LIFESTYLE

Australian Model And Founder Of Project WomanKIND, Jessica Vander Leahy, On How Body Positivity Saves Lives

20/07/2015 14:54 BST | Updated 20/07/2015 14:59 BST

An inspirational new campaign which champions body positivity among women has launched starring models Stefania Ferrario and Jessica Vander Leahy.

#ProjectWomanKIND is a new web series which sees five models open up - sometimes quite frankly - on the highs and lows of body image.

Jessica Vander Leahy, Olivia Langdon, Sophie Sheppard, Stefania Ferrario and Margaret Macpherson are on a mission to show that there isn't a "one size fits all approach" when it comes to beauty.

Leahy, who launched the initiative, tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle that her main hope for the project is to inspire women to think about themselves more positively and "be kinder to themselves and fellow women".

"I feel like the meaner a woman is to herself, that can only affect her outlook to others," she explains.

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Leahy was inspired to launch the campaign after being contacted by people asking advice on how to improve their body image.

"I noticed a few girls I worked with regularly were getting the same kind of messages and emails, so I just figured there must be a gap here in the conversation about body image and how women feel about themselves."

"Body image is something that is obsessed over, especially in the west," she adds, "but it seems like such a one dimensional conversation a lot of the time. I wanted to create something where women could talk about the natural highs and the lows they might go through on the journey to accepting themselves - physically, emotionally, everything."

For Leahy, opening up these conversations among women has already begun to pay off.

"I got told by one young woman in a email that my positive posts on social media had encouraged her to get well from her eating disorder that had previously hospitalised her. She wrote: 'Thank you for helping save my life' and man, that just moved me to tears."

The web series also features incredibly honest interviews with other models, including Stefania Ferrario who spearheaded the #DropThePlus campaign, which calls to stop labelling models who do not fit sample size.

"I think it was really brave for the models involved to be vulnerable and raw about how they feel about themselves," says Leahy.

"They were really willing to go inside themselves and verbalise those inside thoughts and in some moments in the videos you can really hear their voices shaking because they were laying all of these really private things, things they thought about themselves, out for everyone to hear.

"So often you bury your insecurities deep inside and you know you shouldn't say them out loud to anyone because that will expose your weaknesses, but it's very freeing to acknowledge that everyone has insecurities, everybody has weak spots."

In the series, Ferrario opens up about how she used to feel negatively about her body. "It started when I was about six or seven. I started thinking I was fat," she explains.

"I started thinking I was too big. I used to wear baggy clothes to school and hide behind them, and I used to be really jealous of the other girls. I really, really didn’t accept my body when I was younger."

But she says that modelling has helped her to learn to be comfortable with my body. "I love it," she adds.

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