Looking Good, Feeling Great Workshop For A-T Society

A-T Family Day Looking Good Feeling Great

I’d never heard of A-T until earlier this year when I’d been invited to take part in a workshop for the A-T Society.

The workshop was entitled ‘Looking Good, Feeling Great’ for a very special group of people.  It was part of the Society’s Annual Family Weekend.  It was humbling to be inspired by so many amazing people.

Colour Analysis For The A-T Society

What Is A-T?

Ataxia-Telangiectasia, (or A-T), is a rare and complex genetic disorder.  A-T gives rise to increasing physical disability, while deficiencies in the immune system can lead to frequent colds and infections and the gradual emergence of lung problems.  There is an increased risk of cancers, particularly leukaemia and lymphoma.

So who gets A-T?

A-T is caused by a defect, known as a ‘mutation’, on a particular gene, known as the ATM gene. A child born with mutations on both copies of the ATM gene cannot produce a protein, called the ATM protein, which is important in many processes in the body’s cells.   The parents are unknowing carriers.  When they both carry this mutation, the chances of a child developing the condition are 1 in 4.

 How does A-T manifest itself?

Ataxia means that a child’s co-ordination may be impaired.  Balance is affected and while they may be able to walk, they may often be wobbly and fall over.   Increasing impairment means that many end up in a wheelchair.

Their speech and swallowing may also be affected.  It can be hard to pronounce words and may struggle to eat.   Deterioration may continue until they are about 10 years old.

They may also develop other symptoms such as involuntary spasms. Postural issues and spinal problems are also common.  Then there is fatigue, suffered by many with A-T because the muscles are working so hard to compensate for co-ordination and balance problems.

There are different variants of A-T and sometimes people are not diagnosed until they are adults.

Looking Good, Feeling Great Workshop

Living with A-T has many challenges and the A-T Society does a fantastic job of supporting families and carers as well as those suffering from A-T.

So when I was asked if I would take part in the workshop I welcomed the opportunity to get involved.  The idea of the workshop was to offer those living with A-T the chance to have a pampering session, culminating in a photo shoot as individuals, not defined by their condition.

 

I was offering colour analysis, so that everyone taking part learnt the best colours for them.  Colour analysis has many benefits, not only does wearing  the right colours make you look healthy but it also means people look directly into your eyes when you are communicating with them.  Given how A-T impacts speech this is a massive help for those living with A-T.  Many of the girls taking part love shopping and so they really appreciated the handbag-sized swatches they could take with them for their shopping trips.

Each participant then had a chance to have their hair and make up done, before joining Frances the photographer. Frances had set up a studio area so that she could take photographs of everyone as the amazing awesome people that they are.

Looking Good, Feeling Great Workshop for A-T Society

As Saturday Approached

I don’t mind admitting that as the weekend drew closer I had a tight knot in my stomach.  It was fear of the unknown mixed with a nervous excitement of being part of something incredibly special.

But my worries were unfounded and instead I found the whole experience to be amazing.  It was great to have a small influence on someone’s life that will make a big difference to them.

As I worked with each of the participants I learned a little about their amazingly strong characters.  I started to understand how despite their frustrations and challenges they really know how to ‘get on with life’.  The stigmas they face from some people who simply don’t understand or are embarrassed.

One amazing woman is undertaking a Sky Dive later this year to raise money and more awareness for the charity.   Another lady was telling me about her love of swimming and visits to the gym.

One young man was really excited about his forthcoming trip to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix.   I learnt about special wheelchairs for dancing and trips to shopping centres.

There was a real upbeat energy in the room with lots of love and banter.  Most of those attending (apart from those recently diagnosed) attend every year. They have fun and as one woman told me ‘it’s my opportunity to ‘feel normal’.

The A-T Society

The A-T Society is clearly held in very high regard by those living with A-T along with their families and carers.  Not only does the Society offer support and practical advice, it tirelessly fundraises and commissions research.  It is completely funded by grants and donations.

If you would like to find out more then visit the A-T Society’s website.

