HER LIFE IS HER ART
ATLANTA DE CADENET TAYLOR
Photos Phyllis Leibowitz | Words Tamara Rappa
Born in London and raised in both California and New York, Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor is person who refuses to be defined, and we can relate. Model, designer, DJ, podcast host, advocate: Atlanta brings her keen eye, and ear, and unique perspective to it all. It's no secret that she's widely regarded as a muse and an "It Girl". She's appeared in countless magazines from Vogue to Vanity Fair, and has been the face for both mass market brands like Forever 21, and luxury brands like Roger Vivier. Designer Tom Ford calls her a "rare kind of woman", and we couldn't agree more because while she's only in her twenties, Atlanta has lived a LIFE. She has a lot to say, and more big things to do, and is just getting started. What we love the most about this modern renaissance woman? She's focusing her life experience and using her platform to connect with millennial women on her podcast, I'm Over It, where she openly speaks about her experiences with sexual assault, bullying, substance abuse, a mental health diagnosis, body image issues, and all the topics that connect young women today and that matter most.
What is your version of a t-shirt and jeans? T-shirt and jeans is pretty much my natural state. My uniform is a t-shirt and jeans, or a dress. Growing up, I was surrounded by dope women wearing vintage clothes, and I just fell in love with it. So I've always been a vintage girl. For me, it's sort of always been Levi's. I love the way they fit my body. When I was younger I was into band shirts and now I'm into plain white tees. I've begun to like t-shirts with a deeper v, and tighter fitting tees, because I'm kind of into my tits now. I'm more comfortable with my body, more confident, and I've realized what looks good on me. It's weird, I'm so into cleavage now...
How do you accessorize? I wear a vintage belt with my jeans. I never buy myself jewelry, all my jewelry has been gifted to me. At the moment I have all my earrings out because I was on vacation and I wanted to give my ears a break. I have a total of eleven piercings, half of which I did myself. It went from Claire's... to that, real quick! I like to mix up vintage watches and other jewelry with fancy diamonds so that I'm not too decked out. I work with Tiffany [& Co] and they hook me up with a lot of jewelry. I'm wearing some of their pieces like this necklace, which I'm wearing as a bracelet, paired with a vintage Mickey Mouse watch. I also have a lot of Swatches.
What is your favorite era of vintage? 70's. I love the color, the prints. And I love denim from the 90's...the 501 thing with a sneaker. A high sneaker.
What kind of plain white tees do you like? Finding a good white tee is really hard because for me, if it's not vintage, it has to feel vintage. I''m very specific about the t-shirts that I wear. When I find one I like, I buy four, and I'll only wear those. Recently I was given some RE/DONE Hanes tees and they're actually incredible. I wore them all summer.
How do you get your best ideas? They kind of just come to me. I'm a visual person. And I never know if it's a good idea until later on, until I start getting feedback. My boyfriend's incredibly creative and is good at helping me focus, because I'm super in the clouds. It continues to feel weird to me when something works out.
Do you feel like you're often ahead of the curve? When I started my podcast, most of the people I was meeting weren't listening to podcasts. When I've done collaborations, people will tell me my concepts are too far in the future. At the end of the day, I just stick with myself. I stick to what I like and what I want to do. I'm not into what the latest trends are.
Has anyone ever stolen an idea from you? [Laughs]. Of course. I let them do their thing. There's space for everybody. I have my experience, I offer something different. And if that's what they want to do, best of luck. I know now that there is room for all of us. Even though I might get pissed off at first, I don't believe that someone can't be successful along with me.
What do you do when you are stuck? I've had days when I've had to do a podcast and I'm tired and don't think I can talk to someone for an extended time, but I do it and it turns out amazing. Sometimes it's about powering through. And other times it's about giving myself whatever it is that I need. I've always heard it's normal to have phases when you're not inspired. Right now it's an amazing time for me because I don't have an agent, I don't have a manager. I left everyone at the beginning of the year because I felt like my wellbeing was just their 9 to 5. Since then it's been me doing my own thing, and I've had so many ideas. I've begun to build my own team, I have an assistant and someone helping with all the I'm Over It stuff.
