I have always made a point of trying my best not to follow the crowd. Growing up I was more interested in New Scientist than New Look, and I’ve never been one for bandwagons either. About the same time my classmates got into boys and make-up I cut my hair short and dyed it red, blue and green. Going to university, my friends chose the same courses and stuck together, while I dove head first into Music Technology.
This is something I’d like to think has followed me into adulthood. I want to be, look and act differently to the crowd.
Up until recently, I had always thought I never fell prey to the messages of the media. For the last five or so years I had been a hobbyist model; that is to say I modeled mainly for fun. Recently, things have changed. I am now widely published and represented by an agency, and hugely aware now of the impact I might have on readers. I have a voice now and I need to use it wisely.
I am now starting to get an insight on the beauty industry, and the first thing that I feel I should say is that it is not quite the glamour and sparkle it portrays. Having spoken to those that run the London catwalks, I have heard horror stories of women so emaciated they grew fine downy hair on their chests, which has then had to be waxed off prior to a show! At one point, I too fell prey to an eating disorder, obsessively counting calories and exercising for half of my waking hours to a point I halved in size, and still thought myself too big. It all stopped one day when I collapsed in my flat during my second year of university, and was begged to stop before I seriously hurt myself. Within less than a year I went from a size 24 and down to a 10-12. Sadly, I had allowed myself to listen to the false messages of the media.
Since then, I have put weight back on and am now marketed as a plus-size model at a 16-18, but I now eat sensibly and exercise regularly. Ever since this point I have seen another side of the industry. Commercial “plus models” in the fashion world tend to vary from a UK size 8 to a size 12 (yes really), and are not let off lightly. They are also subject to regulation meaning that they must also be tall proportionate to their size.
It is only recently that we are starting to see more in the way of plus-size models in the limelight. Jean Paul Gaultier included Velvet d’Amour – a size 26 supermodel – on the catwalk in 2007, but it was seen as a publicity stunt rather than a sincere attempt to include diversity.
Velvet D’Amour by AP Photo/Jacques Brinon
Since then, there has been much more demand on designers to start making clothes for a wide range of sizes, as in the UK often lovely clothes wind up stopping dead at a size 16, or 18 if we’re lucky. For larger ladies, they are often sadly shopping online at specialist stores. I am proud to see this starting to change. I have had the honour this year of being a part of UK designer Silly Old Sea Dog‘s launch of vintage inspired clothing ranging from a size 6-28, and this has given her huge success; Hayley Hasselhoff was seen wearing her design in May at Pulp Plus-Size Fashion Week in Paris on the catwalks and has seen Silly Old Sea Dog launch on an international scale.
But still, sat in the hairdressers or doctor’s surgery; I am given popular magazines with slogans such as;
“Lose weight FAST”
“Best diet EVER”
“Look like a better you”
“Impress him with a new you”
“Has this celebrity let herself go?”/”This celebrity needs to eat a sandwich”
“Get rid of those flabby thighs”
“No more cellulite”
“Ew! Too thin”
“Ew! Too fat”
There are pioneers out there that are really trying to change this for everyone, and I salute them all for the hard job ahead of us. We have many years of being told what to wear, how to look and what to eat to undo. I would hope that one day, we will be able to stand together as women and be beautiful at every shape and every single size, embracing our different and unique beauty and rightfully so. Until then, I will never give up promoting the message of health, self love and body positivity.