 

Image Bri Mansys

#DisabilityFight4FashionRight

Welcome to Part Two of my interview with Gemma Flanagan.

In Part One we looked at Gemma’s story and how from being an active young woman travelling the world for her job, she ended up in hospital completely paralysed.    How she was in hospital for almost a year and has had to come to terms with life in a wheelchair.

In this second part of the interview we explore the work of Models of Diversity (MOD).  Angel and her team are challenging the perceptions of beauty as portrayed by the fashion, beauty and media industries.  They are campaigning for change, inclusion and equality.

In this second part we will explore the campaign #DisabilityFight4FashionRight.

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

I will share with you how important the #DisabilityFight4FashionRight campaign is, not simply for people with disabilities who want to make a career of modelling.  This campaign has a much wider impact offering inspiring role models to others.

Beauty is diverse across the full spectrum of Society.  There are many beautiful men and women who would not fit into the conventional and frankly outdated sense of what is defined as beauty by the fashion, beauty and media industries.

CH: MOD is more than simply fighting for acceptance of disability on the catwalk and is having some great wins – would you please share some of these with us?

GF: For a start diversity embraces much more than just disability. It includes ethnicity, age, size, height, non-binary gender.

Yes we are having some fantastic wins and that we have some businesses and brands we’re talking to. Unfortunately there are a lot who are not so enlightened and so it’s slow progress.

We are in discussion with various brands and some are really embracing what we’re doing. Top Shop are meeting with us and discussions are ongoing.   Jack Eyers is part of this Men’s Fashion Week for TopMan.

Male Disabled Models seem to be more readily accepted and I think that’s because of the association of War Veterans.

CH: Is the UK different from other countries in its approach and acceptance of diversity in the fashion industry and if so how?

GF: The UK is certainly behind other countries. Take the US as an example

There is certainly more diversity in New York Fashion week. In February this included our own Jack Eyers who was on the catwalk. The first amputee to feature in New York Fashion Week.

US Brand Nordstrom takes a more inclusive approach using models who would be considered diverse in all of its shows.

The UK does lag behind not just the US but other countries in Europe.   Our culture is much more reserved. We seem to be more awkward about embracing and celebrating diversity.

Image by Chio Photography

Image by Chio Photography

CH: Is there any sense that the fashion industry will use diversity simply to gain public approval, be seen as ‘doing the right thing’, an act of tokenism?

GF: Sadly there are indeed acts of tokenism. With a ‘hey look at us’ approach and the media attention dies and life returns to the way it’s always been.

We want it become just normal practice.

Our message is very clear.  We are passionate about not having special treatment.

We don’t want to be taken on as models because we are disabled, or due to our ethnic origin etc.

We want to be accepted as models because we have the attributes required for a model: Beauty, confidence, we are professional, able to take direction.

What we are campaigning for is not to be treated differently and to have a level playing field.

 

CH: Of course the campaign that MOD is fighting for is so important for anyone who wants to work in the fashion industry, but what are the effects for people outside the industry

GF: With over 80% of people suffering from body confidence issues it’s so important to celebrate beauty in all its forms.

Before my illness I was size 8, toned and tall. GBS has meant that my body shape has gone through many changes.

I know how seeing someone that I could have related in a role that is all about being visible would have helped me to get through an incredibly tough time in my life.

Our campaign is much more than the modeling industry. We want retailers to think more about Diversity.

  1. How many mannequins do you see in wheelchairs?
  2. Disabled changing facilities are often used as storage space?
  3. Which retailers provide a lower counter facility for wheelchair users?
Image by Tim Los Hemmingway

Image by Tim Los Hemmingway

CH: As an Ambassador for MOD and its campaign for Diversity can you tell us a bit about the #DisabilityFight4FashionRight and what you want to achieve?

GF: To put it simply we are 4 disabled women addressing exclusion of disability in Fashion.

We want to see fairness and equality. We do not want to be shamed or excluded.  We wear clothes, so why shouldn’t we be represented in the Marketing and Advertising campaigns that the industry generates?

Our #DisabilityFight4FashionRight Campaign is simply to ask the Government to Enforce & Regulate strict guidelines to the multiple areas of this industry.

