I should probably start this by telling you two important things about me: the first is that I’m not an interiors aficionado, and the second is that I’m fat. I always have been, or at least that’s what it feels like.
Until a couple of years ago, I was on some kind of diet for as long as I can remember. As a tall, chubby teenager – the tallest and chubbiest out of all my friends, probably out of everybody at my school – I did WeightWatchers. Even before I was old enough to be a member I’d tag along with my mum, and every Sunday evening I’d go next door to my auntie’s house and get weighed in her bathroom. Then there was the phase where I was given £1 for every pound I lost – I don’t think it lasted long though, because I was still fat and I didn’t get rich. Then, when I was old enough, I started going to the classes on my own. And so began the ritual of sitting in a group, surrounded by middle-aged women, talking about what my failures were and vowing to do better next week.
Diets weren’t a thing while I was at university, which offered a brief period of respite. Instead, I embraced the freedom and lived off pasta, own-brand cider and 3am trips to the fried chicken shop. I don’t remember worrying about my weight or how I looked back then – maybe it’s because I was drunk, or maybe I just didn’t care enough. Maybe it was both.
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Moving to London in 2012 changed everything again, though, and I found myself joining Slimming World. I had my dream job as a beauty assistant at a glossy magazine but I was wholly aware that people who looked like me weren’t supposed to have a glamorous life, and just like in my school days, I convinced myself that I stuck out like a sore thumb. Like all the diets I’d done in the past, Slimming World worked for a while, but then I’d fall off the wagon and struggle to get back on it. I rejoined over and over again, going to different groups in my local area to save myself the embarrassment of seeing the same familiar faces, convincing myself that this time would be different. It never was. Instead, I gained more weight and even more starter packs – at last count I had five.
What I’m trying to say is that I’ve never really been happy with or accepting of my body and how I look. Over the last few years I’ve started following more plus-size influencers on Instagram, trying to get on board with the whole body positivity thing, and while I know those people I follow and look up to are all beautiful, I never saw myself in the same way, and to be honest, I never thought I would.
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But then, around two years ago, I started noticing the naked women appearing all over the internet – and in people’s homes. My social media feed was awash with these works of modern art, from vases and candles to illustrations and paintings. There were artists out there choosing to celebrate women of every shape and size imaginable, and we, the public, were choosing to invest in it. Bodies that looked like mine were considered art.
My own collection started accidentally. It was a drawing by London-based artist Alexandria Coe, an outline of a voluptuous, naked female body – a woman who isn’t stick thin with washboard abs, but has boobs and a belly. OK, it might be a body that I could only dream of having, but I still remember seeing it and being amazed. It was refreshing to see something that reflected me more than anything else I’d seen. I kept her on my desk at work for a while, and then, to celebrate buying my first home, I had her framed and she became the first piece of art on display in my bedroom.
Anissa Kermiche Popotelée Pot, £90, available at Brownsfashion.com.
Not long after, I was made aware of Anissa Kermiche and her now-iconic Love Handles vase, which fast became one of my most-loved possessions thanks to its hips and prominent behind. Then, as I explored more of Anissa’s work, I came across – and became equally obsessed with – Popotelée Pots, which celebrate pot bellies in all their jiggly glory, and are next on my list of things I want to buy for myself.
My latest, and probably most revolutionary discovery though, is Manchester-based Megan Harman-Potts (@Draw_The___ on Instagram). Her art embraces fat women in the most breathtaking ways. Coming across Megan’s elegant, empowering work was the biggest turning point for me. It was Megan’s interpretation of back rolls, bums and realistic, anything-but-perky boobs that made me realise that these sort of drawings went far beyond a trend. It’s so much deeper than that: they are helping me see my own body in a more positive light, something that I’d never really allowed myself to do before.
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Of course, I’d be lying if I said this is where my journey starts and ends. I still have a long way to go, and believe me when I say it’s slow progress, but still, it’s the most progress I’ve ever made. I love waking up each morning and seeing my own collection of naked women proudly displayed on my mantelpiece. It serves as a constant reminder that the female body – whatever shape or size it may be – truly is a work of art.
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