I have always hated the term 'blogger'.
The word reminds me of bad top knots consisting of extension pony tails, and ironic 90s dressing, or sporting a SHOCKING lipstick colour to appear on another blogger's blog, blogging about blogging about new nail trends, or the cutest cat video currently going viral, and whilst I, for one LOVE a cute cat video, to be honest it completely lifts my mood, especially if the cat does something 'human'.
According to CBS, 15% of all internet traffic is made up of cats. This statistic shocked me, yet, also explained why I find it hard to remove myself from youtube once it starts connecting each video, eventually resulting in a two hour stint, and me slamming my computer shut.
What is more shocking and is now becoming widely talked about, is the fact that teenage girls and younger are spending on average 7 hours of their day on Facebook, instagram, pinterest...searching terms such as 'thigh gap', 'thinspo', 'proana'.. the list goes on.
I grew up what I thought to be a very awkward child.
I have had size UK7 feet since the age of eleven, this may not seem so shocking.
But, team that with growing up in the 80s/90s with long thick ginger hair, gapped teeth, braces, one eyebrow a different colour to the other, and hands the same scale as my enormous feet, I was hardly the looker at school. Don't forget the pleather jacket I loved from Topshop. This dream jacket was a size 6 and far too big for me. I wore it anyway, teamed with some sort of ill fitting polo shirt underneath, which then developed sweat patches, the impulse o2 body spray from Superdrug didn't quite work.
I was the girl owning knees that were the fattest part of her. When other girls started developing breasts, my body decided my knees would probably need that tissue more. When girls were wearing slouched socks with their school skirts, I was wearing two pairs or more to make my ankles bigger. I was a gymnast, a good one, but during warm ups I would look at my huge feet and try not to cry. The other girls called me anorexic, I heard it so often I wrote a diary pretending that I was, in fact, ill.
Even though I ate my own meal, PLUS my mam's leftovers and dessert. As my Gran used to say,
"Have you got holla' legs or summit?" (Geordie)
Looking back at myself I laugh, but I remember looking in the mirror regularly, accepting that feeling of dread, that I was the ugliest girl, no matter how many times my mam would tell me I was gorgeous; sending me valentines cards from a 'secret admirer'. Bless her. She didn't even change her writing.
The feeling of dread when it came to my best friends parties. My best friend, was and still pretty much is the most popular girl in school. I still don't remember how we became so close, but to this day she is still my best one. She had the best smile, eyes, personality that could seduce anyone. The challenge was to dislike her. She wasn't big headed, she saw the good in everyone. THE DREAM FRIEND. Louise is funny, kind, level headed, I would trip over my own feet, spit on people by accident because of my braces, which by the way I had coloured inserts, lilac being a favourite, apparently uncle Fester was 'in' at the time. Obviously.
This best friend of mine is also the mother of my god daughter, who, to me, is the most beautiful thing in the world. But I was told some pretty shocking thing's. Leila (the god daughter) turned to her mam and said,
'Mam it's good that you can see my ribs because that means i'm not fat'
Leila is 7.
When I was 7 I was chasing Adam Gudgin around the playground for catchie-kissie, not realising he was just running for his life; playing stuck in the mud, and wondering how many scrunchies I could fit around my ponytail, not worrying about my weight.
When I was 15 I was scouted by Storm model agency. I didn't quit understand. I was trying to force my friend into a 'shout' magazine modelling competition, a random guy with a belly and a clip board told me to enter. I couldn't even smile then as my mouth wasn't wide enough to embrace my braces, you could say; I would have difficulty however. I was absolutely terrified.
At this time my dad had been doing some commercial modelling on the side of his full time job. My dad is a bit of a looker. Back then a metro advert came on the TV, for anyone that doesn't know the metro in Newcastle, it is our form of the London Underground, except much more acceptable to sniff random aerosol cans on your way over the river.
So, there was my dad with his fake wife and two children, carrying shopping bags, laughing and joking. My first reaction was, HIS PRETEND KIDS WERE GINGER.
That should have been me. I was gutted.
This was the moment I decided I wanted to be a model. For simply no other reason than to be told I was pretty, accepted. The booker that scouted me told me I looked like an alien, which at the time was devastating to me. Now I am sure plenty of girls would love to hear this, I just wanted to fit in.
Fitting in 'back in the day' to me, was being tanned, with breasts, or no breasts, we had water bra's. The best trainers a must, hipster jeans, looking like all the other girls. I had my belly button pierced with a turquoise stud, and dolphin diving over the top. It lasted a year. I am now 28 and still have that damn scar.
I modelled in London and internationally (sort of) on and off for 9 years. Eventually quitting because I was told to lose weight, in an unhealthy way. Something I refused to do. Being slightly larger than your average editorial model or as my mam puts it;
"Eeee darlin, you've got my hips".
I had never really struggled to work, I paid my rent, bought a house, travelled the world. Yet now, when I thought there was more diversity in the industry, I was told I was too big, even for commercial modelling. I was asked if, I could be f****d to starve myself. At which, I laughed, mate I like a pint, I love food, I love exercise. Yet when I exercise I tone muscle, which doesn't comply to modelling measurements. I like my muscles. I like my shape. I like my breasts.
They balance out my feet.
Quitting modelling I was asked to scout for top agencies. I lasted about a week. No matter if the agency told me they wanted their girls healthy, I couldn't picture putting a young girl in the industry which eventually tore me up. Just to clarify, I have a constant argument in my head;
Would I be more confident in my own body if I HAD or if I HADN'T modelled?
I will never be able to answer this question.
Running on the treadmill I remember thinking,"will this make me skinny?"
Looking at the gap in my thighs and wondering how I could change.
I realised then it was infiltrating my mind. Only then did I realise how much time was spent worrying about how I look to other people. Walking past a shop window I would look at my behind, how far it was sticking out, if my thigh's looked bigger on one side to the other. How if I turn my hands in a certain way, it makes my arms look slimmer. The list goes on.
Deciding then, that I wanted to talk to young girls regarding their self image, their confidence, what THEY believe is the 'body' they should have. I wanted to scream,
"Look at me when I was younger! look! you have nothing at all to worry about"
Whilst researching and talking to parents I realised my audience would sadly have to be younger. MUCH younger, as young as three in fact. According to Glamour magazine, In a University of Central Florida study of three- six year old girls, nearly 95% were already worried about being fat - and roughly a third said they wanted to change something about their body.
The list is so extensive concerning the factors that affect children's opinions on body image, but my main question right now is,
As a parent, what do you say to your young child when he or she mentions their weight?
With so many confusing messages and alternating opinions worldwide, on how a woman should look, is there a wrong or a right way to talk to children about this?