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Reclaiming the body beautiful

Living

 

Blogger to bring Body Pride 2016 to Westport next month

Ciara Galvin

THERE is huge pressure on women to look good. Even the ancient egyptian women brought their A game when it came to their image, using burnt almonds to paint their brows black and fill them out. They were on top of the eyebrow-enhancement trend before it even got started.
Though the pressure to ‘look well’ has always been around for women in particular, with the rise of the ‘selfie’ and social media the constant pressure to be a size 8, with great skin, has increased exponentially.  
For Michelle Marie, changing the way people see their bodies became a life mission after she finally found peace in her own skin, following the birth of her daughter in 2014.
The founder of Body Pride 2016 is bringing the body embracing event to Westport next month. The event will see a range of models of all sizes, ethnicities and sexualities take to the runway to take pride in themselves. Along with this, there will be healthy treats, stalls and guest speakers talking about their journey to body confidence.
The blogger and positive body image advocate came up with the idea after receiving positive feedback from women who struggle with their size and confidence as a result.

Childhood insecurities
Michelle developed insecurities about her image from a very young age. Being mixed race and adopted by white parents, she automatically felt like she didn’t fit in to her family unit, or the environment she was brought into. As a result, she developed an eating disorder in later life.
“My body shape was different to the people around me. I had curves and I just wanted to make myself thin and white. I didn’t see it as a cultural thing,” explains the Oxford native, who now lives in Ballinrobe.
The blogger was put on a diet at just five years old by her adopted mother, who Michelle says was ‘very health conscious’. Negative comments from family members, including her adopted grandmother, didn’t help.
“I remember my grandmother would buy me dresses in the wrong size. One day she said she would stop buying them if I was going to be too fat for them.”
“I hated what I saw in the mirror,” she adds.
Having battled with her body image all her life, the 33 year old decided to change the way she saw herself after having her daughter Makiyah.
“When I was pregnant I had a boudoir photo shoot, and when I got the photos back I liked what I saw, but the photographer had made some changes. I asked them to reverse them and that was the catalyst. I have wrinkles, big thighs, cellulite, that’s who I am. This is my body and I accept that, and that has made me healthier.”
Michelle felt like she had to do something about the increasing level of body shaming online and in the media, so she set up her own blog at www.chocolatecurvesmodel.wordpress.com, and became a positive-body-image advocate.

Social media
The plus size model argues that in a world where young people gauge their self-worth by how many likes they get on Facebook and Instagram, it’s time for people to realise they are ‘good enough’.
“It’s quite worrying that young people are so impressionable and they’re under pressure to look a certain way. Girls are seeing their photos getting 50 likes on Facebook and seeing another girl in their school get 100 and thinking that girl is worth more than her,” explains Michelle.
Michelle does not only speak on behalf of bigger women, seeing that even women who fit into the ‘beauty ideal’ are pressured to stay there.
Asked how she feels about some people’s view that bigger people should be ashamed of being unhealthy and just lose weight, Michelle is measured in her response.
“I get people all the time saying I can’t say I’m beautiful because I’m unhealthy. I’m not saying it’s good to be unhealthy, we’re just trying to take power back and be beautiful as much as thinner people can be.”
Michelle goes on to say that everyone in society knows they need to be healthier from cutting down on caffeine, quitting smoking and eating healthier, but ‘it doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate ourselves’.
On the issue of irregular sizing in clothes shops and the unrealistic size of clothes mannequins, Michelle advises not to focus on the number on your clothes, whatever your size.
“Shopping should be a fun experience, and mannequins that are stick thin don’t help. I’ve heard of people who are a size 12 squeezing into a size 16 because sizing is so difficult. We need to stop focusing on numbers on our clothes, different days we can be different sizes. We’re still beautiful and good enough.”

The first ever Body Pride event takes place on September 4 at the Castlecourt Hotel, Westport. For more information visit BodyPrideIreland on Facebook.