Updated: Jul 15, 2019
an agency looking to "break the stereotypes and challenge the criteria by which beauty is measured".
It is people like Romany Francesca that generate hope for the future of the modelling industry. Through founding Rare Select Models in 2017, Romany has created a London-based modelling agency that proudly represents faces of all backgrounds and bodies of all sizes; an agency looking to "break the stereotypes and challenge the criteria by which beauty is measured". But, this is not her only gig. With clients such as ASOS, i-D and the Royal Court Theatre under her belt, Romany is also a professional photographer, proving that juggling multiple careers is yet another one of her many talents. At just 22 years of age, Romany speaks with an unmistakable passion and confidence that is well beyond her years; it’s impossible to not start rooting for her or her mission.
What happened next can only be described as a snowball effect, leading Rare Select to become home to 22 models, whose recent gigs include features in Vogue, ASOS and a Rita Ora music video.
The beginning of Rare Select Models was natural. It was an exposure to the lack of representation in campaigns, whilst studying for a degree in Media, that made Romany conscious of the need for change. She was constantly met with an "idealised representation of westernised society" - an abundance of "British people; white people, with long, blond hair and skinny bodies" gracing billboards, leaving little room for anyone else. Romany tells us that it was her mother who inspired her to fight these feelings with action. "My mum’s a lawyer and she used to always tell me that if there is something you find that is not right, [you should] always speak up, because that [negative] behaviour can carry on and replicate itself ".
What happened next can only be described as a snowball effect, leading Rare Select to become home to 22 models, whose recent gigs include features in Vogue, ASOS and a Rita Ora music video. However, it has never been about creating a successful business for Romany. "We are always told as women, as women of colour, at the bottom of the hierarchy, that we have to rely on other people to do what we want". It is precisely this stigma that she is trying to crush. "I wanted to do something that was important to do as a woman, and a woman of colour". She coins Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks as ‘subliminal’ influences. "Seeing them being strong women and doing their own thing [through] creating a platform for other young women was important". If this is the criteria used to determine an inspiration, then Romany Francesca is most definitely one herself.
"Feel confident in knowing that you are enough", she says. "There will be someone out there who is looking for your look, your personality, you as an individual."
Specialising in portrait photography, Romany has always been drawn to shining a light on a model’s individuality instead of their physical appearance. It is about "capturing them as a person... Especially when there are people in your agency of different ethnicities, they each have a different story to tell that represents them as a community". In fact, she is proud to say that her models have their own "side hustle", pursuing their own creative endeavours alongside their careers in modelling. She gives examples; owning clothing brands, holding exhibitions to discuss mental health. It is never solely about their faces; it is about their talents, their interests and their futures.
When asked what advice she would give to someone trying to get into the modelling industry, she does not hesitate. "Feel confident in knowing that you are enough", she says. "There will be someone out there who is looking for your look, your personality, you as an individual. Models range from 2 months old to 80 years old, you have your whole life to craft your personal individual style - nobody should ever stop trying". The key, however, is "not to think that you have to look or act a certain way to be able to model. You do not need to lose weight or put on weight, just literally be who you are".
But what is the best part of her job? ... "having my models being a part of brands that they have idolised their whole life and being able to encourage people to actually use my models".
It seems like everything is really coming together for Romany Francesca. But what is the best part of her job? The answer comes almost instantly - "having my models being a part of brands that they have idolised their whole life and being able to encourage people to actually use my models". She mentions her 5 foot 2 petite model, who has just landed a campaign with Dr Martens to be on billboards and in-stores. "She loves Dr Martens," she tells us, excitedly. "She would never get a fresh pair because she can’t afford them, but she would get second hand pairs all the time. She was so happy to be a part of that brand. They didn’t ask her to dress a certain way or wear makeup - just be her natural self and that was good enough. To be able to give that to someone is the best part of my job. It’s being able to actually do something that is different and important - it can be extremely hard, but it is rewarding".
Helping to change the modelling industry is no easy task, but Romany hopes that in the next five years there will be real improvements. "The industry will be extremely inclusive to everyone, and it will not feel like people are just being [used as] tokens", she predicts. "It should be authentically inclusive". How about Rare Select Models in five years time? "It will be an agency that is not limited to just London, it will reach out to different people all over the world. I would like Rare to be the go-to for companies and brands looking to feature people who really represent themselves as who they are". In short, Rare Select Models will be "an agency that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue" - a statement that truly is impossible to disagree with.
By Amanda Ashbourn
Photomontage by Luke Walwyn