Laura Wells is a model with degrees in law and microbiology. What makes her so unusual, though, is that this description isn’t even the most interesting thing about her. Instead, it’s only evidence of what is – her curiosity. An often-undervalued trait, she exudes interest in the world, whether it’s in furthering her own scientific education with the goal of heightening environmental awareness, or remaining consistently attuned to the simple ways she can turn a bad day into a good one. Lest I be making her sound a little goody two-shoes, she is also self-effacing, honest, and very funny, a woman as ready with tips on sustainable fashion as she is with anecdotes of fake tan disasters.

“I try to use products in my everyday home life that I am able to take with me on trips as well, as I am constantly travelling.

I like to travel in as plastic-free a way as possible, so most of my products are sustainably packaged. Ethique is one of the best brands for this, as everything is plastic-free and compact, and most products have multiple uses. They have been a saviour on so many trips where luggage weight has been an issue. Some favourites of mine from their range are the Sweet Orange and Vanilla Bodywash Bar, the Lime and Ginger Body Polish Bar, and their Rustic Solid Deodorant Bar.

It’s hard to have a solid routine with my lifestyle, but I do always make sure to drink plenty of water each day, moisturise, and apply sunscreen, no matter what I am doing. Incorporating some form of exercise into my day always makes me feel great mentally.

SunButter SPF50 Sunscreen is a staple in my house. I use it every day. It is reef-safe and human-safe and comes packaged in a beautiful tin. Mum was always really big on imparting the lesson to always use sunscreen, and it’s honestly worked so well. I spend a lot of time outside, and my skin could look a lot more weathered if she hadn’t drilled this into us from such a young age.

Laura wears Spell

When it comes to my skincare, I use as many natural products as possible, and make sure to stay away from anything containing microbeads.

I pretty much follow the same routine morning and night. I start by using an oil cleanser (currently I’m liking Bybi’s Swipe Clean) and Face Halo’s reusable face cloths. This combination helps to keep my skin hydrated – I’ve found foaming cleaners don’t really work for me, as they’re too drying. Then I’ll quickly spritz with The Jojoba Company’s Jojoba Water Toning Mist, then moisturise straight away. I recently invested in an eye cream, which I add on top, and I finish up with a good slathering of lip balm and, in the mornings, sunscreen. I’ll sometimes add in a L’Occitane product if I feel like a bit of a treat – I like their Immortelle Overnight Reset Serum for the face and their Almond Shower Oil for the body.

I take an eye mask with me when I travel, which allows me to catch a few extra zzz’s when I’m moving between jobs at weird times, and I usually bring vitamin D and magnesium with me to keep me energised and ready to go.

My hair is often salty from exploring the ocean, so it does get quite dry.

Being a model I need to make sure it’s as healthy as possible, so am always looking to combat this. For the past few months I’ve been using Garnier Fructis Nourishing Treat 1 Minute Hair Mask with Coconut Extract and it’s been amazing. I pop it in after a swim or after I’ve washed it and it makes it feel so strong and hydrated.

Confidence is the best beauty trick anyone can have when putting on a bikini. That and choosing something you love to wear and feel beautiful in.

I do have to fake tan a lot for work. The products I use vary, but one thing I’ve learnt over the years if I am doing an at-home job is to always use a mitt to buff in the product and always moisturise your hands, palms, feet, knees, and elbows. There have been some disasters in the past!

I’m 35, and I’ve been modelling for 14 years full time now. Initially it was supposed to just be for 12 months!

In the past, I’ve definitely had to work for certain brands that didn’t necessarily align with my values to get my rent paid. Now I’m both more established and feel more strongly about what is important to me, so that combination is very freeing. Clients these days are booking me based on what I stand for, which is really lovely. Getting to this point has taken hard work and luck. I’m so grateful that I get to try to make the world a better place, and that every aspect of my life can reflect my priorities.

I follow a ground up approach in terms of how to make the environmental changes we want to see in the world. It’s important to enhance individual behaviour change, and from there we can make meaningful inroads in policy and legislation.

Much as I did once want to be a scientist, I really feel like it’s my calling for my space in the scientific world to be a communicator, rather than to be a researcher or an academic. I get to work with the people doing the front line work, but bounce in and out, and learn holistically. My entry into all of this was quite organic. I started environmental campaigning and got pushed in front of camera! COVID has put a hold on that but the industry is finally bouncing back, and I’m excited to have new shows and documentaries on the horizon.

I moved to London and then New York to model, and have worked on six continents, but I prefer living in Australia and love being settled back here now. It’s home.

Honestly, I really missed the ocean. It is easy to be both interested and interesting all the time in a city like New York, but I missed being salty, haha! I missed spending time underwater and the positive psychological effects that has, which has been termed ‘blue mind’. I grew up in the Sutherland Shire in Sydney, surrounded by bush and ocean, and was always outside, so it’s in my blood.

I was a tall, healthy, sporty kid, but when I was a teenager I would cut the labels out of my clothes so people couldn’t see what size I was wearing.

I was 5”10 and a size 14, and there was such a stigma around that size. I was never overweight but felt a bit uncomfortable about my body because I was a lot bigger than my friends.

Now I look back on those times and wish I had seen women in the media who were my size and shape, because it would have been such a comforting and inclusive feeling. All I ever used to see were extremely thin, airbrushed models who, realistically, had a body shape that was unattainable for me to match.

