You Can Sit with Us: Madison Schill on Charli Howard
Last year, a newsletter changed my life.
Charli Howard is a woman I initially met through clover letter, a daily newsletter for young girls arriving promptly to my inbox at 7am, evoking Christmas morning warmth on the daily. She’d written a piece on toxic relationships, moving on and how to deal, and her courage on the matter was just another tick in the box of reasons why I needed to meet her. Both of us had been independently plugging away at making modelling a better place for a while, and when that same week, my friend Brandon sent me a link to her StyleLikeU youtube video, the slow-burning fire in my stomach went nuclear.
I sent her my glamour article as a subtle peace offering, mentioned how grateful I was to feel like somebody else was “on my team,” and to my surprise, we hit it off from there. I was surprised but immediately welcomed - as a student who puts books before much else, I'm unsure I make dents on anyone’s radar. It’s nice to be proven wrong.
I’d planned a quick trip to New York City the following month, and during that time we met up often, bonding over breakups, breakouts, breakthroughs. She was one of the most important pieces of my year.
Let me explain why.
For the majority of my career, models and modelling had always equated to deprivation; hard work in the form of the impossible, the mysterious, the alone. If I didn’t suffer, I wasn’t trying hard enough. Extraordinary, alien-like beauty was the name of the game, and I felt like I had to somehow separate myself from the rest of my brothers and sisters, denying all the things I fundamentally needed, to really find success.
Once I returned to New York City and met friends like Charli, Britt, Diana and Vita, I realized that our industry was softening, like those absolutely terrifying hatchimals kids are obsessed with, but with more poetry, like the unfurling of a rose, or the burning of a candle with a crackling wooden wick. I met Cameron Russell, Jess Perez and Aine Campbell and learned that the feelings I’d been feeling were not exclusive to myself; I learned that I was always welcome in the modelling community, and not only that, but maybe I could be needed within it, too.
Charli and I talked about feeling vulnerable, understanding our insecurities and not trying to hide them, but talking about them, studying them, processing their place along our unpredictable, maddening journey. I produced a shoot with her on that trip, a shoot which (with a ton of help from Laura, Vita, and of course Brandon, who shot the whole thing) we had featured in i-D magazine, which inspired this website, and the shedding of yet another of my layers.
I opened up in front of the camera again last year, too, thanks to Charli. I realized I didn’t have to “wait” to be good enough; maybe, I already was. Perhaps the stories I held under my skin could be seen beneath my eyelids, holding the power to penetrate your screens and make another girl like me feel worthy out there. Maybe my pain could be power; the one thing that almost killed me act as my cure.
The moral of this story? Do things that scare you. Meet people you see magic in. I have a whole new tribe to thank, because of it.
In love and learning.