You’ll fall in love with model Phoebe Ghorayeb for many reasons...
Yes, she’s a total babe (our photoshoot is case in point). But she’s also down-to-earth, honest and fun. She started her blog Model Appetite to document her love of food and writing – the former being something that wasn’t common in her industry. She’s now a mother of two, soon to be three, and talks openly about battling an eating disorder, the pressure to“bounce back” after birth, and why she loves working with female-powered brands – and with two little girls to raise, she’s passionate about their future.
Today Phoebe wears one of those female-powered brands – Andie Swim. Founded by Melanie Travis after she saw a gap in the market for an inclusive swimwear brand that made women feel good and comfortable in their bodies, Phoebe is the perfect embodiment of the Andie Swim values. At its heart, the label is designed to make you feel good in a swimsuit. And of course, to inspire you. So, let’s do just that and meet Phoebe…
You’ve been in the modelling industry for long enough to have seen some major shifts in the way we talk about body image. When you first started Model Appetite, was it considered different for a model to be talking about food – and not from a diet or clean-eating perspective?
I definitely think it was rare. I was seeing lots of accounts and blogs, and not just from models, that focused on healthy eating and recipes. All of which absolutely have a place, I think healthy eating is extremely important but as I’ve said before it all starts with a healthy mind, and with such a strong diet culture among our society it can be quite triggering being bombarded with diet websites and blogs. Model Appetite came about purely from my love of writing and food, I was by no means trying to make a statement but I do know that my being outspoken about enjoying all foods in a very “health” conscious industry and someone who’s come out the other side of an eating disorder has definitely sat well with a lot of my readers.
What gave you the confidence to start your own blog?
My husband. Georges designed and built my website from scratch. His belief and support went a long way in helping me take the first step. Also not pressuring myself with super high expectations. If I only got one reader a month, I would have been completely satisfied. I think it’s important to begin projects and passions because they fulfill a need within you. Anything beyond that is just a super happy bonus.
You’ve told us previously that “These days you need to be more than just a model. It’s no longer enough to be a pretty face, you need to be on some level an influencer, ambassador, charity goer, fitness guru, health expert, actor, singer, comedian, entertainer, entrepreneur, socialite, fashionista or activist…” Talk to me about your relationship with ambition?
I will be completely honest here and tell you that I struggle big time with ambition. My mind races with all these amazing things I want to do or achieve but my inbuilt fear of failure is sadly overriding. I have fallen victim many times to the crippling comparison culture many of us experience through social media. Wondering if you’re doing enough, achieving enough, just generally good enough. It can be a real mental struggle but right now just focusing my attention on being a good mum and wife and celebrating the small successes is enough of an achievement.
Talk to me about your relationship with your body, post-babies. There’s so much pressure on women to ‘bounce back’, let alone when you’re going back to modelling. Was there any advice that helped you through this stage initially? Do you have any tips that you can share with other new mums?
I think a lot of the pressure to “bounce back” came from me. Being someone who struggled with body image I placed quite high expectations on myself to lose my baby weight. It was a bit of a dangerous time for me because it brought back a few demons around being slim again and with a baby to feed I needed to make sure I was fuelling my body properly and eating enough to sustain both me and baby. I didn’t however let it override my enjoyment of being a new mum and second-time mum but it definitely played in the back of my mind. In my experience I think the world and the modelling industry were a lot more forgiving on my body than I was. It’s important to remember that we are our own harshest critics and the majority of the time people aren’t judging your body but praising your ability to birth a gorgeous little human.
The past two years have been incredibly challenging but for many of us they’ve also allowed us to spend more time with our families (a good or a bad thing, depending how you look at it!) What has this experience been like for you? Did you embrace slowing down?
I actually didn’t find that too much had changed. Our girls were still going to daycare during lockdown and Georges was still relatively busy with work (all Covid safe of course), so day-to-day life wasn’t that much different. With regard to spending more time with family, for us, it was less what with our families living on the Gold Coast and in the UK. That has been the toughest part of this Covid journey but luckily Christmas meant a long overdue family reunion on the GC and finally, my mum has been able to fly over after 2+ years of being separated.
You’ve worked with some of the most incredible names in fashion, not to mention being married to one. Are there any pinch-me moments that stand out as career highlights?
I’ve been so lucky in my career and its longevity. In fact, someone asked me today how long I’ve been modelling for and it’s been 20 years! On and off of course and also I started pretty young. I have had so many incredible experiences, had the opportunity to travel to many different countries including Spain, Germany, Italy, Japan and of course Australia and met many inspirational people. I’ve enjoyed so many career highlights including shooting TV commercials for KFC and M&Ms, appearing on the front covers of Glamour UK and Cosmopolitan UK magazine, walking in the Agent Provocateur show, seeing my face on the side of buses and bus stops for Pleasure State and getting to collaborate with brands on a more personal level including RM Williams, Aje., Alemais and Camilla and Marc. However, none of this compares to the biggest highlight, meeting and marrying my amazing husband Georges.
