I spent so many years dreading the summer holidays, stressing myself out months before with fad diets and manic exercise to reach the unobtainable perfect bikini body. I can't tell you how liberating it is to be free from this now and I really want to inspire other women, particularly over 40 to stop worrying and start enjoying the summer more, just as they are.
What better way to make that statement and continue to challenge my own body confidence by doing a shoot in a lingerie shop window!
Rachel Peru, wearing Empriente swimwear, photographed by Silverymoon Photography
If we saw more women over represented with swimwear brands in advertising perhaps we would all feel a lot more positive about our own bodies. One lady recently left a comment on my social media saying, "I will be 45 soon and I don't feel represented in anyway. I feel women in their forties are invisible". I hear these kind of comments from women all the time and it drives me mad that advertising is making us feel this way. That's my driving force in doing what I am doing.
River Island swimwear, model Rachel Peru, Silverymoon Photography
I think it's important to acknowledge I wasn't always this body confident, infact it has taken me until I reached my forties to feel this way. It's been a gradual process, gained by constantly challenging my insecurities and it's ongoing.
I really do think reaching our midlife is a state of mind. We are so conditioned in society to conform to how we should think, look, what to wear when we nearer the age of 50 and it's time we took back control and changed the rules.
My mum had beautiful long wavy hair in her forties but lost confidence in her look as she approached 50 because society has always told her women over 50 shouldn't have long hair. I look back now and feel quite sad that she made the decision to go much shorter because her lack of self confidence felt the need to fit in, to conform. I say to hell with that!
I am 48 and am more confident now than any other time in my life so far, I know from talking to other women of a similar age they feel the same. Women are redefining what middle aged looks like and I am right behind them.
I really struggled with my body image in my twenties and thirties and since turning 40 I began a real journey of self love and body confidence. I have curves, stretch marks gained from having three children, cellulite but I am right where I want to be and wouldn't wish to be back in my thirties. It is liberating and I don't intend to be invisible as I slowly approach 50. I say bring it on.
Age is just a number, attitude is a game changer.
That is why I decided to apply for the Sports Illustrated Swimwear casting, I am fed up of seeing young girls looking truly beautiful without showing the growth and depth of beauty a woman in later years also brings. There is space for all of us and it is time for brands and the media to give everyone a platform to share. Not only would it allow the next generation to worry less about ageing and free them from wasting so much energy and money on trying to deny it but it would also raise lots of middle aged womens' self confidence levels and remind society that we are not invisible.
I love this bikini set from Lepel, it's such a good fit,34FF. Photographer Laura Carly Adams. Stylist Trudy Fielding
Pleasantly surprised how much this swimming costume holds me in. It's not easy to find costumes that suit a 34G bst but I think this deep v is super flattering. Julien McDonald swimwear for Matalan.
The Real Catwalk was first organised in New York last year by its founder American body love activist and model Khrystyana. I confess to being an American Next Top Model addict and have watched every single series from the start. But for those that don't know about the show Khrystyana came 3rd in the last series and carried her body positive message and love throughout the show. Not only is she an amazing model but she is a great role model for girls and people of all ages in the way that she embraces herself and encourages others to do so.
The idea behind the London Real Catwalk was to inspire people to feel more confident in their bodies, to celebrate our differences and highlight the growing need for true representation for everyone. This catwalk was to be different, the call for volunteers was for everyone, all shapes, sizes, abilities, gender and age. Being part of this day was truly special, I met so many inspirational brave people. I use the word brave, not because it is brave to love your body but brave because so many people have struggled with their body image and feelings of not fitting in, hardly any wonder when society is bombarded by the media with their vision of perfect. To walk tall in swimwear in the middle of a busy Saturday in Trafalgar Square is no easy feat and I salute everyone of the 70+ models who took part.
Why I took part in the Real Catwalk organised and founded by American body love activist and model Khrytsyana.
I wasted so many years with low self esteem and lack of body confidence and it wasn't until I reached my forties that I really embraced who I am and became happy in my skin.
I have three teenagers and I don't want them to have the same issues and I want to show them that we are all different and that there is no such thing as the 'perfect' body type. Research shows that a ''substantial portion of the media'' that children are exposed to is ''replete with unhealthy messages about the beauty ideal, body size, food, weight control and gender roles'' which is so detrimental for their mental well being, this needs to change, (*Influence of Mass Media on Body Image and Eating, Greenberg et al 2009,389) .With the increase of mental ill health, anxiety, self harm and eating disorders it's a serious issue and one that can't be just brushed under the carpet. It is time the media takes this issue seriously and makes a real difference. We are all beautiful and good enough as we are today .
