Interview with Clémentine Desseaux by Andie Reyes
When I was about 21yo I was the star of a French TV ad promoting an online store for plus size womxn. That was a first in France and got a lot of traction. Lots of womxn reached out to me, told me how it felt to see themselves represented, how they felt seen for the first time. I knew then this was something I wanted to keep pushing because I realized my body has power, the power to make others feel seen.
Do you think that for women in particular, body confidence is still an issue?
It’s a very difficult issue. I have yet to meet a womxn who has never sufferred from body image issues. It’s hard to build confidence when society keeps bringing you down if you don’t fit in the tiny mold they set up for you. It’s hard to shine when the spotlight is never on you.
Over the last ten years, the topic of mental health has started becoming more talked about. How do you think this is changing us and how has it effected you?
Talking about mental health issues is slowly making mental health less of a stigma less scary and more manageable. Representation is also important when talking about mental health. It’s key for womxn to see that a lot of us go through the same issues, the same pain and the same anxieties. We deal with it differently and I believe in sharing those processes because it could help someone else deal with it better.
What advice would you give a teenage girl who is having a hard time accepting her body?
I would ask her why. Most teens only want to change their body to look more like this or that, thinking they would be more attractive to boys, or happier. I would tell her to think twice, to look deeper and to really set goals for herself and her life that are unrelated to her body. I would give her role models to look at that look like her, that managed to build a great life for themselves regardless of their bodies.
What do you think of the term “plus size” in the modeling world do you think it is a label that should be removed?
I don’t think it should be removed… or kept, I couldn’t care less. This is such an old discussion, it’s been talked about since I started modeling and it takes too much discussion space. Why would that matter? You can call me what you want, I know who I am.
Could you tell us all about all womxn project?
AWP is a foundation for womxn empowerment providing resources, inspiration and safe spaces for womxn and girls. We focus on diversity and representation, self-acceptance and mental health but globally approach all womxn related issues from gender to sexual health and socio-economic issues and politics. We used to have in-perosn monthly support groups across the country, now we took it online, on SLACK, and focus on our free content creation.
How have you managed to care for and love yourself before anyone else? Do you think that, as women, we are achieving it after so many standards imposed in the past?
I am still in the process. Self-acceptance and self-love is a journey. Mostly very long, sometimes life-long. My job really helped me grow into who I am today, I am a cancer, I live to make others feel good, I live to give love and joy, so through my career, I manage to create a healthy community, to use my image for good and for others and that really makes me feel good. It helps me to love and accept myself. I am still processing so much trauma and issues but I feel like I am moving faster through those now because I know myself better, and accept myself better.
What was a difficult moment in life that taught you something?
This year was the hardest for me in so many ways. In addition to the pandemic I have been through a very traumatic time, realizing so much about my relationships and myself. It gave me so much to process, analyse and recover from. But I am doing better by the day.
When you look for inspiration where do you go?
I look to nature, I go outside, feel the elements on my skin, observe people, listen to salsa music to get my mood up, make food.
What do you do when you have a creative block?
I have so many creative blocks. I suffer from major impostor syndrome so it’s always blocking me and getting in the way of me being my best self. I usually take a nap, let it seep in and then process it out asap. Sometimes it last a few minutes, sometimes a couple of hours, sometimes a day. Usually never more then that.
Which women inspire you the most?
Womxn in my community inspire me, young womxn making changes, older womxn opening doors, so many.
What books do you have on your nightstand that we need to read?
I love like water for chocolate its a love story about food and so it couldn’t get any better for me. Other then that I am very much into self help books.
What advice would you give your teenage self?
Keep going. You’ll be fine.
How can we move from fear to believing in ourselves?
Imposter syndrome is real and present in so many womxn, strong womxn, beautiful womxn, successful womxn, all womxn. It’s hard to shake off but it is possible, with practice, it gets smaller and smaller and ceases to creep in that often. It’s important to come up with ways to fight it when it comes creeping. Once you have a few ways to get rid of it, you will be safer from it.
What advice would you give to a woman starting her journey of self-discovery?
A journey to self-discovery is exactly that. A journey. Not a goal, not an end. The more you discover the more you will have to discover.
Can you leave us with some final words of advice?
Yes! You can know yourself but still have a long journey in front of you.
You can follow Clémentine Desseaux on Instagram @bonjourclem