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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A Bite of the Cherry

American based Cherry Dollface has become a big name in pin up modelling in the last few years and her youtube hair and makeup tutorials are a must for anyone who loves vintage style. The more I read about her the more inspiring I found her to be, her sites are always full of positive messages advocating beauty at all sizes and she supports the Bombshells Against Bullying campaign. She was kind enough to agree to an interview via email so I’d love to share with you guys what she had to say 🙂

Photographer: Ray Guitterez

Hi Cherry! Thank you for taking the time out to chat. I found you one day when I got stuck doing Victory rolls and watched one of your youtube videos! I may not have mastered them yet but I’ve been following ever since!

How did you get into modeling, was it something you always wanted to do?

I was actually just sitting in my truck at Viva Las Vegas in 2004 and a photographer snapped a photo that ended up on the cover of a magazine. Modeling wasn’t something that I ever thought about or sought out, but once it started rolling I loved it!

I love your videos and tutorials but what made you want to share your thoughts and advice with others and how did you go about promoting yourself?

I didn’t have much to choose from as far as hair and makeup people in Portland when I first started so I always styled my own shoots. I had tons of girls asking how I did certain styles so I started my YouTube channel to help teach and to also show some behind the scenes of my shoots. I think I already had a good loyal following so I didn’t really do much to promote myself. I just try to teach useful things and share fun personal parts of my life.

You have a very distinctive look, what is it about ‘pin up’ and ‘vintage’ style that you like so much?

I just love the classiness and femininity of it. I think it is a good contrast to how people perceive my tattoos. I like to be interesting and suprising.

How have you found the modeling industry; we hear a lot about the ‘big steps’ it’s taking to be more inclusive on a wider scale in terms of diverse looks and body types, have you found this to be true?

Honestly the pinup field is worlds away from the fashion industry. There are no rules in pinup. There are girls that are 5’ tall, plus size, multi racial—pretty much every shape, size and type. I feel like the fashion industry is working in the right direction but still has a way to go.

It is often assumed that ‘bigger’ individuals are more so targeted by so called ‘body shaming’ but through research I have found it to be prevalent in regards of smaller women too. Have you ever experienced this?

Absolutely! It is very frustrating hearing about body shaming and most of the time people speak out about body shaming, they body shame us small girls in the process. I didn’t choose my body—just as most of us didn’t. I was super skinny growing up and was always told I was too thin and “disgusting.” I was put down and made to feel guilty by my peers that weren’t my size. I had a counselor in junior high assign someone to follow me to the bathroom after lunch because they thought I was bulimic or anorexic. I found out when I was 24 that I have a heart condition, which probably led to my low weight. It is very sad to me that a medical condition I had no control over led to such shaming and bullying. But somehow it’s ok because I have the “ideal body type.” Ideal to who?? I would trade the pain and hospital stays for a few extra inches around my waistline.

I find your sites are always very positive spaces full of good thoughts on health and body image; as I myself am in the process of putting together a project on the subject of body image i’d be interested to hear your thoughts. With such a high majority of women these days disliking their bodies and appearance, where do you think it stems from and what would you suggest as a remedy?

The media! As a society, we are inundated with more images through various media outlets now then ever before. We also have to deal with social media where it is easy for any anonymous person to harass others. I also think that with social media young people have stopped learning social skills. It is harder to teach kindness when kids live most of their relationships through the internet. I think that kindness starts with parents. Honestly, if I had of been mean or abusive to other kids growing up, my mom would have shut me down in two seconds. I was taught to respect and show sympathy to other people.

A lot of people seem to become more confident with themselves as they get older, what advice would you give to your younger self?

It is SO true! I always say that I would definitely take back my 20 year old ass, but I wouldn’t trade back my 20 year old brain for anything. I think that as you get older, all of the fluff in life matters less. I focus on what TRULY makes me happy versus things that make me happy in the moment. I would tell my young self to just take a minute, step back and evaluate what is truly important. And  would also tell my young self that all of those boys that I thought were the world absolutely were not! Everything is so dramatic when you are young. Haha.

And finally, finish these sentences:

 My favourite part of my body is….

My boobs.

Happiness to me is…

A banana milkshake, a good book, and snuggles with my man.

 My favourite quote is….

“Jealousy is, I think, the worst of all faults because it makes a victim of both parties.” Gene Tierney

Thank you Cherry!!! xoxo

Photographer:Caitlin Gustin 2006

If you’d like to see more of Cherry…you know you do, then you can follow her across the internet in various ways:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

She also has a gorgeous line of cosmetics in collaboration with Bomber Betty.