It’s a cold day in NYC as we send out our email questionnaire to our latest Neu Woman, the fabulous Emily Doyle, so we’re in need of a little of her warmth.
While all Neu Nomad stories are special, Emily’s relationship to our brand has always been more than skin deep. She’s the face of our latest collection, a personal inspiration to many on the team and a ray of hope, love and positivity.
Settle in with us as we discuss all things Emily and get her valuable take on the fashion industry.
Hello Emily! Thank you so much for agreeing to take part in the Neu Woman series. You’re a real part of our community, so it’s lovely to learn more about who you are and what makes you tick. First up, tell us a little bit about your story. How did you become a model? Was it always part of the plan or something that came up unexpectedly in your life?
I came to modeling late in the game, kind of by accident. I participated in a charity fashion show in college and a lot of people were saying, “Hey, you could really do this”. I thought they were crazy, until I was in between colleges and decided to apply to agencies in Miami. I signed with Ford Models and moved down there within a few months. So, an accident but not?
Something we often hear said is that there are no accidents, and it seems like this is applicable here. Do you ever get the feeling you were always meant to be a model?
I’m finding more and more that life doesn’t move in a straight line. I fell into this industry because of a spontaneous decision to change colleges in the middle of my degree (sadly, to follow a boy....I know, I know...). On a whim, I auditioned for this charity fashion show and then months after it was over, decided to apply to modeling agencies. Now I’ve been modeling for about 10 years yet I still feel like I’m winging it. Life is just funny that way, very unpredictable.
Our next question is a real kickstarter: How do you define beauty?
I’m surrounded by physically beautiful people all the time in my industry, so my definition of beauty has shifted over the years. That quote “what lingers with people is how you make them feel” — that’s always stuck with me. To be a beautiful person is to be kind to others. It’s so simple but seems really hard for people, especially in today’s world.
Recently, with the rise in discourse around the toxicity of the fashion industry, it seems people are opening their eyes to the less glamorous, exclusive sides of fashion. Many women feel under-represented in these spaces. There is often a pressure for bodies to conform, to shrink to size and fit in, yet we truly believe our beauty lies in our diversity. Do you think that the fashion industry is 100% inclusive or there is still a female stereotype that prevails?
I’ve seen a dramatic shift in the past five years. More size inclusion, more people of all ethnicities; everything is so much more diverse and you get such interesting campaigns because not everyone looks the same, which is a wonderful depiction of the world we live in.
The industry is starting to reflect this broadening definition of the “ideal” woman. You have all these different versions of women - sexy, tomboyish, feminine, girly and anywhere in the middle. It’s a much more diverse representation of what a woman looks like or can be. I feel like we as women have been shifting our perspective, and it’s just taken the industry a bit longer to catch up. Which, thankfully, they finally are.
This is certainly a trend we’ve noticed, too. How have your personal experiences been within these spaces? Has the industry ever made you feel insecure?
Oh my gosh, YES. I have people criticizing every single inch of my body every single minute I’m on set.
But I’ve slowly realized that is simply part of the job and they aren’t criticizing Me. The Me inside. The one that matters. If my shoulders don’t fit the shirt or the pants are too tight around my thighs, they’ll get a different size or I won’t get the job. And I’ve become okay with that because I separate who they’re talking about from the Me that’s important. My physical body is up for discussion (in a professional way of course) because that is part of my job.
It’s taken me ten years — maybe turning 30 had something to do with it too — to fully accept that and be okay with it. It’s not like I don’t have days where I feel terrible about my body but now I’m able to have a better internal conversation about it. I remind myself what I truly think beauty is. It’s not just about what I look like on the outside, but being the kind of person I can be proud of has so much more to do with it.
That’s a fantastic point. In modeling it’s harder to separate the personal from the professional because it’s your body on display, but it’s a lesson that we think everyone has to learn at some point. Separating the valid criticism you can act on and changing it when possible, while simply accepting the things you can’t change and moving on. How we consciously and thoughtfully act with integrity is something we can always control.
In this vein, do you believe models have a responsibility with their audiences and the message they are giving to women all around the world?
OOF. So… I have such a hard time with this. Models have so little say in how they are represented. We show up and people dress us, do our makeup and hair and tell us how to pose. There are limits of course and we do have a choice in what jobs we accept, but for the most part we are supposed to show up and be a blank canvas for the client. That’s the job.
Models show up for just 10 to 12 hours on a set where the creative team has spent months conceptualizing. For example, when I show up to a job, I get a 5 minute rundown, do my work for the day trying to help bring this concept to life, and then I go home. The rest of the team continue to work on the project for another couple of months with no further input from me. Sometimes a client will want me to bring more of Myself into the shoot and show the real “Me” which can be refreshing. But it’s not the norm.
