For the 16th BEAUTYfull post, we capture the inner and outer beauty that is Isla Bell Murray. Isla has a warm and sparkling smile that is matched with a sincerity and openness rare for a generation often known for posturing and perfecting. Isla looks to see the best in others and then has an effortless way of bringing it out of them. She is a true original, in substance and style, and in just being her authentic self, she encourages you to be the same.
BEHIND THE CONCEPT: What is BEAUTYfull®
Spread beauty. It’s our mission. And our goal in spreading beauty is that it reaches everyone. We believe beauty comes in all ages, races, genders, features, abilities, sizes, shapes, body types… in all the unique elements that form each of our unique whole. There is a FULL spectrum of BEAUTY and we all exist in it. With our own personal experiences, stories and voices. And with that, originated the concept of BEAUTYfull®.
For our 16th feature, we introduce to you… Isla Bell Murray.
THE 16th SUBJECT: Isla Bell Murray
Not your typical Brooklyn girl, Isla was born in England and grew up in Namibia and Scotland. She made her way to the US ten years ago by way of San Francisco and then New York.
Isla is an unbelievably talented and motivated self-taught designer who most recently served as Creative Director at Bustle and over all BDG brands. In her role — and in addition to overseeing an entire site redesign — she mentored, nurtured and inspired an incredibly tight-knit team. Isla left the company this summer to pursue her own business and launched innovation studio LAMA SIX with business partner Maximillian Kirchoff. In her current work, with a client base consisting of entrepreneurs, start-ups, makers and more, Isla “guides, plans and executes rapid and thoughtful approaches to realize and substantialize visionary ideas. We believe in the transformational experiences that products are to every person.”
Isla also has a background and education in behavioral psychology. In business and beyond, it allows her to intimately understand people and also to truly know and be herself.
THE INTERVIEW: Isla on learning to love her smile and her height and how social media helps bring attention to a wide range of women who would otherwise go unrecognized and ignored.
What appealed to you about the BEAUTYfull project? Why did you want to participate in the series?
I remember when I was 18 years old and I went to an all women’s spa for the first time. I was horribly self-conscious, and kind of mortified. BUT for the first time I saw all these beautiful bodies in a million different shapes, sizes, ages and colors. I remember this “ah ha” moment – these bodies weren’t the “perfect” bodies I’d grown up seeing in the media, and to which I compared myself. But each body had its own beauty. It was a turning point in helping me feel more comfortable in my own skin.
The BEAUTYful project feels like that spa. I want to celebrate all these women, and I’m so honored to be a part of it. You gotta let yourself be a little vulnerable for us all to be more powerful in our beauty.
Where do you think you (or all women) get their cues about how they “should” look?
The media. TV, movies, magazines, social media, models in catalogues…most of these images portray an extremely narrow visual representation of how women “should” look.
Can you describe the idealized standard of beauty for women as you see it today. What does the perfect woman, as defined by Hollywood, entertainment and social media, look like?
Young, probably white, able bodies, slim, toned, without cellulite, without lumps, bumps, stretch marks. Probably with unrealistic proportioned boobs and butt. Oh, and of course their hair is perfect, their makeup is flawless, they have full lips and longer than life eyelashes.
There are definitely more “real” and diverse beauties in the media today – this is thanks to some incredibly strong individuals. However, diversity is the exception and not the norm. There is still a lot of work to be done for all bodies to celebrated and represented equally.
How do you think most women compare to this standard, or feel about it? How do you personally?
I would guess most of us feel bad… and mad. I know I do. It’s upsetting that mainstream society is setting up our women to feel like failures. There is so much beauty out there, and yet the majority of the media focus on this narrow and unrealistic representation of women.
I would love to be able to say I’m strong, it doesn’t affect me. I know this “ideal” beauty is unattainable and unrealistic, yet I work daily to try and not compare myself. I work daily to remind myself to zoom out and not feel less than.
When you were younger, was it important to see women in Hollywood or advertising or in music or the modeling world who looked like you? Is it important to you now?
I think it is SO important that all women feel and are represented. Industries need to normalize and celebrate beauty in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages – the only way to do this is to include them.
How do you think social media plays in with both impossible (and in many instances, retouched to perfection) beauty standards on the one side and the democratization and diversification of beauty standards on the other? How does social media affect your views on beauty?
I love how social media has brought attention to those who would otherwise go unrecognized or unheard. I follow a huge range of stunningly beautiful woman who are fierce, independent and so inspiring. Yet I also fall victim to the Sunday night 11pm Instagram rabbit hole, scrolling through images of “perfect” ladies, and feeling less than. At the end of the day, I feel lucky to be able to peer into the world of a huge range of strong beauties – whether it’s for fashion inspiration, or courage for me to feel confident in my own skin.
