I started the day with a belly full of butterflies.
Ok so, set the scene, it's 8am on a Monday morning, I’m train hopping to the poolside location to shoot in a bikini with the legends at CURVY KATE! I’d ordered 24 beautiful cupcakes to surprise the girls and make a good impression, you know, break down some barriers and start some introductions... and they’d all melted on the tram the day before the shoot when I was getting them home! But that wasn’t going to stop me.
I’d ramped up my skincare for the weekend, put some awkward GIF’s in the groupchat and started the day with the usual bad hair day (why is it always when you have something important to do!) so I was wet haired and wingin’ it.
Now I don’t know how many of you do this, but I'm a nervous talker, laugher, oversharer. I was SO nervous that I was just bouncing around, making jokes and trying to act like nothing fazed me… I started doing my nails (they also came out a total train wreck, don’t even!) and then I sat with the MUA to have my makeup done.
At this point, when I finally had to stop, and breathe, and sit still... I processed what was going to happen today.
I had spent the previous 2+ years hiding myself; Devolving from the most confident, liberated human, who screamed empowerment, consensual sexualisation, self-validation, and unashamed boldness into someone who covered all the mirrors in my house. The way I consumed media around women’s bodies changed, I began judging myself, believing truly that I couldn’t show my body, my shape. I was dressing down the colours of everything I was wearing to “hide” myself. I stopped posting on social media, the shame I felt around myself and my body was unbearable.
In all honestly girls, my body and trust had been violated.
An incident happened which damaged my pride, my consent, and my autonomy essentially. I no longer felt like my body was mine.
I think we can all relate - as women we experience sexual violence at an alarming rate, and unfortunately for me... in the process I'd had to also lose some really valued friends, through being disbelieved, and disregarded in my trauma. One of the girls, actually said - and it stuck with me…. that I needed to get over it because I would ruin everyone else’s good time.
My support network was in tatters, I refused to interact with people and just generally wasn't taking care of myself or my priorities.
Another thing that happened to me during this time was inevitable weight gain. Ladies it took me a long time to recognise that giving my body what she asked for while I was in recovery from severe trauma, literally saved my life. That dopamine hit from an extra bite of chocolate, got me through the day. This shell of a body which I felt was empty, damaged and doing nothing, was actually waking my miserable unwashed self up in the mornings, and carrying me around all day, and all she asked for was a little extra treats at the end of it? I’m glad I obliged her. My weight gain was my body caring for me. And now I look at my shape, my rolls, my stretch marks, and I feel so grateful that I was THERE to care for me. Thank you, body.
Months of therapy and PTSD support was finally paying off, and I was beginning to feel like I needed to take positive risks for myself in my life.
A post online appeared about applying to shoot in a bikini, with Curvy Kate - a brand whose whole aesthetic is sisterhood and a safe place for all bodies, it just felt right.
But when I got a reply, I was both ecstatic and terrified, it was time to feel sexy and beautiful again… and how did I feel about that?
Well today was going to be the day, a chance for me to be open about and grow from my trauma, a chance to show my body unashamedly. I approached the other girls, trying to portray brave, and bubbly. I could feel the energy in the space, we were afraid to let each other see our exposed bellies and uncovered legs, we were afraid to get to close, to look too intensely and generally we were all showing that we were facing our vulnerabilities.
We posed around the pool nervously laughing when resting an arm on someone else’s shoulder, or brushing past a hip.
Then it was my turn to speak on camera alone about why I was here, I hastily recalled unnecessary details and concentrated with all I had on controlling the influx of tears. This was always going to be the most difficult part of the day…. I really don’t know how I held it together. Addressing trauma to strangers in a public place while wearing a bikini was exposing, but the response when sharing my story was really reassuring. As exposed as I felt, as soon as I stopped speaking I knew I wasn’t alone. We were all victims in some way…. As women we all experience sexual violence in one way or another, and all of us are considering ways to feel sexy and empowered at the same time as healing.
Now it was time to move to the next location, by this point, I feel like my guard had come down. We were congratulating each other on our achievements from the morning and really acknowledging what this meant to us, we were bonding over our goals and our future, making plans, sharing social medias and all looking forward with regards to how this experience was making a change in us already; And you could see it! We were offering ourselves up to the various photo opportunities, the dressing gowns were off and the waistlines were paraded. It was a glorious sight. There’s nothing more powerful in my opinion than confident women, laughing and sharing in each others accomplishments.
By the end of the day I couldn’t hold back the hugs and the happy tears. The women we walked in as, were shadows of the women we left as. In a few hours I had seen these women express pride, friendship and confidence and it was truly a moving day for anyone involved. Curvy Kate offered us an opportunity to be seen in a way that we wanted but weren’t sure we were capable of, and this will be a day that ill remember for the rest of my life. And I’m so grateful that they took on my story, I feel like some brands would shy away from the severity of topics like mine, instead I was presented with a chance to share with all of you, the devastating reality around sexual violence, and I was additionally gifted group of people who truly believe in the strength of women and in growing the love and connection we have for each other, as well as for ourselves. I gained skills that ill be applying to all my future endeavours, and I cant wait to report back to the team the many ways I’ve flourished from this experience.