UNMRKD WOMAN: Faith Bowman
Meet Faith Bowman, a 25 year old California native who, by a stroke of luck, has found herself in the modeling industry in the midst of chasing her passion in the performing arts. We sat down with Faith over some vanilla lattes to talk about her journey to getting signed with Natural Models LA and how her upbringing has shaped her view of the world around her. Read below for all the deets!
For the readers who don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a “plus size model”, which some people agree with and some people don’t. I am technically considered “curve” if you are more in the industry. A straight size model is typically a size 0-2 and a plus size model is typically a size 14… I am a size 8. So I am very in between. I started modeling about three years ago and I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. I moved down to LA around seven years ago for school. Modeling kind of happened as I was living in LA and it was never something I considered doing.
What has been your journey to becoming a model been like?
I was at my day job (at the time), I was working at a hair salon in West Hollywood. I had finished school when I was 19 and decided to stay in LA because this was where I wanted to be because ultimately what I want to pursue is acting. I wanted to stay in LA and part of the deal is you do what you have to do to survive.
I was scouted at work and I was just a receptionist and would do retail as well. There were two girls in the salon looking to pick out hair extensions and one of them was just staring at me the whole time while I was pulling product. All of my coworkers pulled me aside at one point or another and were like “hey, do you know that girl?” because she was just staring. Eventually the girls picked out extensions so I was the one ringing them out. Immediately when the ladies walked up, the one who was staring just said “I’m sorry I don’t mean to be a creep”. She then asked me if I was a model. My initial reaction was to laugh - I laughed in her face. It wasn’t a mean laugh, I really thought she was joking.
I’ve had a few people before ask me if I was a model, but it was always like “oh you’re so tall, are you a model?” it was never “oh you’re so beautiful, are you a model?”. She asked me if I ever considered modeling, and I thought okay, she’s just being nice and trying to make conversation. I told her I wouldn’t consider it, I’m not a model. She then said “are you sure? I’m actually Katie Willcox’s assistant”. And Katie Willcox is everything. She essentially is the founder of Natural Models LA and Healthy Is the New Skinny, which I had heard about in high school. Finding Healthy Is the New Skinny when I was younger was the way of me realizing oh, there is beauty in everybody - a certain size doesn’t matter. When the girl said Katie Willcox, my jaw just dropped. She gave me her email and told me to send in some digitals. And I was like “okay, sure, I will get on that” and didn’t because I didn’t think she could want me. She had gotten my Instagram and started DM’ing me and kept saying “you should really submit, we really do think you have an opportunity to do this and we would like to meet with you to discuss it.”
I turned down the meeting for six months and they kept asking me every month or two to come in. I finally went in because my friends told me I was being an idiot. I went in and took the meeting and they offered me a contract at the end - and I said “I’ll think about it, have a good day, bye!”. I was thinking about it for at least a month because I still didn’t think they wanted me.
You grow up hearing a certain thing and that’s what you start to believe. It was 21+ years of me hearing “too fat”, “too ugly”, that I was the “dorky friend”. You hear that for 21 years from everyone in your world and that’s what you start to believe. Then one afternoon one person comes in and says “Hey you, you can be a model,” anybody would laugh. Those couple of months that I kept saying no were the months I needed to untrain myself and take a look at what I actually look like. Since I had felt like that ugly kid, I had gotten six inches taller, a figure, curves in the right places, and my skin had started to clear up.
I was still working at that salon and was really busy one day and someone had gone into the salon for an appointment and I didn't even see this woman or talk to her. My manager had approached me an hour after this woman came in and pulled me aside to say “Just so you know, a girl came in and thinks you could be a really great fit for her modeling agency - she left her information for you”. It was a model, not a scout. She left me all her info and I reached out to her a day later and told her I was in talks with Natural already. We texted back and forth all night and she answered all my questions, she was so open and generous with her time. I realized after talking to her that if that’s the kind of girl Natural signs, 100% I wanted to be a part of it.
From when you started modeling to now, how has the industry changed over the years?
I have been modeling for a little over three years now, but with social media included that is a substantial amount of time. Everything now is so accelerated and accessible, you better change in three years. I would say accountability is a big thing that is starting to change. Whether it’s companies being accountable or models being accountable for what they are presenting on different platforms. Diversity is something people are really starting to fight for and speak up about which it’s about damn time.
