“Isn’t it a bit sad that a picture of four normal women is getting so much reaction? It should be the norm to see real women and real bodies.”
The words of Andrea McDougall ring so true. As a society, we should be used to seeing images of ‘real’ people. Whether that be in adverts, on clothing websites, or in the media.
That’s not to say slim and sculpted models aren’t real people, but they don’t showcase diversity. Many brands don’t market their products alongside men or women with what might be deemed ‘imperfections’, such as stretch marks, acne, scars, or even disabilities.
Andrea, 48, owns Aberdeen spray tan beauty business The Brown Cow Tanning Co. She saw her social media “blow up” recently when she shared a single image aimed at promoting body confidence.
The picture shows 48-year-old Andrea alongside three of her clients, Sarah Dickie, 30, Joyce Knox, 41, and 30-year-old Leighann Urquhart.
Initially Andrea organised the photoshoot to promote her home-business moving to Perfect Beauty, in Kingswells. Andrea, of Cove, wanted to communicate to potential new clients that they could feel comfortable going to her for a spray tan – regardless of their age, weight, illness or disability.
But it soon became clear to her the photoshoot was about so much more. It was an opportunity to showcase “real” women, raise awareness of conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and alopecia, and promote body confidence across the north-east and beyond.
“No one should feel like they have to apologise for what is normal”
“On social media you constantly look at all these edited images of women, and that can effect a person’s confidence,” said Andrea, who openly admits to not feeling body confident all of the time.
She continued: “You know, clients come to me and apologise for having scars or stretch marks – no one should feel like they have to apologise for what is normal, for what’s real.
“Everyone has vulnerabilities. But normal is what’s normal to you – no one else. If people have an issue with the way someone looks, that’s their problem.”
Mum-of-two Joyce Knox took part in the photoshoot, but not without some hesitation at first.
Joyce went through what can only be described as a traumatic time last year – she lost all of her hair within five weeks.
The 41-year-old was diagnosed with alopecia universalis, when every hair on her body fell out suddenly, with no concrete reason as to why.
Despite not always loving what she sees in the mirror, Joyce, of Hilton, agreed to take part in The Brown Cow Tanning Co’s advertising campaign to bravely help to raise awareness of alopecia.
“If this photoshoot helps someone to think ‘wow, she’s come through the other side of losing her hair…I can too’, then that’s great,” said the pupil support assistant.
“It was a daunting experience to take part, but I’m so glad I did it. I don’t even care that you can see stretch marks on my body or fat bits.
“Despite not liking my reflection 100%, being body positive is about overcoming that.
“You need to embrace what you’ve been given. There’s more to a person’s life than what you see.”
“There’s continuous pressure as a young female”
When asked if she struggles with body confidence, tender manager Leighann Urquhart stated: “Absolutely – I’d love to know of any female who doesn’t?
“There’s continuous pressure as a young female to look a certain way or be a certain dress size.
“My weight fluctuates all the time, but I can honestly say I felt great during this shoot.”
To Leighann, of Aberdeen, body confidence means being comfortable in your own skin.
She said: “It’s easy to criticise ourselves and focus on things we dislike, but this shoot was an opportunity to embrace our bodies, and encourage other women to be confident in how they look.”
“There’s no need to be worried or ashamed”
Swimming and fitness instructor, Sarah Dickie, 30, proudly shows off her stoma bag in the photoshoot pictures. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis – a form of inflammatory bowel disease – at the tender age of 10.
By 21, a huge flare up brought Sarah’s inflamed colon close to perforating. Desperate to escape from the agony and symptoms of the life-long bowel disease, Sarah’s colon was removed and surgeons used her small intestine to create a stoma.
The surgery saved Sarah’s life, and ever since she has worn her stoma bag with pride.
A Stonehaven resident, Sarah took part in the photoshoot to not only raise awareness, but to have a bit of fun, too.
“More awareness needs to be raised to show stomas are not so scary,” she said.
“There’s no need to be worried or ashamed. You can’t tell when people have a stoma bag under their clothes – you know it’s there, but others won’t.
“If you’re struggling, things will and can get better.”
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