In this week's Grace’s Musings, I tackle the tough but timely subject of summer body confidence. I take a hard look at societal pressures and unrealistic beauty ideals, turning the spotlight onto game-changers like Paulina Porizkova and my amazing, talented friend Louise Boyce (her story here) model, author and founder of the brilliant Mama Still Got It.
As they demonstrate, embracing our bodies at any age and size is not just possible but empowering. The takeaway? It's high time we rethink our standards of beauty and make room for more self-love and body acceptance.
Few things can make us as body conscious as the summer. Fashion has shifted to be cooler and more revealing, holidays more often than not are beach or poolside – which means the whole “to cover up or not to cover up” comes into play – and for many it’s a time of year when physical confidence wavers. Inevitably, we compare ourselves to others – and the unrealistic edited and photo-shopped images littered across social media and advertising.
Being body confident and positive about our natural shape and size in a society that still values youth across so many platforms isn’t easy. Added to which, we are ever guilty of being too critical with ourselves. But what we need to recognise is that the issue doesn’t lie with us. It is the idealised expectation of what beauty should look like that’s the real problem – and it needs to be addressed. I’ve met some inspirational women who are tackling the subject with grace, intelligence and fabulous ferocity.
Louise Boyce knows all too well the contradictions and ironies surrounding body confidence and positivity. Despite being crowned European Model of the Year in the mid-nineties, as a UK size 10 at that time she was told she wouldn’t work unless she lost weight – the result of which was a break from modelling a couple of years later, mentally and physically exhausted and with an eating disorder. When she edged back into the industry in early 2000 at a healthy size 14 and representing women with curves, she worked almost every day.
I do wonder though, as we get older – a little more astute, less worried about what others may think and simply more comfortable over time with the body we have – that perhaps we do become more positive, happy to show our body in whatever light we choose, confident to wear what we like, and to know that it’s about being in healthy shape and the best version of ourself for ourself. There’s a huge sense of liberation to be had from knowing that we are beautiful at any age.
You only have to look at Maye Musk and Martha Stewart – 74 and 81 respectively – who gained acclaim as the oldest models to appear on the front cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. Both body confident – and they looked amazing. Or consider model and actress Paulina Porizkova (58), who posted beautiful unfiltered bikini shots on her social-media account. She took outrageous flak for it, but her response was: “If I choose to show my body and if I control the way my body is seen, does that mean that I then have power? Yes. This is my body. And I will do with it as I please.”
Last year Gwyneth Paltrow decided to celebrate turning 50 by stripping naked and painting herself gold. I’m not suggesting for one minute that this is the way forward when it comes to our own body confidence, but the article she wrote accompanying her photo shoot talked about the things we value here at Studio10. She said: “I accept the marks and the loosening skin, the wrinkles. I accept my body and let go of the need to be perfect, look perfect, defy gravity, defy logic ...”
I couldn’t agree more. For me, body confidence and positivity is about acceptance – letting go of the need to be perfect means accepting who I am and being okay with that, regardless of my shape or size – and I am, really, very okay with that.