“I feel most like myself when I’m making change.” – an interview with CLÉMENTINE DESSEAUX
Clémentine Desseaux is more than a model. She’s a businesswoman, a leader, an activist and the co-founder and President of All Womxn Project. Born from her desire to help girls and womxn become the strong and empowered individuals they are meant to be, she created and raised AWP to be the inclusive, grounded, successful organisation it is today.
Editor of AWP X Blog, Amy Beecham, sat down with her colleague, friend and favorite Frenchwoman to find out what drives her and gets her to take action.
When people look at you, what do you want them to see?
I want them to be inspired. Not so much by what I look or dress like but by my resilience. By my energy and what I believe in. I want them to see the smile but also what’s behind it.
What inspires you to get out of bed in the morning?
The cause. I wake up with a hundred ideas in my head on how to develop AWP further, how to help more and more womxn feel confident and strong, regardless of what society says is ideal. That keeps me going throughout the day. The hardest part is to prioritize on what to do with all those thoughts.
Why was something like AWP so needed then, and still is now?
AWP started as a diversity campaign almost three years ago, now. Back then, Mama Cax or Jillian Mercado weren’t on covers. Girls like me weren’t on covers or even in mainstream fashion. We turned into a non-profit with a womxn’s empowerment and self-acceptance focus because girls asked us to do so. They told us they weren’t getting any support in schools or in their community around those key issues, and so we decided to become that support.
Do you see any positive changes in the industry?
The changes I have witnessed and taken part in are major. We went from nothing to almost everything in less than a decade. When I first started, models in general did not have a voice. They were just an image. Now, not only we can have a strong voice, but we can create change via social media which is game changing for the Body Positivity movement.
When I first started I could count diverse looking models on covers on one hand, now it’s almost every month. Womxn that would have never ever been models only two years ago can now use their image and voice to change fashion. They are celebrated on covers for their differences – the things that used to be “flaws”. The change has come in fashion, so now let’s bring it to womxn and girls’ daily life, in their communities.
What is the movement? Body positivity, body neutrality and acceptance?
Body positivity has become such a widely used term, now. For a lot of people it’s a trend, something that they throw around because it’s cool and everyone does it… It can get really messy and it’s message can get diluted.
For me, body positivity is all about self-acceptance. It’s accepting one’s body as it is – with all its flaws – without trying to change it. Self-acceptance leads to self-love, and so is key to self-esteem and confidence building.
When do you feel most like yourself?
I feel the most like myself when I am bare. No makeup, barely any clothes, in a natural setting. I feel like myself when I am making change, when I am taking action and doing good.
What do you love about your body?
I love that it’s a flexible vessel – carrying me and working with me. I have been smaller and bigger and fluctuate slightly and my body is always adapting, growing with me. It’s a vessel for life, even when I treat it poorly, it recovers and gets stronger so I get another chance to do it right. My body is resilient, and my stretch marks are here to prove it.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned?
I have learned that regardless of our story, our looks, or our flaws, we’re all the same and we’re looking for the same thing. Acceptation, inclusion, and love.
Our events show that so clearly. It’s beautiful and we should all know that. It would make us all closer.
Where do you see AWP going and what do you see it doing? What are you most excited about?
I am so excited about seeing all those new groups of girls and womxn expanding our message to their communities all over the world. It’s amazing to see growth in anything you do, and this is about to burst with self-confidence. I am excited about working on our new partnerships and campaigns in the future but right now, what I want is strengthen our message and our presence worldwide. Power is in numbers!