Alice Gee | 24/09/2021
Conversation with Alexis has a natural way of forming with the model’s ever-energetic and passionate personality. Having just woken up over in LA, giving herself a lie-in as part of a mental health day, I join her over zoom from my home in London, telling her not to be apologetic for the lie-in, if you need it, then you need it. Honestly, it’s great to see her putting her mental health first, as we’ve seen her do over the past 2 years, although she confides that she still feels the occasional guilt “It can be a guilt thing with these practices.” I instantly get what she’s talking about as if sleep-in even until 9 on the weekend, I feel consumed with guilt that I should be up and about.
“I go through a panic mode. And then it ruins my whole day. I find that the panic then sets me into a way where I continue and burn out. I think the main programming that I’ve been trying to break recently, is how can I outlive this weird societal guilt, that has nothing to do with the way that I live my life? I was homeschooled, so I never had a concept of weekdays and to be honest, I still don’t. It’s weird to see, but even though I’m so deeply programmed the opposite way, I’m still affected by it.”
With Alexis having modelled for some of the biggest names, including Victoria Secrets, Brandy Melville, amongst others, she’s no newbie, she’s a seasoned model with industry knowledge, experiences, and stories that I’m keen to dive into. I laugh as I tell her I’m a fashion fanatic, not that she’d be able to tell from me wearing my Nike slacks with it being 8:30 pm in London. Alexis is quick to point the camera towards her attire with it also being activewear, something we’ve both taken to since the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. Being aware of the pressures within the fashion industry especially when it comes to sizing, long hours, and little support until recently, I connect with Alexis about our experiences with disordered eating with me being keen to hear how the industry has not only caused challenges with mental health but also how it may have helped her in other ways.
“I would compare the fashion industry, to an expanded version of high school although I pretty much compare any work environment to it. There are always people at the top where you can’t get to them because the only way that they can be at the top is to be untouchable. So there’s this essence that you can’t get into the ‘club’. Because I was homeschooled, my life wasn’t a competition until I got on social media. I had no concept of bullying. My mom was a holistic health teacher. It was a very, loving and open environment. I felt the fashion industry for me at first was amazing, because I was like, “Oh my god, I’m 14 and I’m getting paid so much more than I ever thought I would get paid.” I was able to buy my first car. I was just so grateful and it allowed me to see what the goal could be.
“Victoria’s Secret was a super big time in my career. It was around that time when I started to feel like everything was never-ending. It was almost like I was in a race but there were no rules to it. Almost like you’re drowning and there’s no one to help you in the water. There was no help, which I think is to do with it being like a competition. There are some amazing people in the fashion industry and I’ve made close friends, but I do think there is a level of toxicity in it, something I think my soul has always rejected”
“I needed some time to rediscover that I love this industry. It’s similar to painters and how they paint on a canvas, these artists, creating these creations. I just think what a gift to be the person wearing their ideas. But when it got to the how am I gonna get there? The do or die to form to that mold it started to get unhealthy. That’s when my mental health started to deteriorate like crazy because it was the first time I didn’t feel good enough. I remember not feeling accepted, rejected, all the time thinking what is this? Once I got that first rejection, similar to a toxic relationship, somehow I felt the need to prove I can do this. So it became a toxic relationship, with modelling in general. At that moment I set up my mental health for failure.”
Alexis opens up so eloquently to me. I don’t just hear the confidence in which she speaks to me about her experiences but I see it physically in how she sits whilst carefully processing, and evaluating some of the effects modelling had on her mental health. Something clear is the way she’s found gratitude in some of those difficult moments.
“I’m so grateful I went through that now. I was just talking to my friend last week, and she was saying how ballet has a very similar structure, very competitive and toxic at times. She was saying how she would never let her kid go through that and although I’d never want anyone to go through it I think we have this idea that in society we should overprotect everything and everyone. But to me, it’s like you’re setting them up for depression and problems by not exposing them to anything. I like to look at that period as if it was my poison. Now I can look at the industry and not be personally affected by it anymore. I felt for so long I was hypothetically yelling at it when now I try and treat it like a buffet, taking the bits I like and avoid the bits that harm me.
“I always had a journal in my hand, which I know sounds so basic, but there’s something very sacred when it comes to putting paper to pen, I can finally reflect. I needed to figure out why I was putting myself through this pain, why I felt I needed to constantly prove something. That’s something no one can answer except me.”
In line with the idea of exposure therapy and the good it can have when approached properly, I found it interesting to hear how she’s managed the burden placed on her mental health while working in the industry that contributed to it, and considering the future changes it could make to safeguard those working in it.
“Something that might be controversial is the fact that as a generation we are taking away every element of competition. Although some of it was toxic I needed some competition. I guess there needs to be something to strive for. Everyone has their niche, not every brand or scenario will be for everyone and forcing it isn’t necessarily the answer. I know I can’t be talking about every global issue because I’m exhausted and I can’t do that. Not one person can like be that Christ like character. So to expect that, I feel like we are setting everyone up for failure.
“Most would agree with Alexis that achievement is a very subjective process for each person. One of her most treasured achievements was setting up, ‘We Are Warriors’. Here at HATC, our goal is to create safe spaces, the sort of spaces that have helped Alexis find the confidence to address parts of her past.
“What I’ve noticed, and it’s been a common pattern is everything great in my life I haven’t had to overcompensate for because I’m so passionate about it. So that is similar to what happened with Warriors. It started in a workout style. I worked out for years hating myself, unlike now I work out loving myself. It is two completely different realities. I would love to help girls learn that. I started with working out because I had to warm people up to my identity because so many people don’t know me for me. I just started live calls, and it just started to manifest as more of a spiritual space. We’ve been doing journal challenges, every single live call to look at what success means and what do I want. I’ve been trying to make sure they think about it. I’m just basically helping them understand who they are. I had the opportunity, so I’d like to give that back. It’s been so cool to all share our accomplishments. I wanted to help the girls understand what they want because it’s not something we prioritise enough. I wanted to help prioritise dreaming, not to take away from their experiences and traumas but there comes a point where you can’t keep hanging on to your traumas as a pillar to lean on. It’s been the whole evolution for us all.”
In giving back to her community, Alexis discovered that key life skills were either not being taught or incredibly difficult to access. Personally, some of the best skills I learned, wasn’t from Maths or English in school but from my PSHE teacher. I told Alexis how my teacher had made the class pick out fake jobs from a hat for her to teach us about the importance of budgeting, income, and tax, something that I’m yet to hear as an experience from the peers I meet. It’s something she seems excited about, explaining that these skills are top of her priority list.
“I want people to feel prepared and to have basic skills. I would love an accountant to do a talk for the community to teach them the bread and butter things we need. I want to break down the whole education system, to be honest, and I hope this is the way to go, because we’re in a time when community, social media and education combined are creating like-minded people going for the same goal. That’s fucking powerful. We’re going to see kids start to not rely on the education skill system to tell them whether or not they’re smart, and we’re going to see some fucking amazing people come up. I’m so excited for what’s to come.”
Throughout our interview, it comes to my attention that Alexis, similar to my PSHE secondary school teacher, is one of the true unsung heroes. Alexis is fighting to create a community that encourages the inevitable skills we need in life and teaches to encourage each other in return, all while giving people the tools and the mental health skills to not only succeed but cope with our successes and the world around us.
You can find out more about We Are Warriors’on their Instagram account -
Words: Alice Gee
Photography: Cibelle Levi