I’ve recently volunteered for the tenth year in a charity fashion show for MacMillan Cancer. I started back in 2009, aged 39 which also coincided with my divorce. Anyone that’s experienced this knows how much it can knock your self-confidence. After being with the same partner from the age of 16 to 39, I really had to re-find myself. My forties have definitely been all about that. The first time I walked in that fashion show I was so nervous and worried. I was scared of making a fool of myself and what others think. Whilst I embraced all the different outfits, there was no way I was walking down in any swimwear!
As the years passed my confidence slowly grew I was encouraged to apply to modelling agencies, something I never would have considered when I was younger. To my surprise, I was immediately signed by a London agency and am now exclusive with Bridge models, which is a curve model agency (I’m a UK 14-16). This was the beginning of a whole new career and chapter in my life that I never imagined to be possible. I struggled with imposter syndrome hugely to start with and then a turning point came thanks to the Loose Women ‘My Body, My Story’ campaign.
My Body, My Story Campaign
The women from the show stripped down to their underwear to create an honest, no photoshop or fancy editing photograph to encourage us all to love what we have and stop judging each other. A local photographer placed an ad asking for women to volunteer to recreate this so I said yes. We met one Sunday afternoon, a group of 14 strangers clinging onto their champagne glass and feeling very nervous. What struck me is how different we all were in ages sizes, heights and personal stories but we all felt insecure in our bodies for different reasons.
I struggled with my own body image from being a teenager as I have always been curvy and large chested. I’m now a 34G and was a 32DD by the time I left school. I hated my bust so much. I thought if I went for a breast reduction it would make everything ok. Although I made an appointment, I am very grateful now that something stopped me from going ahead.
Standing alongside these women whilst we supported each other made me realise how silly I had been wasting so much time by being scared to do things in life because I worried about what I looked like or couldn’t step out of my comfort zone. My confidence level from that one day rose 100%. Add in that after the fabulous photos circulated on social media, Loose Women then invited us to come on the show and do it all again on live television. After that day anything is possible!
Embracing Your Body
Since then I have truly embraced my curves. I have worked alongside Ashley Graham, modelling swimwear in The Bahamas aged 47, worked for Panache lingerie and walked down the catwalk aged 48 in lingerie for Debenhams. I use any opportunity I can to try and encourage other women in their midlife to feel more confident in their bodies. The more normal it becomes to see models like me representing brands the better we will all feel about ourselves. Representation matters.
Although I threw the scales out it doesn’t mean I’m not healthy, I go on long dog walks daily, love swimming and have recently started running, albeit slowly! But I want to feel strong and healthy as I go into my fifties ready to face the next challenge.
Ten years later in this year’s show, I strutted down the catwalk in a swimsuit with my head held high. Embrace what you have, it’s all that you’ve got!
Follow Rachel Peru on Instagram @rachelperu1