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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How to get the perfect body.

Are you sick of seeing that statement splattered everywhere you look? Or does this hollow promise fill you with a sense of glee that perhaps this could be the one that works? This could be the one that ‘changes your life’ and transforms you into this other person whos’ entire life improves simply through their physical appearance.

We all know the truth really…

It’s not your body that’s imperfect or tainted. It’s your mindset.

I would like to note early on in this post that I speak generically about the majority of individuals’ day to day struggles with body image; not when it becomes an illness. Although it is intrinsically linked with this subject, I make no assumptions about eating disorders as they are a serious matter and I have not the insight or knowledge for my comments to be that far reaching.

We live in an age where we are constantly bombarded by imagery and advertisements. A quick internet search with approximate estimations states that we can see anything up to 5,000 media images a day. We are shown how we should make a career, how we should earn money but most of all we are shown how we should look. This is not completely female orientated either anymore, with a dramatic rise in men worrying about their appearance too. A BBC article stated that the Centre for Appearance Research at UWE found that four in five of the men surveyed were unhappy with their bodies. This has been a prevelent problem amongst women for some time; many blaming the media and fashion industry for their distinct lack of enthusiasm for diverse body types.

Sure I can see where blame can fall within these areas but I do not feel they can be solely to blame. Surely we should be able to look at images of other women without feeling threatened thus inducing more self-hatred in terms of our looks. Yes, I know it is because these images have almost always been manipulated beyond belief as can be seen in the 2006 campaign by Dove:

But no matter how much we protest about photoshopped images, technology will not go backwards. It just keeps progressing. The levels of how much it can be used certainly need looking into, but getting rid of it altogether….I find that very unlikely.

The crazy thing is that we are so media savvy and proficient at reading advertising messages these days that we know it’s all a money making ploy; yet we still buy into it. We sign up for the slimming clubs, purchase only their diet options, buy the mega bucks creams and lotions that promise to banish cellulite, some of us even go as far as cosmetic surgery proceedures. All to obtain a ‘perfection’ that we don’t even understand.

Because we are being sold the message ‘You are not enough.’

I’m ranting about it but don’t think I’m immune to all this. I’ve been to the clubs and wasted my money on the products. It didn’t make me happier. It fuelled what can only be described as a narcissistic obsession to achieve an ever shifting goal.

What changed?

I just simply got fed up with it all to be honest. It’s exhausting chasing something that is so relentless in it’s desire to make you feel inadequate. I stopped following the negative breadcrumbs set down by the media power-houses (though they would have perhaps been celery cubes instead as don’t forget, carbs are evil right?) and just started seeking out more positive influences and taking it all ‘with a pinch of salt’.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t just sit on my ass all day now eating muffins thinking I’m sticking it to the system. If you’re health is suffering at either end of the weight spectrum then you may want to look at making some changes. But for goodness sake do them for YOU not because you think you need to fit into some sort of unrealistic ideal. And on that note ‘healthy’ comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not just the size 10 athlete; it can be the size 20 or the size 6 as well. You know nothing about a persons inner health by judging their external appearance.

And this is what has to stop; the constant judging. We’re all guilty of it at some point. Women hating on other women because of their size and appearance. This over hyped bitchyness that is so widely accepted in the media now. Why has it become ok?

Participating in this in any form will not make you feel better about yourself. So just quit it.

Deal with your own issues before projecting your self-loathing onto others. And that’s what I did. I went back to the venomous words of bullies from school and acknowledged them as just words, looked at the reams of extreme diet tips and acknowledged them as just fads. And then I looked at my pale,wobbly, cellulite covered thighs that I have hated for so long and acknowledged them as part of a body that has taken me through 26 years so far of love, hate, sadness, hope and finally acknowledged it with the thanks it deserves.

Your body and you, with all the ‘flaws’ you deem to be imperfect are beautiful. The only person that can take that away is you. I’m not saying you actually become Narcissus, nobody needs to love themselves that much. But we have been told for too long that we should want to change something about ourselves and anyone who says they are happy and love the way they look is immediatley classed as extremely arrogant or lying. If you’re positive it directly affects those around you, so start setting a good example.

It’s not easy. I know that from experience. Our perceptions seem to have become extremely warped and not everyone will want to fix that. But things can change. So if you’re there already, struggling through or just plain can’t see through the fog of self-hatred, remember for now….

Plain and simple. Don’t let your physical appearance determine your life choices, you are so much more. Don’t waste your time, your life, wishing you were something else. And in regards to my original statement; how do you get the perfect body?

You’ve already got it.

“Fascinating”

So summer is in full swing (albeit perhaps more of a temporary status in the UK) and for me that means some time to contemplate the past academic year and look forward to the next.

I will be entering my fourth and final year of my course in October, both exciting and very daunting. The grand finale BA year, an accumulation of all the teachings and experience absorbed over the past three years.

With it arrives the prospect of deciding on a project proposal. And for me the equally difficult decision of whether to, not necessarily ‘play it safe’ but to stick to the style I’ve been honing or to mix it up and challenge myself further. To get back ‘the fear’; the feeling I had when I first started, the connotations of which are not negative as they sound, more of an excitement that sits precariously on the borderline of trepidation.

My current work is eclectic in nature, predominantly focused on the notions of abstract, narrative and the everyday. However my gut feeling is that it’s time for a change. Time to get stuck into something else I feel passionately about as well as my present path of fine art, and that’s the issue of positive body image. Already a well documented area but new to me personally.

I have yet much work to do in terms of deciding the specific nature of my study, in terms of how I will approach it and what I envisage the outcome to be but the seed has been planted. For a while I have been toying with the idea, still slightly unsure of my change of direction, unable to commit to branching out, weighing up the risk factor of doing something completely new for my final assignment. But we need to take risks sometimes to progress and through my indecision I stumbled across something to sway my judgement.

As I’ve stated, I am a bit of a sci-fi nerd. The new Star Trek films really got me into the original series and I absolutely love Mr Spock, so imagine my suprise when by chance I discover that Leonard Nimoy is a successful photographer who has been involved in body image related projects and the size-acceptance movement. His ‘Full Body Project’ is a response to the pressures women face in certain societies to conform to a particular size and image. I found a great article about it from the New York Times: Girth and Nudity, a Pictorial Mission

I’m always drawn to projects that I can learn further from the subject matter and/or have personal connection with as I believe it’s that real love and affinity with a subject that creates a great body of work that can really connect with a viewer. I’m a great believer that we all need to be far more accepting of the diverse range of body types we all have instead of creating and reinforcing illusions of specific ‘ideals’ to aspire to. As long as an individual is healthy and happy whether they are big or small, to me they are all beautiful in their own way. Yeah, maybe that’s too rainbows and fairy dust for the cynics out there but beware you are in the thought bubble of an eternal optimist (watch out….hopefully it’s contagious 😉 )

And so skipping merrily back to the original point of my new assignment; I have much to think about and a well timed week in Spain to do so from today. I have pondered whether it is the right path for me to follow but if the wonderful first officer of the starship Enterprise deems it a worthy subject, surely it can be my only logical choice.