On September 18th 2015 we launched our petition at the House of Lords.   We met with Baronness Benjamin and Baronness Hussein-Ece who were happy to add their support to our campaign.

We have until 23rd March to get 100,000 signatures for the Government to consider this for Parliamentary debate.

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

 

CH: Are people being supportive? How are you raising awareness of the campaign?

GF: We had a great response when we launched. But we’ve still got a long way to go.

We are starting launching a UK tour on 30th January and we’re hoping that this will generate more publicity.

It’s actually harder to get the disabled community engaged, their concern is that we’re trying to make money out of disability – nothing could be further from the truth!

None of us get paid for what we do!   We are all volunteers. A lot of modeling shoots and fashion shows are done to generate publicity – we don’t earn from them.

However, as our #DisabilityFight4FashionRight campaign is for equality, this will include embracing engaging models on equal terms.

DisabilityFight4FashionRight Tour

CH: How can we support Models of Diversity?

GF: Please, Please sign the petition.  We want as many people as possible to see the #DisabilityFight4FashionRight  campaign and have a chance to support us.

To get this out to as wide an audience as possible we are asking for everyone to SHARE this campaign.

Please put a link on your Facebook Profile, Twitter Feed, Instagram and wherever you hang out online.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who does sign for #DisabilityFight4FashionRight as you are supporting inclusion and fairness.

*Part 1 – read more if you missed how Gemma’s life changed almost overnight – from traveling the world to lying paralysed in hospital.

 

Image by Paul Cummings Photography

Gemma Flanagan an Inspiring Model

Gemma Flanagan lived a life that many would envy.   Travelling all over the world, partying in some exciting cities and getting paid it!

Gemma was a member of BA’s cabin crew until 2011 when her life changed forever.

Within a week of starting to notice slight tingling, Gemma ended up in hospital completely paralysed, where she stayed for almost a year. Gemma had been struck down by Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)*1, a condition that affects only 1 in 100,000 people.

I met Gemma last year when Angel Sinclair invited me to provide clothes for her Models of Diversity Catwalk Show in Shepherds Bush Market.

In this 2-part interview you can learn about Gemma her amazing courage and positive attitude.  In this part we talk about her illness and recovery.  In part 2 we will discuss the amazing work that Models of Diversity Does and how you can help.

Gemma Flanagan

 CH Hi Gemma can you please introduce yourself and your current role, plus your really exciting news!

GF: Hi I’m Gemma Flanagan I’m the Assistant Director of Disability for Models of Diversity. When I’m not campaigning for Models of Diversity (MOD) I am a fashion model, but this is also an extension of my role for MOD.

I’m so excited that I got engaged at Christmas!! We went to look at our first wedding venue last night and it made me realize just how real it is now!!  We are just celebrating our fourth anniversary.

 

CH: Your life changed forever in 2011 – what happened?

GF: I was on a stopover in Vegas and realized that I wasn’t feeling quite right.

My feet started to feel strange.  I had pins and needles and my legs felt heavy – Sounds daft but I put it down to the 6” heels I’d been partying in!

On the return flight I felt really tired and thought I’d been overdoing things.   I was due to report for my next flight to Nairobi 2 days later.

I made it out of the door and on to the street (in full uniform!) only to collapse in the street. I struggled to get up. The weird thing was that I was in no pain. I just couldn’t walk.

Gemma Flanagan Before & After GBS

 CH: Presumably you didn’t make the flight to Kenya?

GF: Hardly! My flatmate took me to a WalkIn Clinic – not surprisingly they were really unsure what to do with me!  So I ended up in A&E and was admitted to hospital for tests.

It was then that things started to get a bit scary as they mentioned stroke, meningitis and tropical diseases as possible causes for my symptoms.

The doctors confirmed the diagnosis as GBS* after a lumbar puncture.

From that point things deteriorated really quickly – within a week of being admitted to hospital I’d lost my swallowing reflex and was totally paralyzed. I was literally trapped within my own body.

 

 CH: How frightening it must have been to go from being an able bodied person to being completely paralyzed?

