“Why I’m a Body Freak.” Sophie Holmes opens up to Modeltypeface about her Body, her Man and what the Future Holds…
Sophie Holmes makes me feel so old. I first met her when she was just 14, and her Mum drove us round castings for a day whilst I no doubt nattered on endlessly, imperiously dispensing advice (even though I was still a New Face myself…).
Time has somehow disappeared, and Sophie is now married, with two beautiful dogs and a growing baby bump! How did that happen?! (Not the baby part, I know all about the stork). She’s enjoying a mega successful career, which is still going strong along with her bump. She may not be a household name, but she’s done all the big campaigns, such as this one for Louis Vuitton…
She’s got one of those versatile faces that can look mega commercial…
Or made to look edgy and editorial…
I popped round Sophie’s house in Islington that she shares with her lovely hubby, Pete, and her very distractingly gorgeous dogs/warming footrests, Rome and Clio.
R: Hello Sophie! I do enjoy your Instagram – it’s always full of dogs or pictures of you working out that make me put my cream buns down…
S: Haha! Well let’s get my body chat out of the way, because being a ‘body freak’ has been such a defining part of my career. When I was scouted by Select at the Clothes Show, I was your typical lanky teen. Lanky to the point that I got teased quite a lot for it – I remember one girl handing out a petition to fellow pupils asking whether I they thought I was too thin or not.
R: Oh wow! Bizarrely, the EXACT same thing happened to me at school! It was very upsetting.
S: It does rile me, the way that it seems to be acceptable to mock skinny people. But I guess a lot of it came from their own insecurities.
Around 16, after modelling for two years, I started putting on weight. I was so used to being the skinny girl, and I don’t think I noticed! It didn’t register until my Mum, who is always looking out for me, told me that, for my career, perhaps it was time to do more sports and tone up. I have to add that she wasn’t being a pushy parent!
R: It’s cool – my Mum’s the same. She knows I feel my best when I look my best, and that my job requires a good body, too.
S: Exactly. I spoke to the agency we’re talking seven or eight years ago when they just didn’t have the knowledge about diet and exercise that we do now. Today they’d give a New Face a personal trainer and amazing nutritional advice – instead I was told to ‘lose weight’ (rather than tone up) and I was given the worst rules to abide by ever! I was told to go on a completely fat-free diet, which is pure stupidity (see why here) and told to jog every day and do loads of basic step-ups every night.
Well, I did it, and of course I lost loads of weight to the point that I was absolutely tiny. Too thin.
R: I remember seeing you around this time, and you seemed a bit obsessed – you spoke about food a lot…
S: Yup. But it wasn’t sustainable and, predictably, I went completely the other way when I got my first serious boyfriend who, by the way, was a total douchebag.
R: To be honest, I think all of Select knew how badly he treated you, we were a bunch of gossips…
S: I felt uncomfortable in my body, so I got a trainer and was in really decent shape – apart from this one pocket of fat on my legs that I couldn’t get shot of. It really showed in pictures and I felt that it was holding me back – so I had lipo. The agency was all for it, and it did get rid of it. However, if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do it – my personal trainer said she could have trained it away of it in a matter of weeks!
And I really wish I hadn’t. While I was recovering and wearing the bandages you have to keep on for weeks, I was optioned for Victoria’s Secret. Obviously I couldn’t work out, so when I finally went they said I wasn’t toned enough and to come back when I was in shape. I never got a call back though. I am training for it, and I think it’s still a possible – maybe after the baby!
R: Well some of the VS Angels have had lots of kids! Douchey boyfriend, unnecessary operations and rejection from such a big client – sounds like a rubbish time!
S: At that point I was 21, and went on holiday with my friends Hannah Shaw and Portia Freeman. I ate healthily, I swam every day and I broke up with that boyfriend. I looked amazing and it felt like a fresh start – but once again it was scuppered.
I headed off to Paris, and lived on black coffee and low-fat chocolate chip muffins. There was no goodness in my diet, and I was so thin – but my arms would flap as there was no tone. It was another low point.
