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Interview with Gala Darling: Inspiring radical self-love

Gala Darling, blogger extraordinaire, has a mission: to inspire her readers to love themselves — a self-proclaimed “radical” idea.

Starting out as a fashion and lifestyle blogger, Gala has now transitioned into a savvy businesswoman who makes a living from her brand. She’s originally from New Zealand, and now lives in New York City with her boyfriend and two dogs. She’s invited to high-profile events and rubs shoulders with designers like Betsey Johnson.

I first started reading iCiNG (the previous incarnation of Gala Darling’s blog) a few years ago, when she was living in Melbourne, Australia. Like her hundreds of other readers, I found her style and personality contagious. Even though she wasn’t always writing about topics I was interested in, she managed to captivate me with her bubbly and fresh energy. I followed her move to New York with awe, and dreamed of a life one day where I would be able to do something similar.

Over the years, her blog has evolved and Gala has taken on various projects with the common aim of inspiring self-improvement. Recently, her crusade is the “Radical Self-Love” movement: galvanizing change in body image but encouraging her readers to love themselves. She rallies her community, focuses them on taking specific action, runs Radical Self-Love workshops, dishes out incendiary wake-up calls like “Empty Bellies Do Not Beget Genius” and trumpets motivational words like: “The world is so big. Big enough that we can have 30,000,000 different types of beauty, & they are ALL cool & ALL valid & ALL fabulous!” She also recently published a series of posts about body image pressures in the fashion blogosphere.

I was interested in her mission, and in particular the apparent contradiction her work spans between fashion consumption and positive body image. And what better way to ask her about this that to interview her?

Gala, I may have resisted in the past, but I can now say that I’m unabashedly, unashamedly ON BOARD with Radical Self-Love.

Without further ado, I give you Gala Darling…

What inspired you to start the Radical Self-Love movement? Why is it so important to love yourself, and why is this a radical thing?

Gala: I started my blog with the intention of writing about fashion and lifestyle — mostly ways to make your life more magical and beautiful. As time progressed, though, I realized that most of my readers simply wanted to be happy, and were looking for ideas on how to do that, or how to get to that place. A leopard-print dress or pair of false eyelashes will only get you so far!

I had a lot of experience with dealing with self-esteem and self-image.  I battled with an eating disorder for five years, and had an incredibly poor view of myself. I was so sad and negative. With a lot of hard work, I managed to pull myself from the trenches of self-hatred and really fall in love with myself.  So it’s something I felt I could write about, or at least I could share my experiences with other people.

It’s radical to love yourself because so few people genuinely do. You only have to look around to see that most people are barely existing, treating themselves poorly and stuck in self-destructive habits. Loving yourself is as radical as being happy.  It’s the opposite of what the majority of society is concerned with!

The mission of About-Face is to equip girls and women with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect self-esteem and body image. What impact do you think media messages can have on radical self-love?

Gala: I think the media can be a massive contributor to negative self-image, but I really think the responsibility lies within our families, friendships and communities to negate those messages. If your mother loves her body and you learn to love yours, then you have a much better chance of surviving the onslaught from, say, US Weekly. I think it’s up to adults and peers to set the tone. Don’t buy tabloids, and don’t read gossip web sites, because all of this contributes to the story that we are all competing with one another, that it is okay to judge one another, that all that matters is how you look, or how much you weigh today.

In what way do you think the Radical Self-Love movement can change the way we feel about ourselves and our bodies?

Gala: I think the radical self-love movement is powerful because it shows girls that they’re not alone in dealing with these crazy messages from Hollywood and wherever else. If you’re unhappy with how you look but you have no idea how to deal with those feelings, and you don’t know anyone with the skills to assist you, getting on board with the radical self-love movement means you have a huge community of women who can help you.

I write a lot about radical self-love, but I don’t know everything. My readers are such a smart and insightful bunch… The information they contribute is incredibly valuable. I’m working on ways to make the sharing of that information much more easy and accessible, which will be wonderful!

You also write about style, aesthetics, and consumption — all topics that involve some level of buying products, consuming advertising, and often having to deal with harmful media messages. How are we able to “buy into” these industries, and simultaneously reject their messages and achieving self-love? Can consumption and radical self-love coexist?

Gala: I think being a conscious consumer is important. Investigate the companies you’re buying from, really question the tactics they use to sell product, and look into their ethics. Do they test on animals or engage in unfair labor practices? Being able to look at things with an open but discerning mind is an incredibly valuable skill.

I also believe that extreme minimalism or rejection of all things frivolous can be miserable! We thrive on beauty, it feeds the soul, and if a pair of glittery shoes makes you feel better about life, then so be it! It’s not anyone’s place to judge that. Do what makes you happy, but think about your habits. Be aware of how you spend and whether it is provoked by emotion. Sometimes we shop to fill an emotional void or to distract us from what is really occurring in our life. Think about your habits and patterns, then behave accordingly.