Why did you decide to clean house? I've had relationships with modeling agencies since I was I kid, and my experience has been that you're not spoken to in a respectful way. If you're not making the most money out of everyone represented by the agency, you're not really a priority. I like to be very involved in my projects, and I sign off on everything. I don't just show up somewhere to get fitted for a lookbook. So I don't want to feel like I'm harassing someone who would just rather go to happy hour. I'd prefer to just speak with the client directly and cut out that kind of middle man who takes a percentage and doesn't bring me anything. I'm 27; I've been doing this since I was 15, 16, and I have certain expectations. And NO one needs to be spoken to like that. Also because I'm very picky about what I do, I'm not going to do everything, and because of that, people get upset.
Are you afraid of anything? Of course. I'm afraid of a thousand things. Anything from sharks to not being good enough, to failure, to I'm-never-going-to-amount-to-anything. I think everyone is afraid of those things. I'm pretty spiritual. Ever since I've developed more of a spiritual practice within the last year, I've begun to truly believe that everything will work out how it's meant to.
Where do you find inspiration? The people that I surround myself with are incredible people, my friends. It's amazing to have a large group of friends who are so diverse. I get inspired by them on so many different levels, and I like to deep-dive into what they're going through.
What is your most amazing recent discovery? What I'm learning a lot about right now is trans rights. And how a lot of feminists are exclusionary of trans women. I'm thinking about what gender means, about gender fluidity, how people identify, what your pronouns are, and how that works. It's a subject I'm really interested in and beginning to learn more about.
You're open about the bullying you experienced growing up. What do you think it was based upon? Not fitting in with the status quo. I've experienced slut shaming, I've had comments made about my body, the way that I dressed in vintage clothing, the music I listened to. I've had food thrown at me. Boys did horrible things to me. Someone literally picked me up and put me in a trash can in front of a hundred kids.
Why is it so important for you to be an advocate for things like mental health and body positivity? Does it have to do with the bullying you've experienced? I literally feel like I have no choice, I have to speak about these things. Obviously I come from a very privileged background and have a lot of privilege in the world. I'm a white, cis gender privileged woman. But I have gone through my share of adversity, and I can share certain feelings. I know what it's like to feel excluded. I know what it's like to be at someone's else's mercy. I feel like I have a level of privilege that I need to use to help those who are less fortunate, and don't have the ability to have the platform that I do. We're in coastal cities where we have conversations like these with our friends. I want people who are afraid or embarrassed to talk about their experiences to know that they're not alone. There are people out there that look like they're living a great life, living the dream, and are going through similar circumstances. I think it's really important that we accurately represent ourselves and not pretend. Sometimes I still get caught up looking at the amount of "frilly" shit on Instagram, and think, 'I'm not thin enough, I'm not pretty enough, my skin isn't as good as this'. It's really hard. If I can be some sort of light in someone's life and make one person feel less alone, it's worth it. I really think we need to use our voices.
Can you remember when you first expressed a desire to be a voice for women of all sizes? I actually don't love the term "body positivity". I feel like there is too much motivational shit out there in the world. "We need to be better!" For me, it's about being ok with where you are. I don't use language on my podcast to actively motivate people. If someone asks me how I've overcome something, I'll explain. But I don't want to add to this notion that we are not enough. We're all struggling. We're all trying to better ourselves. Do I need a daily reminder that I'm less than? No. There's enough of that. I didn't expect that anyone would respond to the podcast in the way that they have. It's been such a pleasant surprise because as I've said, this never felt like an option or a choice. And just when I feel like I'm not being helpful, someone will come up to me on the street and tell me that they they've listened to every one of my episodes back to back and it helped get them through feeling alone and being in tears. When I get messages from people, I'm reminded that this matters. I made the decision that I'm going to be honest about my journey, and for the last year and a half it's been a series of surprises, and I'm so grateful. About two or three years ago I was sick and heavy with depression and I remember thinking, I'm going to share this online. I posted a selfie looking super hot with the hashtag #thisiswhatmydepressionlookslike. I got hundreds of DM's. And my friends joined in with posts using the same hashtag. Things snowballed. Then, the podcast launched. I thought, there's something here, people are listening to me.
Do you have a wish for your future? I take things one step at a time now. I've spent so much of my life worrying about that.
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