GF: The doctors kept telling me that it was a mild case and I was really calm.

However, I did get a bit hysterical when I’d been in hospital for 4 days and a friend who was visiting asked what was wrong with my face.

My face had totally dropped on one side. It sounds so vain but that was the point I got a bit upset!

I was moved to Intensive Care (ICU) for two weeks, when the paralysis kicked in.  This was despite the fact that I still didn’t think I was ill enough to warrant being there!!

After 2 months it stopped deteriorating and I was transferred to Liverpool. In January 2012 I entered rehabilitation.

Image by Matt Jamie

Image by Matt Jamie

 CH: What did the rehabilitation involve?

GF: It was tough with 6 hours per day of therapy.

As the nerves start to recover they become hypersensitive. This involves a burning sensation so intense it’s like an electric shock you can’t move away from.  I was in a lot of pain and trying to cope with this and 6 hours of therapy per day was not easy.

I had to learn to swallow, talk, write and partly walk again.   Not exactly what I’d planned to be doing aged 27!   I was in rehabilitation for 7 months.

I left the amazing Walton Neuro Centre on crutches and was told that it was highly likely I’d make a full recovery.   I missed the bit where they said it would take time!

CH: At what point did you realise that life was never going back to the way it had been and how did that make you feel?

GF: For 18 months after leaving hospital I refused to use a wheelchair. I believed that I would get better if I kept pushing myself.

Unfortunately I was my own worst enemy and have irreparably damaged my spine and skeletal system. It means that I now need to use a wheelchair full time.

Over the last 2 years the doctors have been telling me that I’m not going to get better.   It took me another year to accept the fact, so it’s been a long time.

Last summer I went through a grieving process as I came to terms with the changes in my body.

But I’m one of the lucky ones! Not everyone survives GBS!

Image by Andy Green

CH: You are now diverting your energy into an incredibly worthwhile cause can you tell us a bit about that and how you became involved?

GF: I needed a purpose in life and have been lucky that I’ve found that with Models of Diversity (MOD)

Since meeting Angel Sinclair in 2012 I have been an ambassador for MOD and recently been promoted to Assistant Director of Disability.

I have so much to thank Angel for as she helped me realize I could be glamorous and get back in front of the camera. It had an amazing effect on my self-confidence and self-esteem.

As a model Angel realized that in order for changes to be instigated someone needed to start raising awareness.   Angel founded MOD in 2008 and has been campaigning for change ever since.

In Part 2 of my interview with Gemma we explore  Models of Diversity and their tireless efforts to campaign for change in the fashion, beauty and media industries.  We will look at the Petition they launched at the Houses of Parliament in September and the race to get as many signatures as possible before March 23rd.

 

*1 Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)

GBS is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.  The peripheral nervous system is found in the feet and other extremities of the body.

GBS can affect anybody. It can strike at any age and both sexes are equally prone to the disorder. The syndrome is rare, and only about 1 in 100,000 people are affected.

No one yet knows what causes GBS or sets it in motion. What scientists do know is that the body’s immune system begins to attack the body itself, causing what is known as an autoimmune disease.  It can spread to the body’s organs and that’s when fatalities can occur.

The disorder mutates differently in each case which makes it difficult to diagnose and treat.  Some sufferers make a full recovery, others like Gemma are left managing pain and suffering mobility issues for the rest of their lives.

 

body confidence party pooper

Body Confidence Party Pooper

75% of women have cancelled a social engagement this Christmas, according to a recent survey. *

body confidence cancelling social engagements

The reason given by the majority of women is because they are ‘having a fat day’.  Christmas can be a challenging time for anyone with body confidence issues.

Women in particular suffer from an overload of stress at this time of year. The additional tasks of present buying, arranging family events, co-ordination of children’s extra activities, expected to attend social events.

Add into that mix a partner who is too busy to help or simply doesn’t ‘get the issue’. Perhaps he’s someone who thinks Christmas begins with shopping on 24th December, as he’s an Amazon Prime member?

As 73% of us suffer from body confidence issues all the time, add the demands of Christmas and it’s pressure cooker time!

