Change your world, not your body.

It’s a misconception that confident people have always been that way, or that they hide some terrible ‘flaw’ behind the mask of confidence. Although both can be true; sometimes you just need to find your feet and blossom into a truly confident person, usually through your perception of the world and your interactions within it. And more often than not, this requires change. A change of perspective and an open mind.

In my previous post I wrote about how I became interested in feminism and equality, and it was during this time my interest bought me to many sources of inspiration.

Throughout my school years I was bullied because of my weight and appearance, something I know unfortunately too many of us can relate to. I was the ‘fat’ one, even though I’ve never been above a size 16. It never made sense to me. I come from a home where I have always been told I am smart and beautiful, so although the taunts were hard to bear and sometimes it was exhausting, I trusted my families judgement better. I know others who weren’t so lucky.

I feel I grew up not seeing a diverse enough range of bodies in mainstream media. I had people I looked up to, sure, but I wish I had seen more fabulous curvy ladies like me. I loved Dawn French because she was so unapologetically herself but that just wasn’t enough.

My weight has always fluctuated; I really really LOVE food, I put on weight easy but I exercise regularly and enjoy it. I spent years never fully being myself, holding parts of myself back or not doing things until I could ‘lose some weight’ or change in some way. It seems madness to me now, when I not only like but appreciate what I see in the mirror. But a lot of people never emerge from that negative cycle.

So I offer up to you now some great resources of inspiration for me personally and hope it encourages you to find your own. This post tends to veer on the curvier side as that is a body type I feel is not represented well but hopefully there is something for everyone. I know I have some male readers so apologise for the distinct lack of men but I’m only just scratching the surface with this, so in time I will develop a broader knowledge base . In the meantime perhaps, as a starting point check out Jackson Katz an anti-sexism activist who was featured in the Miss Representation film.

But this is for all of you, male or female. To remember that all different shapes and sizes are amazing and those inside deserve respect.

Laura Wells

An environmental scientist with an extreme passion for our oceans and protection of biodiversity, international plus size model and a promoter of positive body image. She is one of the first plus size models I came across during my research. ‘Plus’ size causes a lot of debate when models like Laura state they are only a UK 14-16 but the industry starts at an 8-10 and at the moment that is just the way it is. She doesn’t gripe about this: an industry that has given her so much. Instead she talks a lot about healthy body image and also being more than just your appearance, highlighting the importance of education and global causes.

check out her Facebook page for links to all her projects and other sites.

 

HILDA

The creation of artist Duane Bryers, ‘Hilda was one of the only atypical plus-sized pin-up queens to grace the pages of American calendars from the 1950s up until the early 1980s, and achieved moderate notoriety in the 1960s.’ Full of fun and not shy about her body, she’s out living life through fabulous illustration.

See more at ToilGirls.com

 

GABI FRESH

OH this woman is stylish! She runs a personal style blog aiming to showcase high fashion is for all sizes and has collaborated with swimsuits for all on a range of diverse sized swimwear. It was this picture that first caught my eye…she is so right.

Go to her website for great posts and beautiful clothes.

 

NADIA ABOULHOSN

Another wonderful fashion blogger, Nadia is also a brand ambassador for boohoo.com. She is one of the people featured that encouraged me to just GET OVER myself and my fear of wearing shorts.

Go to her website for diverse style and ways to wear the newest trends.

 

CHERRY DOLLFACE

I’ve previously interviewed Cherry on her involvement with the modelling industry and her struggle with body shaming due to being smaller. It’s important to highlight that although smaller body types are better represented, this kind of image based bullying goes both ways. Cherry has many fashion and beauty collaborations and supports the Bombshells Against Bullying campaign, all of which are all mentioned in the interview ‘A bite of the cherry’

Her Youtube channel also has great hair and beauty tutorials.

SAFFI KARINA

A former ‘straight size’ model who instead of suppressing her natural figure to fit the industry decided to embrace her body and switched to the plus size industry. One of her former agencies dropped her for being ‘too big’ at a size 10 (yes, really!) but she didn’t let this stand in her way. She has launched The Curve Project in London, the UK’s first plus size model workshop, offering advice, inspiration and body confidence masterclasses.

 

TESS MUNSTER

I found out about Tess through Cherry as they have done various events and videos together. She always wanted to be a model but struggled with bullying and rejection from the mainstream agencies. Following a passion for beauty she became an amazing makeup artist and began blogging, through which she built up a strong fan base. Recently named one of the world’s top plus size models by Refinery 29, Huff Post, & Vogue Italia, her career has really taken off in the last couple of years. She has fulfilled her dream of modelling and uses her platform to be a fierce ambassador for women’s empowerment.

