Meet the students changing the face of body positivity

‘If we can see more people that love their body then it should encourage everyone to take the same approach’

Social media has undoubtedly revolutionised the way we communicate online. Unfortunately, the  intrusive culture of body-shaming has been on the rise of late, running in tandem with the expansion of the online world.

Recently, Love Island runner up Molly-Mae, who quite frankly has a flawless body, has been subject to fat-shaming online. Twitter trolls commented on a Daily Mail article calling her “lardy” and “out of shape.” This kind of culture is toxic, but isn’t going unchallenged by the student community.

In an attempt to battle this culture, three inspiring individuals took to the streets of London at 5am to create a photoshoot in their underwear, embrace their beauty and promote body positivity for the whole world to see.

Sophie Hext, a second year student at the University of Leeds, came up with the idea to photoshoot her two close friends who have long suffered with their body confidence and physical appearance. She told the Leeds Tab that she wanted to give them the opportunity to embrace all parts of themselves and pay tribute to all their hard work that they’ve put in along the way. Sophie said, “Why wait until someone is completely recovered and comfortable to show off their body? If anything it’s more of a statement to do it beforehand.”

Liv Baxter, who participated in the shoot, has been suffering with anorexia for five years now. After taking to Youtube last year to start her channel Livs Living,  she has been pushing herself on her journey towards recovery. Liv told the Leeds Tab: “When Sophie proposed this opportunity, I thought what better way to push myself out of my comfort zone and challenge myself- whilst helping others as well. I know a lot of people that suffer with a negative body image, and this felt like a small way I could help battle that stigma.”

Liv Baxter, 20

The idea for the shoot literally came out of nowhere. Sophie told The Leeds Tab: “It all happened really quickly. I was literally on a walk with Liv and just said, ‘would you be up for doing a photoshoot in the middle of London in your bra and knickers?”

“I then called my friend Evie to see if she would want to do it as well. I really wanted it to be more than one person, so it was more of a team: empowering women and leaving more of a statement that this doesn’t have to be an anomaly with one person- it’s a collective.”

At first, Sophie said Evie was reluctant to get involved.

“I had to kind of show them the pros and cons of what we were going to do. And the only con was that they were scared. That’s it.” Sophie told The Leeds Tab.

After realising the importance of this project, Evie Mendoza, a student from North London due to join Leeds in September, decided to take the plunge. Evie decided to get involved because she’s extremely passionate about body positivity. Evie said, “I’ve always been very insecure about my body from a very young age, because I was always the “bigger” one out of my friends. It always made me feel like I wasn’t enough or I couldn’t fit it.”

Evie Mendoza, 19

However, this photoshoot became reflective of her learning over time. Evie said, “We’re so much more than our bodies, and life is too short. I hope this makes anybody realise that if they’re not a size two or a stick thin model that you see all across social media, that is ok, and that is normal.

“If you have belly rolls, or cellulite, you are still beautiful and still worthy. The more we normalise it, the more people will start loving themselves- because they see that everyone else has it as well. Social media only portrays the perfect body and we need to realise that this isn’t what we look like and not what we should define our body confidence on.”

Liv said that although nervous at first, she found the overall experience extremely liberating: “I felt strong and powerful. It made me realise how much easier it is to love my body rather than hate it.”

She continued, “I want people to realise that no one needs to change anything about their body- everyone’s body can do so much more for them than we realise and that makes it so unique and special. I think this is hugely important for students, especially when social media promotes so much negativity. If we can see more people that love their body then it should encourage everyone to take the same approach.”

According to photographer Sophie, although she hoped that this could have a positive knock-on effect for others, her priority was about bringing some confidence and pride to Liv and Evie.

“If I could in any way make them feel more comfortable in their own skin then I knew I was doing my job right.” Sophie told The Leeds Tab.

Evie added, “The message to take from all of this? You are enough. No matter weight, size, or anything, you are enough.

“Everybody will have something that they don’t like about themselves. But it all comes down to being normal, and being real. Life is too short- we’ve got one life and one body and we should start celebrating it instead of hating it.”

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Dealing with disordered eating or negative body image at university