Step 1, grab a cup of tea, take a few minutes out for yourselves and read my survival guide or my 5 top tips for improving your body confidence and self-esteem.

body confidence love your shape

1. What bits of your body do you love?

Improve your body confidence several fold by identifying which parts of your body that you love and emphasizing them. Not sure what I mean? Let me give you a few examples.

  1. Cleavage – if you’ve got a great bust then show it off! Look for V Necks, Low necklines with detail, necklaces and pendants that draw attention to your lovely cleavage.
  2. Arms – got a great pair of arms then wear a sleeveless dress or top – you can always add a bolero, shrug or pashmina to keep you warm until the evening heats up!
  3. Legs – there are plenty of maxis with a split or mini skirts that will show your pins to best advantage.
  4. Shoulders – as an athletic body shape rather than downplay my broad shoulders and toned arms I like to show them off!

2. Make time for a Digital De-Tox

We find it very hard not to constantly check our social media feeds.   This in turn gives rise to body confidence issues.

Inevitably we compare ourselves with our friends. We find ourselves lacking – we’re not as pretty, slim or having such a great time as everyone else.

Facebook has a negative impact on our mood and body image. This has been tested by research done by The University of SW Australia and the Centre for Appearance Research at West of England Universities.

Studies were carried out to compare the effects between social media and fashion/celebrity magazines. The negative effect of Facebook was greater.

My own view on this is because we can dismiss celebrity lives as being unattainable or unrealistic. However the lives of our friends are much more genuine and thus have a greater impact.

body confidence and exercise

3. Back on the Treadmill again!

My recent blog post about exercise showed the effect this has on body confidence.

We can improve our body confidence by regular exercise.

Over the holiday period our routines get disrupted. We drink more alcohol, eat richer food, go to bed later and many of us have around 10 days holiday.

These factors contribute to a general feeling of lethargy and it takes a bit of motivation to kick our butts off the sofa and get moving!

But seriously you will feel better if you do something! Even if it’s just getting your boots on and heading out for a walk regardless of the weather, with 2 dogs we don’t have a choice and don’t have a day off walking. But even before we had the hounds I always got out for a run on Christmas morning and how good did that feel!

body confidence good nutrition

4. Body Confidence is linked to good nutrition

If you feel good about the way your clothes fit, you do not feel bloated or lethargic through eating the wrong foods, you will feel better about yourself.

You can eat well and enjoy Christmas. Let’s face it a Turkey Dinner has a lot of plus points from a nutritional perspective – lean white meat and fresh vegetables.

Okay so potatoes cooked in goose fat, stuffing, bread sauce, sausages wrapped in bacon aren’t quite so good! But indulging one day per year isn’t exactly the end of the world.

The mistake that we make at Christmas is eating too much throughout the holiday period, often without consciously realizing it. We snack on salty, high fat snacks and consume too much sugar and cream.   Not to mention the number of calories we pour into our glasses!

If you over-indulge one day that’s fine, just balance this with ‘healthy’ days.

body confidence affected by lack of sleep

5. Body Confidence is affected by lack of sleep

In December office parties and additional stuff associated with getting ready for Christmas, play havoc with our sleep patterns.   Add a few drinks too many into the mix and quality of sleep takes a nosedive!

If we are not rested and replenished from sleep, this affects our well-being in so many ways. We feel sluggish, cannot concentrate, we tend to become irritable and short-tempered, overly emotional.

One of the outcomes is likely to be that we do not feel so good about ourselves. If we are suffering from body confidence issues this will simply magnify the negative perception we have of ourselves.

Contrast this with getting enough good quality sleep. How much better do we feel after a good night’s sleep? We are more focused we enjoy a sense of well being about ourselves.   We are more confident about ourselves.

Christmas is about giving?

How can you give anything unless you have something to give?

It’s the oxygen mask theory – we must ensure that we put on our own mask before helping others.

How can we be the perfect party hostess, darling daughter, ‘mazing mum, wonderful wife unless we feel good, confident and happy? We can’t is the simple answer. We need to take as much if not more care of ourselves than we do of others.

