we were finally all speaking the same language. Literally every day the kindnesses people show me makes me cry.
My husband is the most lovely, patient, tolerant man possibly-on-earth-ever - he has empowered me by stabilising me and I’m not afraid anymore. He enabled me to let my guard down and for people to see my vulnerabilities. Then when he gave me a kind little shove back out into the world I realised that other women, who I’d been so afraid of, were the most amazing bunch of humans! Amazing what you discover when you’re not scared... Duh!
I’m on a mad journey to fix myself once and for all; I’m 42 and tired of feeling confused and crap. I hope that by working out what makes me feel like I’m wired wrong, I find a couple of magic formulas along the way to (over) share with everyone else too.
Before I had my son I used to spend a lot of time and money on my wardrobe but that all changed. I’m still a bit of a dresser upper. As a one woman brand I feel the need to be visible, but I’ve had to curb my insatiable appetite for flamboyant evening wear and silly shoes. Gold features a lot still though and colour. If were to coin a title it might be ‘Day Disco Dropout’. I absolutely love Catherine Baba’s look, she’s literally my spirit animal.
Sometimes I can feel a bit overwhelmed by all the feelings I feel and the guilt about things that happen that are so painful to see. I also, despite my inherent privilege, feel somewhat powerless to impact any meaningful change in what seems like insurmountable issues. So recently I’ve been looking for manageable ways to try and feel like I’m doing my bit within my budget. The brilliantly inspiring Caryn Franklin introduced me to the idea of the Power of One, so instead of feeling like I have to change the world, I know that the impact of even a 1% change in someone’s thinking will lead them to a totally different destination or thinking over time. 90% supports the exact charities I would choose and so make it far easier for me to put my money where my mouth is.
Quick Fire Four
What’s your most overused phrase?
Tbh it’s To be honest
Who inspires you and why?
There are so many women who inspire me right now - Chiddera Eggeru aka The Slum Flower, Bryony Gordon, Zezi Fiore, my client Kitty Joseph, Cozette McCreery, Zadie Smith - all women who are challenging the way women are represented in terms of age, shape, voice.
What is your screensaver?
The circular logo that instafamous graphic artist Reilly (hey_reilly) did for me.
What are you 90% sure of?
That helping others is my career path.