Skip to main content
off duty
Open this photo in gallery:

Illustration by Photo Illustration by The Globe and Mail

Off Duty is a series of lively conversations with influential people, from CEOs to celebrities, on life, work and the art of taking time off.

It’s likely that former Glamour fashion editor Lauren Chan was on your radar at least once this year, whether it was through her essay and photo shoot for Sport Illustrated Swimsuit where she was announced as the magazine’s first openly queer plus-sized Rookie of the Year, and where Chan took the opportunity to announce her coming out as a lesbian. Or perhaps it was the news that she recently sold her size-inclusive workwear line, Henning, to the pioneering retail company Universal Standard; and that she’s now Universal Standard’s head of brand partnerships.

Of course, it could’ve been in any of the ensuing press around the Brampton, Ont.-raised, Brooklyn-based entrepreneur and model’s recent achievements that can be added to her already luminous biography; one that also includes her turn on The Globe and Mail’s Canada’s Best Dressed list five years ago. Since then, things have changed – and we wanted to know more about how she’s navigated through it.

I’d like to start off by talking about vulnerability. What has the process been like in terms of getting yourself comfortable with being vulnerable?

I thought I’ve always been vulnerable. I spent my career speaking to other people through publishing, and chose my passion point and audience to be plus-size women, which is an inherently emotional beat in fashion. If you had asked me as a size 18 if getting dressed in clothes I didn’t really love to talk on Good Morning America or The Today Show about being physically bigger than everyone else and demanding inclusion was vulnerable, I would’ve said yes, I feel maxed out on how much I’m able to give. [laughs] But from where I am now, that feels easy-peasy, like entry-level stuff.

The process of spending the last year coming out and getting divorced and preparing to be on the size of the stage of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit has forced, helped, inspired and necessitated me being even more vulnerable. As I’ve gone through all of these difficult things, it has been proven that the best way forward, and to have an outcome that I wanted, is to be extremely vulnerable and candid. I listened to a Brené Brown talk about vulnerability the morning of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit photo shoot because I knew it would give me that last boost of confidence that I needed to knock it out of the park.

You’ve been a public figure for some time, but right now, you’re going through an evolution. I’m curious about feedback from your audience, since you recently posted that you experienced a drop in Instagram followers after coming out.

If I had zero internet presence and a non-public-facing job, then I wouldn’t have had as much anxiety about coming out. People who live LGBTQ+ experiences are always marginalized, experience microaggressions, assault and discrimination and legislation against them. So I expected some hate and unfollowing, but I guess I didn’t think it would be such a high number of people; as it stands, I think I’m about 1,200 followers down. Within two seconds of reflecting on that, my thought was, ‘Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. If that’s how you feel, I never wanted you here in the first place.’

Have there been any influential readings or podcasts or figures whom you turned to throughout making all of these major life changes?

I’ve consumed a lot of content about evolving, and a lot of that has focused on mental health and therapy and spirituality. I wouldn’t call myself a spiritual person, but I’m growing to like a lot of the sentiment so maybe I’m becoming one? I loved Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed, I love Jay Shetty’s podcast On Purpose and I love Kendra Austin’s newsletter called Come Home. It’s all inspired me to trust my gut on who my true self was and what I wanted, and to go with that.

How have your views changed toward your life-work balance?

The No. 1 lesson that I’ve learned when it comes to work is that it’s just not that important. I come from publishing, where everything is on deadline and you’re competing for those exclusives. And then I ran a business where things were urgent, learning the hard way a few times that sending an e-mail in time is important. Whether imposed by other people, or out of necessity for my own business, I really was working in a place of urgency all the time. Now I’m really excited because I am going to give myself a break. In terms of modalities and life beyond work, I’ve learned to chill out a little.

So what have you been doing to give yourself a break?

I realized it was too hard while running a business and having a full-time modelling job to let self-care happen when I came across downtime. What I started doing to make sure I have time for meditation and active mental healing is therapy once a week, and bodywork like massages. That’s when I’m really able to be in my own mind and have clarity and breakthroughs and reflections. And that really worked for me. If you’re not finding time to have self-care and can afford to do any kind of activity where you’re forced to not have your phone, where it’s quiet, and you have no other options than to think, it can be incredibly helpful.