Lily Jean Bridger: “Don’t compare yourself to others”

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  • Star of our surf-inspired hair shoot Lily Jean Bridger on sustainable fashion, social media pressures and speedboats…

    As the star of our latest Virtual Beauty Shoot Lily Jean Bridger is one woman who knows how to pull off a beach look but as we discovered, there’s plenty more to her than that. We spoke to Lily as lockdown started to ease, to find out about everything from being scouted at university to what she’s discovered during the pandemic…

    How have you found lockdown?

    I flew back from LA when lockdown was just beginning and with a group of friends, we kind of escaped. We booked a house in the Cotswolds, six of us, and went out the day before Boris Johnson locked down London. We lived on a farm and booked it for a month, but extended it for three months as lockdown kept continuing.

    How was it?

    It was such a lovely decision because we’re all creatives – musicians, actors, models, artists –  so we actually had a really wonderful structure there. Obviously you have your dark days when you’re freaking out and don’t know what’s going on, but we had a structure where we’d go for a hike or work out together, then everyone was doing work calls and having meals together. I did a couple of virtual shoots for Marie Claire and Chanel beauty and it was just really good to be in the countryside. I was very fortunate because a lot of friends were going through hard times being cooped up in small flats in London or Paris, with no garden. Thank god I had savings, as you know your income would just be stopped…

    surf

    Photo by Benjamin Kaufmann

    It’s been a really scary time for the self-employed, hasn’t it?

    Yeah, definitely. A lot of my friends are musicians and DJs and the entertainment industry got hit hard, the same with fashion. But I think what was wonderful was I definitely used the time to work on myself and think about ways I can make the world more enjoyable experience for myself and those around me. It was a good time to really reflect, because I don’t really pause – I like to bounce around and work between England, Europe and America. But it was a good time to really reflect on what we actually care about. I have a lot of friends who have sustainable fashion brands, and it was lovely to speak to them about their backstory and how everything works. I was thinking a lot about sustainability and how we can better the planet.

    What’s been the hardest part for you?

    Because I’m always constantly moving with my job I am quite busy, so when you have a pause you started doubting what you’re actually doing. You basically start doubting everything! I had a therapist I spoke to on the phone every week and did a lot of meditation, giving myself a structure every day. I did a lot of writing too, I used to do a lot at university. The first month I wasn’t writing at all because I had a complete mind-block and there was anxiety around being freelance as people who are freelance were hit quite hard.

    What did you learn about yourself?

    Quite a few things, actually. With fashion, I started reaching out to friends with local and sustainable brands and exploring the vintage realm for clothing, that was a big thing. Then, thinking about ways in which we can make the industry more inclusive following the Black Lives Matter protests. I’m loving how the industry is moving forward in that way. Then with myself, I’m very much about jumping to the next thing and it’s very fast-paced, and I realised it’s actually OK to pause and learn about yourself. I love modelling but everyone has more to them and it’s OK to showcase that too – it’s part of what makes you unique and why people probably want to actually book you. So I think I’ve started to be a bit more…real.

    Becoming a model must have been a whirlwind. Did you struggle to adjust?

    Yeah, it was really weird how it happened because it was never anything I pursued. When I was 19, I went to uni to do English Literature and got street cast by Adidas to do a big global campaign. The funniest thing is I never liked having my photo taken at university – in every photo I’d have my hand in front of my face. It’s weird because when I shoot, I switch into another person. I was suddenly comfortable in front of the camera which was weird – usual ‘me’ is a bit nerdy, embarrassed and insecure. Then I got signed with a big agency in London and did a year of university. Then I decided to do the rest of the four years online while modelling. It was crazy and happened very quickly – I was flying to places like America, Brazil and the Seychelles. I love travelling so it was perfect because it taught me a lot, and I’m really grateful.

    You mentioned travelling being a perk, what would you say the worst part of the job is?

    I think the worst part is you subconsciously judge your image all the time. Although nowadays we’ve moved forward and there’s a lot more to it, it still comes down to the image you portray and you can develop a lot of insecurities from that. That was something I struggled with when I started modelling but I think growing older, you get more relaxed and realise it’s not all about that. The other thing is – although I actually don’t mind it because I’m so spontaneous as a person – you don’t know if you’re going to be working until literally the day before. But there are so many more pros than cons.

    How do you cope with the social media element, does that bring with it a certain pressure?

    I think anyone can find themselves losing themselves on the internet and comparing to others. When I was more active on Instagram, it was in the back of my mind every day but nowadays I relax a little bit. Before, I was a bit afraid to show my personality and just shared modelling photos, but now I show real life, so people get to know who you are. I was afraid to showcase that because someone’s always going to judge. But that’s just the internet and you have to put it aside. It’s also a really great way to connect with people. For example, when I did Playboy a few years ago, they reached out to me on Instagram. I contacted my agent and said ‘I think this is a hoax?’. It’s amazing what can happen, I think you just have to find a balance.

    surf

    Photo by Benjamin Kaufmann

    The modelling industry doesn’t always have the best reputation, was anyone in your family concerned when you announced plans to model?

    My mum was a little concerned but my dad actually modelled for Models One in the eighties, so he was like ‘alright, go for it’! I was working hard and he actually said, ‘I’ll give it to you, every job I’ve done probably accounted to a week of work’ because back then, Vogue would fly you out for a 10-day chilled shoot in India doing editorial whereas there’s a lot more involved now. He’s been really supportive and my mum is happy about it now, too.

    Does the travelling get lonely?

    I try to hang out with the team on trips but I do quite like my own space and traveling alone. My family are the most dysfunctional flyers and I’m scarred from being 10 and missing so many flights. The hard part is probably when you have to move somewhere new and don’t know anyone. When I first moved to New York and LA I didn’t love it, but every time I’ve gone back I’ve loved it more because I’ve started to find my people and created my community.

    How do you switch off, I read you drive speedboats…?

    My family are boaters, I have a catamaran sailboat which I raced in the National Championships in 2015 and 2016 and a speedboat, which is fun. I’m a massive water baby, so the first thing I’d do is get to the sea. I write as well, short stories mainly. I did a piece that was a parody of Hamlet, a modern-day version, loosely based on characters I know. And a comedy about a girl who was obsessed with Instagram. I’m delving back into it, it’s a nice outlet.

    What advice would you give someone joining the industry?

    You need to find your people – they’ll support you, understand and direct you in the right way. Make sure you have an agent who you have that relationship with and double read all of your contracts. And don’t compare yourself to other models – you’re all different and there for a reason. Don’t get lost in comparing yourself or trying to shape yourself into something that you’re not.

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