Written evidence submitted by Models of Diversity (MISS0017)

Models of Diversity (MOD) is a registered charity with the following mission – ‘The promotion of Equality and diversity for the public benefit by promoting greater diversity in fashion, beauty and media industries, where people of minority ethnic origin, older people, larger and smaller people, people with a disability, and non-binary gender people are under-represented.’  MOD promote using models that reflect the diversity in society, in race, shape, age and ability.  We also promote body acceptance and positivity as well as mental health. Please visit our website for a showcase of the work we do to support marginalised people www.modelsofdiversity.org

Angel Sinclair founded this charity just over a decade ago and has been campaigning for inclusivity within the fashion industry, through various initiatives ever since.  Cllr Mini Mangat is an Ambassador for the charity and is an equalities activist, she is very passionate that the Government has a huge part to play within regulating fashion, media and beauty industries further and sees steps of enforcement equally as important. Both Angel & Mini are happy to support this inquiry further and happy to attend any events where we can support the voice of many, please contact us.

We collected evidence for this inquiry using lived experience of people engaged with MOD, we are happy for you to share Models of Diversity as the source for any publishing evidence, we have not disclosed individual names of participants at this stage, should you want further information please contact us. We explored a series of questions aligned to the Terms of Reference of your inquiry and the following is what we wish to share and submit.  Our reason for submission is that as a charity and the nature of the work we do, we have experience of engaging with lots of people who face issues with body image, mental health and marginalisation.


What affects body image

I would say someone who has had a positive body image during her childhood and teenage years, but nothing prepared me for changes one goes through as a pregnant mother. As a model, I worked even during my pregnancy as I was sought to do pregnancy modelling. It is post-pregnancy really takes toll on your mental health. I tried hard to get back to shape with exercise in gym, exercise at home, swimming, running, diets, etc but never got back to the same size as I was before. 

Body Image gets affected by what you see in the media and this affects even family members and society who out of concern/sometimes brainwash advise you to get back to shape. There are success stories of women who give birth and magically get into their old jeans. They are false and not normal which shouldn't be endorsed.  

What is the impact of the media on body image and your mental health?

Impact of the media is tremendous, and it is really damaging. Men don't get to see a real woman anywhere. I have a sibling who is looking for a "Thin Wife" and I can't change his perception of what is beautiful since he is bought up to these images of woman.

In Childhood, I used to watch Bollywood movie trailers and songs I was really fond of it - way to know about new movies, and now when I see them all the girls have a flat tummy and showing their midriff. It makes me sad! 

There are occasionally Dove Adverts in Tube Station, but they do not change the impact Male expectation of thin and slender woman. This affects the marriage and sexual desire of man in his wife, especially after pregnancy too.

Anytime I try to exercise and find YouTube Videos there is a very beautiful slender/fitness woman. I am comparing myself subconsciously and how I would never appeal to those people who think " Thin is beautiful" and this isn't taught it is so ingrained that we don't think.  People would have to be taught that "Big is Beautiful". It isn't one campaign. One Fashion Show somewhere. It has to start in all areas of life TV, Hollywood, Magazine, Cloth Brochures, Fitness Gurus, etc. The fashion industry is biggest culprit wanting Fashion Models to look like hangers.

How does it affect my mental health?

I am extremely cautious about what I eat and what I drink. When people started giving me advice without me asking, I didn't know what to say to them even on the best of my days when I have just been to Royal Ascot and feeling wonderful. Somebody online felt completely ok to tell me" I am fat" or started advising me about exercise and diet. I would exercise and hope that magically I lose weight but instead, I kept on gaining. I exercised grudgingly not because I enjoyed it but sort of to prove to others that I am working on myself and to be part of that conversation.

I even went for a Positive Body Image Workshop just to feel beautiful. I had to take a huge Self Love lesson. 

There are pages and pages of Celebrity Gossip Magazine and even TV Show where there would be "How somebody famous decided to lose weight?" It is a great story but recently on Loose Woman, there was a woman who had loose quite a lot of weight "Baroness of Bra!" and then chubby woman said: " How she is inspired by her story?"  I just find success stories are amazing, but we are aspiring something to be a future date. That means you are supposed to feel bad about your present shape.

I applied recently 711 Modelling and Acting Agencies worldwide. I got 79 replies at least half of them straight NOs and another half polite NOs with 1 asking me my pics in undergarments. 

I lose respect when somebody famous was not skinny and then after receiving fame reduce their weight. I wonder what free products they are getting or endorsements. If you are not the mould that everyone wants "You better be funny!"

If you are not a fitness model with a taller height and a flat tummy than you aren't considered fit as a runway model. There are extremely high standards and rare ones. I am 5"1' and I am definitely not Petite model and I am also not Plus Model. Plus Model still needs to be tall.

There is news like this which makes me worried. I feel anytime where people are looking to change themselves and not being happy or satisfied with their body is a massive problem.

