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Yrsa Daley-Ward: ‘People are afraid to tell the truth'

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She has a lot to say… about sexuality, relationships and mental health. But how did Lancashire’s Yrsa Daley-Ward become the toast of Los Angeles? Eve Barlow meets the poet, feminist, model and LGBTQ activist spelling out some hard truths

If you’re afraid to write it, that’s a good sign. I suppose you know you’re writing the truth when you’re terrified.” These words in black type on a white background make up one of poet Yrsa Daley-Ward’s Instagram posts. This monochrome snapshot of her innermost thoughts has more than 5,200 “likes”. That’s more than double the number she gets for any pictures. Daley-Ward spent her late teens and early 20s as a model struggling to pay her rent in London, working for brands such as Apple, Topshop, Estée Lauder and Nike. She still models today. Ironically, however, it was the image-obsessed medium of Instagram that enabled her to pursue the written word.

“I always was a writer,” she explains today in a thick Lancashire accent, sitting in a downtown Los Angeles restaurant close to where she lives. “But I was depressed [in London] and that made me choke. Modelling is an interesting profession because it teaches you so much about here…” She points a finger at her face. “But not here…” she sighs and points at her heart. “You become introverted, you disappear into yourself.”

‘I didn’t fit in. I wanted to be white, have different hair, know my father, not be religious…’

‘Sex work is common among models. It’s not standing on street corners – you have boyfriends who are very rich’

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