LUX contributing editor and model at Models 1, Charlie Newman continues her online exclusive series, interviewing her peers about their creative pursuits, passions and politics
THIS MONTH: 25-year-old model Emma Breschi has only been signed to Models 1 for two years, but has already graced the pages of Vogue Italia and starred in the Vivienne Westwood AW17 campaign. She is also a body positive activist and photographer. Charlie speaks to Emma about life behind and in front of the lens
Charlie Newman: Firstly lets talk about your childhood. You moved to England in 2010, but grew up in Thailand. What was that like?
Emma Breschi: I’ve had a very multi cultural up bringing, I’m half Italian and half Filipino. However, I was born in Switzerland, have lived in Malaysia, and for the most part Thailand. Growing up in Phuket, which is one of the bigger islands of southern Thailand, was literally a dream. As a kid, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect place to grow up. To me, it was paradise, and throughout my youth I lived as a total beach bum! There really is nothing like living by the sea, surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. I was spoilt! I miss being by the ocean, but the truth is England has some incredible beaches too. I pretty much just moved from one island to another. I do miss Thailand, and it will always have a place in my heart. It was my home for a very long time, but I am happy that I moved over to the UK when I did. I’m not scared of change and experiencing new things, for me, that’s very important.
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Charlie Newman: What struck you as the biggest difference socially and culturally between life in Thailand and in England?
Emma Breschi: There wasn’t much difference. I was still the same person, I just had to adjust to living in a new country where everyone spoke English! Making new friends couldn’t have been easier. I found it funny at my new school that everyone would refer to me as “the American girl” because I had the accent. So it was interesting explaining my background to people and “what I was”.
When I started my A Levels, the fact that I could study photography as a core subject was a shock! I had no idea how to take photos properly, but I was so eager to learn. I really enjoyed art and story writing, so for me, photography combined the two. When I moved to England, I really made it my mission to become a really good image maker and storyteller. I had no idea where it would take me, but it has led to some incredible experiences!
After my A-Levels, I assisted a great photographer for a few years, Jean Philippe Defaut, who taught me a lot about reportage photography. I then went travelling alone for a few months to photograph whatever or whoever I came across. I went to Hong Kong, Spain, Croatia and Norway. Then with that [portfolio], I applied to LCC to study Documentary Photography (because it was my dream to shoot for National Geographic), but they rejected me – I was heart broken! I had another interview lined up with LCF, but I had no fashion in my portfolio whatsoever so I knew my chances of getting in were slim, but for some reason, I did.
Fashion opened my eyes to a whole new world and to an interesting way of creating imagery. It was and still is so exciting for me! I truly believe that things happen for a reason… After I graduated from LCF, I was scouted to be a model (which I never thought I’d end up doing) and now I’m working with some of the fashion industry’s most influential and creative minds! It’s incredible how life turns out sometimes…
Charlie Newman: You’ve shot for the likes of Hunger magazine, Malone Souilers, Puma and Dr Martens. How easy was the transition from behind to in front of the camera? Did you feel like you had something to prove or did it make it easier to understand?
Emma Breschi: For me, I think modelling and photography go hand in hand. I have learnt so much about photography working as a model, and I think understanding the different roles and jobs that are involved when creating an image or story is so important. You couldn’t have a final product without the team behind it, so respecting, understanding and even educating yourself about the different people involved is so important! You couldn’t make a fashion image without your models, photographers, stylists, make-up artists, hair stylists, designers, set designers, assistants and producers. Each and every role is so vital in the creative industry. We have to understand each other because we need one another to create magic. I honestly think becoming a model has made me a much better photographer.
Charlie Newman: Many high profile photographers have recently been shunned from the industry due to sexual allegations being raised against them. How do you think the industry can better protect their talent and prevent people from abusing their power in the future?
Emma Breschi: Well the truth is we have no control over what other people do or say sometimes so I always say we need to be the one in control of ourselves and the choices we make. And it is most definitely ok to say “NO!” There is nothing wrong with saying “NO!” I think we are getting better at communicating and we have access now to various safe platforms where we can talk to one another, advise, discuss and have respectful conversations about what is right and what is wrong. I think in the past, we were told to be quiet or else! It’s all about respect and it’s time to educate one another on what that word really means.
Charlie Newman: Do you have any personal experiences of overcoming this?
Emma Breschi: I’ve worked with some very talented people who have showed nothing but kindness and respect towards me. However, not every job is like that, which is normal. I don’t mind someone being a little rude or angry, at the end of the day that’s not really my problem and I never take petty things like that personally as long as they’re respectful. I have had experiences, where people (both men and women) have been very disrespectful to me in this industry. Treated me like I wasn’t even human. I always remain professional on the job, but if you go out of your way to emotionally abuse or inappropriately engage with me, don’t expect me to be quiet about it. Put some respect on it!
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Charlie Newman: As a model myself, I often struggle to pave my way through the weird and wonderful world of social media, but you are a shining example of someone who has nailed it. I check your feed regularly and I am always inspired by your wit, body confidence, fearless approach to taboo subjects and brutal honesty. Your fan base are extremely loyal (me included!) – what message would you like to put across to them?
Emma Breschi: I am humbled by anyone who takes the time to listen to all the smack I talk and weird things I get up to. I just hope that I’m putting a smile on people’s faces!
Charlie Newman: When you put such a strong voice and image out there you’re inevitably going to be faced with criticism. How do you deal with the haters?
Emma Breschi: If you’re putting your own opinion and thoughts out there, you have to accept that not everyone is going to agree or be on the same wavelength as you. That’s life. I can’t control what people say or how they react towards me. I’ll read it and be open to having a discussion or conversation about it, but if you’re just screaming angry words that really has nothing to do with me. It’s a reflection of the person’s own problem or issues that they might have with themselves or whatever. So I won’t waste my energy or cry over something a complete stranger types on my Instagram. Simply: block + delete.
Charlie Newman: You’re frequently praised as a positive body campaigner. Does feeling beautiful and happy with your body come naturally to you, or is it something you’ve had to work on?
Emma Breschi: I haven’t always been confident in myself! Growing up, you experience all kinds of things that might bring you down, but that’s just life. Without the challenges I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I woke up one day and decided that I wouldn’t let those things stop me from moving froward. You have to acknowledge that you have no control over what others might say or do, but you have the power to chose how you deal with it. I have learnt to accept that I can’t please everyone, but I can please myself. I’ve learnt to let go of the self doubt and allow myself to be happy with who I am and who I choose to be.
Charlie Newman: When you’re out of the public eye, what do you do to stay grounded?
Emma Breschi: I spend my days out in nature with my dog or go surfing. I love having time alone.
Charlie Newman: What future projects do you have lined up?
Emma Breschi: I’m doing some self portraits now for a few designers which is really exciting! I’d really like to do more of that, combining my own creative work as an image maker with my modelling.