LAURA WELLS IS THE MODERN MODEL TO KNOW
Laura Wells is hanging out in her underwear with two blokes similarly underdressed: gardener Costa Georgiadis, who is gamely brandishing a pitch fork as a prop, and ocean conservationist Tim Silverwood.
They've disrobed for a good cause, a campaign called Bare For Good organised by organic cotton brand Mighty Good Undies – to raise awareness for Fashion Revolution Week. The charity-run initiative starts on April 24, the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory disaster in Bangladesh, and encourages shoppers to ask more questions about fashion supply chains.
Full disclosure, I'm a Fashion Revolutionary myself, and also posed for Bare For Good. Although with rather less body confidence than Wells. I spent the shoot day mortified about revealing my cottage-cheese thighs and telling the photographer not to look. Seriously, who'd want to be a model?
Most teenage girls, apparently.
A 2008 study asked a bunch of them to rank 10 career choices in order of the most appealing. Modelling scooped a third of the votes. The next most attractive job? Acting. Poor old science barely got a look in – scraping in at number 8.
Perhaps Wells can help with that. Ask her to describe her job and she says, "I'm a marine biologist." But doesn't she pay the rent by posing for the camera? You might have seen her in the latest Lorna Jane campaign. Or the fashion pages of a glossy magazine. "OK, how about: I'm a curvy model with an immense passion for the environment?"
Or, Laura Wells is a modern model for the authenticity generation. As interesting to talk to as she is to look at, she uses her public profile to discuss issues she genuinely cares about. Snapchat and Instagram Stories have made it harder to cheat; there's no time to call in the art director, and your followers will see if it's an assistant, rather than you, creating your content. In this context, you need to walk your talk, and be more than just a pretty face – which suits Wells just fine.
She spends most of her downtime either in the sea or trying to get people to appreciate its importance. "Without a healthy ocean we don't survive," she says. "The ocean produces four out of every five of the breaths we take. A lot of people don't understand that, they think trees produce our oxygen, but actually the ocean is key."
On her website, she calls herself "presenter, model, environmentalist, butt-kicker" in that order. On Instagram, her bio starts with a call to action: "Don't be a dick. Help the planet – your actions count."
Wells is a straight talker from Sydney's Sutherland Shire. A ballsy, smart cookie with two degrees who just so happens to be beautiful too. She started (and finished) a law degree, "then realised, no way do I want to sit in an office all day. I need to be outside! To feel that tangible connection with the earth and ocean." So she added a biology degree to her CV.
Now 32, she's been modelling for eight years, since she was scouted as a plus-size girl while on holiday in New York. "My younger sister was a regular model," she explains. "I had no idea what a 'plus size model' was, and I was a little offended and perplexed that I thought people were calling me fat, while I had nothing on my mind except for becoming a scientist."
An Australian size 14 in swimwear and 12-14 in clothing, Wells is in fact average sized, but modelling is an industry with a warped view of what's normal when it comes to skinny.
As for #droptheplus (the likes of Robyn Lawley and Stefania Ferrario are keen to move on) Wells says she gets it, "I understand the phrase can have negative connotations, and that people looking at me and seeing that label applied can feel frustrated, but at the end of the day the word is 'plus' – since when did we decide that's not a positive word? It's all in how we frame the conversation."
Anyway, Wells is too busy to worry about semantics. She's been advocating for the Great Barrier Reef for years. "It's in a perilous state," she says. " The time to act is now. Governments tend to think short-term, from an economy standpoint, but we're not factoring in the long-term effects of environmental degradation on our bottom line."
She's a Greenpeace supporter and an ambassador for the Take 3 campaign to reduce ocean plastic. She works with the Marine Stewardship Council to educate consumers about sustainable seafood, and sits on the board of directors for the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium.
Wells admits she struggles "with the fact that the fashion industry perpetuates over-consumption, and is not sufficiently transparent, but I think I offset that to a certain extent with my advocacy work. Modelling pays my bills and gives me a platform to promote the values that I care about. If it helps me get people thinking about saving the oceans, then I'm happy with that."
For how to take part in Fashion Revolution Week, visit here