Last weekend I thought I’d better prove to myself and others that I had fully embraced this body positive mind-set and decided to attend one of the Ms Curvaceous UK modelling competitions. For those women who applied you would have two options, to attend a body confidence workshop and modelling audition or just the workshop. I thought that I should bite the bullet and give both a go!
So, on the Sunday morning at 9.30 I arrived at the Arbor Hotel in London, not knowing what to expect. Prospective models who applied had been told to wear black trousers and a tight black top with heels, which, if you have seen the pictures on my blog, you will recognise that this attire is not my standard look. We were asked to wear minimal make-up with our hair away from our faces. I didn’t mind this as I rarely wear much make-up to teach in, so just some mascara and lip stick sufficed. I did find it daunting however to have my stomach area so exposed as I normally prefer to wear something flowing that skims my ‘tummy tyre’ but in the spirit of loving my body I went ahead. It felt quite liberating actually to not be conscious of having to keep checking my top hadn’t rolled up or keep pulling it back into place, something I am sure most of you plus-size women are used to doing.
As I stepped into the foyer of the hotel I was greeted by a crowd of amazingly beautiful plus-size women of all different shapes and ethnicities. It was quite astounding to feel at once not out-of-place in a room full of women. Most of the time I am the largest in a room which either makes me feel self-conscious or I have a tendency to over-compensate by being the loudest and most audaciously confident. I am sure my fellow Curvaceous ladies have all felt this at one time or another. However in this room I felt pride. Pride that these fellow women who had undoubtably struggled with negative body image or fat shaming in their lives had shown up, had put on their big girl pants and bravely attended.
The hotel itself was a gorgeous venue, reflecting the resplendent nature of the ladies who attended. A castle fit for these curvaceous Queens! We were asked to file downstairs and all sat in the awaiting seats in the conference room. I had the pleasure of speaking to the gorgeous Corrine who won this years’ (Ms Curvaceous 2018) crown. She was so amazingly friendly and really made me feel at ease and as if I was in the right place, I was, up until that point feeling like a bit of an intruder!
The founder of Ms Curvaceous, Theo, introduced himself and the mission of the Ms Curvaceous competition. He explained that Ms Curvaceous aims to empower women of size 12 and above, who have been traditionally marginalised by the fashion industry, body-shamed by society and generally made to feel like second-class citizens because of their size. The competition, whilst still ending in only one winner, aimed to bring confidence to its auditionees, which is why they kindly offered a free confidence workshop before the audition process.
The next few hours were filled with specialist make-up and fashion advice and information about Ms Curvaceous itself and what we could expect. For me though, the most extraordinary and moving experience of the day was when we all shared our personal experiences and why we wanted to be part of the Ms Curvaceous movement. Many stories were filled with emotion and memories of discrimination by both family and strangers. It was during these moments, where strangers told their most personal stories, that the beauty of these women really blossomed. In those moments we were one, united in our struggles that had brought us together that day. Complete strangers hugged one another like lost friends, ladies cried next to each other, people listened and nodded their heads in agreement having experienced the same shame and humiliation too. No longer were we alone, fat and useless but together in the struggle, radiating love and acceptance. As fluffy as this all sounds, every word is true and actually doesn’t do those sacred moments justice. The solidarity I felt in that room was such a powerful thing.
Next the beautiful Models Su and Corinne demonstrated their best catwalk moves….shit began to feel real but I was longing to do my walk and strut my stuff! Each one of us took it in turns to practice our cat-walks in front of the entire room! All the ladies in the room were so supportive of each other and whilst it was nerve-wracking, the elation I felt afterwards was overwhelming. I could have done it again and again!
To finish, we could either use what we had learnt in the confidence building workshop and enter the audition or were free to go home, feeling beautiful and empowered. I wanted to stay and give the competition a try!
My group of about 25 women were taken up stairs to one of the hotel lounges, where the beautiful Su, who had competed in Ms Curvaceous previously and is now a successful Curve model, was helping us rehearse our runway walks. Su was so encouraging, with just the right mix of understanding and constructive criticism. She really succeeded in making me feel prepared for walking the runway in front of the judges.
Before the catwalk audition we all had to be photographed. 3 photographs in total, head, body and full length. I think mine went ok although I’m sure I was very shiny because I sweat when nervous! Ewwww. The photographer was lovely! (I’m sorry I can’t recall your name) but he really made me feel relaxed and at ease.
Next for the grand finale, the big number, THE CATWALK! Luckily enough the judges were the current MS Curvaceous crown holder, Corinne and the captivating Shanika, who previously competed and is experienced in, and amazing at, walking the runway. They were calming and kind and told me to do my best walk up and down three times and don’t forget to pose! In and instant it was done, I couldn’t even remember what I had done or the poses I had show cased. I simply hope that I was good enough to maybe get through to the next round, maybe they can see some potential.
All in all I thought the day was the perfect mix of deep emotion and light-hearted fun, topped off with the audition process which actually was easier than expected. If nothing ever comes of the audition process I met some amazingly talented, inspiring women who are beautiful both inside and out and I am eager to follow all their progress wether as part of the Ms Curvaceous competition or as a spectator. Well done ladies! I salute you.