News and headlines like these worry me. I feel anytime where people are looking to change themselves and not being happy or satisfied with their body is a massive problem. A Model Is Having Her legs Surgically Fractured So She Can Be Six Feet Tall 

I have been cyber bullied by someone telling me I am not cut out for modelling; I was looking for Sponsorship to be in Beauty Pageant Top Model UK 2014. He was disappointed I didn't look like the model in a Dior ad. I was until 2nd Round of Top Model UK 2014. I have made a career as a Commercial Model since then as that's where work came from thankfully.


What affects body image 

What is the impact of the media on body image and your mental health?

Despite always having been an active person, I have battled with my body image, feeling too short, to 'boxy', too muscular, not skinny enough, and that HAS to be down to media, a distorted mirror that we all look into and see what we should be like. If we didn't have mirrors in our homes - we wouldn't care as much about what we look like, so perhaps if we had more 'realistic' images and we saw difference in the media we would look at it and see ourselves. 

As a person born with difference, I never realised how isolated I felt until I re-joined Reach the charity and started following charities like MoD, only now, seeing difference more and more when scrolling through my feeds, do I know how much that was missing. My confidence has grown so much in the last few months, more than it has in 31 years. It's wonderful to be born into a loving family, having never been bullied, but yet I still struggled, so perhaps after all this time it was the media, magazines, adverts, films in front of me, telling me I was too different. It makes me imagine what life would have been like if I had grown up with difference in front of me on the TV, if I had watched Cerrie Burnell in the morning... showing me it was ok, that I'm not alone. Much progress is being made to represent diversity in media, tv etc but there is still much to be done. It needs the support of everyone. 


What affects body image 

Body Image is affected by how Social media, Marketing Media, and Social Standards, tend to give unrealistic beauty images of beauty. Making women and men uncomfortable on their own skin.

What is the impact of the media on body image and your mental health?

The impact on social media about my body has changed, from when I was a teenager to now that I’m a woman. When I was a teenager, I was not happy whatsoever in my body, and didn’t feel like I was beautiful since I didn’t have any type of representation to look up apart from my family. Social media made it very clear that I was no body goals whatsoever and that made me insecure. It took me years before I learned to love myself and my body, it was not an easy ride but I’m happy and proud of it. Now I can look at the mirror with nothing but loving eyes towards myself.



What affects body image 

In my personal experience body image is affected by what we are exposed to in the media. That being the 'ideal' or 'perfect' image projected on us every day through adverts, magazines, films, music videos etc. This unobtainable, unrealistic ideal makes us feel as though we are not good enough, not worthy, not beautiful. I grew up not seeing larger sizes in adverts for clothes thus feeling like I couldn't or shouldn’t buy these products. Striving for this body, to a huge amount of my time, effort and emotion, effort I could have been putting elsewhere.

What is the impact of the media on body image and your mental health?

For me it has been all encompassing. It has permeated through every part of my life in an extremely negative way. I have suffered with mental health issues from the age of 11 regarding negative body image and feelings of inferiority surround body size. It has led me to develop eating disorders and anxiety. I feel that if a diverse range of bodies had been shown positively in the media growing up, my experiences would have been vastly different and more positive. You cannot underestimate the importance of having diverse and inclusive body types in the media.


What affects body image 

Television, film, fashion, social media. All of these things seem to show that only one body type is desirable and beautiful. For women, it's generally someone who is able bodied, size 8-10 with a completely flat stomach, big boobs and a rounded bum, no cellulite or scars, with long hair, long eyelashes and perfect teeth. For men, it seems to be someone who is again able bodied, tall, slim, with defined muscles and a full head of hair. Shows like Love Island have unfortunately reinforced these stereotypes by having a complete lack of diversity and all the people who go on there are then rewarded when leaving with Instagram followers, brand collaborations etc. making this look even more desirable. People even go to plastic surgeons asking for the Love Island face. It's sad. And even these people who seem to conform to these beauty norms are subjected to constant jibes about their looks and weight by the press and trolls on the Internet. In TV and films, there is rarely a plus sized or disabled love interest - they're normally the comic relief or you're supposed to feel sorry for them. You're not supposed to fancy them! I feel like, these stereotypes are fed to you on a daily basis unless you actively seek diversity in what you watch and on your news feed.

What is the impact of the media on body image and your mental health?

Personally, the media and social media have historically adversely affected my body image and my mental health. Where I have a disability, am plus sized, have scars and cellulite, I feel like I am about as far away from the perfect stereotype that is forced on us by the media us you can be. It made me hate myself and my body, for a good few years I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I hated seeing myself naked and wouldn't even let my fiancé see me naked with the lights on. Wherever I looked, I was being fed the information that how I looked wasn't good enough. That in society's eyes, I wasn't beautiful, that I couldn't wear a bikini and feel confident because I hadn't obtained a "summer body". There are now more brands and influencers that are promoting inclusivity when it comes to size, but there's still not enough inclusivity when it comes to disability.


What affects body image 

What is the impact of the media on body image and your mental health?  



May 2020