What are the biggest obstacles the modeling industry faces/still needs to overcome? What’s one thing you would change right now?
I think transparency is really important. I think being genuine and authentic - whether that is a brand or and individual - is important. That’s really hard with things like social media when you have access to things that can make your waist seem six inches smaller or you know what time of day to go out and take that selfie to make your acne scars look nonexistent. It is really easy to get around who you are or what you represent today.
When I work with ecom clients, 90% of the time, they put me in a size 12 and pin me because I am a size 8. Girls that are a size 12 or 14 go online and see that and think oh, I’m going to look like that. It’s really hard to make a living doing something that you are passionate about and is changing for the better but you still have to hold it accountable. I’ve had girls DM me furious and tell me “ I can’t believe you are a plus size model” and “this is misrepresentation”. The thing is I agree with them. But at the same time, I would be out a job, I wouldn’t have the chance to get my face out there, or speak out about the girls who are a size in between like me. I’m not saying girls who are a size 6 have it more difficult than girls who are a size 14 by any means, but it needs to be inclusive and authentic for all people: size, race, gender identity, everything.
Growing up in Oakland was the biggest blessing because it is so diverse there, I’m used to seeing everything. But when I look at the media and I only see white girls who are a size 2, that doesn’t look like anyone I went to high school with. When you’re 16 and that doesn’t look like anyone you know, how is that attainable? How is that something you are going to identify with? So it’s important to include diversity, but do it in an authentic way.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into modeling?
My number one piece of advice, if you want to get into modeling, is have something you love more than modeling. If your whole entire life is based around modeling, it’s going to be a very long, lonely, difficult process. Even if it’s something you do for yourself, it doesn’t have to be something you make money doing. The only reason I have been doing this for as long as I have is because I have things I love more than modeling. 99% of the stress (that comes from modeling) from my perspective, is coming from me. It’s me in my head saying I need to work harder, it’s me in my head my body isn’t right. The thing that pulls you out of that stress and that darkness is having something that brings you fulfillment that isn’t modeling. That would be my advice with anything.
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career so far? What do you hope to accomplish this year?
My proudest accomplishment was actually a job I booked that no one has the images from. I booked a campaign for Reebok, which was incredible that they even wanted to use me at all. I flew to New York for the shoot and I was the only curve/plus model that they used on set that day. There were a couple moments that were really big for me that day.
I have done a decent amount of athletic work in the past and most of the athletic work that they have curve/plus size models do is they put you in the most conservative leggings with the big baggy sweatshirt and put you in the back of the crowd and look tough or have you look super sweet and approachable.
Reebok, at one point, put me in the same set of leggings and sports bra as the straight size model at the same ballet bar. I used to dance growing up and I had done ballet. The straight size model they used was a super sweet girl but her form was going to blow her knees out if they had her hold it. She didn’t know any better because she had no dance experience. They had us doing movements and pieces of ballet so I tapped her on the shoulder asking her if she’d done ballet before. And she looked at me with fear in her eyes like no, I don’t know what I’m doing. I told her I had done ballet in the past and asked if she was comfortable with me adjusting her form a little bit and she was like “please help me I’m so uncomfortable”.
It was a really big deal for me to be used for a brand that is so recognizable, to be put in a the same set the straight size model was wearing, and to feel so comfortable with having more experience on set than the straight size model with what we were doing. The images aren’t released, but the fact that the industry is changing in a way that that was even an opportunity is a really big deal for me.
I’m actually going to get back into acting, whatever I can get my hands on. I grew up doing theater my whole life. I have yet to get any tv/film experience, but I’ve done professional theater. My main goal is to get back into acting classes. That’s what I’m most excited about - to learn about it again and reassess where I am with it. In terms of modeling, I’m really excited to start developing a brand for myself and to figure out where I want modeling to take me.
With a job that often overlaps with social media, what is your personal relationship with social media?
I started using Instagram when I was in high school. I didn’t have a single photo of myself. I used social media as a way to kind of share the world around me. Getting into social media when I started modeling was weird because I was already in a field that I had no experience in and all of a sudden I also had to worry about social media and getting my following up. I have met countless girls and guys that have bought followers. It is the monster in the closet. The way I approach social media is that if I wasn’t willing to do it when I started my Instagram account when I was 17, I’m not willing to do it now.
