I DIDN’T WANT TO ADMIT THIS TO SOPHIE DURING OUR INTERVIEW AND MAKE IT SUPER AWKWARD, BUT I’VE ACTUALLY BEEN FOLLOWING HER ON INSTAGRAM FOR AGES. I HAPPENED TO SPOT HER AT THE LOCALE ABOUT A YEAR AGO AND WAS PROBABLY FANGIRLING OUT A BIT TRYING TO WORK OUT IF IT WAS ACTUALLY HER. SHE COMES ACROSS AS TRULY AUTHENTIC ONLINE AND SHE TOTALLY DELIVERED IN PERSON. NOT ONLY IS SHE AN INSPIRING INFLUENCE-HER, BUT A BRILLIANT HAIRDRESSER AT MUSTER POINT COLLECTIVE IN MAYFIELD.
Sitting in Equium Social – Mayfield’s newest coffee addition – one morning, I awkwardly asked Sophie questions about her Instagram profile/modelling career while she ate some incredible-looking fritter thing [note to self: go back for the fritters].
By Kian West
My first question is always, if you’re at a party, how do you explain what you do?
Basically, I like to inspire other women to wear whatever they want regardless of society's standards of what curvy women should wear. Growing up, I didn't wear anything tight because I was ashamed of my body. I grew up in Tamworth, moved to Newcastle in 2010. As soon as I turned 18, I was straight down here.
Did you have that plan even before you were 18?
Yes, because Newcastle is I guess the next biggest thing in terms of going to the city.
Had you been here before moving?
Yes, lots of times, and my brother and sister were living here as well, so it was like following in their footsteps. I moved down here and started embracing myself a little bit more. In terms of social media, it all started by me basically taking selfies in my bedroom and posting them and people liking what I was wearing or wanting to know where I bought what I was wearing.
I started tagging all our brands and I came across this brand in the States called 'Babes and Felines', which makes jeans and stuff for curvy girls, which was something that was always really hard for me to find because nothing fit. You'd have this massive gape at the back – it just didn't work. Somehow, she magically came up with these jeans that do fit, so I started wearing them and purchasing from her a lot and tagging her. She has 2.4 million followers, so basically, she started reposting some pictures of me and that's where a lot of the following came from.
I started rolling with that a little bit and getting a bit creative. I've done a few shoots with local people, getting into the modelling a little bit. I like playing around with and sharing outfits, and just general positivity because I'm a happy person.
This has all happened organically?
It has, yes. I never planned on this happening.
Being an influencer?
Yeah, I just had my Instagram, which is the same Instagram that I've had since years ago when it first started. I actually had to go back and delete all the pictures because it didn't pair up with what it is now. There were lots of people overseas, and it's got to the point now where I wanted to keep that part of my life a bit more private. It does become a business in a way, but I enjoy it.
Does it connect you with a community of people in that you realise there are heaps of people like you out there, who are going through the same issues?
Exactly. And, as a kid, I felt like I was the only one. All of my friends at school were all really skinny. I used to just think that was what I should be. Then, growing up, you realise that not everyone is built that way and, as much as you try, it's not going to change – and you shouldn't want to change, because you should embrace what you have.
There's not just one body shape.
Yes. And a lot of girls will send me messages or reply to my stories and say, ‘Wow, this is so great. I never thought that I could have worn this, but now you've inspired me to go and try out something like this and see how it goes.’ It's really cool.
Does it open other opportunities?
So many. I've travelled a bit. On my last trip to the States I met the girl [from Babes of Felines]; we're friends. I've hung out with her over in LA, which is really cool.
I got contacted by a blog that's in LA as well, called Sunday Morning For You. Basically, they're for women empowerment. The reason it's called Sunday Morning View is because they release an article every Sunday, and their concept is empowering women over a cup of coffee.
It's a husband and wife, and then they have two writers as well. I met up with Carlo when I was in LA, and he did a shoot at the hotel I was staying at. They don't want you to wear any make-up, they want it to be very natural. So we did that. Then when I got back to Australia, their writer called me and we did a phone interview, so that went on their blog, which was really cool.