Plus I want to keep reminding the industry and fellow over 40's that we rock and we are not invisible!
Founder of the Real Catwalk Khrystyana
Fantastic to get some positive media coverage too.
I love taking part in events such as this as I get to meet so many interesting and strong women, including this beauty Messa Morley.
Finale walk, so much admiration for those that took part and what wonderful support form the audience.
As a woman in her forties I still love to sit down and read fashion magazines and I'm guilty of losing hours shopping and browsing on line. I love fashion and that includes admiring and buying nice underwear. I am a 34FF bra size so that in its self limits my accessibility, although there are so many more brands doing my size fashionably now. However what I find completely demoralising as a shopper is that they are always modelled on young, fresh faced models who look stunning with their youthful bodies. But trying to imagine what I might look like in my 48 year old body compared to the image is never a positive comparison. Our body shape changes, are skin isn't as tight and firm as it used to be, I need more support up front!
But I can still look and feel good in the right lingerie without being constantly reminded that I am ageing. It does leave you with a feeling off being written off by the fashion industry and things need to change.
Lingerie set (XL) and dressing gown , Gifted from F&F Clothing. Photographer Mya Fawcett, MUA Emma Denton.
Whilst there are some very positive brands embracing this change such as Berlei, Panache and Lonely Label wouldn't it be nice if all brands got on board and didn't just see it as a quick PR eye catcher for individual campaigns but don't carry it through the rest of their website or advertising.
This Berlei campaign is the way forward and they are at the fore front of embracing all ages in their continued advertising. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we saw these kind of images every time we opened a magazine.
How amazing does this older model look for Lonely Label lingerie, I look at this photo and I can't help thinking that if we saw women of all ages we would be less insecure about growing older and it would help our self confidence and body positivity as we change through the decades.
Whilst I think this photo of 57 year old Julianne Moore modelling for Triumph is beautiful, I only hope they continue down this road in their ongoing branding and images. I want to be able to relate to the models in magazines and fashion branding ,please don't alienate us, after all we have money to spend and make up a high percentage of your sales!
Flick through any fashion magazine and you will notice a distinct lack of middle aged 40-50 year old models . Whilst it is wonderful to see the increase in older models such as the incredible 70 year old Maye Musk, the industry seems to be completely overlooking the middle aged bracket. Why are we so invisible to the high street fashion market? Especially when you consider that women over 50 make up 47% of the spending market. I want to be inspired when I open up magazines by women of my own age group that I can relate to and that reflect me, wearing high street modern fashion. We have money to spend and there is #nowrongage to express yourself through your clothes.
Be Real is a national movement working together with schools, businesses, charities and public bodies to help shift attitudes in young peoples body images and improve their self esteem and health. Focussing on low body confidence, education which includes working with parents and teachers, health and the need for diversity in branding and the fashion and media industry. With three teenagers of my own I can see the impact all of these things can have on lowering young peoples self esteem and I am proud to be able to support this campaign with my guest blog post.If you haven't already heard about the Be Real campaign please check it out! I am also delighted to report that I have now become a BeReal ambassador.
Guest blog article for the Be Real campaign.
A letter to my sixteen year old self.
Firstly, always remember when you go through your life that you are unique and worthy of everything that you work for. Remember how you felt when you were thin and wore that black skinny dress, you were full of confidence. Hold on to those feelings and keep them close when your body changes and your dress sizes get bigger. You are still the same beautiful person, do not let yourself or anyone else dim that light.
When someone pays you a compliment, accept it gracefully and say thank you, don't turn it in to an opportunity to make fun of yourself and highlight your flaws. If you keep doing that it will become a bad habit that takes you years and years to break. Be kind to yourself. Whilst we are on this subject, remember how nice it feels to be complimented and do the same to others. When you say nice things to your friends it will raise their self-esteem and makes you feel good too. It doesn't have to be about their appearance either, how about something they have succeeded in? After all there is so much more to all of us than how we look on the outside.
