Model Ollie Henderson on nudity, diversity and MBFWA
Beyond the hordes of influencers, reality TV stars and Insta-girls, there's not many millennial models quite like Ollie Henderson. Sure, she's a pretty face (and a successful model to boot) but this is one slashie with a side hustle that's really worth talking about. In addition to being a conscientious uni student that dutifully does her assignments backstage, Ollie is the founder of House of Riot, a non-profit organisation that aims to galvanise Australians about issues such gender equality, human rights and the environment. And as one of the industry insiders selected for DNSW's Faces of Fashion 2017, Ollie chats to us fresh from walking the MBFWA runways last week.
You walked in six shows at this year's MBFWA - which one was your favourite?
Romance Was Born. It's so rewarding to be involved in a show where you are encouraged to bring a part of yourself to the runway. Strutting up and down blank faced can be so boring, it's nice to see a bit more personality.
You were body painted nude for Romance Was Born - was it daunting walking out there like that?
Not at all. I spoke to the Romance team about it the week before and I completely trust their vision. I wouldn't do this for just anyone but I knew that it would be something special working with this team. They made me feel like I owned the world when I hit the runway.
What has been everyone's reaction to the RWB show? I know all fashion press loved the show.
When I came out of backstage I had a few people say to me that they thought it was a body stocking. It was a little disappointing given I'd just pranced around near naked. But overall it seems to be all positive. The Daily Tele even had the caption "model power" on an image of me. In the past this may have been reported as something scandalous but it feels that now people are seeing that these actions can be empowering for women.
A few people commented on some of the obscenties written on your body - and you've famously created provocative T-shirt slogans as part of House of Riot. Did you have input into the words being body painted on you?
The words were all from Del Katherine Barton, Romance's collaborator. I have been a fan of her work for a while now. It was such an honour to spend the afternoon as her canvas. I believe they are the names of Del's paintings but she referred to the work as her poem.
Did you get a chance to read Buro's cover story on intersex model Hanne Gaby Odiele - what did you think?
Hanne's story is an important one for the world to hear. Intersex people don't have a lot of visibility and as Hanne's article reflects, many are put in a position to believe that there is something wrong with their bodies from a young age. She has been brave to come out and I'm happy that she feels she can live her life fully.
You're a big campaigner for LGQBTI rights - what's your stance on where the industry is sitting right now? Any thoughts on what could be improved?
The fashion industry is historically quite accepting of LGBTQI people. But, as is reflective of broader society, some parts of the alphabet soup are more represented than others. It's great to see more transgender models and obviously our cover star Hanne coming out as intersex has been nothing but excellent. In many ways I think fashion is one of the safest places to be LGBTQI, when I think about our right my heart goes out to the hundreds of gay men being tortured in Chechnya, the refugees being sent back to Uganda because they don't have enough "proof" of their sexual orientation or even that young kid in the small country town who has no support.
What about the general diversity at this year's MBFWA shows - what did you think about it?
There used to be a big focus on diversity in the '90s, then we kind of lost it somehow and moved into an era of all models looking like identical droids. Thankfully, diversity seems to have more prominence at the years fashion week, I just think it's a little too late. Fashion is the perfect medium to push social boundaries. Fashion is about beauty and good fashion will see the beauty in all.
Lastly, are you still active with House of Riot and are there any exciting projects coming up?
We are currently working on an audio-based project telling the political stories behind music. I can't say too much at the moment but watch this space!
Buro 24/7 Selection
Buro 24/7 Selection