INTERVIEW WITH JULIE ANDERSON OF THE FEMININE COLLECTIVE
Julie Anderson is a world-famous model, columnist, and businesswoman turned blogger-renegade. At various times in her career as a supermodel, she was the face for the campaigns of both Estee Lauder and Playtex Bras, graced the covers of countless magazines, and was a runway darling. As if that wasn’t enough, she is now changing the face of literary nonfiction with her breakthrough passion project, Feminine Collective.
Julie, when did you first begin modeling?
I was 17 when I first began. My first booking was American Vogue at age 18.
You were raised Jehovah Witness, how did that impact your life as a model? Were there constraints?
I was raised in a relatively sheltered environment. It was most certainly not an environment that was related to any sort of ‘worldly culture’.
When I left home, I was basically by myself. My family was excited at first, but once I had that first ‘whiff of freedom’ I think it dawned on them that I’d left the house, and the first reaction of my family was ‘maybe she should come back’, but I didn’t go back.
What was your biggest fear when you left home?
I think I was fearless. It was the first time in my life that I was able to explore the outside world. Different cities, different people, different religions, it was the unknown.
Do you have a favorite memory of that first whiff of freedom?
The majority of my memories from that time are about meeting people. Interacting with people that I idolized, sitting across the table from Catherine Deneuve, meeting kings of countries and politicians.
Those moments have to be incredibly surreal.
It was very surreal. In hindsight, I wish I would have known what I didn’t know. Everyone acts really cool, you know? A lot of time just went by so quickly. During that time I never thought it would end. And while it hasn’t ended, it’s just not the same. While I’m still meeting so many incredible people, it’s just different now.
How did your perception of the modeling world change as you got older?
I still feel like a younger person inside. While there have been moments that have brought me down to the ground, I’m still fairly naïve. I still accept people at face value. I’m still motivated to achieve and change the world, and inspire others.
The moments that brought you down to the ground, have you found that you’re a lot stronger than you initially gave yourself credit for?
I didn’t realize how strong I was until afterward. In many cases, I didn’t realize how strong I was until I shared the stories with friends.
Have you transitioned away from modeling?
I still model, in a different realm. Now it’s considered more of actress-based work. I don’t accept a lot of things that come my way.
I lived in Australia for many years, leaving America at what was probably the prime of my career. I decided to have kids and be an ‘at home mom’. I didn’t give much thought to my career, as I was focused on the kids. I did a lot of editorial work, but also during that time I was given the opportunity to be the face of Playtex Bras, and that was really cool, and came out of nowhere. From there my family and I moved to France, and I did a lot of interviews and photo spreads. Now I’m in LA, and work on the website I created called Feminine Collective. That’s my main thing now. We have a charitable arm of the website, which is in the beginning stages.
What is the Feminine Collective charity focused on?
The Feminine Collective Foundation is a resource for women and children who have survived traumas, such as domestic and emotional abuse, and runaway situations.
And you also have a book just released, which will benefit your Feminine Collective Foundation?
Yes, the book is called Feminine Collective: Raw & Unfiltered: Volume 1: Selected Essays and Poems on Relationships with Self and Others. It’s a collection of stories and essays, and poems that came in through the Feminine Collective site. Sales of the book benefit the Women’s Center of Los Angeles, made up of women and young girls who have survived traumas. They’re so courageous, and are trying to make a difference in this world.
What got you into the philanthropy aspect of life?
I’ve always been a pretty soft target with an empathetic heart, and I always wanted to give back. It started in Australia, where I was a creative consultant for a company called Grasshoppers which was a grassroots campaign that helped women in Zimbabwe who were taught to knit and then sold their wares around the world.
I remember going through these boxes that were coming in from Zimbabwe and I would hold these knitted pieces in my hand, and it was so amazing knowing where they’d come from. They were made by women who had absolutely nothing, and who would knit these beautiful handmade items by campfire. When I opened the boxes and held the items in my hands, I could smell the fire in the fabric.
That was my first taste of giving back, and it inspired me to want to do more.
And now, you are involved with a few charities?
I am a supermodel ambassador to the I Am Waters Foundation, an incredible organization that was founded by Elena Davis, a former model. The goal of I Am Waters is to hydrate the homeless. Every bottle has a message of hope on it, and during my time with them, it’s touched me so deeply. Speaking about it makes me cry. I’ve heard people say “All I had was this one bottle in my hand with the word ‘hope’ on it. It was the only thing that I had, and it made me see that there were people who cared about me, and seeing that word ‘hope’ made me feel as if things would get better.”
If someone was interested in volunteering, how would they do that?
They can go to the I Am Waters Foundation site, or they can contact me directly.
What inspired you to create the Feminine Collective?
In 2008, I had a life-altering medical experience, and the root of this trauma was directly related to self-esteem issues. This led to a profound loss of self and a period of two years where I was essentially in recovery and searching for who I was.
I reached out to women I knew, and shared my truth. I was lucky because quite a few people helped me realize my true potential and also shared with me their own struggles. I kept hearing a phrase repeated over and over, ‘I believe in you’. As women, and as people, we have so many different scars, shadows and demons. Whether it’s something put upon us by society, family, or whatever the case may be; whether it’s what we should be or what we should wear, the media really feeds an ugly beast.
The feeling of being genuine to you is often lacking.
Exactly. So, there I was on the phone with one of my friends, and I had this epiphany, and I told her that I wanted to make the information that we were sharing with each other as friends readily available to others, because I felt that it could genuinely help other people who might be going through the same exact things that we were. I felt that the only way for people to ‘feel better’, was for them to take a good look at themselves, and accept themselves. That’s how Feminine Collective was born. Now I have writers from all over the world.
And you’re a writer on FC as well? I imagine that women will entirely relate to one or more of the themes that are regularly discussed on the site.
FC would not have been able to flourish so quickly without one of my oldest friends and business partner, Marla Carlton. She is not only the graphic designer and tech whiz of the site, she’s the editor.
She has been my biggest supporter, everyone’s supporter, in fact. She pushes us all to be authentic and true to our voice and stories. It’s because of people like her, who have such a passion, and who are open to sharing their truths. This is how it’s possible. Courage attracts courage. We now have over 100 writers, men and women, who write for us. It has become a global platform of truth. A platform for everybody.
Do you feel that being open as a writer is a weight off of your shoulders?
No, because I try to choose my words carefully. I try to keep others in mind. Now, what I am grateful for are people who will turn around and say that they’re grateful for the stories I’ve shared, because they’ve gone through something similar. A wise friend of mine always says, ‘Knowledge is trivial until it’s shared’, and I love that quote.
Is there a final takeaway that you’d like to share?
Everyone needs a role model, and they aren’t necessarily those unauthentic people. Role models are those who are authentically true and unafraid to share. I hope people can connect with us and our stories.
SHANNA SABET-DEMOTT is a freelance writer living in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her husband George DeMott sings Italian arias in the shower, and Pop-Opera around the world. She has an 11 year old daughter who has survived 3 brain surgeries, and has shown her Mama the meaning of bravery at every turn. She is a lover of telling stories about food and life on her blogs, eatingoutvegas.com and stumblingbeauty.com