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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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    Beauty

    How I Learned to Love Makeup

    My first experience with makeup was just after my 17th birthday. I’d not long left school, was about to embark on my next chapter at college and had just started my first Saturday job as a part time sales assistant at Primark! Adult life was looming and much to my parents relief, they were almost free of funding my teenage social life!

    Makeup was never really something that interested me, in fact I’m not ashamed to say I was your average plain Jane at secondary school. I never owned a makeup bag and if I chose to sneak anything into my school bag that was closely related, it was a tin of vaseline, a high shine Collection 2000 lipgloss and a bottle of exclamation perfume!

    Soon after starting at Primark, it wasn’t long before my earnings started to burn a hole in my pocket and so I found myself splashing out on skincare and makeup products that would either enhance my skin or most importantly, disguise the patches on my face.

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    Vitiligo

    6 Reasons why Vitiligo Shouldn’t Come Between You & Your Date…

    Ah! Dating! That wonderful topic that could consume an entire night during a dinner catchup with friends as you move from ranting about men, to later admitting you probably couldn’t really do without them (queue covering my eyes!). From bad dates, to blind dates to the amazing dates that lead to marriage proposals after 6 weeks (it happens!), dating isn’t dating if you havent got a good few stories to share….

    But what does dating feel like when you have a skin condition such as Vitiligo? For some it may overshadow the entire experiecnce, altering what we choose to wear and possibly, how we come across. I recall occasions where i’ve been on a date, having flirtatious conversation, fully engrossed in the person i’m with, but at the back of my mind I’d be waiting for the dreaded question that felt like it needed a drum role beforehand “So, what happened to your skin”? In that single moment, my confidence would crash.

    Vitiligo, or any skin condition for that matter, can sometimes make you feel like you can’t be yourself. Aside from the usual prep like ensuring your nails are pefectly manicured, to deciding how to wear your hair and what girly scent will send his senses a little wild, one of the hardest decisions to make is, what to wear. However, for us, as girls with Vitiligo, we sometimes have additional concerns, like ‘do I wear something that covers the patches on my arms‘ or ‘do I dress freely in something that I really like, but ultimately reveals my skin‘? I was always the girl that would cover up, often choosing skinny jeans, a blouse with long sleeves or a fitted blazer becacuse I was too self-conscious about wearing something that would show the patches on my arms.

    Thankfully, I’ve learnt a lot about dating over recent years and dress more freely when it comes to choosing what to wear. I’ve learnt a lot from guys I regard as good friends who have spoken honestly about women, dating and what their choices are based upon and I can assure you for the majority, it isn’t your skin. Here’s what i’ve learnt….

    Don’t let your skin define you

    Yes, your Vitiligo (or any other skin condition for that matter) is very much part of who you are and who you’ve become, but don’t let it be the sole purpose of your existence. There is so much more to you than your skin. When you meet a guy for the first time, don’t feel pressured to explain what it is, or worry beforehand at the prospect of it becoming a topic of conversation. Talk about all the other stuff that makes you who you are – your love of sport, your passion for laughing or travelling to faraway places because they are the things you love and that make you happy. Your skin is apart of you, its not the only thing that makes you, you…..

    We are responsible for our own happiness

    Try not to have the expectation that part of the guys job is to make you feel good about yourself. Sure, its good to be with  a guy who knows how to compliment and appreciate you (this works both ways!), when you’re looking and feeling your best, but try to avoid feeling as though he should be your confirmation that you look good. I once believed it was a guys job to compliment and make me feel comfortable if I chose to wear a t-shirt or a swimsuit on the beach, but I soon realised i’m responsible for feeling good about me and any additional praise is a lovely bonus!

    Guys aren’t as concerned about your skin as you might think

    Apologies if that is borderline blunt, I just want to build on the point that your skin isn’t what determines who you are as a person. I can’t speak for all guys, but honestly, the majority are not worried about your skin. Imagine you’ve been talking for weeks, exchanging flirtatious one liners, feeling each other’s energy and you’re building on the feelings of a good vibe. Date night arrives. You’ve arranged a great meeting spot and you’ve chosen the outfit that makes you feel confident. When you think of everything that surrounds that vision, where does Vitiligo fit in? I’d love if you could honestly say ‘nowhere’…

    I remember catching a guy staring at my hands once. He was incredibly hot, so the shear thought of his eyes transfixed on my porcelain white hands almost made me crumble. Seconds later, he took my hand in his and told me how beautiful they were and then proceeded to tell me how his cousin developed Vitiligo when he was 12 years old. It made me realise how negatively assuming my thoughts can sometimes be and just how often I think the worst when really they could be thinking the opposite. For me, it really broke the ice in the most endearing way. I valued the honesty and the openness which made me reflect and realise just how important it is to be yourself.

    Confidence is way sexier than anything else. 

    As women, we like confidence in a man….men like the same…and believe me its all the rage these days! If you look around you especially on social media, there are endless advocates and influencers promoting body confidence and embracing all that we are aesthetically. Now, I’m not saying that all guys are open to dating girls that embrace their their uniqueness (it’s there loss, right?), but a large percentage love a girl that loves herself. The girls that are content and accepting of who they are the ones that are probably quite fun to be around.

    If you’re content, comfortable and realise your own self-worth, then a guy will see those things you see. If you’re someone who isn’t comfortable in their own skin and expresses that, not only can it put pressure on a relationship but it can become hard for a guy to convince you that you are a beautiful person…..especially if you don’t believe it yourself. Its your skin, wear it with pride.

    Don’t make any assumptions

    Don’t make any assumptions on what you think the other person is thinking. You will never really know unless you are a mind reader, so let conversations take place naturally and enjoy the moment without being paranoid about what might be going on in their head. I’ve had dates where guys have asked me about my skin and others where they’ve not asked me at all. I used to find it strange if I wasn’t asked, because I naturally assumed they must be curious, some guys are straight away, others might way until the 5th date down the line. Accept that’s what it is.

    Ive stopped looking at it too deeply. If he doesn’t ask, im open to the fact it doesn’t bother him. Im also open to the fact that he will ask someday, but for now he isnt getting to know my skin, he is getting to know me and my potential as a partner (and vice versa).

    Promise yourself this

    The next time you are getting ready for a date, focus on the things that are important. The things that are happening in the current moment – for example what you feel like wearing, whether you nails match your outfit and which scent leaves the best trail behind you, because they are the things that are instantly notable and appreciated.

    Nerves are natural and expected for girls like us….even for the those most confident. As is, changing your outfit three times because you can’t decide whether the peplum top looks better than the cold shoulder top, but don’t add Vitiligo to the list of things to worry about. That can come later, but preferably not at all…

    Disclaimer: My posts are never written to offend. They are my personal viewpoints based on my own personal experiences. I hope you enjoy reading…

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