Saturday, 2 May 2015

Body Confidence, YouTubers and Modelling for Razz Magazine

I haven't felt this bad about my body image in a long time. I was about 17 when I started to not actively hate how I looked. It then took several years of carefully finding my way out of the same ways of thinking about myself before I felt happy with who I am.

I wanted to talk because reading things like this have helped me in the past, and made me feel less alone. So here we go.

It's hard to talk about. I haven't shared anything like this so far, because sometimes when I mention it people say "oh, just ignore them" or "tell them to f- off". You can't ignore them when they're in front of you, talking to you like you should be ashamed of your appearance. Sometimes you can tell people to stop. They might genuinely not understand what they're doing. Sometimes it does nothing; the phrase "f- off" is not a magic spell that will make them stop, realise they're being horrible, apologise profusely and never do it again.

I am thin. I have always been thin. I have a thin figure, thin arms and legs, flat chest etc. A lot of people say 'I wish I was as thin as you' and so on, which sucks as this isn't the ideal figure for everyone - it's just one body type. I no longer care about my figure as long as I'm healthy. But I've been brought up to hate it, to cover myself up as my size 'is disgusting', I look like a "skeleton", I look "anorexic"/"weak"/"ugly".

Everything about me seemed ugly to them. My hair too coarse and thick - it made me look 'mentally deranged'. My skin was vile, my clothes were disgusting, I was too stupid to dress myself since everything I wore was ugly.

When I did speak out against it or just showed that I wasn't enjoying their criticism, I would be called 'vain' and 'immodest', they were just telling me the truth for my own good, or denied they were hurting me at all and I was being hysterical and too sensitive.

I don't know if this simply sounds trivial. Appearances are superficial, and a person means more than the surface. But appearances are how you present yourself to the world and how others see you. I felt I was awful and everyone saw this and hated me. I remember I was about 11, and I avoided mirrors because I found my reflection repulsive. And that's massively screwed up - when I see kids at that age, I think how can anyone make someone that young feel that bad?

It took a very long time to stop hating myself. Friends would give me a little compliment now and then, and that began to stack up. I came to realise that as I admired this stranger's hair/makeup/outfit, someone might be thinking the same thing about me. As I learnt to see the beauty in other people (inside and out), I began to see it in myself.

YouTube was probably one of the things that helped me the most - it was like these incredibly gorgeous, self-made beauty gurus and stylists would personally teach me how to wear make-up and dress. Notable favourites include: BubzBeauty, Michelle Phan, ChriselleLim, Wendy'sLookBook, x3HaHa.

It wasn't just their tutorials that helped me; they would talk about their own struggles with appearances, how they dealt with negativity and how no amount of make-up can hide an ugly heart. It was never about covering up who you were or improving yourself - it was about making what you had and who you were even better. Your legs are amazing! This type of skirt can help you show them off! Your eyes are wonderful! Make sure you draw attention to them! The world needs to see your eyes! They're excited about skincare and style as it made them feel good, and they wanted to share it with their audience so they feel good too.

Also, other YouTubers helped me not give a damn any more like Kingsley, MeghanTonjes and Vlogbrothers who were just encouraged being positive about yourself.

I managed to move away from the people who made me feel bad. Gradually, people came into my life who didn't just tell me I was beautiful, but made me feel it. Last year, the almighty Baroness Floella Benjamin, my childhood hero, came into the audience during a Q&A, hugged me and told me I was beautiful and brave.

A few months ago, I became confident enough to volunteer as a model for Razz Magazine and ended up on the cover - a huge milestone for me. It was one of the most empowering experiences I've had. This was the first time I'd ever modelled and the other models were much more experienced than me (some were semi-professional, some were regulars on cat-walks), but they were absolutely lovely, especially Angela Datseri, who was a make-up artist for the shoot and in the cover with me. She helped direct me and gave me confidence. The cameraman (James Hall) we worked with was wonderful and encouraging. Also, when something didn't look right, he didn't criticise me - it just didn't look right on camera.

I've been very happy with who I am and everything about me, from the hair on my head to my toes. I'm not so good right now as I've been put down too many times today. But I'll be ok again - I've come a long way.

Razz. I'm the one on the left in white. Also, how fabulous does Angela look??

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