Michelle Marie is a plus size model, spokeswoman and ambassador for The Body Confidence Revolution fighting for self-love and body diversity in our fashion industry. With her strong determination and inspirational strength, Michelle is also running Body Pride 2016, a body positive event in Mayo, Ireland. I chat to Michelle about her beginnings as a model, her health journey, and Body Pride 2016.
When did you start modelling?
“I was given a boudoir photography session as a gift in early 2014. I was really unsure about stepping out in front of the camera, but I was determined to go for it and in the end it gave me such a confidence boost. I’d long held a pipe dream of being a model, but, being short and plus size, I never thought it would become a reality. However, when I got the photos back from this shoot and actually liked what I saw, that gave me the confidence to pursue it seriously, and I’ve never looked back!”
What fuelled you to want to become a model?
“I’ve spent so many years hating my body, being ashamed of how I look, and battling my weight. I became a mum to a little girl at the end of 2014 and that was the real catalyst in getting me modelling. I didn’t want her to ever feel as worthless and unattractive as I did growing up. But I didn’t want to just tell her that beauty and worth comes in all shapes and sizes, I wanted to prove it to her. I don’t want to be a model as such, but more of a role model to inspire my daughter, girls, and women, that it’s okay to be you. You might not fit the narrow unrealistic beauty ideal, but you are still good enough.”
You have created Body Pride, a body positivity event in Co, Mayo, Ireland. Can you tell us more?
“Body Pride 2016 is an event with a difference. No matter what our body type or shape, we all feel insecure about our bodies so I wanted to create an event which celebrated all bodies and all sizes. We are going to have catwalks using everyday people to represent you and I, inspirational talks from people who have embarked on a journey of self love, and stalls from brands and companies who have a body positive ethos and/or encourage happiness and wellbeing from the inside out. The aim is to have fun in a relaxed, non-judgmental environment, and leave with a much needed boost of confidence and self-esteem.
Where: The Castlecourt Hotel, Westport, Co. Mayo
When: 10am – 4.30pm, Sunday 4th September 2016
You have mentioned before on your social media that you have beaten an eating disorder. What was the main support line throughout?
“I am still on the journey to beat it. Learning to love myself has been a pivotal part of that journey. It’s so vital, for me at least, to truly love and accept myself. Punishment and shame are big factors in eating disorders, so I want to combat those with self love and self acceptance as much as possible. Being open about having Binge Eating Disorder has also played a big role in my recovery. It is scary to be so open and honest about it, but secrecy is another strong element in the world of eating disorders, so by opening up I am taking back some control. I also hope that in being so open that I provide reassurance to those still suffering in silence.”
Many people struggle from eating disorders and low self-esteem. Do you have any advice to help them overcome?
“Many people develop eating disorders when their life is in freefall and they desperately need something to cling on to. We are told all the time that we are not good enough, and we therefore feel like we should punish ourselves, but I have come to see that the best weapon against the negativity and the cruelty of life is to love myself. Holding my Shield of Self Love instantly makes me feel that bit stronger and that more confident.”
Learning to self-love can be a challenge for some people. As a self-love advocate, how do you self-love?
“Learning to love yourself is hard, but it also incredibly rewarding. Self love doesn’t have to be big, grand gestures. It can be quiet and personal. It can be as little as having your favourite thing for breakfast, or indulging in your favourite activity. Above all, it’s about giving yourself permission to be kind to you. For me this means going easy on myself. For example, if I go to put my jeans on and find they’re too tight, instead of beating myself and giving myself a hard time about it, I stop and tell myself that it’s okay. It’s okay because I am still the same person whether my jeans fit or not. I am still a good person, I still have value, and I’m still good enough.”
We have seen the US and UK slowly start to celebrate body diversity over the past few years. Is Ireland just as positive?
“Yes, I would say it definitely is. Coming from the UK to Ireland I notice how ready Ireland is to move away from the shame culture it’s known for. The people of Ireland are ready to embrace change in all areas. That’s why I decided to hold the first ever Body Pride in Ireland. This is a country of strength, drive, outstanding natural beauty, and inner confidence – all the things that Body Pride represents and embodies.”
Where do you shop for clothes that flatter your curves?
“I have issue with the use of the word ‘flatter’ here. I no longer feel I should flatter, hide, cover, modify my curves in any way. I like to wear clothes that I like, and that make me feel good, but they are not to please or appease society. I am not here to be an acceptable fat because I try to make my fat rolls look lesser than they actually are. To be body confidence and self loving means to accept myself and my body exactly as they are, without alteration.
I struggle to find plus size clothes that I’m happy with. Over the years I have shopped at Evans, Simply Be, and New Look; and more recently, Yours Clothing and The Curvy Gurl. Every year brings more brands expanding their size range, but what is on offer is often still very limiting and overly priced. If you’re able to go into a store the plus size range is often shoved at the back, out of sight, and you have to pick the best of a bad bunch. It’s a humiliating and dehumanising experience. So I tend to shop online where there is more choice and less humiliation. The Curvy Gurl (available online and instore)are becoming my go-to place, because they have a strong body positive ethos, provide a wide range of clothing, and all at affordable prices. Plus their customer service is second to none. But as a whole, the plus size fashion world is lacking. Much more needs to be done, both in what is available, who it’s available to, and how it’s marketed – both to the customer, and society.”
What are your modelling goals for the next year?
“Going forward, my modelling goals are to model for body positive, body diverse, and body inclusive brands only. I do not model for the glamour or status, I do it to inspire all those who feel bad in themselves, and to reassure them that we all have beauty and we all have worth, no matter what society says. For too long the fashion industry and media have championed a certain look, but humanity comes on a spectrum, and it’s time for all parts of the spectrum to be recognised and represented, not just one, so I am here to represent all those currently underpresented.”
To keep up with Michelle:
Michelle Marie – Model & Spokeswoman