Thank you, Gala Darling!


9 thoughts on “Interview with Gala Darling: Inspiring radical self-love

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  1. This was a great interview!! I’m so torn on that girl. Sometimes I really like her writing, but her constant, constant shopping and bragging is really a turn-off and I think it shows she has some deep psychological issues. I like her articles best where she is just sharing cool links, info and experiences. Any time she gives advice I think–“I don’t want to mirror anything this person does!”

  2. Sara, you took the words out of my mouth. I think Gala has really great intentions on spreading radical self-love, but I do think that in the past few years, her success has enabled consumerist habits that don’t appeal to those of us with simpler lifestyles. Shouldn’t self-love come from inside, not from commercial frivolity? She touched on this in the last answer of the interview, but I think there is a fine line between allowing yourself frivolous purchases and indulging to the point of ignorance about the world and how you are supporting unnecessary consumerism and wastefulness.

    Of course not everyone’s values are the same, so I shouldn’t project, but it would be nice to see her have a little more concern for living modestly for a greater purpose.

  3. Thanks everyone for your comments. I too was troubled by the fine line between consumerism and self-love, which is why I asked Gala the question. But I thought she had some great answers and, as I said in the article, I can accept it now.

    Alex is right, not everyone’s values are the same, and the more we can appreciate each other for the great things we do, rather than criticise for the things that might be different to how we would be, the better!

  4. I think people also don’t realize that a lot of the stuff that Gala gets is mailed to her for free. Its not like she goes out and buys stuff everyday.

    Any well read writer in the fashion business receives tons of samples. Even some of the smallest blogs I read get free samples of hair irons and such on a regular basis.

    Anyways, I got a pair of glitter/sequin shoes at target for $12 and they make me happy every time I look down at them. Her advice isn’t half bad. If I spend within my means to pamper myself now and then out of love for myself without going into debt or harming others, why not?!

    I think the number one thing I take away from Gala on a weekly basis is: no guilt about normal healthy behaviors! No guilt about self love, no guilt about pride in your achievements, no guilt about pursuing your dreams.

    She also models healthy eating without restrictions. She still eats cake and pizza but most of the time she eats very healthy, raw foods and such. She models exercising in fun ways. She models so much beauty, even though she is kind homely actually, she just shines beauty and after reading her for years upon years I think she is gorgeous.

    I read a lot of fashion blogs, by a lot of different women from all walks of life (in developed countries, I mean they are fashion blogs, so I gotta be real here). And I think fashion blogging is a way of subverting fashion magazine messages. Lovely women of all sorts dressing in wardrobes of all sizes (there is even one lady who wore the same dress for a year!) . Gala is one of the earliest, and hers was the first fashion blog I followed. That lead me to reading a few dozen and getting so many perspectives.

  5. The thing about self-love and consumption is that they actually are more related than you think. I´m not the biggest shopper ever, but I´m an artist and I like to express myself. I´m currently living away from home with just the most basic items – no makeup, no frilly dresses, no bright colors – and I have to say it affects the way I feel about myself, especially when meeting new people. So to some extent the things you buy do make you feel good about yourself, whether it is dressing for your body or dressing in pinks and purples because it suits your mood. Obviously there is no subsitute for actually accepting yourself the way you are without the clothes/makeup shebang but you´d be surprised how differently you carry yourself if someone stripped away the items of consumption that make you you! Hope this made sense for anyone who is interested.

  6. I’m quite conflicted about Gala too. I think it’s great that her blog encourages working on yourself and being happy instead of indulging in mindless gossip BUT I find her hypocritical.

    She says that people should be happy whatever body shape they have, yet she moans about her height (5’7 is NOT short!) idolizes mary-kate olsen and tracey anderson and goes on about how wonderful the raw food diet is when it involves barely eating anything. She once posted a picture of a model (who looked like a famine victim) and said she was beautiful then deleted my comment when I said she looked emaciated and ill and maybe wasn’t the most appropriate image to put on a supposedly body positive blog. Not to mention writing for Cosmopolitan which to me, is a magazine that encourages women to be sex objects.

    She also speaks of being content without material things (but constantly brags about the stuff she can buy) and being a “conscious consumer” but promotes estee lauder (which allegedly uses cancer causing chemicals in their products) and numerous cosmetics that are tested on animals and that most people can’t actually afford.

    she posted an article called “for god’s sake don’t sleep with him” which basically said that women who don’t have one night stands have low self esteem then posted (which I think is pretty ridiculous) then later posted XXX Time saying that sex is better when your in a reationship!

    Sorry for the essay! Just a few things that I’ve been thinking about and want to see if anyone else agrees. Like I said, there’s a lot of good, useful advice on her blog but I can’t have much admiration for someone who doesn’t practice anything she preaches.

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