When celebrities hang out with Bustle editors, we want to give them the chance to leave their mark. Literally. So we hand them a pen, a piece of paper, a few questions, and ask them to get creative. This time, model and body positive activist Sonny Turner is leaving her mark in the Bustle Booth.
She’s the Birmingham-born curve model that’s taken the runway and Instagram by storm. Take one look at her body positive, feminist posts, alongside gorgeous images from shoots and her holidays, and you'll find yourself joining the 295,000 people who already watch her every move on Instagram. Like many who have built their career on the platform, she began posting mostly as a bit of fun. “I started posting pictures with my friends, just enjoying ourselves not really thinking about how this could become my platform later on in life," she tells Bustle. "I would post images with brands that I liked, and eventually was approached by my mother agency, and subsequently was then signed to amazing agencies around the world.” She continues: It's all still a bit unreal to be honest and I'm blessed and enjoying every moment.”
At just 21 years old, Turner already has contracts with MiLK model management in the UK and JAG models in New York, and even more impressively, she built up her portfolio while finishing her university degree. Graduating this summer with a bachelor of science degree, she conducted her dissertation research on the sociology of the plus-size modelling industry, and while her own work has focused on dismantling harmful stereotypes, she's open about it not being easy. She told the Telegraph, "I never tell people I’m a model. I always say that I’m a school teacher, because I just feel like people are going to look at me and be like, ‘Really?' Though sometimes people guess it now without me saying, especially the younger generation."
"I love brands that break the mould, specifically those aimed towards universal wear for all types of people."
When it comes to the brands she works with, Turner is selective. “I love brands that break the mould, specifically those aimed toward universal wear for all types of people," she adds. So far she's featured in campaigns for ASOS, Primark, and Figleaves, and captivated a particular corner of the internet when she walked for Chromat at NYFW 2018 wearing a "sample size" emblazoned T-shirt.
When it comes to her own personal style, a sense of subversion is never far from the surface. “I love '90s power dressing where women would wear these fun business suits that empowered one another without having to wear the standard dress or such,” she explains. But at this point, her platform is about more than just style: She's a loud voice in the body positivity movement, and is comfortable sharing posts about self-love, care, and empowerment.
“Something I would love to see disappear would be brands who aren't for the all inclusive movement who make money by making women feel less worthy due to their body sizes," she explains. It's little surprise then, that she draws inspiration from one of the fiercest women in pop culture: “I love Rihanna's style and her strong presence both as an artist and as a woman of colour in this society," she says. Girl, you and me both.
With university finished, a growing following, and more exciting projects in the pipeline, Turner plans to spend more time in the U.S. next year. “I want to work hard on taking on these big territories for influencers and models and, as usual, spreading my body confidence message around the world," she says. "That’s the most important thing for me.” Stay tuned, people, and in the meantime, check out her answers to her Bustle booth below.