When I went to South Africa to see my mum she was really, really upset at how I looked. And looking at photos now, I did look ill. My head looks big and my ribs were showing. Mum fed me up and this was it: I was finally on the right path at last and I know what to do.
I now have a personal trainer from The Skinny Bitch Collective, and the exercise that I do exercise pushes me to the limit: I need to feel exhausted! Plus I cook food I love from scratch, I’ve largely cut out sugar and bread, and I always enjoy a treat day once a week. The trick is to go for a lean body, not a skinny body – I’m strong as well as slim.
R: OK, let’s talk about your career. I googled you and there are some ridiculously amazing jobs there!
S: It’s been nice!
R: So how did it go from us pootling around Camden in your Mum’s car to you gracing the cover of Vogues?
S: It took a while to get there. I was getting amazing options – Russell Marsh [casting agent extraordinaire – R] had me on an exclusive for Miu Miu, but they’d all get cancelled as I was too young.
The turning point came on last day of GCSEs. I came back to get my hair dyed blonde for a British Hair Awards job. Though fashion snobs might say they’re a bit of a cheesy client, the photographer was a really up-and-coming guy and the picture he took of me launched me.
I also went straight to Paris from school and went on a casting for Inez and Vinoodh. It turned out that the casting was a job for V Magazine, so I was in that. And I was in a New Faces feature in Self-Service – though this time is a blur, I think that those jobs really helped my career. I’ve done all the big Vogues, lots of campaigns and great editorial – I’m very lucky.
R: You moved from Select to IMG, and I remember it causing quite a furore. What happened?
S: Well, Emma, who had always been my main booker at Select, moved to IMG. Bookers always say, “Call me anytime, day or night,” but of course you never want to do that – but with Emma I could. We’d always travelled together and I felt very close to her.
She made a point of telling me to stay if I was happy – she never wanted to poach me. I decided to give Select 6 months, and if I was happy with work, I’d stay. Well…It was a terrible 6 months, and I think I barely worked! My mind was made.
R: So how did you go about it?
S: I went into the agency the day before and got all my tear sheets. ALWAYS do this! I felt too scared to say anything face-to-face, so I hand-wrote letters and sent them by courier, saying that I felt my career was going in a different direction and that I wanted to leave purely for work reasons.
R: And how did that go down?
S: They were infuriated. I got angry texts, emails. But girls need to remember that the agency work for us as much as we work for them, and if you’re not happy and not working, then don’t be scared to move. I never chased my money when I left Select though and, with a baby on the way, I might have to. There must have been lots of buyouts since I went, including my Paul Smith perfume campaign.
R: Tell me about getting married! [at this point Pete joins in so i get to hear both sides!]
S: I met Pete on a plane to Las Vegas for a job for Wrangler. I’d already seen his picture before at a casting and texted his photo to my friend! We were attracted to each other right away, but Pete had a girlfriend so we didn’t go there.
We bumped into one another again in Paris (partying with Will.I.Am!) and again in the West End, and each time the attraction was palpable.
We stayed friends but I found it tough, and when his girlfriend was coming to London stay I just told him I couldn’t hang out with him anymore. I suppose that was the catalyst for Pete deciding what he wanted – he broke up with his girlfriend. Once we were together that was it, totally head over heels from day one. He proposed to me on my Dad’s 50th, and we were married a year ago!
R: What’s next?!
S: Well…we’re moving to South Africa next year.
S: I’ll be having the baby here, and I’ll be coming back for direct bookings…but the long-term plan is to start our own Safari in SA encouraging eco-tourism. Animal conservation is a passion of mine – the sight of rhinos being hunted for ivory and facing extinction makes me incredibly angry and upset. So I want to dedicate my life to the conservation and rehabilitation of wildlife. I’ve already got the land, so it’s about getting it started now.
R: Wow Sophie, that was quite a curveball! I wish you all the luck and love with the wildlife – and with the little cub of your own!