fashion empowered savage x fenty model stella duval to own her image
“I mean, trying to see yourself in such a tiny body is a total brain fuck.”
“Of course I love being sexy, and I’m totally open to nudity and I love doing that as well, but I'm not just that,” intones Stella Duval in her video for the Savage x Fenty campaign, which sees her wearing a pink marabou-trimmed robe. Duval is one of the women chosen by Rihanna for her foray into lingerie, and with her fierce intelligence and shocking blonde bob, Duval’s the perfect embodiment of the Fenty woman. Talking to Duval, it’s apparent that in fact anyone can be a Fenty woman — you just have to have attitude and a penchant for wild colored brassieres.
i-D sat down with Duval to talk about how the industry’s changed, finding her confidence through modeling, and how seeing only stick-thin visions of femininity can mess you up.
What do you think Rihanna entering the lingerie game means?
Honestly, I feel like she’s starting a revolution in a way. People are realizing it pays to be different, and people of all different sizes - skinny, curvy — want to look sexy in lingerie, and feel good about themselves.
How did you get started in modeling?
It was a long process! My mom was a model in the late 80s and 90s, and she was always like, “If you want to do it, it’ll be fun.” We would go to castings when I was a little girl, but I wasn’t super into it at the time, and she didn’t really force it on me. But then as I got older, I was being called fat, and people were putting me on 600 calorie diets, which is not healthy. You know, I was thin at the time too, which was even scarier. I was at university, and my friend brought me into curve modeling. Since then it’s been a dream come true, and I’ve felt the most comfortable I’ve felt in my body, ever.
That’s quite different to the usual modeling narrative.
My mom would always say, “The industry will change for you,” and it has, which is exciting. As a little girl I walked around in heels and watched America’s Next Top Model.
It’s wild to think that it’s only now that plus-size models are having their moment.
I mean, trying to see yourself in such a tiny body is a total brain fuck. I think now, people are finally realizing “Different women, and people, are into this new culture of plus-size modeling,” and realizing it’s a good thing [laughs].
Savage x Fenty is notable in that it’s kind of outrageous design too.
Lingerie can be more than just a silk gown or a lacy bra. There’s so much more to it, and she’s empowering people to be who they want to be, and feel sexy. Or whatever they want to do!
What makes you feel empowered?
Well the most empowering part of my job is being able to have this following, to bring awareness and also empower others to feel comfortable in their bodies. That’s kind of my main thing, and what keeps me going, is knowing that other people are seeing this and realizing it’s okay to be yourself, and feel comfortable in your body. And that’s really important to me!
Do you feel like your agency understands where you’re coming from?
Definitely. I’m so grateful to have them. I’ve been through some hard times recently, the industry can be really scary. And you know, people can be mean. They’ve helped me get through it and told me to be myself. And it works! You know, I’m never going to change.
How do you feel about social media?
There are so many people out there ready to troll! Even if it’s just a comment, it can be really hurtful. But in the whole scheme of social media and Instagram, it’s a wonderful thing. I think we all still have doubts about ourselves, like we have to portray ourselves as certain beings, or our best selves. So it can be a bit difficult. But there is a lot of community behind social media, and I’ve met a lot of great people. And I’ve seen a lot of great activism that’s helped a lot of young people be who they want to be.
What makes you feel like the best you?
I’m super into thrift shopping, I just love it. First off, it’s good for the environment. On top of that, it’s a really fun process. It can be tiring, but it’s fun to be with friends and go look at these exotic pieces. Sometimes I’ll try and go to Nordstrom and Barneys, but I’m looking at the price tags and it’s like, “Damn, that’s my rent this month.”
What have been some of your work highlights thus far?
Obviously Savage, definitely the coolest and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.
I’m actually singing now! I have a tiny little area in my studio apartment with a mic, and I’ve been working on some songs. I’m not there yet but it’s been really fun. I’m planning on having a fundraiser, probably for Planned Parenthood, and singing at it. I’ve done a few before and there was a good turnout. Giving for charity is great, and I get to show my music!