Five Minutes with a Femtrepreneur – Terri Waters

Terri Waters
Terri Waters is the creator and editor of the hugely popular online Magazine, The Unedit; creating content which upholds the ideal: no beauty standards, no bullshit.

Just to begin, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My background is in fashion editorial, so I worked at high fashion magazines after I graduated. As well as writing, I have experience in design, styling, and consultancy. I’m 25, I live in East London with my mini Yorkie ,Luna. Plus, I’m the biggest Disney freak you’ll likely ever come across.

Let’s start with some questions to get to know you better! If your friends could describe you in three words, what do you think they’d say?

Funny, loyal, feisty.

If you had to live the rest of your life as an animal, what would it be and why?

Probably my dog Luna, because she’s the most spoilt animal on the planet! Or I think I’d be an elephant. They’re clever, they’re beautiful, and they take up space unapologetically.

What do you like to do when you’re not working on content for The Unedit?

I love being with my friends, whether we’re out getting drinks or having a pyjama day on the sofa, it’s always a good time. I’m a born and bred Londoner, so I like getting out and about and enjoy the markets, pubs and all the other cool things that the area has to offer. And without sounding really cliché, I love to shop.

I’m a super chilled person, and I get just as much pleasure out of just having a wind-down day reading a book and giving myself some time out as I do an exciting day out.

So, Terri, tell us about the origins of The Unedit: How did the idea first come about?

Whilst I was working at my last print magazine, I was sat in a meeting about the retouching on the upcoming cover. A big red marker came out and this beautiful woman became – in their mind – even more beautiful. I was so pissed off, I couldn’t even hide it from my bosses. What hope does everyone else have if one of the biggest names in modelling isn’t enough without Photoshop? I remember thinking why it would be so hard for a magazine to offer content that wasn’t totally edited.

I never really let go of the resentment I felt that day, and it set into motion a bit of a mental transition for me. Even before that, I’d always disagreed with lots of things that the fashion industry celebrated, so there was always something in the back of my head that said that I needed to work on a project matched my values.

What was your ultimate goal for the magazine when you started out?

I had to leave my job to undergo some serious medical treatment, and I did some thinking a few months in and decided I wanted to set up an online space to let out some of my pent-up frustration aimed at the industry. It was only something that would give me a project between hospital appointments. And without even realising, as my ideas and development built up, it snowballed. So I guess initially I didn’t have a real goal as such, but as it started gaining traction and the hits started to mount up, my goal became to simply offer people a space that made them feel safe, that they could read something that wouldn’t make them feel like shit about themselves.

I wanted to offer a space to celebrate women for who they are and what they’ve achieved, rather than how much weight they’ve lost and how many hours they work out for. And based on how many emails I receive from readers telling me how much the site has helped them, it really baffles me as to how rare it is to find content like that anywhere else online.

Your tagline is, “No beauty standards. No bullshit.” What inspired this?

It was actually something that I said in a meeting with someone once. I was explaining the kind of place that I wanted The Unedit to be, and I literally said ‘I want the site to be somewhere safe with no beauty standards… no bullshit.’ And it kind of stuck. It’s the most to-the-point way of describing The Unedit’s mission, so it felt like the perfect fit.

You have built up your amazing online magazine to a point where it now showcases articles from a diverse range of contributors, including regular columnists such as Megan Crabbe and Michelle Elman; it’s truly an achievement to be proud of.

Did you know when you first started The Unedit that it would become as successful as it is now?

It’s so crazy isn’t it?! As a writer by trade, I definitely thought it would be more of a solo project that I could possibly get the occasional piece from someone… and, if I was lucky, maybe my mum and a randomer that came across it by accident would read it! But now I’ve got a team of 28 contributors, with about 15 of them writing for me regularly, and we’re read across 180 different countries. That just blows my mind.

I definitely didn’t see any of this happening. I’ve had meetings with companies and brands where I’ve gone and met people and they’ve had absolutely no idea that this site is just out of the office in my flat, but I’m proud of that. To be honest, whilst the hits and stats of it all are amazing and I really appreciate the support The Unedit’s been given, that’s not my focus — I don’t care whether 10 people or 100,000 people are reading it, as long as they’re getting something from it, and it’s helping them realise how amazing they are, just as they are.

What is your favourite part of running your online magazine?

There’s two things. On a personal note, it’s the freedom to write what you want. When I did get to write for my previous magazines, it was nice because it was a rarity, but it was never really about things that piqued my interest. Like it was fashion, but some were just basic sponsored 300-word things that I got no real joy out of.

But I think the other thing that I really love is how The Unedit offers a platform for people who wouldn’t necessarily have one somewhere else. I’ve always encouraged amplifying marginalised voices, and I love that we’re able to tackle some really important topics as well as the expected fashion and lifestyle aspects. Working on something that’s more inclusive and that celebrates all people and all bodies is way more liberating and rewarding than anything else I’ve ever worked on.