Which do you prefer? Getting more of a say, or simply acting as a blank canvas? What do you do to show the world the real Emily?
I don’t think either are good or bad, it’s just what my job requires — being a blank slate for the client’s ideas and concepts. It’s been a slow process of acceptance and I think that’s why I take self portraits as a way to have some control over how I’m represented to the outside world. [I like to think that the self portraits] show a more well-rounded version [of me]. Or at least how I see myself, versus how someone else sees me.
This brings us nicely to what we’ve been dying to ask you: about your gorgeous self-portraits. For those not in the know, Emily’s instagram has been blowing up with her incredible photography exploring her sense of self and agency behind the camera. Emily, why did you decide to start doing your self portraits?
[It was] another happy accident. I got myself a camera for my birthday before a month-long work trip in Europe. On my stop in London, the light in my Airbnb bedroom was just so pretty and I started taking a photo in every place I stopped. All these places had such inspiring backdrops and new light to discover and work around.
When I got back to the States, I woke up early and jet lagged, the sunrise was coming into my bedroom window and I thought I would take one last self portrait to end the series: “Finally Home.” What I hadn’t really realized was how much my social media audience enjoyed my self portraits.
I met up with a dear friend (who I had worked with on set quite extensively) and she was talking about my self portraits and how much she loved seeing me explore how I saw myself and wanted myself to be perceived. I was kind of shocked; I thought I was just taking pretty pictures in pretty places with pretty light. To think that maybe this project was more than that? Maybe this whole thing was my unconscious way of looking for myself in a sea of other people's ideas and visions of who I am.
It is such a fantastic way to recapture your presence in a photograph. How fascinating that your friend acknowledged this, although we believe our friends often perceive what remains unconscious to us. How has this journey of self-discovery been? Tell us a little bit about the pressure that it feels to be in front of the lens. Do you notice a difference between your self-portraits versus shots of you by a professional photographer?
Often in my professional work, I’m this happy, smiley, all-American version of myself. But with my self portraits — and again someone else brought to my attention — I’m almost never smiling. [My self portraits are] always more reflective and calm and seeking.
Taking these self portraits has always been such a natural thing for me to do. To have all these people comment on this process has made me realize what this slowly evolving project really is: A slow process of me understanding my job and identity and beauty and how I am perceived versus how I want to be perceived. It’s been really beautiful and I have amazingly supportive people in my life that have helped me to stop and think about something that I never really gave much thought to.
What a beautiful story of development and progression. It links back with an overarching theme that we often find ourselves returning to here at Neu Nomads: self-confidence and self-love.
As someone who is naturally beautiful and who radiates such a sense of light in your community, it might seem that you haven’t struggled with these issues. Yet we all know these issues are present in every woman’s life. There isn’t a single woman on the planet who doesn’t battle with these themes daily. How did you build your self-confidence and self-love?
By being a “beautiful” person outside of work.
Work can Knock. You. Down. I don’t always feel confident after a shoot. Sometimes the clothes don’t fit, or the hair stylist is having a tough time with my hair, or a client is just being really negative. That’s tough. I don’t always get confidence and satisfaction from my work, so focusing on who I am as a person and how I affect the people around me is how I find that balance. [If I had] a shit day at work but I was the best version of myself, that’s what matters.
As a professional model and an aspiring photographer, you're in a uniquely privileged place to comment on our industry. Who do you look up to? Who are your favorite models and photographers of all time? Do you have any favorite models that turned into photographers that serve as your inspiration?
I absolutely adore Christy Turlington and Carolyn Murphy. These women have been “beautiful” for 30+ years and are aging with such grace. They are also showing another side of themselves through charities and social work.
As for models turned photographers there’s a few I know about but most of them are male models turned photographers, which is disappointing but understandable. Modeling is extremely lucrative for the amount of effort and time you put in. You show up, do the work, and leave. Photographers are part of the creative process which is much more time consuming. So part of me isn’t ready to give up the ease/low commitment of modeling for a more intensive/involved process as a photographer. Maybe that’s why there aren’t more of us. People get comfortable — me included — although I’m starting to feel the need for more.
Perhaps there’s always a stage when we want change, to grow and expand into new places, new experiences. How do you envision your career long term? What is next for Emily?
Envisioning my career long term is hard because I didn’t even know I’d be here 10 years ago. This wasn’t part of a plan. I was in a tough spot in college, thought “hey, what about modeling” and I’ve been riding that wave for 10 years. Which is shocking to me because I am the most Type-A person out there (my boyfriend can attest to this). I need to know the plan before there even is a plan, and I’ll probably just plan the whole thing myself because I’m a control freak. So not having a plan career wise has been a weird experience and yet another slow lesson in acceptance.