Then I've done a couple of photoshoots in New York as well, with different people that I've connected with through Instagram. I'm going back over next month. I'm actually going twice this year. I feel like it's created opportunities overseas that I definitely wouldn't have had.
A lot of my really close friends now are people I've met through talking to them on Instagram. It's awesome. I've got all these connections around the world now, which is amazing. That's one thing that I love about it; I definitely wouldn't have had those opportunities if I didn't have Instagram, basically.
Do you find brands will message you?
I have a lot of brands contact me and I don't always say yes to all of them, because I obviously want it to still be something that I support or like. A lot of the time, too, it's also about how they approach me too. I'm a bit picky. If someone just sends me a message acting like they're doing me this huge favour, and they're like, ‘You have to do this for us,’ it's a bit, you know...
At the moment, I'm working with three different labels. It started off with just one brand called Fashion Nova, which was just them sending me products, and they have certain guidelines of what you have to write in a caption. Now that I'm doing it more and my following has grown, it seems a bit more relaxed. It's more like, ‘I'm in charge now,’ which is good.
I just go on and choose what I want. They send it to me and I can either say if I like it or if I don't like it. Things like that. Even some brands will just send me stuff – like, I don't have to post it [on Instagram], it's just a gift. That's nice.
Where do you spend most of your time? Where's your normal hangout?
I go to Side Pocket Espresso a lot, down the road. Hang out there a fair bit. Merewether Baths – I’m there a lot. Moneypenny at Honeysuckle. The Edwards.
Okay, you get around. A few favourites. Mayfield is one of those places you can easily be in for a long time. There’s so much on offer these days...
I've lived here ever since I moved to Newcastle, in Mayfield, and I've just seen it change so much over the eight years that I've lived here. It's really cool. I liked it when I moved and I like it a lot more now.
You get new spots like this pop-up and you have more reasons to never leave the suburb.
Yeah, because we've got the food truck down at Muster Point as well. She's been doing a thing on Thursday nights where it's BYO and she gets the lights and music and she's got the food trucks to do dinner stuff. It's really cool. We had it last night and heaps of people showed up.
Do you find your audiences are mostly women? Is there a negative edge to their sword?
There definitely is, and that's one sad reality of being someone who's confident within themselves. It can sometimes be taken as sexualised. I get horrible messages from men sharing their views and abuses with me. Just constant message from people – some of it is harmless, some of it is just nice, but I think that a lot of my following is men who just like to be mean.
How do you keep good mental health, then?
I do have moments where I'm just like, ‘This is messed up. Why do people feel like they can do this so often?’ But I think I just have a bit of a laugh about it. I know in reality, in the spin of things, unfortunately, it is the world that we live in and putting yourself out there for everyone to see is not always going to be positive. But generally, the majority of it is.
There's a good enough balance there.
Yeah. I did have some moments last year when I was a bit low, where I would deactivate [my Instagram] for about a week, because I didn't want to have to bother. It made me more comfortable to think that no one could see it while I was taking that time out so that, when I went back on there, there weren’t comments that I had to delete and things like that.
if someone comes to visit, where do you need to take them to show off Newcastle?
Definitely inside the memorial to get the views. I like going to Blue Door Kiosk and going for a swim at the baths. I think that's really beautiful. I feel that, with Newcastle, people don't realise how beautiful our beaches are here.
I know, growing up in Tamworth, there's still a mentality there of it being the steelworks and being all run down and there's nothing there. ‘Why do you live there?’ sort of thing. When I was going to move here, I literally had a lady going, ‘What are you doing that for?’ It's like, ‘Well, you've obviously never been to Newcastle.’
Definitely the beaches. I love eating out, and there's lots of different cafés around. I think that's one thing that people in Tamworth don't do because there's not as many options up there. Their café culture is not really a thing there, so coming here you have so many options of where to eat. My mum is coming down tonight actually, so I'm trying to think what to do!
Find @sophaaaaa on Instagram, click follow and watch her incredible life. Chances are you’ll see some iconic shots of Newcastle in the mix. She’s also launching a website and we spoke about how she wants to launch some T-shirts, so watch this space!