“It is an empowering experience breaking free and shamelessly allow yourself to appreciate your beauty and allow yourself to feel beautiful as you are.”
Meet Livy Poulin! While figuring out a shoot location and date we realized we went to the same university in Boston, what a coincidence! Besides modeling she loves taking every opportunity she has to travel. She loves cities for the energy and constant opportunities, but she says that her heart will always be near the sea because she’s lived next to the ocean her whole life. Livy grew up on the coast of Maine and her family moved to the Caribbean when she was 18. “I love thinking deeply, especially when it comes to questioning the normalities within our society. I am deeply passionate about achieving social equality, specifically within the context of gender equality, although I believe in the theory that oppression is intersectional and that in order to defeat one type of oppression, we must defeat all type. I have a minor in women’s studies, and I am particularly interested in women’s reproductive health advocacy. While I love the creative and empowering outfit that comes with modeling, my goals in life revolve around creating significant change in regards to the quality of life of women from all backgrounds.”
Interview, Photography and Styling by Lauren Engel
Tell us about your upbringing when you grew up in the coast of Maine and the Caribbean?
I grew up in Maine, not the Caribbean. While my family moved to the Caribbean when I was 16, I was already enrolled in boarding school at that time. However, since I was about 9 years old, we’d spent a significant portion of each year at our house in Anguilla, traveling there about 3 times per year. When I was going into my sophomore year of high school, having already physically left the nest, my parents decided to make our second home a permanent home. My stepdad moved his oncology practice to the island of St. Croix, which was a much different culture and environment from Anguilla even. It was a much bigger island and there were tons of people my age who had actually been born and raised on the island, and getting to know them gave me a really cool glimpse into that life. Although the Caribbean is where I go home to now, and I still consider it a second home, Maine is where my heart truly lies, and if anything, moving to the Caribbean only made me appreciate Maine more. I actually think Maine is the most underrated state in the entire US, but I’m clearly biased.
Growing up in a small, coastal town in Maine meant we had very few options for entertaining ourselves besides the beach, backyard bonfires and beer, and bummin’ around town with your friends (which probably included a blunt haha). Going for drives once you had friends with cars became the number 1 preferred activity. The town and state we grew up in is so breathtakingly beautiful that driving aimlessly for hours, only stopping for Dunkin Donuts or ice cream, was considered fun (and it was). It’s really, really difficult to capture the beauty of Maine with words, and I don’t think a tourist can even come close to the experience of growing up there. You can do everything in Maine. You can enjoy a day or night out in the city of Portland, home to some of the best food and beer in New England. You can escape humanity by driving anywhere 2 or more hours north of Portland. As soon as you lose cell service it’s like traveling back in time. Or you can enjoy the simple beauty of the coast, take a day at the beach and get lobster on the cheap on a shack on the side of the road on route 9.
“It’s really, really difficult to capture the beauty of Maine with words, and I don’t think a tourist can even come close to the experience of growing up there. You can do everything in Maine.”
I love my hometown but my independence has always been a staple of my identity. I don’t know why, but I can’t stay in one place or surround myself with the same people for long periods of time. I was so lucky to have the incredible privilege of moving away for high school. Both of my older step brothers went to the boarding school I attended, which was a huge influence on my decision to leave since I had been able to visit and see what boarding school life looked like on the surface level early on. I loved the idea of living with my peers. When I was little I went to the same overnight summer camp for 6 summers in a row and was one of the most transformative experiences of my life, which maybe influenced my predisposition to living away from home and desire to be surrounded constantly by new people from varying places. Of course, that lifestyle wasn’t always easy. I endured really severe bouts of depression throughout my adolescence and had a hard time talking about it. Being surrounded by the same 400 people 24/7 allows significant opportunity for targeted bullying and harassment, which I saw and experienced a lot of at the school I attended, which simultaneously offered little opportunity for escape. My experiences with that drastically shaped my character throughout high school. There’s a very elitist, and therefore sexist culture permeating institutions like private boarding schools. Take the recent St. Paul’s School rape case that made headlines over the summer. Reading about that was like reading a news story about so many girls’ experiences at my own high school. This was precisely what influenced me to become interested in gender equality and feminism, my direct experiences with the existing institutional level of misogyny in our society.
How did you get started with social equalit – gender equality? What fascinates you about women’s productive health?
