Filmmaker Jenny McQuaile talks about her first feature documentar­y, which aims to change the narrative around what’s beautiful. How did you first got involved in Straight/Curve: Redefining Body Image? The issues of women’s bodies and representa­tion have always interested me. We portray a narrow standard of beauty in media and on the runways, and it’s causing generation­s of women to strive to achieve something that’s not realistic. We show thin, white women as the “ideal”. This strive for “perfection” is toxic and dangerous. It soon became apparent to me that this story of the lack of representa­tion for women of larger sizes, different colours and ages had to be told through the lens of the fashion industry and media. I enlisted the help of one of my producers, Jess Lewis, who’s worked in the fashion industry for over 15 years. She helped open doors and we were fortunate to be at the forefront of the move towards inclusivit­y and diversity that’s been happening. We were filming as designers started to make clothes for larger women, as plus size models like Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence’s stars started to rise. And we were watching beauty brands start to use models of different races to sell make-up.

What did you learn from this project that you didn’t anticipate? I spent the day crying in between interviews with the teenage girls – it was so tough to hear them say they feel “disgusting” and “less than” because of images in the media. We need to be empowering girls and women to feel like they can achieve anything they set their minds to – no matter what they look like. Also, the conversati­on around health and size: the idea that plus size models promote obesity is toxic and wrong. We cannot judge a person’s health by just looking at their body, and it’s none of our business anyway.

What are you hoping Irish viewers will take from this film? This is a film for anybody who’s ever looked in the mirror and felt like they weren’t good enough. This struggle is something we, as women, share across the globe. I didn’t have role models who looked like me when I was growing up in Ireland. I don’t think that’s changed much. In my documentar­y, we show women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colours, and I hope viewers will see someone who looks a little like them. Seeing yourself represente­d on screen and hearing women talk about their own issues with body image might make people feel less alone. I also want girls to leave the film thinking, “If she looks like me and she can do anything she dreams of, then so can I.”

Straight/Curve: Redefining Body Image is now available on iTunes and Amazon.

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