In early February, Hamilton YWCA Programmes Coordinator Zeta Mohn attended a ChangeMakers event by Untapped with Briony and got to meet and chat with Jess Quinn who shared her amazing story of survival and empowerment.
After facing huge adversity losing her leg to cancer at 9, Jess has created the Transparency around Retouching Photographs of Models petition, an online petition asking that the government make it illegal for media companies to post retouched photos without stating they are retouched.
Jess believes that by making embedding this into law we can combat unrealistic body image ideals in advertising and the media, and it will inspire brands to question how they promote their products and services and what effect this might have on the people they are targeting.
The Transparency around Retouching Photographs of Models petition is currently at 6000+ signatures but more are needed to make a true difference.
We were lucky enough to keep in contact with Jess and speak to her about who she is, what inspires her and how she wants to make change in the world.
How did you come up with the idea of the Transparency around Retouching Photographs of Models petition?
I had an image of mine photoshopped which opened my eyes to the fact that image retouching is still going on. For me, I am all about encouraging people to be comfortable in their own skin, to celebrate their diversity & differences so to have images in the media portraying people with this false “perfection” shows unrealistic standards of beauty. I wanted to put my foot down. When I did an interview on the conversation I said that people should have to disclose it
What is your Y behind this petition and the other amazing stuff you do?
Growing up I felt different, for obvious reasons. Once I got a bit older I realised that I wasn’t the only one that grew up feeling “different” and that “different” was all around me. This "normality" that we’ve been taught to believe is “beauty” isn’t actually the norm and often doesn’t exist. It’s a curated version of what a brand or publication wants you to believe. Once I realised this I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to let young people grow up feeling that their differences were abnormal. Our differences make us beautiful, they make us unique, they are our stories and our stories, and who we are as people, are what should be celebrated. So this became my why and I want to spend the rest of my life helping change this space.
Where do you want to see advertisements in the media in 5 years and what developments do you think should be made before then?
I want to see all people represented, I want less focus on how we should look and more focus on who we are as people and what we can achieve. There are some amazing things coming at the moment celebrating people’s strengths. I believe storytelling is an incredible way to sell products. How do we want our consumer to feel when they are using/wearing a product? Themselves, happy, accepted, proud? Not, inadequate.
There really are some incredible changes happening, brands like Aerie celebrating diversity, Nike using campaigns to celebrate people’s abilities and successes, MissFQ using covers that haven’t been retouched. The world is changing and I can’t wait to see where it keeps going. The best thing people can do is decide what they want to allow, both as a brand and a consumer.
What is your favourite part of your role?
The best part is that I get to speak from my heart, I get to spend my days using my story and the things I have learnt to help others, the messages and comments I get on the daily make every part of it so worthwhile. I feel so honoured to be able to use my platform to be a voice for change. There’s not much I don’t enjoy but I do feel a huge responsibility to be cautious about how I word things and what I put out into the world because young people in particular can be so easily influenced by the people they look up to. I’m also educating myself while I try educate others but it’s easy for people to think you have all the answers once you start getting louder and louder with your message but I try be clear that I am also learning while doing and I think that’s ok. We don’t all have the answers and solutions but together we can find them.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to women out there?
Be yourself. I know that’s so simple but that’s the point. In a world full of noise around who you should and shouldn’t be, the best thing you can be is yourself and go after whatever it is that sets you heart on fire. If you meet some turbulence along the way, which you will, take the lesson and continue. Life is far too short to hold ourselves back due to adversity. And never forget to lift other people up, we are all in this together and the best thing we can do is to support each other.
What would you go back and tell the 13-year-old you now?
Nothing. I think I’d leave her to figure it all out. I know that sounds silly but every bout of turbulence my life has presented me with has gotten me where I am today. I think I’d just say, “Little Jess, you’ve got this”.
What do you think we need to do as women to support each other more?
Just be kind. I think while we are on this global journey of self-love we need to rid the mean girl concept. Every single human is fighting a battle we know nothing about, the best thing we can do is be kind to one another. To encourage the good you see in others and to call out when someone is causing harm. And remember, you don’t need to have a “following” to influence change, we are all influencers, and we are all change makers.
You can hear sign Jess’s petition here.
You can hear more about her journey and work here.