If we take care of ourselves, we’ll feel good about ourselves. We will not be resentful or over-tired we will be more relaxed and happy. It follows that either we will have more body confidence or somehow our body confidence issues will be relegated to a locked box in the attic!

filling ourselves up first

*Huffington Post – Rachel Moss

Whitney Valverde

Blog for Passion and not for Profit

Welcome to Part 2 of my Interview with Whitney Valverde, author of Whitney’s Wonderland Blog.

Whitney won the Best Fashion Blogger Category of my Women are B.E.S.T awards earlier this year.   One of the prizes for each of the category winners was the opportunity to work with me.

Whitney and I have some great ideas on how we’re going to work together. But to launch our collaboration, I wanted you to meet Whitney and share her story.

In Part 1 of this interview we looked back at what it was like to grow up in the exotic environment of Costa Rica.  In this post we will look at how Whitney arrived in a new country and set up her blog to integrate herself into life in London.

Fashion bloggers love to share their passions with both their readers and their peer group. They ask their peer group for advice, share problems and have fun.  As bloggers hang out online a lot of this takes place via social media.  There are events for bloggers hosted by brands, media or other bloggers.   It was at one of these amazing events where Whitney and I first met at the Paramount Restaurant overlooking London.

For anyone thinking about starting a blog, Whitney is also kindly sharing her five top blogging tips.

Bloggers Festival

1. When you arrived in the UK in April 2013 did you know you were going to settle here?  

My parents worked for a company based in Norwich for many years so I had been to the UK a lot and had friends and contacts in Norwich.

In September 2012, I came and stayed for 3 months solid to see how I really felt about it. I actually started a blog that doesn’t exist anymore.

It was a mess, there was no consistency, and I didn’t know how to code or anything remotely technical.  In 2013, I started Whitney’s Wonderland.

I had no idea about anything, I didn’t know if I was going to stay or not, all I knew is that I loved London, fashion, and I wanted to travel.

All the dots slowly eventually connected but we live in a fluid world and a friend of mine always says “If you want to make God laugh…tell him your plans”.

I believe that you never know what the future holds so I just stay positive and push forward.

 2.  How did you find settling in London?  I really admire anyone moving to a different country as I’ve always lived close to where I was born.

First of all, I must say, I’ve spoken English since I was a baby, so that definitely helps!

However, our cultures are quite different. Costa Rica is very laid back, people are often helpful and friendly. It is most of the times very hot and humid, so this makes people “less productive”. It is also a very small country with only 4 million people and 2 million in the city.

At the beginning I was shocked at London’s uber fast pace and couldn’t understand why it was so hard to talk to people let alone make friends with someone!

I’ve been here for over 3 years now, and although I’m friendly with a lot of people, I have few close friends. I’ve made some good friends thanks to blogging as we all go to so many events and see each other all the time and now I’m fast paced as well, lol!

I adore everything about the UK, especially London. First of all, I love the fact that I can find anything from anywhere… Even Costa Rican food!

The fact that the city is so cosmopolitan and you can meet people from all over the world is such a unique cultural experience not offered by any other big city! I love that there’s not only an acceptance but also a celebration of all kinds of culture and counter cultures… London, to me, is the greatest most cosmopolitan city on Earth! Finally I don’t settle!

Whitney Valverde

Photo: Mr Kaye Photography

 3.  Your blog is so successful that you are able to dedicate yourself to it full time, but for anyone starting a fashion blog what are the five hot tops you would give them?

Blogging is much more than simply sitting down at your laptop and pouring out your thoughts.   High quality photos are needed for each post.  No one wants a product review with a few snaps!

Fashion bloggers model the clothes that they are writing about, so that means taking a lot of time over your appearance every time you need some images.

It doesn’t stop with writing and adding a few images.

As a blogger you need to be on several social media platforms and build a real presence.  This is to both drive traffic to your blog and to encourage brands.

Brands are only interested in working with bloggers who have an extensive reach to the audience they want to attract.  You need to attend a lot of events to be seen and build your credibility.

