2016 has been an exceptional year for curvy women in the industry. The year started with plus size model, Ashley Graham gracing the pages of Sports Illustrated coveted swimsuit issue, and has ended with her joining the revamped America’s Next Top Model franchise as a judge. Denise Bidot, Fluvia Lacerda, Iskra Lawerence and others have broken barriers and created opportunities for future curvy and plus size models. Like myself.
2016 is noteworthy in my journey of acceptance and self-love. On 12th December 2015, my 18th birthday, I made a vow that 2016 would be the year I learnt to love my body, appreciate, accept and celebrate who I am in full. The promise I made that day changed my life.
Throughout my blogging ‘career’, I’ve battled with wanting to publish personal style/outfit posts but not wanting to show the body that comes with it. My inability to come to terms with who I am and what my body looked like was something I battled with even when I was a size 10/12 – scared I would be judged, ridiculed or made fun of. When in reality the only person that was judging my body was me!
So, for three years, I refused to brand myself as a curvy blogger, appeal to a plus-size audience, or work/affiliate myself with plus-size brands and bloggers. A decision that slowed down my reach of success, caused me to miss out on incredible opportunities and genuine friendships.
Until February when I worked with Simply Be for a Valentines Day post. For the first time, I used hashtags such as #curvemodel #effyourbeautystandards and #selflovebringsbeauty. Hashtags used by women of all shapes and sizes, who unapologetically embrace, celebrate and love their bodies, despite what society tells them. For a girl who despised being labelled, my use of these hashtags reflected growth in my journey.
As a result, my following increased (slightly) and the next chapter of my life began. In March, I was discovered by the brand manager of One One Three on Instagram and appointed as the brand’s ambassador. My role included wearing their clothes and regularly promoting it on my blog and social media, attending events representing the brand, helping out with design ideas and photo shoots, guest blogging and running their social media for takeovers and modelling too.
When asked if I would be interested, I remember screaming “HELL F**KING YES” and then proceeding to write an email back, which didn’t feature expletives or capital letters:
I would love to! I have to warn you; I don’t have much experience modelling, other than taking the occasional picture for Fashion Killer.”
On the day of the shoot, I felt beautiful as I stood alongside Felicity Hayward for their spring/summer and swimwear collection; yet slightly anxious! It was completely different to any blog photo shoot; I had no control over which images would be selected or how they would be edited. All of that was in the hands of the brand and photographer, Holly Broomhall.
On 4th May, I was told the collection was launching in a few days and sent all of the e-commerce images and the editorial lookbook. All of a sudden, the girl who was confident as she posed alongside Felicity, was now scared and full of anxiety. I loved some of the images, but also hated others, despite being reassured that I looked beautiful. But when you feel hideous, being told “you’re beautiful” doesn’t really change the way you see yourself.
The day the collection launched I was out shopping; while stood in a cue at Zara, my phone blew up with notifications, tweets, and messages. A few minutes after the launch, Slink Magazine published a write up on the collection, including five images e-commerce images, four of them being pictures of me. Messages from small modelling agencies started flooding in, and suddenly my anxiety had gone.
Following my first campaign, I’ve modelled One One Three’s A/W collection and signed to a leading agency for curvy models; Hughes Models.
The very moment I began to embrace who I was, my world transformed. The days of not going somewhere or attending something because of how I felt about myself are long behind me. Self-love and acceptance aren’t a destination; it’s a journey. Some days I feel beautiful and empowered, and sometimes I want just to curl up into a ball and stay at home.
In 2017, I encourage you all to step out of your comfort zone; it may not lead you to a career, but it may just make you happier – for me, it resulted in both!
Join me at The Body & Style Conservation Series where this topic, amongst others, will continue, as I participate in a panel to discuss building confidence, relationships and fashion for curvy women, on 24th February. Grab a ticket and enjoy a few cocktails and a three-course meal with me and other incredible women! Click this link to buy your ticket now.