I choose to follow a creative path in life, and on this path I have been fortunate enough to discover, connect and meet various talent that continue to inspire me. Amongst many is one soul in particular; Emma Hakansson, who popped up on my Instagram page and left an imprint in my mind. Emma is not only an emerging and talented model but an artist pursuing her own creative life, doing her little bit to make the world a brighter place through animal activism and speaking up, "Don't let people step on you - do no harm but take no shit."
Recently Emma spoke up and shared her own personal experience dealing with sexual assault and female discomfort in the fashion industry.* These situations are never and will never be okay and I among many are very proud of Emma for sharing her story. Thank you for speaking up and I hope that this will give strength to those that have had to deal with similar abusive behaviour, harassment and assault.
“Silence only ever benefits the oppressor. Sexual assault thrives in darkness, behind closed doors, in unspoken secrets. But no more. In order to create a safe world in the fashion industry, in all industries, we must speak up when something is wrong. I want to live in a world, work in an industry, where speaking up and demanding safety is expected, rather than seen as taboo.”
*You can read the full story here.
Please also read on below as I chat to Emma about abuse, activism, modelling, and art. >>>
Hey! What are you currently doing?
At the moment I’m in my gap year! Next year I’m going to be doing Global Studies at Monash, which may take me into working in foreign aid, but not yet. This year I’m going to be focussing on modelling; I’ll be spending some time in Sydney working, and hopefully in other places too. I also am spending more time doing activism, and hopefully making art.
How has 2018 been treating you?
Despite some lows, I am feeling so grateful for this year so far as with it has come freedom, now that I’m out of high school. I feel like I have so many paths I can take, which is a little daunting but the amount of opportunity is very exciting.
Can you share a little bit about yourself?
What do you want to know?! I’m vegan (of course the first thing I say), I’m half Swedish, at the moment I’m enjoying writing poetry, I think crying is an important part of life, I love crystals, being in nature and mango.
How did you get into the modelling world?
A lot of people seem to have fancy stories where they were ‘discovered’ on the street, but not me! I decided I wanted to get into modelling so I found out who the best agencies were, sent them some photos of me, and went from there. A few years later I got street cast anyway, but I was already on the modelling train
You recently made an important post addressing sexual abuse in the industry from your own personal experience. This is an extremely serious matter; can I ask when this happened in your modelling career and how do you now feel after sharing this?
It happened very recently, in the last month. I feel empowered having given myself a voice. In silence this sort of abuse thrives, and so too does misplaced victim guilt. Speaking up was therapeutic for me personally, but also something I wanted to do to encourage others to do the same – to tell someone they trusted, to make a statement to the police. To not let abusers get away with their actions. The responses I’ve gotten from people with similar experiences have been bitter sweet, and I hope that the post will continue to create conversation that will not allow this side of the industry to stay in the dark.
When did you decide to tell the world what happened to you?
I told my Mum the next day, then a friend, and then a few days later my agent. By the time I had spoken to my agent I knew I wanted to disrupt the silence. I wasn’t going to let my fear stop me from potentially protecting other people from the same kind of violation.
Hopefully together we can help others and put a stop to sexual assault. Is there any advice you can give to those that are still in the dark?
To anyone that has experienced sexual assault, I am so tremendously sorry. It is not your fault, and all shame and blame lies with the perpetrator. Though not everyone may feel able to, I would urge anyone currently staying silent to speak up. Even if it is slowly. Tell your dog before you work up to speaking to a human. We are so lucky to live in a country where police will take your statement about sexual assault, to have the opportunity to speak up about issues, to have your voice be heard. Though I understand that some people feel unable to speak up, please know that if you do, you are helping to protect everyone around you, and that is an amazing thing to come from something terrible.
You are clearly fighting back but of course this has affected you; can you further on this?
I had felt a little nervous doing the first shoots after that one, but I certainly won’t let what happened stop me from doing anything. In fact, it makes me want to work harder and push and help create an industry that is positive and supportive. It has made me more cautious which isn’t bad, it’s just a fine line between being cautious, and letting past experiences stop you from making the most of the present.
On a positive note, your images are truly beautiful, they always seem to catch my eye. What has been your favourite shoot to date?
Thank you! Hmmm. I’ve loved any shoot that has involved cuddling furry friends. Also really like one which is yet to be fully posted, shot by Melissa Cowan and styled by Phoebe Pendergast (keep your eyes peeled!)
Hmmm. Anyone who has made positive change in the world, created something, and done so with an open and kind heart. In my head currently, Rupi Kaur, Adwoa Aboah, Oprah, Malala Yousafzai.
Artist (past or present) that you would love to work alongside?
Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin, Jenny Holzer, Sarah Sitkin.
A little birdy told me that you create some of your own artworks, can you share with us?
Well! Later in March you’ll be able to see one of my works in NGV at Fed Square… but for now I’ll say that I’ve shared bits and pieces on my Instagram, and spent the last two years at the Victorian College of the arts secondary school, spending much of my time studying and practising art.
What does the future have in store for you?
So many possibilities! It’s both exciting and terrifying. Modelling, travelling with that, more animal activism, more activism of other sorts, publishing some things, art making, fostering, creating, studying.
Any final advice?
Watch Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability