I’m Laura and I’m proud of my body, but I haven’t always been.Being comfortable in your own skin is so hard. I remember looking at myself in a mirror when I was 11 years old and disliking the way my stomach stuck out over my jeans. But slowly, incrementally I’ve come to like the way I look, and even the bits of me that society tells me I shouldn’t. Here’s what those bits are—and how I’ve learned to love them all.
I remember my next door neighbour walking around in denim short shorts, and noticing that her upper legs had a ripple-y texture to them. I’d never seen this on young legs before.“What’s that on her legs?” I asked my mum.She replied: “That’s cellulite. Don’t worry, you won’t have that for a long time.”I felt confused. My neighbour was only 18. I was 15. I’ve never been one for quick math, but three years didn’t seem that far away.From that moment on, I noticed it on girls everywhere. It would appear regardless of how firmly they crossed their legs, how they sat on a surface, how short their skirts were, how they stood. I also noticed that no one had it in photos. I didn’t understand where it came from, why only girls seemed to have it, or how some had it and others did not; all I knew was that I never wanted it.When I started to notice cellulite on my own body, I felt like I had failed. Failed to remain beautiful, young and perfect, and failed at my chance of becoming a model or a dancer or a girlfriend. I thought I had failed before my “future” could really begin.I was 17.
A guy I was sleeping with was the first to notice my stretch marks. He was fascinated by them, as though he’d never seen them on anyone before. It was the beginning of summer and we were going swimming. I hadn’t been in a bikini for a while and didn’t yet have the confidence to enjoy looking at myself naked in the mirror. His fascination made me feel isolated—was I the only one with these lines on my body?Stretch marks come in all different shapes, sizes, colours and places. Despite what you may think, they exist on bodies of all sizes. I have lots. There are red and slightly raised ones along the curves of my hips, translucent ones at the top of my thighs, scattered red ones on my inner thighs and even some light ones on my boobs.
Again, I tried to hide them. I started wearing one-piece bathing suits. I started having more sex in the dark. I tried to get rid of them with different creams and balms and exercises. I never saw attractive girls parading their stretch marks out loud and proud, which to me was the silent hot girl code for “that’s not a thing you want people to see.”I kept my stretch marks shamefully hidden until I realised that hiding them wasn’t going to change a fucking thing.
I used to work in a high-end cocktail bar, a place where I learned that people are not afraid to say what they think. It’s incredible the things that come out after a few martinis.I adored dressing up for this job. One particular night, I was wearing a tight, dark red dress that I loved. I was serving who I thought to be a relatively reserved middle-aged couple when the woman said to me: “It must be difficult to work around so much alcohol when you’re pregnant.”It took me a while to gather a response, as I was honestly shocked by her lack of tact.“Oh, I’m not pregnant.” I managed.Her partner went red with embarrassment and put a hand on her knee as if to say please don’t say anything more, please just apologise.“Well,” she went on, disapprovingly, “maybe you’d be skinnier and prettier if you didn’t drink so much then.”I left their table, shaking with anger, dread and shame. I think that may have been one of the only times I’ve ever cried at a workplace. When I got home that night, I ripped off my dark red dress and threw it out.
Lower stomach fat
I’ve been self-conscious about my lower stomach since forever. We’ve been conditioned to think that having a “flat” stomach makes you attractive, and it’s something I feel like I’ve been aware of not having my whole life. Being a victim of the dreaded stomach bloat, while also naturally holding more weight in my lower stomach, I’ve been hard on my tum during times it hasn’t deserved it. I’ve chosen outfits depending on how my stomach looked in them, I’ve worn belts, loose tops, higher heels, corsets. I spent years of my life doing everything in my power to hide my lower stomach fat, thinking it made me less appealing. It’s still something I—and dare I say most—women struggle with.I don’t know what it was about that middle-aged woman’s words that really got to me. I suppose she was someone I didn’t know, telling me a “truth” about my body that I’d been dreading to hear for so long.But there was something else.There was this anger inside of me, because what right did she have, assuming things about my lifestyle and body? She assumed me to be pregnant, to be a big drinker, to already feel as though I was not pretty or skinny (as if those two things are dependent on the other), and then I realised that she represents the reason why we continue to struggle with body image.I decided at that moment that she deserved a big FUCK YOU, as does anyone who perpetuates the idea that you’re only allowed to carry stomach weight if you’re carrying a child.
Hip fat is what makes shopping for pants so hard. It’s the part of my body that I feel jiggle when I run. It makes bikinis impossible to wear.Last year I seriously considered buying a stash of spanks. I was sick of people describing my hips as “childbearing.” I was sick of people describing me as “womanly” in a way that really meant “not thin”. It was as though they were trying to explain my own body to me in an attempt to reassure me that my extra weight had a purpose, a name.My hips were one of the last things to change shape. During puberty, I got bigger boobs, a curvier waist, thicker thighs… but my hips didn’t grow until much later.They’ve also taken the longest for me to accept, because they have truly changed the way I dress, the way I fuck, the way I walk, the way I dance.Now, I look in the mirror and I love what I see. It was as though I woke one day and realised that if I felt good about my body, all the other voices didn’t matter. It was then that I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a model. Since hitting puberty and witnessing my body change drastically, I’d been completely disheartened because of my size. But with my newfound confidence I’ve decided I’m beautiful and unique… so why not me?And why not you too?Follow Laura on Instagram along with photographers Charlie Craig and Mohani Sharma