In an industry that often has an undeserved rep for being all DGAF stares, Brittnee Blair is bottled sunshine. She radiates good vibes with more than a stunning face. In photo shoots, she dances playfully, befriending the camera with a genuine smile powered by something deep within her core. As Blair proceeds to demonstrate how sexy being a woman who knows herself is when she’s modeling, she’ll usually get down to the music, which makes everyone around her get in on it too. If you’ve seen her, this will not come as news, and her Instagram should tell you something about her goofball ways. Her involvement is total, and she radiates warmth.
Some people are onto her because of Big Brother Canada, and as a model for Jag, she’s an unstoppable force of good. A search through Tumblr finds her picture tagged with a lot of “Yas Queens” and “embrace yourself” mantras. It’s because she’s one of the more infectiously energetic women this side of modeling, and she has a self-love message to deliver at a time when fashion’s still getting around to exploring different body types. We recently rung her up to talk about how it felt to feel different than the other girls growing up, casting highs and lows and how she wants women to be able to shop.
You seem to have a confidence. Where do you think that comes from?
I would have to say it probably comes from my mom, in all honesty. She raised me to be this way, to be confident. She taught me that if people don’t like it, believe in it enough, and know what you’re about, that it doesn’t matter what other people say.
What was the hardest thing to master as a model?
Definitely how people judge you on your looks. That’s a big one. Being in an industry that’s solely based on your looks, that was hard to be right within myself at first, to not be shaken when people say ‘I don’t like this about you,’ or ‘you should change this.’ That was a hard one to master. At the end of the day, I think I got it down pat.
What can you tell me about how you’re judged?
In casting, you walk into a room and you’re with all these different girls of all different ages, all different skin colors, all different sizes and you just have to take it as constructive criticism when they say you’re not the right fit. That it’s not about you not being a beautiful person, it’s just that you don’t have that look that a client is looking for.
What kind of criticism have you gotten?
Generally, they just say ‘you’re not quite the right fit,’ ‘we’re just looking for somebody a bit smaller’ or sometimes they’ll say, ‘we’re looking for somebody a bit bigger.’ It’s a lot of mixed comments.
You’ve been modeling for a long time. Have you seen the way people in charge of casting talk about size evolve at all?
Yeah, it’s definitely evolved. It’s less comments about how we’re looking for someone bigger, I hear them talk more about, ‘are you the right look?’ and ‘are you going to fit this brand?’
You first started at 19. What was being in front of the camera like for you then?
It took some time to get used to being in front of the camera and having people see you naked when you’re changing. Those are the little quirks of the job. It was uncomfortable. I wasn’t who I am now. At 19, I definitely wasn’t the same person.
What do you remember about who you were then?
Unsure of myself, of the industry, and of the world. Definitely naïve but still optimistic and still positive.
Were you hammy at all when you were very young?
I was actually really shy, which is weird. People meet me now and they’re like you were shy? Especially growing up. I went from having a tiny body to getting curves and lumps and bumps and breasts. It was weird for me. I didn’t look like the other girls. We couldn’t share clothes. I was not as secure, but thank goodness, I had my mom. She always brought me to reality. She’d tell me that it’s not about being a certain size, or being a certain look, and about the great things you can do beyond looking good or being a certain size.
How did it feel to not look like the other girls?
I felt like there was this air of ‘I’m different’ or ‘I’m not the same as you.’ You feel a bit like an outcast in certain aspects, size wise. It’s a shame. It’s hard to grow up like that with these little boys or little girls reminding you that you’re not the same size. I think a lot of women hold onto that.
How do you think modeling professionally influences your self-esteem?
I always say when women ask me, ‘Did you get your confidence being a model?’ that I didn’t. I think I feel empowered because I’m able to reach a bigger audience to say, ‘embrace who you are.’ But I don’t think that being a model helps me be any more secure with myself or feel more beautiful. It’s often a common misconception. Of course you feel confident, but people are constantly nitpicking. It’s more a way to express that I’m ok with myself.
Did you ever feel like stylists were unprepared to accommodate you or other models you knew?
Absolutely. You hear the horror stories of girls walking on set. I had one friend and she went to this photo shoot super excited. It was a new client, and the stylist said, ‘well I didn’t expect you to be this big.’ The largest size she had was an eight and friend is a 14/16. There was no way she was getting into these pants or the dresses. It’s hard right? You definitely hear of those stories. You know the client gets your measurements, but for whatever reason there’s this mentality of ‘I didn’t know she was too big’ or ‘maybe she can squeeze.’ They’re strong girls though so they’re good.
The standard take on models is that they didn’t have a voice, but social media is changing that. What’s been your experience with Instagram?
It’s so weird that you asked that because that’s a great question. I love what social media has done for models. It’s putting the power in your hands. I’m really able to share my experience, take pictures of behind the scenes things or a new place that I’ve never seen through my eyes. It also gives clients the opportunity to see the real me through a funny tweet that I send out. I love the power that social media gives us.
What are some things that you want to bring to light as a model?
The #1 message is that it doesn’t matter what size you are. If you’re short or you’re tall or you’re big you’re small. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, not to sound cliché. I want to bring to light that it’s beyond looks. It helps to be a kind person. You have to be the package. I feel like there’s this common mentality that you have a to be a mean girl or that models have a mean girl way about them. I want to show people that it’s ok to be the nice girl, to treat people with respect and be humble. That’s what’s beautiful, not so much the best clothes or the best looks.
What do you think is holding back the fashion industry from showing more body types?
I think a lot of it has to do with the Hollywood ideals and the celebrities. We live in a world where a lot of people idolize unrealistic body types. These women that get surgery and breast implants and liposuction, and that’s your body, but when we put that up on a pedestal and we wonder why our bodies don’t look like that, it’s because you can’t get that naturally. It’s almost like we crave an unrealistic ideal, and that’s our problem.
Just from you modeling, more women can see themselves represented in fashion. What rock solid signs of progress have you seen?
Definitely more clients using different body types, different girls tall short, curvaceous and skinny. It’s great to see more curvaceous girls in campaigns and castings. I think the clothing that is being designed for curvaceous women is a sign. You no longer have these curvaceous women covering themselves and wearing their grandmas’ mumu. They want to be seen. They want to wear that pop of color on their lip and their high-waisted skirt. There are so many more options now.
What would you like to see change?
I would love to walk into store, and no matter what store it was, there would be size zero to 22 or whichever, no plus, no differentiation, just clothes that fit your size and your body type. I’d love to see this compartmentalized mentality when it comes to size gone. We shouldn’t hear, ‘well this is the plus store,’ and ‘this is petite store.’ I’d love to see it all combined so that it’s not even a thought.
When do you forsee that happening if you had to guess?
It’s going to take some more time to get there. I believe it. I’m an optimist so I’ll say five years.