Amanda de Cadenet has had a busy 2017. We’re talking multiple book releases, a zine launch, plus the many fashion campaigns she created, not to mention she’s changing the future of photography one girl at time. But with a goal as lofty as hers—to level the playing field when it comes to photography and foster young talent who create impactful imagery through the female gaze—we suspect there won’t be much of a slow-down anytime soon.
Let’s be clear: What’s most admirable about de Cadenet’s work is not the volume of it but that she does it being unapologetically herself. In It’s Messy: On Boys, Boobs, and Badass Women, the model turned photographer and TV host of The Conversation gets completely candid when it comes to her youth, motherhood, body image, friendships, and being a survivor of sexual assault. “The stories I tell are deeply personal, but they also detail issues that lots of women also face like postpartum depression, dating as a single mom, and growing a business from scratch,” she tells us.
Meanwhile, through the community she’s engaged and emboldened on Instagram, de Cadenet’s created Girlgaze, a collective of female photographers who are changing the way we see the world simply by sharing their authentic view. They’ve worked with brands like Shinola and Warby Parker, and are the focus of de Cadenet’s second book this year.
Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that someone as ambitious and accomplished as de Cadenet also has plenty of wisdom to impart. Ironically, however, from our short conversation, it turns out that the worst advice she’s ever heard is actually some of the most valuable for everyone to hear—at least so you’ll know not to listen to it, either.
Scroll down to read our chat with Amanda de Cadenet and to shop her new titles.
Amanda de Cadenet
WHO WHAT WEAR: Congrats on the launch of your own memoir, as well as #Girlgaze (and all within the same month!). Why did you decide to release both books together this year?
AMANDA DE CADENET: Thank you! It’s certainly been a crazy year. I did not plan it this way, but in the end, it worked perfectly as I got to share my stories, especially the one about sexual assault, which, when I wrote that chapter, was not a subject anyone was talking about.
The #Girlgaze book was really a labor of love. We curated the images through our hashtag and photos that girls from our network submitted—2017 was a crucial year to highlight how girls see their world. Both books were challenging for me in different ways.
WWW: You’ve had a bit of an unconventional career path. From modeling to photography to journalism, you’ve really carved your own path. What’s a key piece of advice that’s helped you to navigate a somewhat uncharted course? Any bad piece of advice you’re glad you didn’t listen to?
ADC: Best advice that I’ve been given is to trust your creative instincts and hold your ground. Tenacity is key—not giving up when people tell you that your idea isn’t going to work out or that you can’t make something happen without resources. I ended up funding The Conversation myself to make it work.
The only bad advice I’ve received is to wait for things to happen—that’s just unrealistic. You have to make things happen!
WWW: Are there any hard lessons you’ve learned through your own career that really transcend your industry and can apply to any woman?
ADC: It’s truly difficult to balance raising my children and being a present parent with my career. I think it’s something that a lot of mothers face—in all industries. It’s hard work to do it all.
WWW: Like you’ve said, it’s so crucial to see the world through women’s eyes, including what we see in fashion. However, so many of the pressures placed on women to look a certain way or have certain things often come from fashion ads, editorials, and the like. Tell us a bit about your experience working in the industry and also being a champion against these unrealistic and potentially harmful messages.
ADC: The industry is evolving—albeit slowly. I think part of the problem is the lack of female perspective being highlighted in the media. There are plenty of talented female fashion photographers, yet most jobs still go to men. So we’re seeing beauty through the male gaze, not the female gaze. That’s what we’re trying to change with Girlgaze. What I hope really comes across through Girlgaze is our celebration of uniqueness and that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I’ve spent decades challenging the industry’s depiction of beauty and am proud to continue to champion this through Girlgaze.
WWW: Fashion and feminism have often gone hand in hand, and this year especially so. What’s still the biggest area in need of improvement?
ADC: Fashion has certainly embraced feminism in theory this year, but I think what’s missing is that now they need to embrace feminism in practice. Hire female photographers and executives—we still need to see a true power shift and more women in business leadership roles.
WWW: In It’s Messy, you speak a lot about learning to accept and appreciate your own body. Knowing what you know now, what are some of the things you practice to celebrate your body?
ADC: Over the years, I’ve begun to appreciate my body. I wear things that are comfortable—that’s what makes me feel good and most powerful. I also take care of my body and don’t eat things that slow me down. I meditate. It’s not about the way that I look anymore; it’s really about the way that I feel.
WWW: What’s one of the most unexpected or surprising things you’ve personally learned about photography from the young and emerging talent featured in #Girlgaze?
ADC: I knew that there was talent out there, but I’ve been blown away by the level of talent from these young girls. Many of them are just teenagers. It’s incredible to see the level that they’re at now and know that this is only the beginning for them and that their talent will continue to grow immensely.
WWW: Amid your book launches, you also debuted Girlgaze magazine this year. Why was now the right time?
ADC: We are always looking for new ways to communicate with our audience and meet them where they’re at. It felt like a natural progression to move to a webzine since our audience is so digital. It’s been an exciting way to continue to build our community while showcasing the unbelievable talent that we have in our network.
WWW: The term millennial has been at the forefront of conversations around pop culture and fashion for a while now, but what have you learned about Gen Z? What’s most exciting about the way this next generation will change how we think about style, feminism, social media, and more?
ADC: Gen Z is perhaps the most exciting generation—they’re passionate, creative, and strongly believe that they can make a difference. Their perspective is unique because they’re the first generation that has only known a digital world. Gen Z will challenge everything when it comes to style, feminism, social media, and more. I’m excited to see how they will hopefully build a more equal society.
WWW: And finally, what do you think are three qualities that will be most beneficial for the next generation of fashion photographers?
ADC: Curiosity and the desire to never stop learning, trusting in their own creativity, and the willpower to push the needle forward and topple taboos.