Beauty and the bullies

Written by Kerrie Alexander

Ruthy Hewson’s unexpected rise to fame

The day after graduating from Maryborough High, Ruth Hewson received a call from her agency that changed her life.

The model and influencers bags were packed ready to move to the city without hesitation after being given the chance to work with Brisbane-based clothing company Universal Store on a summer campaign.

Moving to Brisbane was the start of something big for the 19-year-old who was just itching to leave Maryborough and find a home where she could let her life-long love of fashion, modelling, influencing and creative side free.

“It was the biggest spark in my passion for modelling,” Ruthy said.

“It was a really good experience because I worked with amazing creators and models and learnt more about shooting in general.

“It was the first ever campaign I had that I was treated like an actual model, and it opened my eyes and made me realise that I wanted to continue pursuing my career in modelling.”

Ruthy has gone on to work with brands like Lorna Jane, Estee Lauder, and Cotton On, over the past five months on her social media platforms.

Her Instagram now has some 35,000 followers who adore her highly confident posts and videos but there’s far more to her success than just modelling clothing and brands.

Yes, she has magnificent skin and a wild afro that many models would die for but having these features hasn’t always been a blessing.

It has, in fact, been the centre of a long struggle with lack of confidence and self-worth until now, which is a story that will be featured in Melbourne’s Fashion Journal Magazine this year.

Born in the Philippines, her father left before she was born, and her mother left the country for some time and met an Australian man.
When her mother returned to the country, she was pregnant.

“I am a Black Asian (Nigerian and Filipino),and you don’t see a lot of those in the industry with an actual story,” Ruthy said.

“When I was little, I was bullied for my looks in the Philippines.

“I was very jealous because I didn’t get the attention that my little brother did because he was white, and I was black. This took a toll on my attitude in the family. I didn’t feel as loved which is not true at all.

“I would get bullied at school, emotionally and physically, because I was dark.

“Then when we came to Australia my mum didn’t know how to maintain my hair and I don’t blame her, but she would shave my hair and a lot of people called me a boy and called me names.

“I just thought I was really ugly as a kid, and I hated myself.”

The constant bullying led to an eating disorder and other health issues but one defining moment in Hervey Bay helped Ruthy feel beautiful, inside and out.

That was being approached by local photographer Jess Gunn to do a fashion photoshoot.

“When I did the photoshoot with Jess, I realised I had a purpose and it motivated me to keep going with my dream of modelling.

“It was the first time that I loved looking at myself in photos. It felt like I held the power, and it pushed me to keep going.

“I skipped school and sacrificed hundreds of dollars for a train ticket to Brisbane and to pay for photoshoots with photographers to build my portfolio.”

She said her agency Everi-Body has been a big support network and an integral part in bringing her modelling and influencing career to life, with a huge number of Black-Asian Australian women and men following her work.

Ruthy says she is a now a voice for those with similar stories and advocates to that community that you don’t need to be tall, skinny, blonde, and white to succeed in life.

She now knows that it’s important to understand and accept that out of the billions of humans in the world there is one thing that is guaranteed; that not everyone will be your biggest fan. And that’s okay.

So, she changed her expectations and stopped seeking approval from others.

“I want to show them that people like us can get the recognition we deserve.

“They say in my DM’s (direct message) that I’m their comfort person.

“I thought that the only way the industry and people in general would accept me was if I was skinnier and whiter.

“I wouldn’t wear my hair out. This year is the first time I have worn my afro out proudly.

“I’ve been going to the gym, loving myself and eating well and I’m at the normal weight for a teenage girl now, which is really great.

“We are our own bosses. We don’t need to satisfy anyone else but ourselves.”

The next big step in Ruthy’s career starts next month when she heads to the Philippines for three months to collaborate with photographers and magazines to document her journey.

It will of course also be featured on the Ruthy Hewson Instagram account as well as her new YouTube account.

“I wanted to document my life in the Philippines as a black girl, which will open some eyes in a way.

“Where I am right now is perfect.”