I really don’t like the fact that we constantly see the same women in the same beauty campaigns. I would love to see more diversity in culture, ethnicity, body shape, and age.

Seeing a wide range of people in the media we consumer does so much for a healthy mentality. I feel like people think beauty only comes in one form, but that is so far from the truth. Social media can exacerbate that feeling – it’s just so unproductive to follow someone who makes you feel bad, and yet we all do it. We need to educate ourselves in our own spaces, and choose where to put our energy. Social media can be such a hindrance, and yet it can also give important concepts a platform and provide people with a much-needed sense of community. If we stop focusing so much on how we look and instead amplify the amazing qualities we all have, I think we would see so much more beauty in the world.

My size and my body don’t dictate my personality or define my worth and what I can give back.

My sister was a size 6-8 and working as a ‘straight’ model (this is what the industry labels traditionally-sized models), when I was asked to model, too, but in the plus size category. I didn’t even know that part of the industry existed. At first I was like, “are they calling me fat?” Over time I have definitely made peace with it, and now it doesn’t bother me how I get labelled. My body does everything I want it to do, and I am fine with it. Part of that acceptance came through sheer time working as a model, getting established and realising people want to book you for how you actually look, not how you’d look if you were smaller. I learned to understand my body and what shapes it could make in a photo. I’ve also learned that my size fluctuates depending on what I’m doing (and eating!). Those natural fluctuations don’t stop me from working or from doing anything else; I just come back to a routine and keep going.

There is a practical aspect to the terminology of ‘plus’ or ‘curvy’ in fashion, that just boils down to whether a garment is bigger or smaller when it’s created.

So within the industry, using a term like ‘plus’ to define a model wearing a bigger size than models have traditionally worn is quite simple, but I do see that the social implications of using those terms outside of the industry are more complicated. I don’t find any of those labels offensive – I mean, modelling is very visual, and it’s pretty obvious what we all look like, whether or not you call each type of model something different.

It’s absolutely true that being an ‘average woman’s size’, a 12-14, makes it harder to get work than if you’re bigger or smaller than that. Models my size get called ‘inbetweenies’, demonstrating how we’re not quite in either the plus or straight camps. Working in New York, I was told I was too small to be getting regular work in the curve industry, so I was given the option to try and either put on weight to get that work or lose weight to try straight modelling. I knew I’d be unhappy and unhealthy at either end, and didn’t want to change my body and lifestyle for my job.

I don’t go out of my way to maintain a certain shape for work, but make sure to incorporate things I love to do every day.

Some of my favourite active things to do are hiking and snorkelling – adventure and exercise in one! I’m not necessarily going to the gym to smash it out, you know? I don’t want to feel like I have to do a certain activity.

I predominately eat vegetarian which has given me so much more energy. I really enjoy it. Day to day I eat reasonably healthily, but don’t feel guilty about having treats. That’s something I have learned to do over time, to really enjoy certain foods without any guilt. It’s all part of being healthy and happy, physically and mentally (and environmentally!)

Getting stuck in hotel quarantine was an interesting social experiment.

I went from from being outside on a boat in the middle of the South Pacific for four weeks, to being in a small room with no opening windows or balcony, and no fresh air, which was a big challenge. I enjoy being outside so much that not having that privilege (in order to protect the safety of others) was a real insight into how I enjoy spending my time and where I get my happiness from.

I did appreciate the time it gave me to slow down, do nothing, chat to friends I haven’t spoken to in years, and realise how lucky I am to live in Australia.

It is difficult to promote effective awareness without kindness. I learnt this the hard way.

I was getting so frustrated and disenfranchised with people not being educated around plastic pollution that I turned into a bit of a grinch for a while. I soon realised that this mentality didn’t achieve anything. I have to be kind and respectful, and understand what past experiences and education about the issues people bring to the table. Once I took this into consideration, I found that the awareness I was helping to bring more readily began to translate into action. And at the end of the day that’s what I was aiming for –­ to encourage people to change their behaviours in order to create a healthier environment.

I love the whole concept of sustainability. I really enjoy learning about ways to incorporate it into my everyday life, including in my wardrobe.

I try not to buy anything unless I really need something, or I love it so much I know I will have it for a long time and wear it often. The general rule of thumb is that a garment must be worn 30 times before it becomes more or less carbon neutral, so I keep this in mind when I make my purchases. I love Maggie Marilyn and Spell, which are both brands making conscious efforts toward sustainability and teaching their customers. It’s really refreshing to see more brands move into this space who can be leaders in the future. Fashion is a huge contributor to climate change, so the more people understand that they can make a difference to the future just in how they use their wallet, the better.

I am a very independent, carefree person, and try to always look for the positive.

I like to take life as it comes and not dwell on the past or on decisions that I made that may have been the wrong ones. I like looking forward, and learning from the past but not living in it.

My best piece of advice to anyone, any time is to get outside! My happy place is exploring our natural world – it helps you to consider the small stuff as well as the big things. It encourages being aware of ecosystem interactions, and about how we fit into the world around us. I think it’s really important to be curious and to continually educate ourselves about anything we’re passionate about. It makes you and those around you feel great when you’re both interesting and interested.”

Interview and story by Zoe Briggs. Photography by Alice Mahran, hair and makeup by Jess Diez.  Shot on location at Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel.

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