Founder of the #effyourbeautystandards movement, more images and links can be found on her website. I spend way too much time following her updates!

 

DENISE BIDOT

In the last month Denise walked the runway at both New York and London fashion week with elle.com naming her this seasons break-out plus size model. She has been the face of Levi’s, Forever21 Plus, Target Plus, Kohls, Macy’s, and stars in Nuvotv’s series Curvy Girls. I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of her in the future.

More of her editorial work can be seen on her website.

 

ASHLEY GRAHAM

American plus size model Ashley is also making waves in the industry by spreading the message of positive body image. She recently walked the catwalk for the SS15 Evans Design Collective which was full of beautiful pieces and a breath of fresh air to see a variety of different body shapes wearing the clothes. She also has a lingerie collection with plus size retailer Navabi. And like many of the women featured in this article she encourages those who can to exercise with the #curvyfitclub.

vogue.co.uk recently named her as one of ‘the new role models’.

Ashley Graham website

 

THE BEAUTY MYTH. NAOMI WOLF 

This book was essential for my dissertation, I have read and researched both praise and criticism for it and highly recommend you read it.

 

HEALTHY IS THE NEW SKINNY

At first I found the HNS title a little problematic, however it is not stating there is anything wrong with being skinny, as for some of us this is a natural body shape. It is simply a comment on societies ability to make certain body types ‘fashionable’ and desirable over others. They have turned this on its head and suggested ‘how about we make health the priority, the most desirable thing’. Now I’m a believer that ‘healthy’ is different for everyone, not a one size fits all deal, so I always just take what I need from healthy living resources and apply it my own way. HNS is great for this as there are plenty of good recipes, workout tips and messages of positive thought!

You can find out more about founder Katie (above) and her husband Bradford on the website and facebook

“Healthy is the New Skinny is about revolutionizing how we think about, talk about, live in and love our bodies.”

 

JESS BAKER

When the news broke that Abercrombie and Fitch CEO had stated that he didn’t want ‘fat’ or ‘not so cool’ kids wearing his companies clothes I felt like face-planting my desk. However Jess Baker had a much better response which I found through Huffington Post. This lead me to her unique brand of awesome-ness on her website The Militant Baker where she describes herself as:

“A mental health professional, pastry chef, ex-art major, crazy cat lady, fat model, fiery advocate, and total pain in the ass.”

She has very recently given up her 9-5 in pursuit of becoming a full time international body advocate and I wish her every bit of luck, she’s already doing a fabulous job. Her website has a great selection of intelligent and funny articles to check out, as well as her Ted Talk!

 

 

she also had on one of her posts this awesome quote (via tumblr)

And that is right, being a Body Image Warrior isn’t always easy because it can feel like a battle. But every time I think it’s too hard to fight such a huge industry and ingrained societal ideals, I remember what it was like to be 14. To be a teenage and to be taunted for simply looking like you, and I remember is it so worth standing up for what you believe in.

Yes there are more terrible things happening in the world but as Jess Baker says in her Ted Talk; it is not superficial, because how you perceive yourself on the outside effects the inside and your whole participation in life (watch it, she explains it in more depth). Happiness and health start from within, they are things that are different for everyone and look different on everyone. But more acceptance and respect means more happy people, which makes a better world to live in. And to me, that sounds far from superficial.

So go, get searching, take these few inspirations and use them as a springboard to find your own positive body image warriors. But remember it all starts with YOU.

 

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Bare faced challenge.

Back in November I set myself the challenge to go make-up free for 3 months. I have worn make-up since I was about 14 or 15; it started as most stories do, to make me feel more confident and hide bad skin. But as a clueless teenager I was actually highlighting my problems by applying too much…and then there was that awkward stage where no powder was thick enough for me so I resorted to patting on a layer of natural eyeshadow. Yes, you did just read that.

I’ve continued to wear make-up (no eyeshadow as foundation anymore) pretty much everyday over the years just as part of my daily routine, I wouldn’t think twice about going to the mirror to apply it. And because I had become complacent about this everyday task, I wanted to address my relationship with cosmetics.

Why do I wear it? Is it to do with confidence? Am I thinking about the products I’m using? How do they effect my skin?

Before I undertook this challenge I was very sporadic about skincare, all I cared about was looking smooth and *cringe* ‘perfect’. It seems very foolish now.

The first morning I was really excited, but then I got dressed and went downstairs looking and feeling ‘unfinished’. When I stepped outside I had a moment when I wasn’t sure I could do it…but that is what made me carry on. That moment of worry about what other people might think was an indication that it was still perhaps something I associated with my confidence. And in my on-going quest to find true contentment with myself by challenging and questioning societies portrayal of appearance, I knew I had to grit my teeth in the name of research!