What topics do you personally like to write about, and what has been your favourite article so far?

I think my topics vary on the day, depending on how I’m feeling.

Things that I’m really passionate about are things like the general plus size fashion industry and shopping experience, and with everything that’s gone on with my health and my eating disorder, talking about things like Health at Every Size, chronic illness, diet culture and recovery, and so on can be really cathartic for me.

It’d be really hard to tell you what my single favourite article has been (there have been over 200 articles in 2018 alone), but I really loved writing the piece about the centenary of the women’s vote. Instead of focusing on the names we’ve all heard before, I wrote about the women of colour, the queer women, and the disabled women who helped to shape the history of suffrage. I loved the idea of talking about history from a perspective that was much less whitewashed than the other articles that were circulating.

I think another article that I really loved was about what happens to your body when you go on a diet. I liked it because it was fact-based, and couldn’t be argued with, but really what made me realise that it was a good piece was based on the number of messages I got from women having genuinely no idea that your body is actually programmed to resist diets. I think it woke a lot of readers up, even ones who had already ditched diet culture, and that’s the kind of effect I want The Unedit’s content to have.

Would you say that you have a good support network?

I suffer a lot from anxiety and imposter syndrome, but I’ve got the right group of people around me to shut those feelings down. My parents are massive supporters of what I do, and they’ve in turn learnt a lot from me doing this too. My friends are brilliant, they truly are my cheerleaders. And the response that I get from complete strangers on a daily basis really reassures me that I’m doing the right thing with my life. I’m honestly so, so lucky.

Who are some of your biggest role models in life?

My parents taught me to work really hard for what I want in life and to be kind to others. My friends taught me to take myself as I am and to be kinder to myself. And my first boss (who I won’t name) taught me not to give a fuck. And that’s a pretty killer combination.

Aside from The Unedit, what is your favourite achievement in your life so far?

I was always quite academic, so most of my achievements were related to that (perfectionism is a gift and a curse!). But I think my favourite achievement in terms of my career was being the fat girl. I was thrown in the deep end in the industry and had to prove my worth and my right to be there twice as much as everyone else, and I did that. I grafted so damn hard, day in, day out. I was good at my job and I earnt respect from the big players that I dealt with, and nobody could take that away from me.

Work aside though, I think working through my eating disorder has been a massive achievement for me. I’m still in recovery, and every day is different, but it’s something I’ve struggled with for over a decade, and the good days in recovery will always outweigh the bad.

Knowing how far you’ve come now, if you could go back and give a message or piece of advice to your younger self, what age would you return to, and what would you say?

I was nine, and I’d walked out of Peacocks with my mum, sobbing my heart out because I couldn’t fit in their kids line anymore. It’s such a vivid memory that’s etched into my brain and I look back on it often. I remember the overwhelming hatred that I felt for myself and my body at that point so, so clearly, that I get emotional thinking about it even now. I think it’s one of the core reasons behind my dieting and ED mentality that I grew up with.

I go back to then, and I’d tell her that no item of clothing is ever worth starving for. Maybe I’d fast forward a few years too, and tell my 14 year old self that no boy is ever worth starving for, either. I wish my younger self had known her worth and her beauty, just as she was.

What’re your hopes, for yourself and the magazine, in the future?

Growth is something that I think will hopefully come in the future. It’d be great to be able to take The Unedit beyond my office and have a hub where my contributors can have the option of working, as well as just being able to work remotely. I don’t think I’d want a massive team, because I’ve found even in previous jobs that smaller teams tend to work out better and it’s a better work environment, but I’d at least like The Unedit to maybe one day have a real home.

I’d love to be able to partner up with more brands in the future, because I love collaboration. I also on a personal level really enjoy doing the panel work and talks that I do, so I’d like to be able to continue to do that.

I’d really like to expand The Unedit’s campaign work and make it more public to encourage people to help bring change. We do a lot of stuff for body positive PSHE education for children behind the scenes, as well as other causes that are really important to us. So I’d love to be able to do more with that. Our Unedited Teen sister site was put on hold merely due to how massively the main site started to become, and there’s not enough manpower to juggle both as it currently stands, so I’d be over the moon if that’s something that we can get up and running in the future. Young girls need this kind of positive influence from an online source.

We do have a couple of projects in the pipeline that I’m really excited about because I’ll be calling on some of my other industry experience, but I won’t share too much…

If you could give some advice to all of the women out there who have yet to find their passions or true purpose in life, what would you say to them?

Don’t go looking for it, because the harder you look for a passion or true purpose, the harder it’ll be to find. One day it will just click, and it will fit so comfortably and feel so natural, that you’ll wonder how you’d never realised it before.

Feeling inspired by the work that Terri does? Check out the magazine by heading to the-unedit.com, and follow @theunedit on Instagram and Twitter!

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