11/03/2016
We caught up with Ollie before the Kookai AW16 runway.

Words by

Tara Smith

Founder of a social enterprise.

Activist.

Youth advocate.

Model.

You’d be forgiven for thinking these were the professions of four different women.

In fact, it’s just one.

A quick Google search will reveal numerous examples of her previous activism, an impressive repertoire of advocacy and protest for social change, and a Vogue cover.

If the name Ollie Henderson doesn’t ring a bell, it should.

The 27-year-old model made global headlines last year through her organisation House of Riot, when it distributed 100 hand painted T-shirts addressing various social issues.

‘Save the reef’ screamed one, ‘sexism sucks’, sprawled another.

Ollie’s mission is simple, to bring about social change through creative expression and to encourage young people to take action.

She does this through House of Riot, a not-for-profit based in Sydney.

She names the organisation among her greatest achievements.

“I started House of Riot two years ago, so I was 25…it really came out of no where, it was really exciting.”

She’s currently working on Sexual Violence Won’t be Silenced, a woman’s advocacy group focusing on online gender and sexual harassment.

So how does a vocalist like this go in the modelling industry?

Pretty damn well it turns out.

“It’s opened up so many doors to clients who really respect what I do and really like the work I do, and I am here because of that.

“In a way it’s directed my modelling career into a place where I feel the most comfortable and where I want to be,” said Ollie.

But it wasn’t always this way. As a budding model in the early stages of her career, Ollie felt the pressure to conform.

“I wasn’t very vocal, I didn’t go to castings dressing in what I wanted to wear but dressed how the agency told me I should be dressing,” she said.

This soon grew tiresome.

Ollie ditched the boring clothes and started voicing her true opinions pretty quickly.

She lost a few modelling jobs.

“I won’t name names. Generally more conservative clients that are perhaps a little afraid to align themselves with certain issues I touch on,” she said.

This didn’t matter, because as one door shuts, another opens,

“I probably had a little self-life realisation. When I started to be more myself at work I started being happier all in my life.

“I don’t want to go back to not being myself.”

As a strong youth advocate and vocal about issues ranging from feminism to racism, we asked Ollie what the greatest issue facing young people is.

Her response actually surprised us a little.

“Climate change. It’s really going to fuck us over.”

“We’re already seeing it now but we’re just not seeing it in our world.

I think it’s definitely our biggest challenge and it’s going to create further inequality in class and so many environmental refugees. You think we have an immigration problem now, just you wait.”

As for her one message to the world?

“Engage in your community. You can make a change.”

thehouseofriot.com

Photography: 
Good John

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