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‘It's really boring when everyone looks the same’ Sonny Turner on why ‘self-love’ is the best kind of love

Body positivity pioneer Sonny Turner fronts Hello! Fashion’s Self-Love Digital Issue

Orion Scott
Fashion Features Writer
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When we were discussing potential tastemakers for our February digital issue, Sonny Turner’s name instantly came to mind. Who could be better to front our Self-Love edition than a body positivity pioneer and modelling trailblazer whose Instagram bio literally says ‘Love yourself’?

Blazer, £600, Anine Bing from Fenwick; Tie, £70, The Frankie shop from Selfridges; Skirt, £448, Le Kilt from Matches; Tights, £35, Wolford; Ballet Flats, £120, Vibi Venezia from Matches; Earrings, Ring an d Bracelet, POA, Bulgari.
Blazer, £600, Anine Bing from Fenwick; Tie, £70, The Frankie shop from Selfridges; Skirt, £448, Le Kilt from Matches; Tights, £35, Wolford; Ballet Flats, £120, Vibi Venezia from Matches; Earrings, Ring and Bracelet, POA, Bulgari.

Sonny Turner is a model, muse and body positivity activist striving for a more inclusive fashion industry. Sonny's modelling journey started when she was just 17 after a scout approached her at London's Euston station. Eight years on from her first industry encounter, she’s since gained industry acclaim on her own accord, worked with some of the world's most notable brands and has grown a following of fans who admire both her work and positive attitude. 

“As a plus-size model, you constantly feel like you need to prove your credentials to others.”

I chat with the 25-year-old bombshell, just days after her Hello! Fashion digital cover shoot. She's sitting in a zip-up Adidas hoodie, her luscious locks tied up in a bun, effortlessly framing her face card and her cat is sitting next to her at arm's length, only once walking over her keyboard. Straight away she tells me that she just got home from taking her 17-year-old brother to his first modelling casting, which was “quick but went well!” Being the well-seasoned professional and good older sister that she is, she reminded him that it is all about the experience, even if the outcome isn’t always what you had hoped.

After spending a long day on set for her shoot, Sonny excitedly extols how much fun it was to be a part of an edition that highlights a topic so close to home. This is Sonny’s first cover, which coincidentally happens to be on her career goal list, “one of my dreams was honestly to be on the cover of a magazine, and I guess I'm kind of doing that right now for Hello! Fashion.”

“It's really boring when everyone looks the same”

It becomes very clear, very quickly during our interview with Sonny that she doesn’t take life too seriously, a quality that is sometimes in short supply in the world of high fashion. The act of loving yourself is often easier said than done and nobody knows this more than Sonny. It literally took a campaign photo of herself in a swimsuit on a giant New York City Times Square billboard for her to finally take a moment and think to herself, “I actually look quite good.” Until then she admits she definitely had imposter syndrome in the modelling sphere.

From then on, Sonny made an active decision to start dressing with intention, “Even if I'm just staying in the house or running errands, dressing in a cute outfit that makes me feel confident changes my mindset completely.” It’s a simple everyday task that makes her feel “confident and powerful” in her own skin and helps her look past any insecurities. “It was actually my New Year's resolution because I found that when I make a bit more effort with my appearance  I find myself being more sociable, actively wanting to meet new people and being kinder because I’m not feeling insecure.” When all else fails and her outfit isn’t doing its intended job of making her feel powerful, she looks in the mirror and reminds herself that she can do anything and is deserving of every single success… Something I will actively try from here on out.

“Aim to feel comfortable in the uncomfortable”

Earrings, £85, Roxanne Assoulin; Crop top, £640, Miu Miu from Harrods; Necklace, POA, Bulgari
Earrings, £85, Roxanne Assoulin; Crop top, £640, Miu Miu from Harrods; Necklace, POA, Bulgari.

For those of us who are likely not going to have a self-love realisation of our own while staring up at a giant LED screen on one of the busiest streets in the world, Sonny reveals that the next best thing is to “feel comfortable in the uncomfortable... As cliche as it might sound, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will be the most rewarding thing you ever do.”

Despite her recent success, being a plus-size model still has its challenges. “As a plus-size model, you constantly feel like you need to prove your credentials to others. Whether it's other models on set, people at castings or backstage at a show. I hate this because it’s not until they look you up on social media and find out that you’ve shot for a big name or have a certain amount of followers that a switch flips and all of a sudden they have a huge amount of respect for you and actually want to get to know you.”

