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Interview
Rosa Barney by Matt Licari

Meet Rosa Barney: Model and Body Positive Leader

Rosa’s confidence is inspiring to many, and she is a powerful advocate of body positivity, celebrating women of all shapes and sizes.

Model Rosa Barney’s career has taken off. She’s appeared in the pages of Oprah Magazine, and in campaigns for Macy’s, J.C. Penny and many others. Her confidence is inspiring to many, and she is a powerful advocate of body positivity, celebrating women of all shapes and sizes. As someone who struggled with her self-esteem growing up, she aims to make big changes in the culture of the fashion industry, and be a role model for others overcoming similar obstacles. We had a chance to talk to Rosa about her work, personal life, and passions.

Rosa Barney by Matt Licari

photo by Matt Licari

A woman approached in me in a department store, she introduced herself as a model scout and I almost laughed!

How did you end up with a career as a model? Did you have different aspirations growing up?

I never thought I was going to be a model, I never had the confidence to think I could do something like this! Growing up I only ever thought of models as thin, glamorous women, something I would never be. None of them looked like I did. I struggled with body image and confidence for most of my life, so modeling happened by accident. Since I started, though, it has been one of the most powerful teachers of self-love.

I got into modeling much later than many of the other models I know. I went to college and majored in journalism, my dream was to be a television news reporter. I happened to be in London when I was first approached about modeling. A woman came up to me in a department store, and introduced herself as a model scout. I almost laughed! She explained the plus modeling industry to me and gave me her card. Eventually, she would help me kickstart my career. We spoke for about 15 minutes in the store and at the time I had no idea how much that conversation would change my life!

I want to help people realize that all bodies are beautiful, that we don’t live in a one-size-fits-all world.

You’re a prominent voice in the body positive movement. Can you speak more about your personal involvement and goals for the movement as a whole?

My personal involvement in the body positive movement stems from my own struggles with body confidence. I want to help people realize that all bodies are beautiful, that we don’t live in a one-size-fits-all world. Body positivity is a lifestyle for me. It is not just about looking in the mirror and deciding to like what I see, it is about taking care of myself from the inside out, nourishing my body AND mind, and understanding my self worth. Through that I am able to love myself more.

My goal is to help people who went through similar experiences learn that they are beautiful. All bodies are good bodies, whether they are long and lean or full of hairpin curves and lovely lumps. I want to help people realize that we are all worth more than the dress size sewn into our clothes.

Rosa Barney by John Ellis

photo by John Ellis

You are in control of your happiness and only you truly have control over how you feel.

What is your advice for people who are struggling to feel confident in themselves?

Learning to love yourself is a journey. I wish I could say it was like a light switch and it could just be flipped on but it takes time. My first piece of advice would be to quit the negative talk in your head. Would you say those things to someone else? Our minds are very powerful and the minute we eliminate the self-harming thoughts we have been harboring, we can start a more positive dialog with ourselves. Stop comparing yourself to others, know your worth and don’t rely on the acceptance of others to make you feel good. You are in control of your happiness and only you truly have control over how you feel. Take care of yourself from the inside out; it becomes easier to love yourself when you feel good about the actions you are taking. Ultimately be GENTLE with yourself, it takes time but it is worth it.

Learning to love yourself is a journey. I wish I could say it was like a light switch and it could just be flipped on but it takes time.

What do you do to stay energized and motivated through long work days?

Working out in the morning wakes me up more than a cup of coffee ever will, and helps me keep going throughout the day. Spin class is my favorite when I’m at home but when I’m traveling for work I rely on apps and workouts I can do in my hotel room. If I do hit an afternoon slump I drink green tea or a green juice for a little boost. I also try to keep healthy snacks that are packed with protein and healthy fats to give me energy throughout the day — nuts, fruit and protein bars (my favorite is the Lenny and Larry’s Complete Cookie).

Do you have any favorite memories to share from a photoshoot?

I have so many!

One time I was shooting for an apparel client and it had been a long day of e-commerce shots. At the end they wanted to shoot some more creative content to use in their email blasts and web banners. The concept was “sexy athleisure” and I had to wear a pencil skit, sporty top, heels and a high pony tail while holding a 15 pound medicine ball. Of course 15 pounds doesn’t sound like a lot but when you’re holding it in one hand with your arm extended you start to feel the weight quickly. We were shooting and changing positions until they finally found the pose that was working for them, by this time my arm felt like it was going to fall off but we got the shot! Or so we thought! I walk off set and I start to change since that was the last shot of the day when the art director yells “wait! wait! the shirt was on backwards” and we had to redo it!

Rosa Barney by Aliya Rose

photo by Aliya Rose

Where are some of your favorite places to eat and hang out in New York?

I’m always looking for new places to eat! One of my go-tos is Juice Press, they are all over the city and I know I can get a healthy meal or snack wherever I am. When I’m feeling a little more indulgent I crave pizza. Sorbillo recently opened in NYC and helps me satisfy my cravings for the real Neapolitan version.

I love going to museums and there are so many of them in New York, I live on the Upper East Side so I’m walking distance to the Met and so many others. When the weather is nice I spend a lot of time in Central Park, either walking through or reading a book.

Where are your favorite places to travel and do you have any vacation plans this summer?

One of my favorite cities to visit has always been London, I love exploring the different neighborhoods, going to the beautiful old houses and palaces. There is so much history there and the nerd in me thrives! I also love going to Italy and seeing my family (and eating all the food of course). I go to Cape Cod every summer with my parents and little brother and I look forward to it so much every year — the beach, the ice cream, the lobster rolls and just being together, it’s the best.

We’ve heard that you love to read. What are you reading now and do you have any book recommendations?

Love to read is an understatement! I devour books and have been known to stay up all night just to finish if it’s good! I love period pieces and am especially taken with books that take place around WWII. I’m actually in between books right now but I just finished All The Light We Cannot See, a beautiful story set in WWII France about a blind girl and German soldier whose lives collide. I also recently finished Lilac Girls, a story about the horrors three women faced during WWII. Are you starting to see a theme? I actually just started a book club with two of my friends. We are about to read Lincoln in the Bardo and even though it’s not about WWII, I am really excited about it!

I always joke that skincare is my religion and the sink is my altar.

What are your must have makeup and skincare products?

I always joke that skincare is my religion and the sink is my altar. My friends all know that I am skincare obsessed and I love when they come to me for advice. My number one skincare product is available pretty much everywhere — water! I can’t stress enough how big of a role water plays in my overall skin health. When I’m dehydrated it shows immediately on my skin, it’s dry, it’s not as plump as it should be and it is dull. Also when I’m washing my face I rinse at least 10 times with warm water — your cleanser isn’t any good if any residue is left on the skin!

I also swear by Trish McEvoy’s skincare line, the Beauty Booster Serums are great! I also use tea tree oil to help manage breakouts — working as a model exposes you to a lot of things that can clog the skin and tea tree oil helps clear out bacteria. My absolute MUST have makeup product is mascara — my lashes are long but I love the wide-awake look a lush lash will give you. My hands down favorite is Trish McEvoy Lash Curling Mascara, it lengthens and curls and will literally never give you raccoon eyes.

Carly Susman

Carly is a freelance designer and creative professional in NYC. Her fine arts degree allows her to channel her creative intuition into everything she does from work with artist Jeremyville and designing at VH1 to writing for BWB.

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