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December 2018

    Lifestyle

    2018: Thank You…

    So, with just a few hours to go until we welcome in a brand new year, i’ve managed to squeeze in one last blog post before the year is out! I’ve had a particularly good year. Some great opportunities have come my way (swimwear campaigns, some great features in magazines and my continued work at the Vitiligo Society), so for me its been a great year for ‘growth’. For the past few weeks, like many people no doubt I’ve been feeling reflective….casting my mind over the past 12 months and think about those things I loved, what I’ve learnt and what I need to change to make sure the new year is better than the last.

    With that in mind, here’s what 2018 has taught me…

     Meditation

    In September, I enrolled on a Mindfulness and Meditation course along with my sister, and it was probably one of the best things I’ve done this year! Its always been an area of interest, but whenever I’ve thought about enrolling on a course, I’ve always come up with my excuses. Thankfully, when my sister mentioned she’d like to do a short course, I knew it was a sign that I should join her.

    I know so any people who have turned to meditation as a way of resuming focus and bringing some much needed calmness in their life and this course offered that. Every Monday, for 10 weeks, I found myself back in the classroom practising breathing exercises, learning how to be mindful during day to day life and the different types of meditation that will ground you and help you to resume peace in an often frantic life. I’ve taken away so many tips and practises from the course that will continue to bring me positive focus in 2019.

    I can public speak!

    Finally! I feel like I can give myself some credit as a public speaker! For so long, I’ve been pretty hard on myself, always convincing myself that I look like a bag of frantic nerves anytime I’m about to go on stage and speak. Whilst public speaking has always put the fear factor in me, it’s always been something I’ve wanted to develop, especially as I felt like the one quality that always seems to follow me is shyness.

    This year, I have attended school assemblies to speak about body confidence and equality, introduced the film ‘Wonder’ to a group of year 6’s at Hackney Picture house and hosted this years annual Vitiligo Society open day for the second year running. The feedback I get after speaking is always positive, with people commenting that I speak very naturally and a great pace. Really?

    Having presented on a number of occasions, I finally realise just how much we can overthink addressing an audience. What if I stutter? What if I speak to fast? What if my story is boring? All these thoughts overshadow the goodness we are about to do, when we do the brave thing and stand up and speak. Now, I’ve learnt to stay calm, take a few deep breaths and relax and focus on delivering not tripping up! From the second I walk into a school or somewhere I’m presenting, I walk in as a speaker….a confident speaker. Not Natalie who used to be too shy to raise her hand in primary school! You’ve heard the saying…..fake it before you make it! It works if you believe in yourself….

    Your skills aren’t limited to your day-to-day job

    I’ve always thought that your skillset are those ones you gain through your 9-5 job. This year I realised your best skills aren’t necessarily gained as a result of your profession.

    Outside of work I’m a writer, a Director at The Vitiligo Society and an ambassador for Vitiligo. Since becoming a trustee for The Vitiligo Society in 2017, not only have I learnt how to run a charity as I continue my role managing social media and community engagement, but it’s highlighted where my real qualities lie. Being part of the Vitiligo Society has highlighted my good engagement skills, my ability to manage projects and organising events such as our annual Vitiligo Society Open Day. Its roles such as this that allow me to be part of the Vitiligo community and connect that challenges me and highlights where my genuine and passionate skills lie….

    Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is incredibly exhilarating

    Growing up there we so many things I shied away from! I hated playing a part in school plays, only really liked being around groups of friends that I was familiar with and was pretty much attached to my Mum’s hip during big family gatherings. I know…I was super timid back then!

    As I’ve got older and realised that certain opportunities will only come your way if you speak up, I’ve encouraged myself to do those things my younger self would shudder at! I’ve shared my story in magazines where the associated photos have revealed my skin, have walked around on holiday in shorts with my patches on show and this year, my ‘comfort zone exit’ highlight was a photo-shoot with ANTM contestant and body confidence activist, Khrystyana. It was a photo-shoot that I contemplated right up to the point where all the other girls who were taking part, were already in the shot waiting! My issue wasn’t the photos as such; it was the fact we had to pose in our underwear. Nevertheless, I went through it and was incredibly proud of the photos and with myself personally that I had pushed myself to take part. It was definitely a stepping stone for me and reminded me that anything is indeed, possible…

    As I sign off with this being my last post of 2018, I wish you all a healthy, happy and positive 2019 x

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    The Photoshoot That Pushed Me Outside My Comfort Zone

    A few weeks back a group of girls stripped down to their underwear and took part in a photo-shoot that would challenge the fashion industry and show the beauty of different body shapes, sizes and skintones. I was one of those girls.

    Directed and crafted by body positive campaigner and ex America’s Next Top Model contestant, Khrystyana, it was a shoot that united a group of women with honest bodies that revealed different stories and life experiences.

    I’ll be honest in that, I felt a tad nervous as I drove down to the studio in East London. I was well aware of the planned direction of the shoot, however, given I hadn’t experienced such a revealing photoshoot in the past and I had no idea who the girls were that were taking part, naturally, I had my reservations.

    I was quickly put at ease when I arrived and noticed a few familiar faces that I had worked with in the past, but what I was instantly struck by within a matter of minutes, was how positive the energy was. There were women wandering around, with a real sense of appreciation and openness in relation to their bodies, irrespective of what they looked like. I knew pretty quickly it was a sign that what we were about to create was going to be something empowering. 

    The shoot itself lasted for around two hours. We had a selection of individual shots, before creating the main images which included intertwining arms and hands which showcased our skin tones and a tight knit shot that would see us laying in position with our bodies slightly overlapping and almost cocoon like, for a peaceful shot that made us appear as though we were sleeping…

    Since the photos were released on Instagram, they have made their way around with magazines, body positive influencers and campaigners sharing the work of Khrystyana and the creative photographer, Irene Cano.

    With any media related campaign I get involved with, I always try to take away something positive or just opens my eyes to another way of thinking. With this shoot, I realised that body confidence isn’t about our body shape, skin colour or the size of our hips, its about our mindset, our beliefs and our ability to appreciate who we are without getting wrapped up in what the fashion industry tries to convince us is ‘body perfect’.

    In recent years, I’ve loved embracing challenging moments – pushing myself to do things that I probably wouldn’t have 5 years ago. From sharing my story live on radio without the comfort of a retake, to speaking out in schools, to hosting conferences, for me, these are things that I value and that allow me to prove to myself that with support, encouragement and faith, you can do those things that fill you with fear, because afterall “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and taking part in this photoshoot, was testament to the fact, once again, I pushed myself outside mine….

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