I’ve had a rougher go at booking clients because I don’t have much of a social media following. I’ve gained maybe 7,000 followers in three years. Saying that out loud I’m like holy crap, that’s a lot of people. But some of my best friends have hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers and I’m like the girl they go to when they need a photo taken. I’ve had clients laugh in reaction to my Instagram before. It’s free publicity for them. They’re always going to go for the girl that has 100k followers with mainly teenagers following them.
My relationship with social media mostly started off very overwhelming and toxic when I started modeling because I so badly wanted to be seen. I was posting at least twice if not three times a day and I got sick of my own face and what I was putting out on social media. I wanted to up my followers, I wanted to engage with more people, and I wanted to feel like people saw me. The thing I realized after 8-12 months of doing that, the thing people were seeing was not me. I had to call myself out. I’ll be real, it’s still something I struggle with. One of the biggest steps for me was I posted something that is still on my feed today, which is a photo of me with no makeup on looking really upset because I had just woken up after a really rough evening of seeing someone I used to know who used to trigger panic attacks in me. I posted this selfie of me bare faced and eyes puffy from crying myself to sleep and it has maybe 70 likes, by far the least amount of likes I’ve gotten on a photo. Normally if I get under a certain amount of likes I’ll just delete it or archive it. But it had maybe 30 comments of people telling me they were proud I had a conversation with that person and tried to be the bigger person. I also have days where I feel on top of the world and I should be able to express that too.
Every woman should have the freedom to post whatever they want as long as it’s authentic. There’s no shame in being who you are and making your own choices. There is something wrong with lying about the process that it took you to get there.
If you could tell your younger self some advice given what you know now, what would it be?
The world you know right now is not the world you will always know. Whether it is that you are 13 years old and the only people you’ve met in your life tell you you’re not worth anything, that’s the only world you know at the time. Or if it’s that you’re living in a small town and everyone seems to have a different opinion from you, that is your world right now and there is validity to the fact that that is what you are experiencing right now but that’s not the world you are always going to know.
The world we have right now is not the world we will always have. It is completely in our power to step out of things. With time, things will change and things will get better, but things will also get worse. The reason people get stuck is that they think the world they are in is the world they will always be in. That’s how I felt when I was a kid when I was dealing with bullying - I thought that was going to be my life every single day. The more you expose yourself to and the more you give yourself a chance to experience, the bigger your world becomes.
What are your long term and short term goals?
A big goal for myself right now is to give back to the people who have supported me my whole life, obviously my family. Both of my parents remarried, and there are specific vacations that each couple has wanted to go on for a while. It has been more of an immediate goal that I am able to finance those trips and send them on those vacations. I also want to develop more of a routine to create stability given the work I do and the city I live in.
Long term, I want to be able to afford my life without stressing where my money is coming from and how much I’m getting paid or if I’m getting paid enough. I want to be able to teach and run a nonprofit. Most of my actual real life work experience is with kids. I’ve worked a lot with kids in Oakland to keep them off the streets during the summertime. I helped facilitate a summer program one year to keep them involved in artistic stuff. I’ve also worked with kids with terminal illnesses and learning disabilities in LA, teaching theater as therapy. I ultimately want to develop a nonprofit that will go into school systems and different communities using art as therapy and teaching creativity as a way to cope and handle what life throws at you.
What does “UNMRKD” mean to you?
When I think of the word “unmarked” I think of something that has been put on you by others, something that you receive whether or not you want to. So for me, the idea of unmarked, rather than the idea of something you’ve been given or something put on you, being unmarked is being free of those things so you can give to others so that you can influence the world around you and create something outside of you. So often when you are told who you are and what you are capable of, there are so many limitations because not only do we suffer from it but the world around us suffers because we are not contributing anything other than what we are told we are able to. So to me being unmarked is the freedom to instead of being marked, it’s the opportunity to make the mark yourself and change things around yourself for the better.
Rapid Fire Q’s
Oh Devil by Electric Guest
One Tree Hill
A good pair of jeans
Idris Elba or Armie Hammer
Can’t get enough of Faith? Check her out on Instagram here.