Join in with life, don't let your insecurities stop you from taking part in what is all around you. Play that game of tennis with your friends. They aren't Wimbledon champions either but they are having fun together, watching from the side lines is not the same. So what if you are two sizes bigger than the other girls, what difference does that make to picking up a racket and hitting a ball? You're not alone with these insecurities. The Be Real campaign alongside the YMCA commissioned a report called somebody Like Me, which found from over 2000 11-16 year olds, 30% isolated themselves because of their body anxieties. Be brave and every time you are , your confidence will grow faster and bigger.
You will go through life achieving and experiencing so many things, some good some bad, but I promise you the numbers on your weighing scales will bear no relevance to anything. It will have no part to play in what you go on to accomplish so stop standing on them every day. Ask yourself what purpose do they serve? If you see numbers that you are happy with yes you feel great but then the next day the numbers may be higher and your whole world seems to crash down. Try and imagine if you had a tiny baby and you weighed it every day, as it goes through different stages its weight changes too. would you love the baby any less if it's bigger than when it was born? No of course wouldn't, our bodies change daily for lots of reasons. Learn to love your body and embrace it for all that it is, how you often see yourself is not how others view you. We are all different shapes and sizes, you are curvy and always will be, some of your friends are taller and slimmer, all of you are beautiful.
Try and learn to live in the moment more, you can waste so much time and energy thinking life would be better if only I lost half a stone.. if only my boobs were smaller I would be happier...if only...if only.... Every day you are living your life so don't let it slip by wasting precious time putting your life on hold until the 'if only' day that will never materialise. By allowing your brain to play the 'if only' game you are setting yourself up for failure, instead find things that you love are passionate about and do them as often as you can. Keep swimming, go dancing. practice yoga. explore every opportunity that comes your way and excites you. If you find that your brain is winning and you are struggling write down a list of things that you are grateful for about each day. I promise you it will make you feel better and it will help break the cycle. It's about being kind to yourself. The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence report 2016, which involved 4,500 girls from over 13 different countries highlights this message too, with 8 out of 10 feeling more confident and positive "when they invest time in caring for themselves".
Lastly if you eat those 5 fish fingers because you love them, or had that second piece of cake when no-one was looking, don't beat yourself up abut it. So what, it's done. Did you enjoy it? Yes, has your life come to a catastrophic end? NO! Everyone has days when they over indulge for lots of different reasons but then the sun comes up and it's a new day. Nothing good will come from dwelling on past events of any kind, move on, look forward and most importantly BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
I love seeing so many inspiring women sharing their self confidence and helping others embrace their own bodies on social media and Instagram. It has made me stop and think about what being body positive actually means to me.
Whatever size we are, we all have our own journey with our bodies and when I look back at my own, I am finally able to accept and love my body, flaws and all. To reach this point is incredibly liberating and has increased my self confidence ten fold. I would never have had the confidence to have modelled like this when I was younger and whilst I think it has been a real shame to have wasted precious time feeling insecure in my own body, maybe this is all part of my journey and the time is right for me now.
Growing up I was always slightly chubbier than my friends at school and the size of my chest was an issue fairly early on! I do remember being called Chubby at secondary school, top that with 'specky four eyes' and its not a positive start. Don't get me wrong, I had amazing friends and enjoyed life but I do remember those feelings of not being good enough creeping in early on.
As a society we are so judgemental about looks and size; it is so unhealthy and makes me sad.
I have been what I would call 'thin' three to four times in my life, where people would tell me how great I looked now I'd lost weight, congratulating me on the 'achievement'. Once when I was a teenager after my parents got divorced, once when I got into a bad habit of making myself sick and when eating out caused me huge anxiety, once after breastfeeding and having no car so I walked literally every where (which I loved) and finally when I got divorced! Apart from one of these periods of life, the rest weren't very positive or good for my mental well being.
Fast forward to my twenties when I gave up my job and went to work as an au-pair for 6 months in Denmark aged 23. During those six months I learnt so much about myself, it was the first time I had left my home town and ventured out solo in life. I made new friends and ate too many Danish pastries washed down with plenty of beer. I came back home two stone heavier. But what has always stayed with me was sitting with a close member of family whilst they chatted on the phone discussing my return. The first comment made was about how much weight I had put on, not how well my trip had gone or things that I had experienced. At that moment I was so hurt and felt humiliated. My confidence took another tumble. How have we got to this point in society where we are so shallow that how we look defines us over our personality and life experiences?
