Windsor Star

All shapes, sizes

Ben Barry wants modelling to reflect real world IMAGE INSIGHT Sonja Puzic

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Ben Barry’s rise to success sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie or a fiction novel.

The 25-year-old Ottawa native who runs a successful modelling agency, writes books and newspaper columns about the fashion industry and often lands on lists of top entreprene­urs and young trailblaze­rs, began his career in a basement as an ambitious 14-year-old.

Barry became a modelling agent almost by accident after he sent an Ottawa magazine a photo of a friend who was told by her agency that she needed to lose weight. To Barry’s surprise, the magazine editor called him back and hired his friend for a photo shoot. Encouraged, Barry began signing other models that “looked like everyone.”

Within years, the Ben Barry Modelling Agency gained a rare reputation in the fashion world for representi­ng models of all shapes, sizes and colours, challengin­g what Barry calls the “smooth, white, thin and young” model body image gracing the world’s runways and magazine covers.

Barry’s unique roster of models was so intriguing that when Dove beauty brand marketing executives began brainstorm­ing ideas for the now hugely successful Campaign for Real Beauty, they recruited Barry to find “real women” for their ads.

Barry was in Windsor last week to talk about breaking down the fashion industry barriers for women who are not a size two. He spoke to a packed room at the downtown Hilton hotel during the Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Associatio­n’s three-day conference on eating disorders and body image.

“When I looked through magazines, I realized that all the models looked the same,” Barry told the audience. “There was no diversity.”

Even worse, he said, the models didn’t even look like themselves because their photos were heavily airbrushed.

As he got to know the fashion industry, Barry wondered if his models, who didn’t fit the “cookie-cutter” image, would ever make it.

But Barry persisted, taking a new approach to convincing advertiser­s and retailers that they needed his models in their ads and catalogues.

“I had been using the language of social responsibi­lity ... but I realized I needed to use the language of business,” Barry said. He pitched the use of his models as a good way to sell more products because the consumers – “real women” – would be more likely to buy a pair of pants or a dress if they saw it on a model who looked like them. The strategy didn’t work everywhere, but Barry did have success with several companies, including Sears. Then, Dove came knocking.

Barry helped Dove feature in its ads the faces and bodies of women who look like our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends; the women we work and go to school with, the women we see at the grocery store or at the bus stop.

And while he acknowledg­es that unrealisti­c beauty ideals still persist in the media, Barry knows his hard work is paying off.

“I do think change is in the air.”

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 ?? Star photo: Dan Janisse ?? REGULAR PEOPLE: Ben Barry, who runs his own modelling agency and is behind the successful Dove products ad campaign, speaks at the Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Associatio­n’s conference in Windsor.
Star photo: Dan Janisse REGULAR PEOPLE: Ben Barry, who runs his own modelling agency and is behind the successful Dove products ad campaign, speaks at the Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Associatio­n’s conference in Windsor.
 ??  ?? Before & after: The power of makeup artistry and airbrushin­g in advertisin­g images
Before & after: The power of makeup artistry and airbrushin­g in advertisin­g images

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