What qualities do you admire most in other people? Wit and intelligence? Empathy? Self-awareness? A good sense of humour? That simple-but-crucial thing of ‘being kind’? They’re definitely all on my list – along with an array of other possibilities (being a fan of floaty sleeves and general dressing up helps, but it’s not crucial). There’s something else though… A quality, or rather an ability, that I’ve only begun to properly appreciate in recent years: the capacity to celebrate other people.
It’s a very telling one, that. Willingness to nod to the achievements/ news/ work/ general character of someone else is pretty much always a good sign. Hugely enthusiastic too? All the better. It’s the ones who are continually bitter that you have to watch out for (which isn’t a dig at strong opinions or critical stances, by the way – that's a whole other important category…) What I’m really talking about here is the sheer joy of recognizing the people who get a kick out of supporting others – being vocal where praise is due, or lending an ear, a hand, a word or two of encouragement. It’s the opposite of pulling rank, or aiming a well-placed put-down, or generally assembling a ‘me vs. them’ mentality.
If you wanted to use a vaguely long-winded analogy involving a ladder (and frankly, who doesn’t want to do that?), we’re talking here about the people who help others to climb, or reach back down from wherever they are to offer help – rather than jealously guarding each rung in turn, and pulling the ladder up behind them.
As well as appreciating that capacity for celebration, I’m also profoundly grateful for it. We often talk about having that one teacher who pushes you in the right direction – perhaps commenting favourably at just the right point, or giving you the book that suddenly makes sense of something that was previously murky. But the ones who’ve been crucial to me are actually an amazing bunch of (mostly) women who, at one point or another, gave a nod that I was doing well and should continue to work at it. People like my 'fairy' godmother Soma, who once bought me a vintage Chanel dress, and has offered up so much encouragement over the years – as well as challenging and pushing my thinking.
There are so, so many others, many tracing back to my first few times of attending London Fashion Week. There I encountered photographers like Dvora, Vanessa and Jennifer who all took me seriously as a 15/ 16 year old – boosting my confidence when clothes and blogging were a means to escape the confines of rural life. I also met and talked with the amazing Caryn Franklin. She listened to my thoughts, and subsequently let me write this for All Walks – my first foray into investigating my early experiences of modeling. It was also one of my first proper forays into the power that writing has to connect, spread, and generally yield up intriguing conversations. As a result of that piece I met Erin O’Connor (who is grace and generosity personified) and Kay Montano (who has since let me sleep on her sofa many a-time, and always provides good wine and great conversation). Through Kay I was introduced to the utterly extraordinary photographer Susannah Baker-Smith, who I’ve now worked with on all sorts of occasions. All these women are linked by their glorious aptitude for scooping up and celebrating others.
Celebration, of course, takes many a form. Listing them all here would be not only tricky but tedious too. It has found some interesting new footing online though. Despite the very necessary dialogues we need to continue about the vitriol that seethes easily when people are hidden behind screens, it’s also crucial to acknowledge the nice pockets of the internet… And there are lots. Lots of small, well-formed pockets where genuine praise outweighs anything else. From the early days of the blogging community, through the remarkable individuals shouting about each other’s work on social media, there’s the odd, glittering space where mutual approval presides. People like Louise, Angela, Emma, Daisy, Anna, Lally, Mel, Bella, Vix, Izzy, Rebecca, Tara, Flo, Flo (another one!), Rosianna, Sinéad, and a ton of others, are particularly good at it… And they're just the first handful of names plucked up. There are so many more,
Essentially, we should celebrate those who celebrate others. Doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge jealousy or frustration along the way. In fact, it can even be about wielding those feelings productively – applauding the stuff that is SO fantastic that you’re horribly envious, and then working out what you can do in response, that is yours to own.
It’s also about continual interest in what’s going on around you – championing the good and the great. Doesn’t matter if it’s tweeting an article you loved, offering your time/ help to someone, reveling in the thrill of new conversations with interesting people, or simply congratulating a friend who made progress that they’re proud of. In all cases, the principle is the same: it’s one of looking beyond yourself, and getting bloody excited by all that everyone else has to offer.
I began thinking about this after being featured on the wonderful Olivia's blog. Head over to read my thoughts on work, writing, favourite books, and (but of course!) Kate Bush. Liv is someone else who is especially good at championing others - she is warm, enthusiastic, always engaging to talk with, and as beautiful inside as she is out. Also, incidentally, someone else I first met at LFW. It was a pleasure to be interviewed and photographed by her. She kindly let me repost those images here. Everything I'm wearing is second hand, other than the boots, which were from Jack Wills.