Again in my thirties all dressed up in a black figure hugging wiggle dress for a special event I felt amazing. I went out feeling so confident and glamorous. During the course of the day a close male friend announced, in front of a line of other men that I scrubbed up well for a 'fat lass''. At that point I wanted the ground to swallow me up, I went bright red and went for a good cry in the toilets. Looking back, what actually makes me really cross is that everyone else's reaction to this was so unsupportive and I was the one that had an issue because I was 'too sensitive'. I can see clearly now that these comments were completely unnecessary and I allowed them to penetrate my own self belief when I am also sure they were forgotten about five minutes after they came out of their mouth. If only I had the inner confidence then that I have now! It is also worth noting I was a size 14 at the time which really highlights what a screwed up message people are still receiving, from the fashion industry and media, about the judgment and image of women, when the UK national average women is a size 16.
I strongly believe there is a need for more body positivity and self confidence building to be included in schools curriculum, because it is the next generations to come that have a real opportunity to change this mentality. Body activist Taryn Brumfitt's and her Body Image Movement, first started in Australia, is such a fantastic cause. If you haven't seen the Embrace documentary yet, I can highly recommend it, (finally available to buy in the UK on ITunes). I am proud to have become more involved with this and am looking forward to taking part in a live Q & A panel after a screening during York Fashion week on April 17th. Her mission is to make an Embrace education study guide, working alongside education and health specialists, accessible to all schools across the UK. The movement is already having a positive impact in schools around Australia. As a parent I would also recommend taking a look at Doves Self-Esteem Project www.dove.com
I honestly think there was not a single year between 20 to my late 30's where I didn't try a new diet at some point. Putting pressure on myself to achieve unrealistic goals, striving to feel like I 'fit in', loathing myself when I failed. It's such a vicious circle. In my late thirties I actually booked in for a breast reduction thinking this would make me feel better about myself, thank fully I didn't go through with it. It wasn't my bra size I needed to change but my mindset. I am also fully aware that my experiences will seem trivial to some women who will have experienced a lot worse, but I guess the point I am trying to make is that regardless of your size or sex or age , if you are size 0, 10, 16 or 20 we all have the right to love our bodies and society works hard to try and stop us.
Since turning forty there has been a huge transition in my own attitude and I no longer look to the scales for my self value. Two things have happened in my forties that have finally shifted the negative body image I had of myself. Firstly I embraced my natural grey hair, which I have managed since my teenage years and had every colour of the rainbow. I love my grey hair and would never change it now, it's part of me.
The second shift came in 2017, after volunteering to join a local photographer Mya Fawcett who organised a group of women to re create the Loose Women MyBodyMyStory photograph. 11 women, all strangers to me, stood in our underwear together, all different ages and sizes, all with their own body stories. I wanted to challenge myself, also I have three teenagers and I want them to be able to see their beauty and fill them with self love, challenging the medias portrayal of beauty by being a good role model. I walked out into the studio and immediatley went to my default programme of comparing myself to others and feeling very insecure.
This really hit home to me the fact that it doesn't matter what size you are, or how others may perceive you, its such a personal journey and all of equal value. A recent Dove global research report showed that ''80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful, but do not see their own beauty''(https://www.dove.com/uk/stories/about-dove/our-research.html).
MyBodyMyStory with Loose Women
Following this photograph we ended up on Loose Women live in our underwear, since then nothing phases me! I have gone on to model swimwear with Ashley Graham and Swimsuitsforall, Lingerie for Panache and I am keen to continue flying the flag for the 40+ women in being body positive and embracing our years. Women in todays society are put under so much pressure from a young age to look a certain way, when in fact we should be embracing our individuality and judging others a lot less. I don't want to be written off because I am over forty and curvy, I'm just getting started!
Rachel Peru with Swimsuitsforall in the Bahamas.
Panache Lingerie 'I AM' campaign
Yes I have a large chest, my waist is a little bit wider than it used to be, my front teeth overlap, I wear varifocal glasses, I have cellulite and stretch marks. Shock, horror!
In the last ten years my body has got me through a 1/2 half marathon, 2 Great North Swims in Lake Windermere, cycling from London to Brighton, the 127 miles Leeds to Liverpool canal route and two sky dives. I am also immensely grateful that my body gave me three wonderful children, I am fit and healthy, loved and in love. I have a great smile and am a happy person loving life.
What do you love about yourself? Start that list.......
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