Meet Sophie Tea, the artist guaranteed to make you feel good about yourself

Body-positivity promoting, self-starting, and sassy as anything.

Body-positivity promoting, self-starting, and sassy as anything.

You'll likely have heard of Sophie Tea or seen her artwork pop up on your Instagram explore page. She's the epitome of the millennial artist, with 200k+ followers on Instagram who snap up her paintings in seconds.

She's been painting bright, glittery nude paintings for the best part of four years now and her works sell for up to £45,000 - and yet, she's the still managing to make her paintings relevant, mainstream and accessible to all with her laid-back, friendly and, quite frankly, fun approach to life.

Her first gallery opened on Carnaby Street in 2020 - it was impossible to miss thanks to its eye-catching pink exterior, and this summer, she hosted two runway events at the Waldorf Hilton London where 50 women of all shapes and sizes walked naked and proud.

She's having a bit of a moment and so, naturally, we wanted to pin her down to find out more about her movement and what's in the pipeline. Keep reading.

Sophie Tea

Meet Sophie Tea: 'I knew I needed to live a creative life'

Born in Wolverhampton and raised in Birmingham, as Sophie puts it herself, she's from 'all-bloody-over.' She shares that she always wanted to be an artist - 'but never thought it was possible', after having it 'drilled into her' that it was a hobby from a young age.

She studied business at university and secured a post-grad job as a consultant in London - but a trip to India in the summer running up to that job would change her life forever. "I literally found myself," she explains. "I remember spotting a hostel wall with graffiti all over it and asking if I could paint in exchange for a few nights stay - I was running out of cash by this point," she shares. "The hostel owner agreed, and it was honestly one of the most pivotal moments of my life," she continues.

"I just knew I needed to live a creative life," she shares. "I decided I’d rather be happy and poor - hence Sophie Tea Art was born."

Why nudes? 

That's when she painted her first ever nude image - or 'nudie' as she calls them. So why a nude? "I'd always been fascinated by the female form, despite not having the best relationship with my own body," she shares. "I remember searching the Internet for naked women to paint and only finding porn, which wasn’t the vibe I wanted. So, I asked my Instagram followers to send me a nude - in the name of art."

She woke up the next day to over 1,000 nude pictures in her DM’s. "I was shocked, humbled and determined to paint the incredible women that had trusted me with their nudes," she explains.

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Did she know then her nudes would take boost her career in the way they have? (She has an almost cult-like global following of women from all over the world who visit Sophie's shows and buy her art - it's thought she's at least a multi-millionaire at the age of just 28). Short answer: yes, she kind of did.

The power of the naked form

"I recognised pretty early on the power of the nude - mainly because of the effect it had on me," she ponders. "The best thing about receiving pictures was each one of them came with a personal story of why they felt it was so important to share. I had a few light-hearted comments: ‘I would never send my boyfriend a nude but here’s one for you, Soph!’.

"One I will never forget was a picture from someone who had recently had a double mastectomy. She said ‘My mother sadly passed away from breast cancer two months ago and I would love for my image to be part of your nude project to honour her’."

"It was really moving. It’s been an honour to hear these stories and I wanted to play a small role in making women feel a tiny bit better about themselves through artwork and celebration of the female body."

While at face value you might write her paintings off as a basic celebration of the female form, they're much more than that. They're empowering, eye-catching and quite emotional, too - you only need to watch one of her shows, the ones where volunteer 'nudies' get painted by Sophie and walk the runway naked to celebrate all the different versions of their bodies, to understand just why her art is so powerful, and why it's touching for so many different women. But why Sophie's art, and not other similar nudes?

"I think my work speaks to so many people because it’s real," she shares. "It captivates real women and real stories that women can relate to. The relationship that we have with our own body is one of the most complex, intimate and powerful things."

That's where the nudies come in. "Our nudies have been so brave and strong in stripping off naked to show the world that they are different and beautiful," she explains. "That takes courage. I think people are connecting to the work and the nudies because they see themselves in the work; and typically in the media their shape hasn’t been previously represented," she continues.

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She mentions that she's struggled with negative body image herself - so is her art a response to this? In short, yes and no. "I always stuffed my bra with football socks in school as I hated how small my boobs were," she shares. "I'm still waiting for a growth spurt at 28, but I know I won’t die if they never grow," she jokes. "I’m learning to love and accept myself more through my work and through the nudies."

Having naked women as a subject matter for so long has been quite cathartic process for the artist. "But I mainly focus my energy towards children and teenagers - as that's where most of our body hang-ups are formed, right? Imagine a sixteen-year-old girl who's worried about the way she looks finding my art on Instagram. It teaches her that her body is beautiful," Sophie explains.

Making art accessible to all

She's big on doing things differently and making sure her art is accessible to all - which, for a multi-millionaire, might seem hard to believe. But Sophie's path has been different to that of a traditional artist - she's paved her own path in a number of ways.

"We aren’t represented by any gallery," she explains. "At Sophie Tea Art, we also allow people to invest in artwork in instalments, which is quite rare. We take a deposit of £100 and send the pieces out right away - we've really built a business based on trust."

"My customers are trusted to honour their monthly, no interest payments and I'm trusted to produce a high quality piece of art. Many people over the years have told me that I won’t be able to keep this trusting relationship going as the brand grows. I beg to differ - three years into offering this service we have thousands of live instalments with less than 1% of people cancelling. I love it."

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What's next for the artist? Well, that's a secret - but there is a new project in the pipeline which she's already sharing her excitement about.

Quick fire round: 

An artist who's always inspired you?

Tracey Emin

Your favourite quote

'One day or day one.'

One thing that gets you out of bed in the morning

Coffee. I genuinely start to look forward to my morning coffee at 3pm the day before.

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Your favourite Instagram account

Daniel Arsham

One piece of advice you'd give a fan who struggles with negative body image

Watch one of our Nudie Live stream events. Everyone is so different and you are perfect just as you are!

Ally Head
Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.