As someone in the design world, how do you feel about photoshop and retouching?
I think there is a fine line and it’s a slippery slope. If a woman is photoshopped to change her natural physical features, for example slimming her waist, removing her wrinkles, enlarging her eyes, et cetera, I think this is bad. It perpetuates an unrealistic expectation of beauty. If a woman has lipstick on her teeth, if her hair is out of place, of even if she has circles under her eyes, I think it’s a different story and is ok.
Who were your first beauty icons? Who do you see as a beauty icon now?
My mom was probably my first beauty icon, and she probably still is my beauty icon – she’s never worn a drop of makeup in her life, and she dresses more for function than for fashion. Her energy and light and smile and confidence just shine right through her. I still aspire to be like this.
In terms of mainstream, I loved Gwen Stephanie – in the 90s she was powerful and creative. She was an inspiration for me to make or alter my own clothes. Actually she’s still kinda an icon for me now.
What do you love about yourself physically? Why?
I like my smile when I’m really laughing. It’s funny because it was something I used to be really self-conscious about. I hated the way my gums and teeth looked. Now I see those wrinkles starting to creep up around my eyes — hello 30s — and I’m all about it! I love that a smile is a way to connect with someone, to make them feel at ease.
What have you felt pressure to change or alter, or have you otherwise struggled with or felt insecure about?
How much time do you have? No seriously. I could write a book about this.
I guess the most significant one is my height. I’ve always been tall, I grew fast… I’ve always hated it. I’ve always dreamed of being a tiny petite woman. As a teenager I’d slouch my height away, cringing at how much space I took up. I never wore heels, I never wanted people to look at me, I’d even stand with my knees a bit bent in crowds.
I have come to terms with it a little more these days, I wear heels when I want to, but they have a 50/50 success rate in making me feel more confident. Sometimes I regret wearing them all day, wanting to curl into a ball in the corner, and sometimes I wanna strut my stuff and hold my head high. I’m getting better :)
PS – I felt like a million dollars in this photoshoot.
When do you feel beautiful? What makes you feel beautiful?
I feel beautiful around my family and good friends. I feel supported by them and that what I look like doesn’t matter, so I feel comfortable and therefore beautiful.
I also always feel good after showering following a long hike. You can’t beat that “slightly sun kissed, you’ve been kind to your body” glow.
When don’t you feel beautiful? What makes you feel not beautiful?
When I’m tired and feeling insecure.
What is your beauty regimen? Has it changed over your life?
Honestly it’s pretty bare bones – I use coconut oil on my hair, face, and body at night. In the morning I use moisturizer, sometimes tinted moisturizer, and mascara. When I’m feeling fancy or fun I’ll throw on liquid eyeliner and/or a bold lip color.
I’ve always pretty much done the same, however I’ll go through periods where I’ll wear no makeup at all, and periods where I’ll experiment with acrylic nails and highlighter.
Any beauty advice you’ve been given that you particularly appreciated?
My great aunt once told me that the secret to good skin was to use moisturizer to take makeup off at night. I still do this.
What is beautiful to you?
Kindness, thoughtfulness and confidence.
Who is beautiful to you?
Women who are unapologetically themselves. Confidence is the most beautiful thing to me.
For more BEAUTYfull interviews, click HERE.
Lauren Cosenza is the creator and owner of DIVAlicious® and BEAUTYfull®, a brand consultant and ambassador, a creative director, a published contributor and writer, an on-camera personality and spokesperson, a trusted beauty/fashion expert, a product junkie and an insatiable beauty and style seeker — with a former life at Cosmopolitan and Shape magazines and most recently serving on contract as Creative Director, Beauty for Bustle.com/BDG brands.
Lauren’s site gives women (and men) the confidence and permission to be unapologetically their very best selves (#sorrynotsorry). The site, with a goal to SPREAD BEAUTY, is filled with must-have products, pro tips and tricks, how-to DIY tutorials, makeovers, style inspiration and insider access. Topics range from beauty, fashion, culture, career, parenting, fitness and wellbeing.
Stephanie Stanley (or Stephania, as her Greek family calls her) is a New York City-based advertising and editorial photographer who specializes in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. Her work can be found on ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Marie Claire, TODAY, DailyCandy, and TeenVogue. Her client list includes Levi’s, JCPenney, Clean & Clear, Microsoft, Olay, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Garnier, TRESemmé, Estée Lauder, Nexxus, GAP, Secret, and more.
Stephanie holds an MFA in Photography from Parsons and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and puppy, Ophelia, where she can be found running along Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoying chocolate croissants from the local Italian bakery (typically in that exact order).