I have a minor in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Northeastern, and did my first co-op with a fantastic international scholarly journal of feminist theory called Signs Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and concurrently served as the Assistant Program Coordinator for the WGSS program at NU. My women’s studies courses and my co-ops outside of the classroom only solidified my desire to implement gender equality in my future career, and my co-op especially helped me clarify that women’s reproductive health advocacy is what I’m strongly passionate about. I was able to spend a good chunk of my work time doing my own research and familiarizing myself with current events in the field. Through this research, I learned of the vital importance of voluntary motherhood for the whole of society- without it, our society simply cannot ever achieve equality. Voluntary motherhood benefits every single person in society and improves overall quality of life in ways that we desperately need. I believe it is one of the most inter-sectional aspects of the fight for equality. I also learned that in many areas the law has been so manipulated that women are being flat out denied the ability to exercise the rights that were fought for so long ago, and because of the stigmas associated with reproductive services, people are complicit in allowing this, and that status quo needs to change. There are people that don’t quite understand the vital importance of this issue, and I would love to spend my life working to change their minds. I’ve already had several of my peers approach me and tell me that my passion and understanding of the importance of access to women’s reproductive services has led to their reconsideration of their initial opinions on the topic. Being told that I have made even the most minuscule change in equality for women is the best compliment I could ever receive.
“Voluntary motherhood benefits every single person in society and improves overall quality of life in ways that we desperately need. I believe it is one of the most inter-sectional aspects of the fight for equality.”
How did you get into modeling, what do you love most about it? Do you see yourself doing it full-time or just on the side? What about modeling is empowering?
I decided to get involved with modeling toward the end of this past summer. I was feeling especially insecure and down at that point in my life, and a friend of mine described her modeling career in a way that really changed my mind about it. She framed it as a creative endeavor, one that doesn’t need to take more effort than that of any other part-time job. I didn’t really have a creative outlet before that, I’ve always been more of an academic than a creative. I like school and I’m good at it, but it can be extremely rigid. I seriously underestimated the positive effect that having this creative outlet would have on my mental well-being. Collaborating with another person on creating a piece of art, even if you’re the subject, is empowering in so many ways. You also become a part of a really awesome, supportive community of passionate creatives, and through my networking I’ve met tons of incredible new people. I use my social media primarily for self-promotion now, because that’s how most of my early jobs came about through that network. I used to be so uncomfortable posting pictures of myself that I would ask all of my friends to reassure me that I wouldn’t be judged, or thought of as self-obsessed by simply posting a picture of myself that I liked. It is an empowering experience breaking free of that notion, and shamelessly allow yourself to appreciate your beauty and allow yourself to feel beautiful as you are. I also like thinking of ways to use my social media platform to spread a feminist message. I posted a picture once and in the caption talked about body-shaming, and asked my followers what they thought of it. The responses I got were so incredible, and it sparked such a fantastic and open conversation between strangers that it literally brought tears to my eyes.
“It is an empowering experience breaking free of that notion, and shamelessly allow yourself to appreciate your beauty and allow yourself to feel beautiful as you are.”
Which women do you look up to, personally and for your career?
While I don’t particularly idolize any one woman, I’ve had so many phenomenal women influencers in my life. I particularly appreciate flawed women, and women who own and forgive themselves for their flaws. I think that is so important in a society that is so unforgiving of women who do not fit a particular mode, whether that’s a mold perpetuated by patriarchal norms or even the feminist movement itself. My mom is my favorite woman in the whole world. She is so independent, she’s always done what she needed to do without apologizing, which has really translated over to me throughout my life although it wasn’t always as clear as it is now.
Where do you hope to see the world in 50 years?
The world I want to see in 50 years is much too complex to define in a few short sentences. I would like a world where those who have been historically marginalized, whether by sexism, racism, or any other form of oppression, are represented appropriately in our culture. I’d love to see a world where we are all united, and girls are no longer socialized to believe that inherent competition among women is a natural condition of our existence. I’d love to see a world where girls are as allowed to explore their sexualities as boys are, and are no longer shamed for being human and flawed and making mistakes and learning from them. I’d love to see a world where rape jokes are not tolerated, and victims of rape and sexual assault are given the same respect and dignity under the law as victims of other crimes. I’d love to see a world where we INHERENTLY believe women who come forth about rape, and stop perpetuating this false idea that being falsely accused of rape is a common thing (it’s not, not even in the slightest). I would like to live in a world in 50 years where living in fear isn’t an accepted condition of your gender or race.
“50 years from now? I’d love to see a world where girls are as allowed to explore their sexualities as boys are, and are no longer shamed for being human and flawed and making mistakes and learning from them.”
What is your opinion on true love?
My opinion on true love is that it cannot exist unless you love yourself first. I believe it’s necessary to be alone, and to examine yourself and your soul and come to terms with every single aspect of your being, and to love every single one of those aspects. I believe it is necessary allow yourself to view the beautiful variety of emotions that come with being a human, including sadness, or anger, as positive experiences. Loving another person should always come second. It’s too easy to become dependent on someone else’s love in order to escape confronting the darkest parts of your soul. I’m still deeply heartbroken from my last breakup, and the process of learning how to put myself first hasn’t been easy. You will become a villain to other people, inevitably. You will be rejected by those who think you’re selfish for not living your life according to their expectations. But you simply cannot expect others to provide you with long term happiness, that can only come from within you. And once you do this, you’re relationships will flourish.