I want to make it clear it is NOT easy and that you should never start blogging if you are thinking of making money.

You should do it because you really love what you are blogging about and are extremely passionate about sharing your thoughts and ideas with others. Otherwise, don’t bother.

It requires a lot of time, patience and consistency to actually make a blog “successful” in a commercial sense. Unless you’re already blessed by having economic support from parents or whoever, you can’t just start a blog and dedicate yourself to it full-time at the expense of making money.

Whitney’s 5 top tips for starting a blog

  1. Find something you’re passionate about: Your readers will spot insincerity as they really do love the topic (that why they read the blogs!). So if you’re going to write about something “for the rest of your life”, it better be something you truly love and are willing to share with others. There are blogs about everything and anything, but find your own voice in those things you love (from cleaning, to babies and pets… Or quantum physics, there is an audience for everyone!)
  1. Stay true to yourself: If and when your blog starts to become successful and generate some money, A LOT of brands will reach out to you and offer you money and/or gifted products to review. We have all been tempted to say yes to cash and a product we don’t like or believe in. You’re not kidding anyone by accepting a product like this. Only recommend that which you would recommend to your bestie and everything will be fine!
  1. Be consistent: Whether you blog once a month or everyday (this is btw super difficult for one person!!), do it consistently. You’re building an audience who expects to see a post on, for example, every other Monday. So be loyal to them. Even if at the beginning your public is 1 reader.
  1. Motivate yourself: It is a competitive industry and being a freelancer is not easy. Just like anyone else, sometimes I wonder if I’m using my time well, if it’s worth it, etc. But then I remember I love what I do and I’d do it for free (if I didn’t need to pay the bills!), so just remember that! Also, google other known, well respected blogger’s stories and see how hard they had to work to get where they are!
  1. You’re a blogger, not a celebrity or a model. Do remind yourself of this when you go big! I believe blogging got successful, especially in fashion, because people were tired of looking at ultra skinny, tall women who (duh!) looked amazing wearing anything. A blogger was a breath of fresh air, a woman you could relate to and see how clothes looked in real life on real people. Don’t forget to interact with your readers, be friendly, and always say yes to a pic!

Whitney Valverde

So the take away from this post is while you can make money from blogging it’s not the reason you should start a blog.  It’s easy to look at successful bloggers and say ‘I could do that’ but remember they have not become a success overnight.

Many bloggers start when they are at University.  For anyone who is studying journalism they are encouraged to blog as a way of building their credibility and experience.

There are also fashion bloggers who start their blog out of frustration, as Whitney mentions above,  reading blogs is great for the audience fed up with the unrealistic image of women favoured by the fashion industry.  Bloggers too get fed up with this idealistic imagery and want to show the world that real women wear clothes too!

Check out Whitney’s Blog here.

 

Size 0

Is Size 0 still an issue?

‘I can’t relate to models on the catwalk.  The clothes look great on them as they are very skinny, but they would look awful on me!’

This is most common reaction I get when I’m discussing fashion images in the  media.

catwalk

Let’s stop burying our heads in the sand and admit that the fashion industry still favours tall skinny Caucasian models.

It’s also fair to say that while heroin Chic is not the headline it was 20 years ago, size 0 is still the elephant in the room!

Suna Erdem’s shocking article Extreme Measures* Sunday Times (August 9th) exposed that the size 0 issue has not gone away.   Suna’s article cited stories of models being encouraged to have surgery to ‘shave’ their hipbones.

Some countries have introduced laws to counter the size 0 issue, but Suna’s sources claim these are largely ignored. Others apply self-regulation with limited effectiveness.  Madrid banned models with a BMI of less than 18 on its catwalks. There are reports of models undergoing ‘weigh ins’ and hiding weights in their underwear.

While this is tragic and most of us are appalled by the size 0 issue what’s the relevance to you and I?

Body Confidence Issues

A staggering 97% of us suffer from body confidence issues. Imagery of size 0 models looking chic and sexy in gorgeous clothes simply fuels that fire.

