GRL Talk With Isabella Fernandes

 You’ve probably come across images of Isabella Fernandes during your morning scroll through Insta, or perhaps in an article on your go-to news site. She was one of many models in a stunning series by photographer Sophie Mayanne, which saw women bare all for a photoshoot celebrating their scars. Isabella acquired her scars in a house fire, when her shirt caught fire when she was cooking. Since appearing in ‘Behind the Scars’, Isabella has been interviewed by the likes of the BBC and ITV News, as well as being profiled on many an online site.  We got in touch with the lovely Isabella – a model, activist and owner of one of our fave Instagram accounts – to get to know more about the campaign and what it’s done for her.

Image Credit: Ruby Burgess
Image Credit: Ruby Burgess

Hi Isabella! We recently came across your modelling work after seeing campaigns you’ve been involved in, that have garnered a lot of media attention. What made you want to get involved with modelling and this industry?

Before the accident, I’d been scouted when I was about 14 years old, but I felt too young to model. Then after the fire, I spent a lot of time in hospital and I saw an open casting on Instagram, and just decided to go for it. Initially, it was nice to have some images that showed my scars openly and candidly. Before this, I’d had a few shots of them peeking out of a t-shirt, but nothing that made a statement saying “I’m here, this is me, this is my body” – it was empowering, and at the same time, vulnerable. The images from that first shoot are the ones that have gone on to be on the Daily Mail, The Sun etc., which has been strange for me, because that shoot took less than half an hour, and even a year on those images are still being recycled.

Were you surprised by the positive reaction to the campaign?

I never expected it to gather so much attention – initially I shared a few of the images on Instagram, and I couldn’t open my phone. That was the first time anything like that has happened to me. It’s lovely to be able to see images I’m proud of getting recognition, but I did the shoot for myself. I thought the process would be a new, healing step.


Sophie Mayanne for Behind the Scars on

Image: Sophie Mayanne for Behind the Scars

How do you practise body positivity in your daily life? And what does body positivity mean to you? I think with body positivity there’s an extent to how much you can talk to other people about their bodies and your own. If someone opens up a dialogue with me though, I’m happy to discuss it. It’s been great for me, when I’ve had hiccups along the way, to be able to find people like me who are so positive about their own self-image. I’d like to reach a point where we have campaigns with people with scarring and different body types next to each other without it having to be marketed as body positivity. Just something that’s normalised.

The idea of ‘perfect skin’ is still perpetuated in the media, and has gone relatively unchallenged. Who are some women changing this that you admire? The idea that skin has to be perfect [is redundant] – everyone gets papercuts and bruises – skin changes and develops over time. My scars will continue to change as I get older, but they’re always be a part of me. Winnie Harlow is amazing, it’s great to see a successful model who’s talked about and praised because of her skin condition.



Sophie Mayanne for Behind the Scars on

Image: Sophie Mayanne for Behind the Scars


How has your self-image changed since the accident? And what’s the process of acceptance been like?

Initially, in the hospital there were no mirrors on the wall, so when I got out I hadn’t seen myself for a very long time. When I came home I still had bandages on, so it was a good few months before I could fully see myself or even shower. I remember that first shower feeling very cleansing, and pure. Because my accident happened in the form of a fire, I found (and still find) water very comforting. I sat in front of the mirror for a while after that, and thought ‘it’s different.’ It wasn’t necessarily a bad or a good thing, it’s just that my body’s changed. My movement’s a lot better now and the appearance of the scars less red and irritated. Now that I’m not in so much pain, my relationship with my scars is a lot more positive. They’re a part of me now. When an injury is visible, and it’s painful, your attitude towards yourself is naturally negative, but I’ve come a long way.


Sophie Mayanne for Behind the Scars on

Image: Sophie Mayanne for Behind the Scars


We’re a month into 2018, what do you want to achieve this year in terms of your modelling and activism?

I’d like to continue doing photoshoots and other projects. I’d like to start a blog, to get my message across more concisely. I just want to be myself. I don’t think what I’m doing is particularly ground breaking, but at the same time, I’m really happy that I’ve had these opportunities. It’s amazing to be involved in projects involving scars, but moving forward it’d be great to get involved in work that isn’t so focused on one topic, but still appreciative of different bodies.

Now for a question we ask everyone on GRL Talk – what would you go back and tell your 16-year-old-self?

Have fun and enjoy yourself. Be more confident. I was shy and apprehensive of trying new things, but saying yes will advance your confidence a lot.


Follow Isabella on Instagram here. 

View Sophie’s Behind The Scars Campaign here. 


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