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A Moment with Straight/Curve’s Jenny McQuaile

You may already have heard of Straight/Curve, the documentary about body image that’s making waves in the fashion industry. If you haven’t, get yourself to a screen. (The film is available to stream now on epix.com.)

Straight/Curve, which premiered earlier this summer, holds a mirror up to the fashion industry and the twisted beauty ideals it has long promoted. Featuring candid interviews with models, agents, stylists, and more, the doc gives voice to those who have fallen victim to institutionalized body shame—and to those who are working to crush it. 

For Jenny McQuaile, director of Straight/Curve, the film was both passion project and a movie that needed to be made. After finding out how many women in her network struggled with body image at the hand of the fashion industry, the McQuaile decided to piece their narratives together, taking the pulse of one of the most exciting social movements of our time. 

Here, McQuaile speaks with Live The Process about how she made Straight/Curve, whom she hopes to reach, and the wellness rituals that keep her feeling good.

Live The Process: How did Straight/Curve come about?

Jenny McQuaile: In the past two years, the issue of body image has become vitally important to me, and Straight/Curve has become about fighting for every young girl and boy, man and woman, so nobody in the world feels like they cannot achieve their dreams because of the way they look. The film reaches outside the fashion world to society at large, and even if you have no interest in fashion, body image issues affect us all. We have to all stand up and do something to change this for the next generation.

Straight/Curve was born after I was introduced to my producing partner, Jess Lewis, two years ago. She is a former model, and together we spent months talking to people in the fashion industry, from models to designers, agents, stylists, and educators about the shift towards more diversity and the need to start representing women of all shapes, sizes, and ages in fashion and the media. Our team was solidified when our other producer, Yael Melamede from Salty Features, joined us and together we really carved out the form and shape of the film.

LTP: What do you hope to achieve through Straight/Curve?

JM: I hope young girls and boys watch the film and see themselves represented and feel like they are not as alone. I want them to see that even their role models struggle with insecurities and don’t feel body positive every single day. I want older women and men to watch the film and be given a tool to discuss the often-taboo subject matters of bodies, race, and sexuality in a more open and accepting way. I want other people in the fashion industry to see the pioneers in our film leading by example and realize they too can change the way they do business. I want the people who are getting it right to feel validated and inspired to keep doing what they are doing. And I want to open a dialogue and bolster the body-positive movement that is happening right now. 

LTP: Do you have a favorite scene from the film that makes you feel like there's hope for the future of body diversity in fashion? 

JM: One of the most inspiring moments is when we get to meet Nayyara Chue, a wonderful Parsons Design School student. She is plus size and decided to push back against the system to design clothes that she herself could wear, in her size. Parsons was not providing classes for Nayyara to learn how to design for plus size so she decided to teach herself. Despite being very young, Nayyara is an example to all of us to fight for what we believe in and stand by our convictions.

LTP: How did you first become interested in filmmaking?

JM: My background is in journalism. I worked in Dublin and London for several years as a reporter and then decided to take a break and travel the world for four years. While I was traveling, it became apparent that the age of visual storytelling is more impactful. I decided to go back to college and get a second degree in documentary film production at Brooklyn College in New York. It was the best move of my life and has led to an already fulfilling and productive career in film, beyond my wildest dreams. Storytelling and giving a voice to the voiceless have always been passions of mine. Filmmaking is the perfect vehicle, and I am lucky enough to be able to translate my passion into a career.

LTP: Straight/Curve promotes the idea that feeling good about yourself, which is not always easy to achieve, is key. Which wellness rituals that keep you feeling good?

JM: I started practicing yoga a year ago, and it has gotten me through the toughest times while making this film. I practice restorative and yin yoga as well as vinyasa, and I find it gives me the mental space to really unwind and let my creative juices flow. I also light candles and play very Zen music when I practice at home. I am a huge fan of going away on spa weekends, when possible, and indulging in massages and a good steam room. I love to walk everywhere, and living in Brooklyn really allows this. I call it my Jenny time. 

LTP: What does happiness look like to you? 

JM: When possible, I try to live my life in balance, between my work, friends, family and relationship. If three out of four of these are going well, I consider that happiness. Feeling content and at peace is a difficult mission at times, but being able to take a step back and to remember how lucky I am to be in the position I am in—in my life, work, relationship, and family life—is a huge contributor to my happiness. Throw in a beach, a glass of rosé, good company, great food, yoga, and a hammock, and that’s what pure bliss looks like to me.

LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process,” and how can we all do that more every day? 

JM: Taking some me time is crucial, and even more crucial is to feel like you deserve it and not feel guilty about taking the time. I have two tattoos on my body that convey how I want to, and try to, live my life. One says “peace be the journey” in Thai to promote peace of mind, and the other says “no regrets” in Hebrew. If we could all live by those mottos, I feel we would all be a little better off.


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