Andie Swim is founded by women, made for women, even financially backed by women with Demi Moore being one of the first investors. What do you love about working with female-powered brands?
I think it’s great that women now have the opportunity and resources to create and build businesses of their own. For me personally, it offers reassurance that if it was something I’d want to do or my girls would want to do I know it could be done.
You’re a mother to two daughters and we’re in one of the most progressive ages of all time when it comes to raising girls. What kind of future do you dream for them?
To have opportunity and to be happy. I remember my dad once telling me that if I wanted to clean toilets for a living he would support me 100% as long as it was because I made the choice to do so and not because I gave myself no other choice. I want our girls to have the freedom to choose who and where they want to be, give them access to great education and at the end of it all to be completely content.
You’ve spoken bravely about your own battles with disordered eating in the past and unfortunately we know young girls are at huge risk of this. Have you thought about how you’ll talk to your girls about body image and self-worth, when the time comes?
This is a topic that terrifies me. Georges and I have spoken about it many times and especially with us both working in the fashion industry with looks and body image being one of the primary focuses of what we do it’s important for us, as far as possible, not to let this impact our girls. It’s definitely something we will talk to them about when the time is right, however, I think it’s about instilling confidence in them and praising them for things outside of how they look. Not always complimenting them on their appearance, which we can so easily do, but celebrating them for facing a fear, or achieving a goal, or for trying something new. This I hope will empower them to know that their success is derived from within and not just at surface level.
You’re really passionate about body image, but so many Australian fashion brands don’t go past a size 12 which is outrageous when you realise that the average Australian woman is a size 14-16. Tell me what it means to have brands like Andie Swim offer a diverse size range?
It’s bloody fantastic. Brands that don’t cater for sizes past a size 12 are sending out two messages. Firstly, that women over a size 12 don’t deserve to celebrate their bodies and dress fashionably and secondly that women who are a size 12 or below should feel pressured to remain so. Both messages being untrue, unfair and unrealistic. Women face so many pressures in their day-to-day when it comes to body image, the last thing they need is to feel they can’t shop for clothes without being silently judged.
So much of modelling involves travel and long days. Obviously things look different these days with Covid, but I know you’ve brought your children with you to castings which is so fantastic. Is that something you’ve found difficult to manage?
I have actually found most people and clients to be incredibly accommodating. My agency is aware of my having two children and no family on hand to help so they are amazing at working castings around a time that suits me. In terms of managing the girls themselves at a casting, that’s a whole different story. That’s when the iPad and various bribes are put on the table for good behaviour.
What’s your go-to personal style these days?
I’m a sucker for a shirt. Shirt and shorts, shirt and jeans, shirt and pants, shirt over swimmers. Shirts have such an effortless elegance about them and they are also super breastfeeding friendly which bodes well for me for the coming months.
Swimwear can be an intimidating category for many women, and that’s something that Andie Swim is really passionate about changing the narrative on, offering swimsuits that aims to make every woman feel comfortable in their own skin. What do you look for in a good pair of swimmers? And what’s your favourite pair Andie swimsuit?
For me it is all about the support. I think if you are supported properly there’s no reason you won’t look and feel amazing. I loved the Amalfi one piece. When it comes to swim I love simplicity and I thought the bust line was incredibly flattering.
You live right by the ocean in Bondi – are you at the beach every day?
Ha! Not at all. Having grown up in the UK the beach is an anomaly to me. The water is too cold, the sand is too sticky, the sun is too hot… It is honestly wasted on me. In saying that I’ve spent more time at the beach since having children because let’s face it, I’ll take all the help I can get entertaining two energetic children.
You’ve described food as one of life’s absolute pleasures – what’s on high rotation in your household, especially with young kids?
I love to mix things up in the kitchen. Sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan but luckily both Valentina and Siddy are pretty adventurous and open-minded when it comes to trying new foods. Some family favourites include schnitzel, Asian turkey burgers, dahl, tabouli and cacio pepe (Georges specialty). I also love to bake and concoct various snacks for the girls, including sweet or savoury muffins, chocolate health balls, seed and nuts bars or veggie fritters. Again it doesn’t always go to plan and I’m sometimes left with 20+ unwanted snacks in my freezer…
Modelling doesn’t stick to a 9-5 schedule and neither does parenting – what do your work days look like?
The mornings can be incredibly hectic. Getting two strong-willed, independent girls ready by a particular time can be filled with frustration. If I know I’ll be cutting it fine, I usually have their clothes laid out the night before and school bags packed. Then I just cross my fingers the next morning and hope there’ll be some level of cooperation. If I’m shooting a half-day I know I’ll have time to get home and prepare dinner before pick up otherwise dinner is either leftovers from the night before or something from the freezer that I’ve already pre-prepared.
What are you most looking forward to in 2022?
So much to look forward to! Moving into our new family home in the northern beach (you can follow our progress on @plateau_project) and of course meeting baby number 3!