I find myself needing more from my career in the past few years though. It’s really nice to show up to a job, do the work and leave. There’s no follow up meetings, no late night emails, it’s very low attachment — which is great. But I now find myself on set thinking “well, what if we shot it like this, what if we positioned the light this way”. I’m problem-solving issues that arise on set, seeing the inefficiencies happen and what I would’ve done to fix the issue. I love problem-solving, so evolving into another job in the industry could be very fulfilling for me, but who knows. I’ll just ride this wave until another one comes along.
Bringing multiple interests/abilities together, I’m trying my hand at producing and art directing a fashion short film. It’s still in its early stages but it’s marrying my love of planning/coordinating with my fledgling interests in creative/conceptualizing and bringing a project to life that is wholly my own. It’s absolutely all consumingly daunting. I’ve never done anything like this before and it has brought a plethora of insecurities out of the woodwork. But it’s been a fun process to problem solve from the beginning to, hopefully, an end. I’ll keep you guys posted.
Finally, we always like to end with some words of wisdom from our Neu Women. We have a community that supports and builds each other up, and Emily you’ve shared so much of your heart today, we’re so grateful. Let’s leave with some words of advice for those in our community who need to hear it. What tips, or recommendations, would you give to anyone that wants to become a model or photographer?
Tips for becoming a model? DON’T DO IT!
I’m kidding, I’m kidding — sort of. This industry kinda sucks, for all the obvious reasons, BUT it has afforded me incredible experiences: traveling, meeting new people, expanding my interests. I’m the person I am today because of this job that I fell into, but it’s really f*cking hard.
If you want to become a model, be ready to force yourself to develop thick skin. It doesn’t come naturally. It’s a process that you have to actively be involved in. Be really honest with yourself and constantly ask yourself, “Do I want this?” and “Can I handle this?” It’s absolutely okay if the answer is “Nope!”. Find something that makes you happy. It’s not failing if something doesn’t work out — you tried, you learned, and you kept moving.
As for becoming a photographer, I feel less equipped to answer that. I have a hard time recognizing myself as an actual photographer right now, but the one thing I can maybe say is photograph anything and everything and find your voice. Find what interests you. Discover what makes you happy to shoot. And then find what makes you special in that specific area.
Find Your Voice.
There’s so many average photographers out there today and their content looks like everyone else’s. Don’t be like them. We need someone with a unique point of view, you just have to find it.
NEU WOMEN QUESTIONNAIRE
Neu mantra: Stay Open.
Neu sustainable habit: I drink LOTS of liquids throughout the day so I always try to bring my reusable coffee cup and water bottle. It’s just so much plastic in the trash if I forget them at home.
Neu self-care/healthy practice: Making sure I have alone time. That’s my time to recharge. And there’s probably a bit of natural wine involved.
Neu female voice: My network of friends. I’m surrounded by so many beautiful women.
Neu inspiring book or news article: Want Me by Tracy Clark-Flory. A super enlightening and honest look at female sexuality.
Neu song obsession: Resurrection (Hero Remix) -MOTHERMARY
Neu go-to veg restaurant: So, I’m not a vegetarian and am always a little suspect of these places but I went to abcV near Flatiron and was shocked at how yummy every single dish was.
Neu spot to reconnect with: The beach. I grew up on the coast of Florida so being near waves and water is so relaxing.
Neu decompress routine: Not looking at my phone and just watching the world. My train line goes over the Manhattan Bridge and every time I travel over it, I put my phone down and just look out the window. The world is beautiful.
Neu weekend retreat: My boyfriend's backyard where I can garden to my heart’s content.
Neu travel destination: Ischia, Italy. I tried to go last year for my 30th birthday but it wasn’t in the cards. Trying a redo this year! *Fingers Crossed*
Neu style icon: Myself! Prior to the pandemic I wore pretty boring clothes. I always looked put together but nothing bright or too attention grabbing. Since we’ve started coming out of our apartments post pandemic, I’m dressing louder and brighter and thoroughly enjoying the process of getting dressed in the morning. I wore bike shorts and sustainable tank tops for too long!
Neu everyday look: Men’s button down over bike shorts with one of my 10 pairs of Birkenstocks. Yes, it’s a little antithetical to my previous answer but you can’t knock the greats.
Neu sustainable brands you love: Huskee sustainable cups for all those iced coffees I consume year round.
Neu Nomads favorite style: sustainable dresses for women typically Bias Cut Slip Dress in neutral colors. It was the first outfit I put on for the shoot and it felt like it was made for me.
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