I am exposed to billboard advertising every day on my daily commute, magazine ads every week in Shortlist and Stylist, plus banner advertising online and glossy cinema ads too. I skip the ads at the beginning of some YouTube videos as soon as I can, but there’s little else you can do to avoid this stuff. Whilst off work ill this week, I’ve watched broadcast television for the first time in a long while. I started off using the ad breaks in my E4 comedy show marathon to make more Beechams or get more tissues, but there’s only so much of that stuff a body needs. Before long they started showing adverts for the Special K diet, now rebranded as My Special K, and I couldn’t help but pay attention. Ditching the standard model in a red swimming costume, the summer 2012 ad shows women weighing themselves in public with the scales returning a compliment rather than digits. The ad then asks “What will you gain when you lose?”
It’s definitely a step in the right direction. Telling women they’re ‘amazing’ and stylish’ is definitely better than telling them they’re inadequate, but Kellogg’s are still telling women they need to eat cereal and very little else in order to achieve this. After all, we can’t be awesome unless we’re thin, right? WRONG! You can be amazing no matter what size you are. Self confidence is something that is tricky to obtain when you’ve spent your whole life being told – directly or indirectly – that you’re not thin enough, tall enough, young enough or fit enough. I’m not thin enough for what exactly? Why the fuck should it matter to anyone how much I weigh or what size of clothing I buy?
It took a while, but I got there. After spending most of my 20s feeling somewhat insecure about the way I looked, I stopped buying women’s magazines and started hanging around with a more body-confident bunch of people. I ignored television advertising, spent time with people who thought my big bottom was a good thing, and I started to dress in a way that was flattering to the shape I have rather than the one I thought I wanted to be. Recently I had a photoshoot with Matt Christie and one of my favourite shots from the evening was an outtake that shows my squishy bits (see above). It was a flattering pose and cunning lighting, so I still look somewhat slimmer than I am, but it remains a shot that many people would have ditched. I would never have shown a photo like this to anyone 10 years ago, but now… I just don’t care. I think I look great.
I’m lucky that I haven’t had many comments from trolls on this site, but I have been called overweight and old on occasions. It’s kinda sad that some people still view that kind of thing as an insult. I saw a fantastic video on The F-Word blog recently where Meghan Tonjes asks “Why does it hurt you if I don’t hate myself?”. Self confidence is a powerful thing, and I think that scares them.
Portrait of me by Matt Christie.