The work of Freddie Harrel is about fighting the way women are pigeonholed into ‘types’ and ‘kinds’, so I know it’s clichè, but I’m telling you – she really is a one-of-a-kind woman.
Freddie’s blog is about so much more than personal style. She teaches ‘She UNLEASHED’ workshops, gives talks, and makes videos that are all about self-acceptance and breaking down the barriers that are in the way of women reaching their full potential.
If you’re like me, you approach all these “self-help” and “self-discovery” ideas with a healthy dose of cynicism, but holy moly, Freddie practices what she preaches and the proof is right in front of you. Watch her videos, read about her journey, and take a look at how unleashed this woman is. It makes you want to learn more.
In craving to understand how Freddie came to be such a wonderful, powerhouse woman, I began to understand myself.
Freddie used to be an ASOS stylist and that was when a lot of ideas for She Unleashed emerged:
“I used to help women shop through the stylist interface, and I realised that many of them were just like I used to be: dressing to look like the person they wanted to be perceived as, and not themselves.”
We spoke a lot about how dangerous social media can be – encouraging women to constantly compare themselves to each other. Freddie said that her core message is that each one of us is so complex, made up of so many delightful different parts and personalities that are so easy to overlook, that there is no baseline from which we can compare each other.
Her messages for women about empowerment and self-acceptance appear on her blog alongside thoughtful pieces about feminism and girl gangs. One of my favourite things about her blog is how it feels like you’re on the journey with her. A while ago she posted about not knowing whether or not to call herself a feminist, and we’ve all been there before, so I asked her about it.
“I have no fear to call myself a feminist now.”
“I never really understood the backlash around it so I was nervous about that term, but now I’m more and more unapologetic about who I am and I actually don’t understand people who claim they’re not feminist.”
One of the other terms Freddie has coined is “Lady Guilt” and it’s a personal favourite. I remember watching her video about it and realising that all the feelings she was having – about clothes and her partner and about cleaning their apartment – were identical to mine. “Oh, the Lady Guilt! I think we all suffer with guilt, but women especially, we spend so much time beating ourselves up. Feeling or acting like we’re not doing enough, not performing enough – that’s definitely something I struggle with too.”
We finished on a topic I know she’s passionate about – diversity in fashion. I asked her if she had any opinions or experiences she’d like to share as a woman of colour in the industry and, true to Freddie form, she didn’t hold back.
“It’s a tricky thing because I think that everyone gets used in the end. There are brands that clearly approach me so they can tap into the black market, but I guess blonde girls are used the same way too.”
What really makes her angry though, are brands who don’t use black models at all.
“What can possibly be the reason? We don’t sell? We’re not beautiful enough? It angers me but I also can’t help but feeling sorry for these brands. Black women are responsible for a big chunk of the global beauty spending, same for fashion. If brands don’t want to work with us, that’s their loss.”
When recently working with a French brand who make t-shirts, mostly with Beyonce, Kanye West and Drake lyrics, but don’t use black bloggers or models on their site, Freddie confronted them about it. “Do you know what their reply was? We’re just about to use an Asian model.” Not good enough.
“We’re beautiful and matter just as much. And if you’re in for the money, we have some too!”