It was a strange few months. I very quickly got used to not wearing anything on my face and soon completely forgot that I was bare faced on all occassions. I went to a couple of functions and went through the whole Christmas/new year season (with one very red nose…how foolish of me to pick the coldest months). It was empowering because I knew a few years ago I couldn’t have done it. Some people commented on how ‘brave’ I was for doing it, which is where the discomfort started setting in and the realisation of how ingrained our expectations are for women to look ‘beautiful’ and like you’ve at least ‘made the effort’.

But lets get this straight before we go any further…

I am not saying there is anything wrong with wearing make-up. But I think it is important to evaluate why you wear it. I’ve gone back to wearing it, but the experience was invaluable because I was able to measure my confidence without anything to hide behind. When we live in a media driven society that sells the attainment of beauty and perfection as a commodity, it’s good to strip it back and check in with yourself that you’re still ok with you under there. That your confidence isn’t set in your appearance and that you know your worth is not tied to it.

Now lets talk about the amusing downside to the whole thing.

A few people thought I was ill.

I was asked for ID for EVERYTHING! At 26 I was refused sale on a Euro-millions ticket. You have you be 16 to buy those.

A school boy flirted with me on a bus.

A lot of people nervously asked me “Are you ok?”

But all you really want is some pictures right?

BEFORE

AFTER

 

So the ‘before’ was taken November 2013 after I had removed my make-up with a branded face-wipe and face wash. That’s one red face eh!

 

 

 

This one is taken end of January 2014. I have done my eyebrows in this one but my skin is completely clear of product.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have always had red pigmented/slightly blemished skin but I’m certain the constant make-up use and not considering the best products for my face contributed to this. I haven’t got many selfies to document this period, simply because I always looked the same so it got a bit boring.

Anyway I would urge anyone who wears make-up a lot to try the bare faced challenge, you don’t have to do it as long as me, perhaps try a few weeks? It’s a great way to evaluate your relationship with your appearance, see how others react to you and simply to give you skin a bit of a break. I had to start looking after my face properly when I had nothing to cover it with which meant making sure I always drank enough water and tried to balance my sweet tooth with more fruit and veg. I’m also much more relaxed about myself now, because I know I’m confident in what’s underneath. On the whole it was a really positive experience. I went back to make-up gradually (much less as my skin felt too caked otherwise) simply because I enjoy putting it on. I learnt a lot about the cosmetics industry as well….but that is for another post.

Now go on, get naked.

BARE

Things are super busy at the moment. I have so much to say yet not enough time to type it all up!

I’ve been working on concepts for my final project at Uni since May and ever since convincing myself the risk I was considering is in fact worth taking, I’ve been looking into how to turn concept into reality. That’s all still ‘under construction’ right now but foundations are in place.

I’ve often heard people say they felt compelled to follow a certain path, certain project, like they had no other choice; and whilst I have always felt great connection with my previous work, I have never felt that strongly.

Until now.

I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is a personal reflection of regaining confidence; when I think back to where I was and who I was when I first started my course I would have laughed at the notion that I, so dismissive of my abilities would dare the push myself out of my comfort  zone simply because I was compelled to. But I am, and feel I must do this project.

I still feel all those things that I carried with me into college after years of shattering my own confidence; the fear, anxiety and self-doubt. I’ve just had to learn to silence them, or at least keep them quieter.

It could all go wrong.

I might not be able to pull it off.

Perhaps I should stick to what I know.

But do you know what I know? I’d rather give it everything I’ve got and end up sitting amongst a disaster than leave knowing I didn’t even try.

I want this project to symbolise a change. It doesn’t need to be ground-breaking, earth shattering cultural shift….despite some opinion, I’m not that naive. But I am optimistic. Life is full of worries and as superficial as it may be deemed, in our society discontent with our bodies is a big deal. But until you come out the other side of that albeit slightly self-absorbed tunnel of abhorrence at ones own appearance it can be hard to see how silly it all is. My project isn’t aimed to add more pressure to women, I’ve seen it written with my own eyes that apparently positive body campaigns can add more pressure; to insist women feel good about themselves, when it’s ok for them to feel upset about ‘flaws’.      

Are you kidding me?

My only aim is to immerse myself and hopefully others in something positive and uplifting. And for now that’s all you’re going to get, well apart from the name. Ooh don’t get miffed, everyone likes a bit of mystery. Keep your eyes peeled…

Happy Wednesday 🙂