Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf | Interviews
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Interviews

CJ Interview

 

 

RFW How do you feel about your self image?

 

 CJ tricky one, like most women I’m not kind to myself, and lately it’s been pretty poor. I’ve gained a lot of weight over recent years and lots of my hair fell out, it went very thin. I turned 42, you get to your 40’s and it’s suddenly all happened at once, suddenly my eyesight went and I had my first filling and my first grey hair… my first grey pubic hair. It all hit me at once along with the weight gain. I know loads of women that are bigger than me, who rock it and look fabulous, but they all have hair like Disney princesses.

 

 RFW do you feel like your hair has got a lot of power over your image?

 

 CJ I know I had grey hair, but there was a lot more of it before.

 

RFW do you feel that it’s because it’s perceived as a very feminine thing?

 

CJ It is. And because I was loosing it right at the front. So for a long time I bleached my hair because of the contrast between my hair and my gleaming scalp, but I realised what a source of my feminine image hair was and how old and afraid and ill it made me feel when I was otherwise feeling healthy

 

RFW so it was the image that was making you feel old rather than anything internal?

 

CJ well, at the same time I was going through lots of health tests….as you know I write all about it online, I’m a bit of a blurter, so you’ve probably seen some of it. I have a small….it’s called a Rathke cleft cyst. It’s basically a benign tumour on my pituitary gland, and we think that’s probably what’s caused a lot of it, and might have influenced the weight gain as well.

 

For about 9 months I had hospital test…Hundreds of blood tests, I was like a pincushion. Re-tests, scans and x-rays, MRI, and eventually with the MRI they found what they were looking for and it made sense. But I felt fine in myself to begin with, it was just something which was picked up in a routine blood test. But it lead to all this…..’you must be ill’ ‘do you have cancer of this?’ ‘do you have cancer of that?’ and after 9 months of that I was like a shrivelled husk. They kept telling me there’s something wrong , so there must be something wrong, but at the same time, hair falling out, teeth going a bit dodgy, first wrinkles….and the person I feel like inside was sort of being shrouded by all this grey, and this weight. Like something vampirically sucking my essence out. And it really did, and has affected my confidence and I’m beginning to just pull it back and one sign of this is that I’ve died my hair back to my natural colour, which was a big thing. I’m sort of just starting to accept me. I did have extensions for a while and they started to come out and I’m sort of coming back to me. I’m having my contraceptive implant out, trying to get rid of any hormones that aren’t mine, and it’s like: OK, well, if I’m in my pre-menopausal years, then so be it. But I want to know, and want to feel what is going on with my body and who I am, and make the best of what I can with the surface. But it is a frightening time, a frightening age for how you look, because I still feel about 7 years old inside, so I’m waiting to feel like a proper grow up still, and yet my body is saying, not only are you a grown up, but you’re nearly a pensioner….

 

When I was 13, I would look to my big sister to see what should I do…should I be using Clearsil or should I be doing my eyelashes like this, or wear my socks this high or that high, and there was Just 17 magazine and it tells you what to do, and when you get to your 40’s there’s no one to tell you what to do. There’s no Guru, other than really expensive face creams, none of whom do anything, or people saying BOTOX at you! But there’s no fun, trusted advice. So it’s like being 13 again. It’s like going through puberty, but backwards towards becoming a grey husk, and I’m not quite ready for it.

 

RFW do you think it’s different for women and for men…the ageing process?

 

CJ oh yes! Absolutely! Women are overlooked I think by certain parts of society once they get over a certain age. It’s like you might as well just be invisible, and I’m so used to having been invisible the last few years that when I went out the other night, and a total stranger tried to chat me up in a pub – This hasn’t happened for over a decade, and it took me so by surprise, I was literally just trying to run out of the building and I didn’t know what to say. A younger me would get hit on, but me in my 40’s was like ‘what? Sorry?….’

 

I think men within society and amongst each other gain more respect as they get older, and a few wrinkles can make them look distinguished. There ARE some wonderful role models, but the general feel is that women can’t be sexy over a certain age or a certain weight. Even as soon as you become a mother you might as well be everybody’s mum.

 

RFW which I find quite funny because sexuality is about fertility and making babies, but yet once you’ve made a baby then your not sexual anymore? That doesn’t make sense, surely the baby is an expression of your sexuality.

