Body Talk exhibition with Shy Burham photography & poet Sharena Lee Sattit
Many women still feel very uncomfortable talking about their bodies, particularly in a positive manner. We are all so good at complimenting others but often struggle to show self love and appreciation of our own bodies. Photographer Shy Burhan and Poet Sharena Lee Satti came together to create an exhibition breaking this taboo and celebrating body confidence. Women from diverse backgrounds were invited to submit three words describing what they love about their bodies before being photographed by Shy. Sharena then wrote a beautiful poem called 'She is a goddess' inspired by those photographs.
Opening night was a sell out and it so lovely to see the women showing friends and family their photographs proudly hanging on the walls at Kala Sangram in Bradford. Shy ended up with 58 women, she originally asked for 52 to represent each week of the year but had such a positive response she didn't want to turn anyone down. I love that all the women were truly diverse and different, a true reflection on women in society today. Wouldn't it be great if those people who organise fashion and beauty advertising came to events like to see what true representation looks like.
There is something very moving about seeing women embracing their bodies coming together to celebrate. It's so important that we have creative people bringing projects like this to life to help break down body confidence issues and improve our mental wellbeing.
The exhibition will run until 3rd April and I'm looking forward to then buying my own art installation cylinder, it's going to become our new wine cooler and certainly a new topic of conversation!
The word joy sums up the art installations as part of the exhibition, the 58 women all look so different but so happy and free to express themselves. It was such fun shooting with Shy for this project, lots of movement and laughter.
I'll leave you with this beautiful poem "She is a goddess' written and performed by poet Sarena Lee Sattit. The opening night performance saw this poem accompanied by a beautiful dancer, it was a very moving moment.
What three words would you use to describe why you love your body?
I was so excited and honoured when I found out that I was going to be on the front cover of Goldie January 2019 edition. To have a platform like Goldie magazine to share my views about body confidence and the lack of over 40+ models represented in the fashion industry is something I am very grateful for. I really do feel part of the growing change in attitudes towards ageing in the fashion industry and love any opportunity to challenge the industry and help break down some barriers. Goldie magazine is fabulous, it celebrates everything positive about the over forties and above, for both men and women. Celebrating our diversity, not shy to tackle difficult conversations around ageing and it's packed full of great articles.
If you haven't discovered it yet then I can definitely recommend it!
"So what is it that causes us to shy away from embracing our older bodies? The lack of representation in the media must be a contributing factor, because women over forty are rarely used in lingerie or swimwear adverts, sending a very negative message that no one wants to see them"
"You're worth more than Gold'. Photographer Steve Cockram, MUA Rachel O'Dell, Stylist Trudy Fielding
AUREATE adjective Made of or having the colour of gold
"As someone who lacked body confidence until my forties I can appreciate the journey I have been on with every part of my body, We are a team and something to be cherished"
"With a depth of beauty that only comes in later years, we are redefining what middle age looks like. So next time you look in the mirror, remind yourself that your body s like gold: precious and beautiful"
Photographer: Steve Cockram
Stylist: Trudy Fielding
MUA/Hair: Rachel O'Dell
Words and Images as featured in Jan 2019 Goldie magazine
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.......
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.