Brie Larson on experiencing the fashion industry's sexist “cycle of abuse”

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Kayleigh Dray
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Brie Larson is never afraid to speak her mind – and now the self-confessed feminist is taking aim at the sexist double standards forced upon women in the spotlight.

Recalling her first-ever photo shoot at a fashion magazine, she explained that she was handed a “one-off piece of clothing” from the runway. Male models, in comparison, were visited by tailors and offered made-to-measure clothes.

“The first time I got a spread in a fashion magazine, there was a one-off piece of clothing from the runway,” explained Larson. “I asked, 'Can you only be in magazines if you're the size of this one piece?'

“There was this silence.”

Larson continued: “Men get custom suits or shirts made to fit, but as women, if you don't fit into that sample you bump up against an aspect of your career you can never blossom into.

“We'd all love to get out of this cycle of abuse where our mental weight is based on our body weight.”

The 27-year-old actor, who was speaking with Jane Fonda for Net-A-Porter’s The Edit, went on to admit that she finds it difficult to get to grips with “female sexuality” – especially since so much of it is determined by the “male gaze”.

She said: “Female sexuality was confusing for me. I went to auditions where they wanted a sassy, smart, sexy girl.

“I would arrive in sneakers and they’d say, ‘Come back in a mini-skirt and heels.’ I would come back and blow [ruin] the audition.

“I felt more in my body when I wasn’t dressing as a fantasy for the male gaze.”

Listening to Larson’s experiences, Fonda responded: “I think it is terrifying being a young actress now. You have to get naked so much. There is even more emphasis on how you look.”

And it seems as if she is not alone in this belief; Maggie Smith, in conversation with Judi Dench at the Tricycle Theatre in London, recently said: “I think they are so brave, the young actresses of today. They seem to have to strip off every second.”

The 82-year-old, who made her professional debut at 17, added: “I can’t imagine how they cope with it today, I really don’t. They are required to do the most extraordinary things.”

In recent years, the fashion industry has made moves towards greater inclusivity – from models such as Tess Holliday and Ashley Graham moving into the mainstream media and becoming advocates for fashion for all shapes and sizes, to Nike launching its first plus-size range.

A statement released by the brand said: “Nike recognises that women are stronger, bolder and more outspoken than ever. In today's world, sport is no longer something that she does, it’s who she is. The days where we have to add 'female' before 'athlete' are over. She is an athlete, period.

“And having helped fuel this cultural shift, we celebrate these athletes' diversity, from ethnicity to body shape."

However, as Larson’s comments have proven, more needs to be done.

Images: Rex Pictures


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.