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My Naked Journey

Promoting self love and body positivity with Mermaid in England

· Body Image

by Emma Gorton-Ellicott of No Debutante

I met Mermaid in England owner and body positivity promoter Antonia Furlong after I wrote a fashion article on her for Bristol 24/7, promoting her inspiring swimwear fashion shoots.

The important thing you need to know about Antonia is that she only uses real models for her photo shoots. Y'know, people like you and me! People with lumps and bumps and scars, people with disbilities, real people who have not been airbrushed, - just real women, photographed in some swimwear, looking bloody fabulous!

A year ago, you would not have seen an image of me wearing swimwear on anything close to how naked I feel in these photographs. I have no real explanation why I wouldn't show off my body, hell, I do it at the beach and really couldn't care less, but for some reason, for me, to take a photo of my body and share it with the world, was a step too far!

One reason, I guess, would be that my body is the body of a 42 year old woman, who has had three kids. I am not the Victoria Secret model you were expecting, I have a normal body not an instagrammable body and I am not even young anymore!

I am unhappy because, I don't have enough curves or my legs aren't skinny enough or my belly is no longer flat or I have dimples in my legs, I don't have a thin model body but I am not meeting the criteria to be a plus model either. I'm just in the middle, just normal. So, why am I making such a fuss?

Well, another reason is that, despite taking photos of myself all the time in my fashion selfies and sharing them on my blog and social media, I , now stay with me here, think that if I share a photo of myself, in lingerie or swimwear, I am showing off!

Honestly, how messed up is that? I think it may be a generation thing but to flaunt yourself, when I was a teenager, was showing off. We were made to feel bad about exposing our bodies, unless you were a super model, of course!

Hell, my body looked bloody fab in my early twenties (ahem..the whole of my twenties) I even did some lingerie and swimwear modelling when I was at Uni, but I only shared that with the Uni and the hundreds of people that saw me at the fashion shows and in the photographs! There was no instagram to share my amazing body with. It was like a dirty little secret, that I had photos taken half naked! Yes, me!

So, how did I manage to conquer my fears and get my kit off again after all these years?

After chatting with Antonia about her inspiring photo shoots, taken by the lovely and now very pregnant, Viktoria Kuti, I got caught up in a wave of female empowerment to start really promoting body positivity. Previous to the Mermaid In England article I had already seen so many amazing female motivational artists and instagrammers promoting self love and their fabulous bodies of all shapes and sizes. Getting themselves out there and saying it's Ok to not be, what society see's as perfect!

It is so important for women, young girls, my daughter, my sons, in fact everyone, to just love themselves and to be kind and positive to others too! I see all these positive role modes and just thought, what the hell am I worried about here? What can I do?

Antonia kindly, gave me this fabulous pink bikini to take on my holidays so I decided to take the ball by the horns and do a fun-filled No Debutante 'how I wore' photo shoot to help promote Mermaid In England as a brand and their body positive ethos.

Then, Antonia took it a step further and asked me to join the next body positivity photo shoot! This was way out of my comfort zone, it's all well and good taking photos of yourself, on your private holiday, where nobody except your family (they are used to this sort of thing going on) can see you but being in a room, with lots of other people you don't know including a photographer seemed to be taking things a bit too far.

How can I promote body positivity if I am not body positive myself? I said 'yes' straight away as I have a problem with agreeing to things without thinking them through but after doing my own No Debutante X Mermaid in England bikini photo shoot the nerves started to kick in.

Less than a week after I had returned back to the UK from my, much needed, holiday in Majorca, I found myself sat in a room with loads of women I hadn't met before, we were all strangers and we were about to take part in a bikini fashion shoot together. This already sounds very surreal.

The first thing I was asked was if I had done anything like this before. I realised that I was telling a stranger about my student lingerie modelling days and that yes, I had done something similar but made excuses that I don't have the same body as I had then and I'm too old to do that now! As soon as I said it, I felt silly for feeling bad about it and putting it down.

Why would I hide that I used to be very happy with my body, of course my body has changed, I've got older and have had three children! I USED TO MODEL LINGERIE!

I have never met such a group of courageous, honest and fabulous women, the more I spoke to them and the more stories I heard, the more I felt happy with myself, as a woman. We were all beginning to feel happy with ourselves.

There were burns victims confidently flouncing around, girls who thought they were fat (they weren't), larger women embracing their curves, Mum's with 4 kids, a mother and daughter model team, just so many amazing women.

I have to admit that I did not feel, at any point, uncomfortable with showing off my body, to me it seemed that none of us did in the end! We were all in it together.

I am really looking forward (half dreading) seeing the photographs taken by Viktoria for the Mermaid in England, real models shoot, just so you know, all of these photos shown today are my own, I will share the official shoot photographs once they have been launched by Mermaid in England!

Growing up in the nineties had made me very self-conscious about my body. Despite loving modelling as a uni student. I would buy fashion magazines, I loved fashion (obvs) but all the models were as skinny as hell. The influential look was waif and even worse Heroin Chic (Fucking Heroin Chic? Really?) with role models like Kate Moss and Jodie Kidd, plastered over everything, making you feel fat and giving you a borderline eating disorder to try and get super thin.

At the same time, boys at school would call me a footballer, saying I had footballers legs, which used to upset me so much as I really wanted skinny legs, like the girls in the fashion mags and I was already aware that my legs were a bit bigger than the (what I saw as normal) skinny girls!

One moment of self realisation for me, was that those boys, whether it was maliciously or not, they were saying I was fit! I had a strong and athletic body. I WAS SUPER FIT! If anything, it's a massive compliment and I'm gonna take it!

The real question is, am I happy with these photo shoot images of me prancing about in a bikini? Well actually, yes, I am. My body is now half toned and half curvy, I have a few dimples and lumps and I do wish I had Shari Knowles, the make-up artist from the Mermaid in England shoot for my holiday shoot, but yeah, my body is alright......OK, I'll say it, it's bloody amazing!

I have (quite literally) bared all today, shared some stuff I am not entirely happy with sharing, but I am on the right path for my journey for self love and body positivity and I urge you all to do the same. Join a Mermaid in England photo shoot, love your body, be kind to others, accept yourself and remember how bloody amazing you are!

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