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How Model Bree McCann Found Body Confidence    

How Model Bree McCann Found Body Confidence

Art by Fisk.

By Sadie Newman

Australian model Bree McCann is no stranger to adversity in the world of modeling, but she hasn’t let that stop her. From being the first curve model (the modern term for what used to be called “plus-size model”) to appear on the cover of Women’s Health Australia and to star in major swimwear campaigns for brands such as Seafolly, McCann has watched the modeling industry change over her 10-year career and helped it evolve into a more diverse and accepting community. 

Over the course of her career, which spans stints in London, New York, and now Australia, McCann has faced a variety of different experiences related to body image. While those outside of the fashion world might view McCann’s figure as healthy and enviable, in the world of modeling, where the ability to fit into sample size garments is so important, she is considered “curve.” Coming to terms with that distinction has helped McCann develop a positive attitude towards her body image, which, in turn, has positively impacted her mental health. 

It’s not surprising then that McCann’s beauty is matched by her brains. She has used the knowledge gained from her bachelor’s degree in journalism and business to launch her swimwear brand, Code B that brings diversity, inclusivity, and body confidence to the beach. 

With her unique outlook and background, I thought McCann was a great person to speak to for Inner Piece so she could shed some light on body image and mental health, which go hand in hand for a lot of people. 

How did you start modeling? What were the mental health challenges as your career unfolded?

I was scouted a few times as a teenager, but I was always told I was too big. I had friends who modeled, and even then it was pretty clear that I was never going to have that super tiny frame! My body is just not built that way. It wasn’t until years later while I was at university that I was signed for curve modelling. It was a different world back then though. There was no Instagram, there was no diversity, and my size didn’t really fit in anywhere. I was too big for mainstream clients and too small for a lot of plus-size brands. So my first few years of modelling were quite hard. I felt like I was always going against the tide. I was often walking into a room of people who thought I shouldn’t be there. I was often on sets where it was their first time working with a model who didn’t fit the traditional mold. I could sense the tension! 

For a long time, I didn’t like to say what I did for a living because people would look me up and down and give strange looks like I was lying or something. There was definitely a point when the industry started shifting. In the last few years, there has been this really cool and monumental change in the fashion industry. A lot of doors are open now for me that were closed before. I couldn’t have predicted the way the industry would open up but looking back, I’m really proud that I had the confidence not to change my body or who I was. 

How has your mental health been affected by your own body image and the way you're perceived in your industry?

I think body image and mental health go hand in hand. How you feel about your body is almost entirely mental. I always try to remind girls that body confidence is a process, and it takes time. With social media, you are confronted with this version of perfection on a daily basis and it can be a negative spiral once you start to compare yourself and compare your life. As a model, you can even fall into a trap of comparing yourself to an altered version of yourself. There have definitely been times where I have thought, I wish I looked like that again but then I remember that I probably didn’t even look like that at the time! I always try to remember that the images you see are not always reality. No one wakes up in the morning feeling perfect. You have to choose to look in the mirror and like what you see. We are all unique and interesting in different ways, and it’s cool when you can find a way to own that. 

What do you want people to know about you?

I get asked a lot about my body—how am I so body confident or what kind of workouts I do. It’s funny because I never set out to push any boundaries, I just wanted to model. I never expected that my body and the term plus-size would become a topic of so much conversation. Self-love, body positivity, and diversity were not even in our vocabularies back then. Truth is, I am not always as body confident as it may seem. I have my days, and I have moments of doubt! I think in some ways modeling helped a lot with my body confidence because no matter how you are feeling on the inside you still have to turn up, do the job, and own it.  

Last year I started my own swim brand Code B because I wanted to make women feel good about their bodies. I don’t understand why so many brands still only shoot on one type of model. Society has changed, and I think people want to see more relatable representations in the brands they buy. 

What have you learned about yourself during these strange times? 

This year has been a mental rollercoaster! I was never in one place for more than a few days for almost 10 years, so when it all suddenly stopped, I definitely struggled. It was like, “Well, who am I without modeling and without traveling?” As a model you live in this very go-go-go way. Living in New York, I always felt like I needed to take every opportunity in case it wasn’t there tomorrow. I never really made plans with friends because I knew I probably wouldn’t be there. Your entire schedule can change in minutes, and I spent all of my time looking ahead. Even when I achieved one of my goals or something I had wanted to do for a long time, by the time it came out, I was already over it and onto the next thing. I never stopped to appreciate anything! I think I have come full circle now, and I honestly have no idea how I managed life before. I don’t want to go back to that hectic life. It’s taken all year, but I think I’ve finally learned to slow down.

Who do you turn to when you need to talk about issues related to mental health? 

There isn’t just one person. I talk to a lot of different friends and family about a lot of different things. As I have gotten older, I have realized that I need to talk about things, probably a lot more than most people. It’s who I am and sometimes I think that just saying something out loud helps me grow and change. 

How do you know when you are in a good place with your mental health?

I know I am in a good place when the first thoughts that come into my head are positive and optimistic. I think positive really does attract positive and feeling good goes out like some kind of signal to the universe. 

What is something that you wish you’d known sooner about mental health?

You have to focus on what you have and what you are grateful for rather than focusing on what you don’t have. That goes for material things, for your body, and for your entire life in general. When you start to appreciate what you already have in your life then your mental health improves so much. 

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.