In my work as a model and body acceptance advocate, I try my best to dispel stigmas surrounding certain aspects of our bodies we have been taught to hate - stretchmarks, fat rolls, and especially cellulite. I hope that by displaying my own, I can contribute to normalising these features and hopefully get us to that next step where we start to question why we’re made to feel like these features of ours are ‘flaws’ and that we should be ashamed of them.
Not that long ago, I saw that the awesome Kenzie Brenna had started the hashtag #CelluliteSaturday. As I have an abundance of beautiful cellulite, I decided to post a picture of myself on Instagram with my cellulite on show, taken by one of my favourite photographers, Darnell Temenu:
I posted, I put my phone down, went off to have dinner. I came back and OH MY NELLY, I’d somehow ended up on the Explore page on Instagram! It was awesome, but what was not awesome, was the onslaught of comments people started to make about my body. Nasty comments included ‘edit that shit’ ‘you shouldn’t be promoting this’ ‘you need to lose weight’ ‘this is unhealthy’…. and so on. It was wild to me that once again, people were deciding whether I was healthy or not based on my body. I had to filter through and delete lots of nastiness, but what was so lovely was seeing how many people were feeling so validated by seeing my cellulite on show. It goes to show how desperately we need to see these ‘flaws’ represented, so we realise that these features are nothing to be ashamed of.
As much as I also think visibility is important, I think it’s also important that we also try to challenge mainstream beauty standards, where they’ve come from, and how we can resist them. In my caption I wrote:
“It's #CelluliteSaturday! A reminder that a) EVERYONE HAS CELLULITE b) it is NOTHING to be ashamed of and c) cellulite is not an indicator of health.
Did you know that cellulite had actually never been mentioned until the 1960s by Vogue? Before then women had been rocking cellulite for YEARS and all of a sudden it became something to fix, something to be ashamed about. But it damn well isn't. It's yet another reminder of how so many companies benefit off our insecurities. Don't let them.”
According to the haters and trolls on my post, points A, B and C were very controversial and disgusting, but they are all absolutely true. For the second part of the caption, I did my research and it is ridiculous how our society flipped the script on cellulite and what it means to have it. Next time you pop to a museum or art gallery, keep an eye out for how many people are depicted with cellulite. Back then, cellulite was never seen as anything to be concerned about, and if anything, was a sign of beauty. It was only in the early 20th century that the media picked up on it as something for us to be ashamed about. In fact, its definition shifted from a purely medical in the 19th century, to ‘water, residues, toxins, fat, which form a mixture against which one is badly armed’ in 1933, to ‘Cellulite: The Fat You Could Not Lose Before’ in 1968. By this time, people were thinking more about weight loss, and the media had successfully constructed cellulite as being another fat deposit that we should be ashamed of and work to get rid of.
We so often think ‘well, that’s just the way it is’ with beauty standards. That, of course, we should aim to lose weight all the time, that we should always be aiming to get rid of cellulite, stretch marks and the like. Being made to feel ashamed of these things, and being constantly on the quest for weight loss are only recent developments in the grand scheme of things. And it’s not a coincidence that these have become more prolific as the beauty industry began to develop and boom. These companies make money from making us feel insecure about something, then selling us a magic cure. It isn’t ‘just the way it is’, it is a carefully constructed plan that has taken years and years to develop, and years of effort to make sure this self-hate becomes normalised.
So in conclusion? Don’t let these companies win. You are not inherently flawed like the media and these huge companies would like you to think. Your ‘flaws’ or not even flaws. Rock them!