If it's not a magazine featuring "the best and worst celebrity beach bodies", it's an article promoting the latest fad diet that will allow you to drop a dress size in two weeks. Women's bodies are seen throughout media and often glorified as the epitome of beauty when displayed in their thin and youthful form. Already as a society we have embraced these standards of beauty which are imposed on women to the extent that female celebrities who do not conform to these standards are often criticised for slipping or leading an unhealthy lifestyle.
According to Jean Kilbourne (feminist author, speaker, and filmmaker) media imagery of extremely thin women means that the bodies of everyday women have become invisible to mass media. As a result many women are adopting these stereotypes and judging themselves by society's standards of beauty. This teaches women to compare themselves to other women and compete with them for male attention.
The earlier years of our life are when we are more receptive to our surroundings and we pick up a better understanding of the way the world works and the way things should be. Media and advertising is a powerful tool as it works to provoke a certain emotion or way of thinking amongst those that are receptive to it. As a young girl I often experienced this battle between my image and what was by society's standards 'normal' or 'beautiful' - particularly as friends and family around me had embraced these ideals. I started dieting and meal skipping at the age of eight years old. During puberty I developed a voluptuous hour glass figure which I constantly tried to combat through excessive exercise and extreme diets. That desire to be thin was to me a sense of perfection that would bring me happiness and contentment.
As I grew older and endured various experiences I developed confidence in my own skin and embraced my individuality. The level of contentment and happiness I began to achieve by changing the way I thought was a revelation in itself. Essentially we create our happiness and make informed decisions about who we want to be - not society. It was only by chance that during this time of self-discovery I embraced the phenomenon that was plus-size modeling. The 'if you were skinny you could be a model' comments just weren't cutting it.
As a model I have been working to demonstrate what diversity could bring for the fashion industry and how it can inspire women to embrace their own bodies and also feel stylish. I've participated in campaigns such as 'Models of Diversity' which celebrate just that. Additionally there have been a range of other campaigns designed to tackle the diversity issue with some resulting in slight changes in the industry and others little at all.
Unfortunately a lot of us, as members of the public (women and men) have embraced these beauty standards for so long that even we have hit out against campaigns for diverse models in advertising. It's either a vicious battle between skinny vs. curvy or a dictation of which size is healthy or not. The work is not only with the fashion industry - it is also with our mentalities. This is why I have now set up The Red Alert Youth Beauty Campaign - a campaign which helps young women to develop confidence and embrace their individuality.
The campaign will aim to provide young women with guidance and the opportunity to express and relate through creativity including expert advice, inspirational messages, fantastic poetry, great music, and letters. Additionally we will be looking to arrange events and activities that unite young women as well as pushing for educational support within schools. Perhaps if we teach young girls to separate their reality from media standards of beauty, then we may achieve some crucial steps in this on-going battle.