Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Behind the Scenes With BoPo Babes: BodyPosiPanda

Welcome to my new blog series! I will be going behind the selfie sticks, tripods, and self timers with some of my favorite body positive babes. I suspect if they're not your favorites yet, they will be soon!

After over two years on Instagram, Megan aka @bodyposipanda has less than 800 posts but over 275,000 followers. She started her account in 2014 and it quickly turned to a body positive account. Since then she has been featured on Daily Mail, Metro, and Huffington Post. She’s been on the cover of New! and Pick Me Up! She modeled for @dearscantilly’s latest lingerie campaign and was interviewed on This Morning. She also has a popular blog and Facebook page.

The voice she started with in her first body positivity post is similar to the one she has today. From 2014: “I'm more focused on being me, and appreciating being me, than trying to look as Kardashian as possible at all times. Because that shit is tiring. And because every woman deserves to feel good in their own skin, and more importantly deserves to feel worth so much more than what they look like.”

Melissa of @yourstruelymelly was the first body positive account she came across, saying she found it on her 1000th crash diet and searching IG for fitspo. She was dealing with years of anorexia, binge eating and exercise addiction. It was the first time she saw someone unabashedly loving themselves, no matter how much space they took up.

“Before I found the body positive community I had no idea that there was an alternative to self hatred and starvation, I just figured that was it. Realising that self love was an option changed my entire life, and I knew I had to turn my account into a body positive one and get the message out there to as many people as I could.”

The way she turned her feed from #fitspo to #bopo, she says is by being cutthroat with who she kept following. “First, get rid of anything that makes you feel shit about yourself - fitspo, thinspo, super beautiful celebrities who you only follow because they're super beautiful but leave you feeling worthless, be RUTHLESS. Then fill your timeline back up with bopo babes, feminist goodness and self love inspiration. Day to day we're bombarded with so much diet culture and photoshopped poison, our social media is one of the only places we can take control of what we see. You can even create a second Instagram account to go to on bad body image days if you like your usual account as it is.”

Her suggestions to fill your feed with are some of her self love idols who she frequently shouts out on her page. “Melly, @thechristinecho, @chooselifewarrior, @nourishandeat, @anastasiaamour, @franhayden, @glitterandlazers, @jewelzjourney, @chubbybabe_, Virgie Tovar, Whitney Thore, Marilyn Wann, Jes Baker and of COURSE @cupcakethighs. All totally incredible and inspiring humans who keep me going everyday and teach me so much.”

She is a strong voice for the body positive community and has had a lot of opportunity in main stream media getting the community’s message out there. She is quick to make sure outsiders understand the point though. In a recent blog post she talks about people trying to narrow the parameters in which body positivity is “acceptable.”

“What 'I'm all for body positivity, but...' people don't realise, is that true body positivity doesn't exclude anyone. There should be no weight limits or fitness requirements. Self love isn't reserved for people with perfect physical health or bodies that are 'curvy' but not 'too big'. Body positivity isn't glorifying obesity, it's glorifying happiness, and living in the body you have now. You don't need to be able to run a mile or eat nothing but quinoa to be worthy of that. Besides, self hatred isn't healthy at any size.

If you think someone needs to be under a certain size or within an irrelevant BMI category to deserve body acceptance, then you're not 'all for body positivity' at all. You're actually 'all for' judging people based on their weight and making assumptions about their health. And we won't let you turn this movement into something else that shames and excludes people for how they look. That's exactly what this movement is fighting against.”

She shared with me a desire for the future of bopo and it’s not the first time we’ve heard it here on Behind the Scenes. “Within the body positive community there's still so much room for intersectionality. I want to see more women of colour speaking up about colourism and whitewashing. I want to see more disabled women speaking up about accepting themselves in an ableist world. I want more older women and more LGBTQ+ women all speaking up about learning to love a body that the world treats as less than. And of course, I want to see more men getting involved, since body positivity really does benefit every body.”

She’s become a pillar in the bopo community, starting in groups such as #effyourbeautystandards and #pizzasisters4lyfe. She has built a lot of support because of how raw and personal she is with her followers. She always takes the time to respond to comments and is genuinely a wonderful person. That doesn’t mean she still doesn’t get her fair share of haters though. "In the beginning online hate hurt. A lot. As time has passed I've grown MUCH thicker skin, I've learned that anyone who spews hate to strangers on the internet is dealing with some serious issues themselves, and the problem isn't me, it's them. In terms of tactics, I'm strictly block and delete. When you engage with a troll 9/10 you'll come off feeling exhausted, angry, upset, and just plain burnt out. If it's someone who's open to discussion and isn't being abusive, and if you've got the energy, then go for it. But look out for your own mental health above all.”

Mental health is an important part of her online and offline conversation. In real life though, it’s not as easy as blocking or deleting. “Body positivity is harder in the offline world, and you have to be even more ruthless to keep up your bopo defences. One of the best things I did for myself was deciding that I was no longer going to take part in conversations that hurt me, that means no more diet talk, no more communal body shaming, no more shared guilt. Since that's often such a crucial part of female bonding, it means that I'm no longer as close with some friends who are still stuck in the depths of diet culture, but having friends who don't really understand you isn't much use anyway. Walk away from damaging conversations, tell your friends/family that you no longer want to be a part of them and that you're working really hard on healing yourself, throw away the magazines, turn off E! News, stop buying the bullshit.”

Lucky for us, she’s not going to stop anytime soon. “Honestly, the actual hate just makes me want to go full bopo world takeover even more.”

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Happy Song?
    • Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root (aka the song from Matilda)
  • What’s a movie that never gets old?
    • Cool Runnings - I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it. FEEL THE RHYTHM!
  • What’s a book you could read repeatedly?
    • My favorite bopo book is The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, which I’ve read over and over. Fiction? The Time Traveller’s Wife.
  • Favorite ice cream?
    • Hagen Daaz Pralines & Cream or anything caramel/fudge/honeycomb. *Drool*
  • Favorite online store?
    • ASOS especially in the summer sales where I can stock up on pastel floral goodness!
  • Do you have any hobbies?
    • When I'm not attempting a bopo world takeover is hanging out with my pups. I have two cocker spaniels and a Cairn terrier, who I love more than life and could spend endless time cuddling, walking and playing with. I like dogs more than I like humans.

You can also vote for her here until 9/4/16: VOTE NOW

Until Next Time,
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