I loved working on the latest Ulla Popken campaign, it's one of the most inclusive positive shoots I've been involved in so far. A true celebration of women in all our different shapes and sizes but all confident and happy in our bodies.
I could get used to having the length of hair and am now on a mission to grow it longer. I had it cut shorter before Christmas , partly because I wanted a change but mostly because it wasn't in great condition and it needed some tlc.
The more women share their individual body confidence stories the quicker we will all realise that we ALL share the similar insecurities with our body image at some stage in life and that it's time to stop. I've wasted so many years worrying about the number on the scales or the dress size. I used to weigh myself everyday and the number on those scales would invariably dictate the mood of the rest of my day. I can't remember the last time I weighed myself now and it's liberating. This campaign is about you saying and recognising that you are enough just as you are right now.
Put some Beyonce on in a room full of women and you get a lot of fun, dancing, sass and smiles.
is what you make of it
Can bodies be right or wrong? We believe the answer is: No. They all deserve to be loved – no matter how much or little they resemble the supposed ideals. Learning to look at our body with love can change our lives. It means seeing beauty and feeling self-love.
Ulla Popken 2019
Thank you Ulla Popken for being so inclusive and showcasing women at their best, happy, confident and supporting one another x
Episode 2 of Out Of The Bubble podcast is out and this weeks guest is Zoe McNulty, body activist and headmistress of The School Of Strut. We talk about body confidence and the importance of unleashing your inner Beyonce. Here are some of the best bits!
I'm an international dance fitness presenter, body positive activist, champion of curves and Headmistress of School of Strut. Really all a fancy way of saying I teach dance! I help women feel good about themselves what ever their shape or size. As a curvy dancer, not that I've been that much judged and a fitness instructor, that's had an effect on my career. In fact I've had to forge my own path through the fitness industry because many doors were closed to me and I didn't have the body that brands were looking for so I made my own brand up.
Have you always had this passion for dance?
Yes, I think I probably danced my way out of the womb. I stopped for a couple of years whilst doing my A'levels but then went back to it. I hadn't realised how much I had missed it, the buzz that I felt and I was on such a high after that first class back. I thought there is something special about this, why am I not doing this as a career? I want it in my life and I want it be something I pass on.
Whilst I was a student I couldn't afford the gym fees so I offered my services and volunteered and they put me in there exercise to music classes, that's aerobics to you and me. That's where I thought , ooh I think I've found what I'm meant to be doing.
Zoe McNulty, The School of Strut
I read somewhere that you wanted to be a backing dancer on Top of the Pops, how true is that?
Yes throughout my life really, my best friends at the time were doing it so I was moving in those circles. I avoided the commercial dance world because I didn't want to be told daily that I can't do this because you're too big. I didn't want to be told to lose weight continually, I thought I'm going to develop an eating disorder that's not healthy. I stepped away from that dream knowing that actually that dream would be bad for me.
Have you always been quite self aware of your body confidence?
I kind of thought about that over the years and thought yeah was it really a very wise decision or was I just a bit lazy. Other people went for their dreams and never stopped until they got there and I didn't have it In me. I think it has to do with laziness to be honest. But in hind sight, you know I'm a christian, I believe in God, maybe god put that in my mind, don't worry , that's not for you, crack on and you'll find your path.
Where did the idea for School of Strut come from?
Regardless of travelling and working all over the world I have still always done my weekly dance classes in London. About 12 years ago there was a lovely forward thinking chain of gyms that asked me if I could do a dance class in heels. They'd seen an American concept of a class in heels where the people were doing squats and lunges in heels, trying to sell the benefits. To me that was all wrong. If anyone was going to be in heels it's got to be a dance class. The first session the women came in all timid and unsure and by the end of the 45 minute. class they were swinging their hips, heads held high, the transformation was incredible.
What's your average age in the classes?
I'd say roughly 35 to 55. My ideal client would be starting from 18, actually younger than that to be honest. The younger generation really need help with their body positivity, its definitely on my radar.
It's tends to be the mums who have forgotten who they are because they've spent the last two decades being mum, being a wife and they've forgotten what it's like just to be feminine.
What kind of feedback do you get from women that come to your classes? Have you any stories you can share?
I get loads of women messaging me afterwards saying they've braved wearing a bikini for the first time after coming to the class which is always great to hear.
One lady had saved for years and years for a tummy tuck, she'd had three kids and had been unhappy with her tummy and saved up for about ten years to have the operation. She came to one of my Strutology classes and realised she was perfect as she was, she didn't need it. Literally it was eye opening for her and she stopped the plans and went holiday instead. She went on to meet a handsome, young gentleman who loves her curves. That's pretty incredible to me.
On the surface it looks like we're just prancing around in heels. but there's so much more going on under the surface.
How did you get involved with Taryn Brumfitt and The Body Image movement and become an ambassador?
It was through my friend Nicola who is also in the fitness industry and the only other person that gets it in the industry, she's become my confidante. She told me abut the Body Image Movement so I looked in to to it and realised this lady was doing some great stuff. I filled a lengthy questionnaire in about myself and was accepted as an ambassador. I hosted a screening of the documentary Embrace at Streatham Odeon and it was a great evening, it had sparked some deep thinking in people.I met Taryn and she really wants to do one of my classes as well, she loves the concept.
What changes would you like to see in the industry?
There's a long way to go.
Diversity across all the media platforms, more diverse body shapes and sizes and abilities. Ban diets, educate people on health at every size. Everyone can be healthy at any size. Making body positivity compulsory in education for primary and secondary schools. Getting the kids to talk about their insecurities and if you're a mum listening the best thing you can do is stop putting yourself down in front of your kids. That's only going to create problems in your children.
What made you join the Real Catwalk, organised by American model Khrystyana last Summer and were you scared to do it?
I didn't sleep very much the night before and that's not like me. I've been challenging myself to be more body confident and I was concerned about showing my midriff as I'd never done that before.
Everyone smashed the catwalk on a busy Saturday in Trafalgar Square, London. Zoe looking fabulous with Khrystyana, the organiser of The Real Catwalk.
Zoe clearly loved taking part in this event as she was there again this year, owning that. catwalk and full of confidence. It was an amazing day.
What's one of your favourite songs that really gets you motivated?
'Chandelier' by Sia
What book has inspired you?
I would recommend 'Health At Every Size' by Linda Brown
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.
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