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 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
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.
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.......
The fact that it was in The Bahamas working with Ashley Graham, Elaine Eirwin, Stefania Ferrario and Lori Harvey was an amazing opportunity. But for me it was so exciting to be involved with Swimsuitsforall, an American swimwear company I have been following and really admire for their positive and inclusive attitude to swimwear. When I tentatively started modelling this time last year I would never have imagined modelling swimwear at the age of 47 and it has been such a positive turning point in my attitude. I have come back even more determined to be able to represent the curvier women over 40, we are so under looked in the fashion industry even when our age bracket is one of the largest spending groups in the market. As I slowly approach my 50th I can't wait and I've never felt more confident, sexy, comfortable in my own skin, embracing my grey hair, so I'm looking forward to this new chapter and let's see what it brings!
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