‘We need to take a revolutionary approach to the ways we handle exclusion, ostracism, different perspectives, and moral purity. To see if we can start to treat people we disagree with, with radical empathy. Now we are talking about a revolution – something we have never done before.’ This is just one of the many well-put and important mantras that model Ali Tate Cutler lives by.
With her remarkably candid and calm demeanour, Cutler is also a strong believer in progression over perfection. As a model, she made fashion history last year by being Victoria’s Secret’s first ever curve-model in its collaboration with Bluebella. Even outside of modelling, Cutler has been an inspiring and vocal advocate of body positivity, an activist and a promoter of the importance of leading a spiritually successful life. We were beyond thrilled to virtually step into Cutler’s living room as she dished out the raw details about this year’s challenges, social media’s dichotomy, and the cancel-culture-themed book she is writing.
Words by Sandy Aziz.
Photography by Edwin S Freyer. Styled by Marina German.
Makeup by Nat van Zee using Twelve Beauty, Kosas & Nailberry.
Hair by Davide Barbieri at Caren Agency. MakeUp Assistant, Aisha Paracha.
Ali appears courtesy of Milk Management.
This is an interview extract. Find out the full version in the Fall Winter 2020 Issue 5.
Undoubtedly, this has been a year of challenges. How have you been dealing with them? Well, first of all, yes, it has been such a challenging year and I am fortunate that I still have a house and I am, relatively, still working. There are so many people in tough situations. . . businesses going bankrupt, people losing their jobs, and everything to do with the Black Lives Matter movement. So, it has been extremely tense and it can get the best of any of us on a bad day.
When I feel like it has all become too much, I think what I return to is my mental health toolbox. In it, I have my meditation, my breathwork and music that takes me away. And, honestly, I really, really enjoy fantasy books and audiobooks. I watch animations – things that really take me out of the world. I know that sounds a little escapist, but at the same time, I think that when we can steal away for a second, we can come back refreshed and rejuvenated. So, I have been relying heavily on fantasy worlds and literature at this time and that has helped me.
Online, you have said multiple times that it is about progression and not perfection. Do you still feel this way and what do you mean when you say this?
Yes, I still do stand by the fact that all of life is about progression: can we wake up tomorrow and be better than we were yesterday? And some days that isn’t possible, and then it’s about understanding and empathizing with the times when we can’t be better. There is that quote: ‘when you know better, you do better’. A lot of us in the world haven’t known better and I think it’s important to have patience with others and, most crucially, ourselves on that journey to becoming increasingly conscious and increasingly aware each passing day – that’s where the real integrity is. That’s where we are going to find that this crazy, challenging, painful life can become more doable. When we get it wrong, and we will get it wrong because that is what being human is, we can be reminded of the importance of patience and empathy.
You have been a huge promoter of body positivity over the years. Being body positive during the lockdown and this year has likely been even trickier than usual for some. Has it been for you? And what is your message to those who are struggling with being body positive right now?
Definitely. Lockdown has been difficult in every sense. When we are feeling mentally strong and mentally healthy, it feels a lot easier to have love for ourselves. When we are confronted with the huge obstacles of being inside all the time, disruption to our normal routines, financial concerns, and anxiety about the future. . . all these things have a knock-on effect on our overall health and that can come out in different ways. It can make you feel super disconnected from your body and make you feel like you don’t love yourself.
There are many, many days where I felt like that during this quarantine. And many people look at my Instagram and think ‘oh, look she’s got it together, she loves herself’. But listen, anyone that tells you that they love themselves all the time? Either they hit the same level of enlightenment that Buddha hit, or they are capitalizing on the self-love movement because it is pretty impossible. We live in a world that makes love of self almost impossible. The consumer society we live in always makes us think that if we get this next thing, we will be a little bit more loveable or more perfect. That leaves us chasing all the time. So, yeah body positivity has been hard for me recently, and more than that, mental health has been difficult for me for the past six months.
To those that are struggling with being body positive right now, I would say to be conscious that it is a journey and not a one-stop destination. It will take practice and years of rewiring and reprograming. It is important to be patient along the way.
What do you think about the power of social media, and do you think it has shifted the narrative within the fashion industry?
With any new technology and anything new in life there is light and dark. With social media, the light is that there have been niche movements created that haven’t had voices before – so everyone is finding something that they can identify with and marginalized voices are getting a platform to be highlighted. These are great things. On the dark side of social media, I think that it has created a space where everything is becoming homogenized. For example, beauty is becoming homogenized. . . everything and everyone is beginning to look the same. These filters are morphing us into these AI trans-human people, and it leaves us wanting to forsake our humanity. Our humanity being that we are all very different and we don’t all have smooth skin, thick lips, and thick, bushy eyebrows. That is not the way it is for everyone. We end up seeing this social-media-constructed way of being and we want to become it. We stop liking what makes us human and what makes us unique.
Seeing the highlight reel of so many humans daily does something really messed up to our brains. We don’t see the in-between moments where our favourite influencer may have been crying on the floor because something just happened. We only see her looking really pretty, wearing her cute new outfit and always looking so put together. Since we are only seeing other people’s highlight reels, we are judging our own black-and-white, up-and-down reel against their highlights and that’s always going to leave us wanting. It will leave us feeling like something is wrong with us, and we will always feel left in a state of comparison.
As far as social media and the fashion industry goes, I think it has moved more towards commodity and there’s less of a sense of artistry. The reason I say this is because back in the day, the designer would book models they liked and create clothes they liked and it didn’t matter if the model had a social media following because no one had a following. You booked people based on the image you were trying to create. Now, it is all based on how many likes something will get or how many followers the model has and so on. It has really been pulled into this attention economy, which I don’t feel lends itself to artistry, I think it lends itself to commodification.
Is there a brand in the industry that you really want to work with, and what are some of your other goals?
I would love to do more high fashion. I would love to work with Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, and those brands. And I think it is high time that they stop using that one token curve-model and that they just start opening it up by using a whole diverse slate of models. I would like to be there when they start using more of the in-betweenys or plus-size girls. In terms of other goals, I would love more covers and, eventually, to move more into acting. By moving into acting, I hope to also open up the diversity of sizes in that sphere.
Describe your style in three words? And what would you say is your ‘go-to’ outfit?
Comfortable, cool and a bit sexy. My go-to outfit... I would say I usually gravitate towards a pair of wide-legged trousers and a crop-top. I always feel at my most comfortable and it still feels cute to me!
Can you share any details with us about what you’re working on next?
Right now, I am getting my health code certifications so I will be able to take on more clients in the future, hold retreats and manifest that part of myself. I am also currently writing a book about cancel culture and about the history of public shaming. In it, I am analyzing whether cancel culture is beneficial to humans and if not, what can we be doing better. The book is still having its first draft edits at the moment. Other than that, I am busy with acting auditions. Hopefully, I will be guest-starring in a HBO show in November – if I make the cut!
Read Ali Tate's interview in the Fall Winter 2020 Issue 5. Get your copy here.