New research published by the Dove Self-Esteem Project showed just how prevalent the ‘Selfie’ culture has become.

selfie

On average girls between 13 and 23 post an average of one Selfie a day online. This doesn’t mean they are snapping one photo and uploading to their social media feeds – far from it, some admit taking up to 100 photos per day!

But it doesn’t end there because they then get upset if they don’t get enough likes and this adds to their issues with self-esteem.

Why is this behavior relevant to the fashion industry? It doesn’t take a mathematician or psychologist to do the sums and work out the theory.

The idealistic imagery we associate with fashion, that to be perfect you need to be tall, skinny and Caucasian doesn’t add fuel to the fire about body confidence issues it pours petrol on the flames.

Fashion Industry is about Selling Clothes

At the end of the day the industry knows that the designs look great on stick thin models and that this results in sales.

To have a sustainable industry it must make a profit and it must market in the way it sees fit. I know this remark may spark some comments but I’m doing my best to look at this from the fashion industry’s perspective.

To illustrate this point, you may have read reports of retailers commissioning designs and manufacture through the night of the Oscars to create lookalike dresses from the outfits worn by celebrities. The brands know that the designs will sell out if they’ve been modeled on a Hollywood actress.

The fashion industry is made up of a number of different factions from large organisations to self-employed freelancers and everything in between.

Therefore finger pointing at the different factions is a lot easier than coming up with a Code of Practise that everyone will follow.

Designers blame agencies for recruiting stereotypical models, agencies blaming designers for only creating sample garments in very small sizes.

Overseas designers and manufacturers are blamed for designing and manufacturing for smaller figures.

But hang on a minute we are not one size fits all! Different cultures and ethnic groups have evolved with different skeletal frames, but the industry must ask itself who are its customers? Are they designing for an Asian subcontinent or the Western market?

A blame culture is not the answer, a cohesive joined up approach is the way forward.

How do we effect change?

Change doesn’t happen overnight in an industry so entrenched in a way of thinking. But nothing will happen if we simply turn our backs, shrug our shoulders and say ‘that’s fashion’. It’s simply condoning the current approach.

Heroic attempts have been made to get the industry to sit up and take notice.

I took my hat off to Laura Berry who challenged Top Shop on Social Media for using unrealistic mannequins in its stores. Her outcry went viral and was picked up by the media. This was the second time that TopShop had been challenged and it responded well agreeing to no longer use overly tall and skinny mannequins that represented an unrealistic body image.

So what is the answer?

Stand up and be counted.   Add your voice to the groundswell that’s building for change within the fashion industry.

The fashion industry is self-regulated in the UK and while it is making some progress it is frustratingly slow.

While some brands are attempting to show more healthy images of women, others ignore it or simply get it wrong. A campaign run by a major high street retailer, claimed to reflect its customer profile in the six models it chose. The campaign used five very slender models and one curvy model to advertise lingerie. The backlash was enormous as this was simply misrepresenting its claims.

There are a number of organisations and campaigns that are fighting for change.  They are actively demonstrating that beauty is much more than Size 0.

Models of Diversity is one such campaign. This amazing body is campaigning for diversity in size, ethnic race, disability and age.

Models of Diversity

Models like Rosie Nelson have decided to take action.  Rosie started a petition  in September after her own experience with one of the UK’s leading agencies.  A healthy size 8-10 she was told that she needed to lose weight. She went on a diet and in four months lost one stone and 2 inches off her hips.

She returned to the agency, their reaction was that she needed to lose more as they wanted Rosie ‘down to the bone’. Rosie had the courage to speak out.

Conclusion

I’m a strong advocate of representing real women in modeling, as the fashion industry should represent Society.  I feel very strongly that we have to address body confidence issues and to educate women that it’s okay to have curves.

We need to educate and inform children that they do not have to be super skinny to be pretty. This needs to be balanced by being a healthy weight that is right for our height and build.

We need change in the fashion industry and not allow the industry to get away with sweeping the size 0 debate under the carpet because they design clothes to look amazing on super skinny girls.

 

* Suna Erdem’s  Extreme Measures Sunday Times (August 9th)