Animal Protection > Activist Interviews

Cutting to the Chase Models with Conscience

Heather Chase set up her own cruelty-free model agency in America, 'Models with Conscience', and has gone in to bat for the animals in a big way.

We caught up with her recently just back from her busy trip in Europe.

Here's what she had to say about animals, modelling, spirituality and her latest book 'Beauty without the Beasts' just out now.

 

Q. Please tell us why you set up 'Models with Conscience' and was there a defining moment in your life that lead you to this action?

A. As described in my book 'Beauty without the Beasts,' I set up Models with Conscience, not in response to a defining moment, but through a process of reflection. It happened after I had been working in unfulfilling jobs and done much soul-searching to discover my true life's work my unique way of contributing to the world while I am here. Based on insights gained from personal reflection, gifted advisors, and helpful books, I concluded that my mission was to promote peaceful co-existence between humans and the rest of nature, especially the animal kingdom. To begin accomplishing my mission, I researched animal issues, adopted a cruelty-free lifestyle which includes veganism, and explored ways to inspire others to do the same.

Q. Could you speak about what you are doing now Heather and what 'Models for Conscience's' philosophy is all about?

A. Currently, my main projects include: working to obtain a model agency license for Models with Conscience, successfully launching, 'Beauty without the Beasts,' and updating our website. The first project is to enable Models with Conscience to operate as an agency, rather than a club, as it is now classified. The second is to bring our message of animal protection to the widest possible audience. The third is to share our latest news and new members with the Internet community.

The Models with Conscience philosophy is summarized in our motto 'radiantly representing cruelty-free products.' It embodies the four primary ways in which Models with Conscience strives to contribute to the world: by serving models, consumers, animals, and companies. The word, 'radiantly', indicates how we serve models by giving them the opportunity to promote products they can truly feel good about, therefore helping them to become more fully radiant and to add meaning to their careers. The word 'representing', relates to our serving consumers by presenting an expanded concept of beauty (we accept members of various ages, sizes, and looks), offering information and tools to help consumers choose products they can use with a clear conscience, and demonstrating that we humans can thrive while allowing our fellow beings to thrive as well. The word, 'cruelty-free,' indicates that we strive to assist animals by encouraging people to use products which do not involve the needless suffering or death of innocent animals, and by donating a portion of our profits to animal-free charities.

Finally, the word, 'products,' refers to the way in which we intend to help cruelty-free companies prosper by offering them the opportunity to have models who share their humane ethic, and who possess the rare combination of radiance and compassion associated with their products, bringing positive attention and, hopefully, increased sales to their company.

Q. Tell us about your latest book 'Beauty without the Beasts'.

A. 'Beauty without the Beasts,' began as a series of fact sheets I wrote to inform members of Models with Conscience about various animal protection issues. One day, the idea came to me to put the fact sheets together in a book format. I considered the concept for a while without mentioning it to anyone. A few days later, my father expressed the same idea to me. I took it as an affirmation that the idea was indeed a good one, so, using the fact sheets as a 'point of departure', I jumped into the project, researching additional related topics and adding them to my manuscript. In order to illustrate the concepts discussed in the texts, I organised group photo shoots for Models with Conscience members and integrated the best resulting photos into the manuscript.

Throughout the process, my intention for, 'Beauty without the Beasts,' was to present animal issues in a way that was accessible to a wide range of readers who were being introduced to these issues for the very first time, and to share with them how they can help animals through their every-day consumer and lifestyle choices. I strived to appeal to the reader's eye with photos of models enjoying the cruelty-free lifestyle, to inform the readers mind with basic facts on animal issues presented in easy-to-understand format, to touch to reader's heart with essays by select Models with Conscience members and personal anecdotes from my own life, and to uplift the reader's spirit with inspiring quotes from some of history's great minds, and animal-related stories from some of the world's greatest spiritual traditions.

After approximately three years of writing and refining the manuscript, I felt it was complete and moved on to find a publisher. I researched scores of publishers and sent query letters to those most likely to be interested in my work. Through a series of synchronous events, my manuscript was accepted by Lantern Books, a book publishing company specialising in spirituality and animal-issues the perfect 'midwife', so to speak, to help deliver, 'Beauty without the Beasts,' into the world!

Q. What advice would you give newcomers to modelling especially since agencies don't necessarily subscribe to a 'cruelty-free'ethic?

A. They are welcome to approach Models with Conscience! Or, they can approach traditional agencies, state that they only want to model cruelty-free products, and explain why. Since cruelty-free is a new concept in modelling, the agencies initial reaction may be negative. However, if the agencies see enough potential in the model, they may well try to accommodate his or her request.

Q. Your book is very much focussed on inner beauty as well as the outer variety. Is that true?

A. Yes it is. It is easy to forget the importance of inner beauty. I forget it myself more often than I would like. However, inner beauty is essential and is the basis of outer beauty. In my opinion, the things in which we decorate our bodies (cosmetics, jewelry, etc) should be used to highlight our inner beauty, not substitute it. Mascara cannot put a sparkle in the eyes. Lipstick cannot put warmth in our smile. Lotion cannot put kindness in our touch. These qualities can only come from within.

I think that we can start developing inner beauty by understanding that we are more than just our bodies we are also minds, hearts and souls. We spend so much time attending to our outer selves working out, styling our hair, applying make-up, buying nice clothes, eating healthy foods, etc. In my opinion we would also do well to attend to our inner selves reading inspiring books, praying, meditating, writing in a journal, enjoying nature, etc. Such activities reduce stress and cultivate a sense of inner peace, which is then reflected in our outer appearance. That sparkle returns to our eyes, warmth to the smile, and kindness to our touch.

Q. A recent poll in the States shows that 60% of women said that they preferred products that were not tested on animals, while 72% said they preferred synthetic fur instead of animal fur. Have you noticed any significant difference in your industry's attitude with regards to wearing fur, 'cruelty-free' cosmetics etc?

A. Yes, most definitely. An awareness about animal issues is being raised, consumer demand for cruelty-free products is increasing, and companies are responding. In apparel, more faux fur and faux leather items are now being offered. In personal care, more companies are discontinuing the use of animals in testing their products. There is still a long way to go, but the progress that has been made so far is encouraging.

Q. What are your plans for the future Heather?

A. Professionally, I aim to make Models with Conscience as successful as it can be in all respects. Personally, I aim to live a balanced life and be a positive presence in the world.

Models with Conscience website: http://www.modelswc.com/