Blazer, £600, Anine Bing from Fenwick; Tie, £70, The Frankie shop from Selfridges; Skirt, £448, Le Kilt from Matches; Tights, £35, Wolford; Ballet Flats, £120, Vibi Venezia from Matches; Earrings, Ring and Bracelet, POA, Bulgari.
Blazer, £600, Anine Bing from Fenwick; Tie, £70, The Frankie shop from Selfridges; Skirt, £448, Le Kilt from Matches; Tights, £35, Wolford; Ballet Flats, £120, Vibi Venezia from Matches; Earrings, Ring and Bracelet, POA, Bulgari.

"Am I going to starve myself or intentionally gain weight and go the other way?”

When Sonny first started out in the industry she struggled to find her place, “At the time I was about a size 12 and it was a time when you either had to be super skinny or you had to be on the deeper end of the plus size scale to even get noticed or even booked. I was kind of in the middle and felt like I had to choose a side. Am I going to starve myself or intentionally gain weight and go the other way?” Luckily for the self-proclaimed extrovert, she decided to be herself and “see what would happen.” At around the same time she decided that she was going to show up to every job opportunity and be her “true self” and “have fun and see what comes out of it.” It’s this exact attitude and energy that’s gotten her to where she is now, working with the likes of Marc Jacobs and Paco Rabanne.

Over the years Sonny has developed a “thick skin” while navigating the ever-changing world of both the fashion and entertainment industries. There have been more times than she can count when she’s gone to a casting and the samples don’t fit, which she explains leaves her, and many other plus size models feeling “a bit soul crushed.” Models often wait for long periods of time to be seen by a brand “and then they see you for two minutes and nothing fits you. I think it's such a shame because I feel like Fashion Week in particular is a time when we can celebrate so many different types of people and styles in general. It's really boring when everyone looks the same.”

Dress,
Dress, £315, Norma Kamali; Earrings, £59, Swarovski; Necklace, £105, Roxanne Assoulin; Tights, £21, Falke.

This is just one of the problems Sonny believes that the industry needs to work on, “The industry has shown that there is space for diversity within the high end of fashion, but it's still very limited and they tend to only recycle the same four or five models.” 

Our conversation continued to flourish like two friends catching up after not seeing each other in a while, “Plus-size models in 2018, 2019 and 2020 were starting to be recognised in the fashion sphere, but it seems that after Covid it's drifting back into the realm of traditional sample-sized models who are tall and slim,” she reveals, “I think maybe where they're going wrong is that they're thinking that we have to book someone that's size eight, and we have to book someone that's size 18.”

Bodysuit, £195, Wolford; Tights, £16, Tabio; Shoes, £1600, Gina, Sunglasses, £330, Swarovski, Necklace, POA, Bulgari.
Bodysuit, £195, Wolford; Tights, £16, Tabio; Shoes, £1600, Gina, Sunglasses, £330, Swarovski, Necklace, POA, Bulgari.

“What about the whole demographic of women and men that are in the middle of all that?"

They should also be represented because I feel like when you walk out on the street, or go to the gym, or wherever, you see people are not just a size 8 or size 16. I feel like that's where we're still falling short and I think it's such a shame.”

When she’s not in front of the camera, on Times Square billboards or in commercials airing at the Super Bowl, Sonny can usually be found putting one foot in front of the other on the treadmill, playing netball, attending dance classes or taking part in any activity that makes her feel like a joyful kid again. Sonny said that two years ago she decided to “stop worrying about the stigma and start doing things that I really enjoy. My hobbies are probably the biggest way I express self-love to myself because it’s a time just for me to enjoy myself.”

Faux Fur Coat, £1500, Raey from Matches; Bodysuit, £195, Wolford; Tights, £35, Wolford; Necklace, POA, Bulgari.
Faux Fur Coat, £1500, Raey from Matches; Bodysuit, £195, Wolford; Tights, £35, Wolford; Necklace, POA, Bulgari.

Photographer: Cleo Glover

Talent Director at Large: Holly Scott Lidgett
Assisted by:
Alex Forsey
Stylist:
Rachel Davis atOne Represents
Make-up:
Lan Nguyen-Grealis at Eighteen Management using L'Oreal Paris
Hair:
Lewis Pallett at Eighteen Management using Oribe
Videographer:
Elliot Newlands

PS: See more exclusive stories from the Hello! Fashion Self Love Issue here.

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