 

CJ I know in other cultures, like in Italy there’s the whole thing that you have sex with your wife to procreate and you have sex with our mistress for fun, and even though that’s not the accepted case in England it still psychologically feels that that’s the truth – the dried up old husk. And I don’t feel like that inside, I feel like I should still be shaking my rara petticoats at people. Although I did do that quite recently…..

 

RFW How do you feel about images of women; the way women are represented? You touched on role models, and the fact you feel that there’s no go-to presence, like the magazine presence for teenagers.

 

CJ I think one of the places I really notice a difference is on news and current affairs programmes. That’s where you really see it. There was Moira Stewart who went on for a good few years, but mostly on television, where there’s a serious programme, there’s a serious older man and a hot young hottie. Hat’s not to say that the hot young hottie can’t also be intelligent, articulate and witty, but they’ll get to a certain age and they will disappear. So there’s certainly less choice of role models for older women. I think older women are beautiful and certainly natural faces are much more beautiful than the Hollywood plumped and filled faces…some of them are just terrifying. But why don’t we give ourselves permission to be and not to judge ourselves. I don’t think we judge others nearly so harshly….I know in my work I’m re-assuring everybody who comes in, and I see the beauty in everybody. I cast people of every age, size, shape and colour, and yet when I look in the mirror there’s the cruel voices of daily mail readers in my mind. (laughs)

 

RFW so your superego is like a daily mail reader…

 

CJ it would be nice to see more variety, I do feel a bit invisible both in myself and in my representation in society in images that I could relate to. I’ve had hypnosis for things like confidence and weight loss and it doesn’t matter who you see or what you download. They all say the same thing ‘imagine yourself as a slim, fit… and I just can’t because I’ve never really been that person and I cant see somebody who I can think ‘that is an ideal version of what I could be’. It’s just missing; it’s like asking me to imagine myself inside out without any skin.

 

RFW Do you feel that you used to have people who you could relate to, who you could imagine yourself being? Do you feel this is something that has changed?

 

CJ in my 30’s people used to say that I looked like Kate Winslet. She was quite curvy for a Hollywood person, and quite natural, but I feel that we’ve diverged. She got more stylists…private gyms….(laughs)

 

I think the Internet has helped actually because non main-stream pop stars and comedians pop up. They haven’t waited to be given permission by society to be famous, they have just done something cool, and people have said ‘that’s cool and I like that and I can relate to that person’. So maybe things aren’t as bad as they used to be… because people have started getting angry about it.

 

RFW Do you think there’s a resurgence of certain feminist ideas coming at the moment, as a backlash to the pressures you were talking about? 

 

CJ I do think people are starting to draw the limits. I do think people have started to have enough of the pressure and some strong voices are coming forward. Even someone like Emma Watson. People who are using their notoriety to speak up for women’s issues in particular image issues. And Jennifer Lawrence, although she is almost perfect….she says ‘bollocks to that, I’m not having a salad I’m having a burger’ and says ‘sorry, I like to eat!’ and she still looks fabulous, but its less about how she looks, and more about having people in the media and the arts who have realistic attitudes. It almost doesn’t matter whether they’re fat or thin, it’s the courage. I think the courage is coming back. The confidence to say, ‘no, I don’t subscribe to this.’ And I know so many women who want to be part of that energy, but there’s still the horrible nasty daily mail reader voice on my shoulder going ‘that’s fine for society, but you’re still ugly. You’re unacceptable…look at your hair!’ It’s there! It’s a lifetime of ingrained nonsense…

 

I have an older sister, she’s beautiful and she has this big smile, and her whole life she could get away with anything because she has this big cheesy grin. I grew up my whole life with people saying ‘oh what a beautiful smile Naomi has’ and so I grew up thinking I didn’t have a nice smile. I grew up thinking I wasn’t pretty, but looking back at old photographs, I wasn’t the ugly daughter, I was just a different kind of pretty. There was nothing wrong with me. I think she just had that starlet look and people were more vocal about it. It wasn’t that I was unfortunate looking.

 

RFW how do you feel about images of yourself rather than those of other people? Like photographic images of yourself for example? Online we obviously have a lot of images of ourselves….

 

CJ it’s nice to have lovely images, although I’m generally not photogenic. But these days it doesn’t matter so much because you have a digital camera and you can take 200 photos and you don’t have to pay to have them developed like you used to have to in our teens, so you can take 200 photos and if there’s 1 where you look kind of cool from one direction, you can slightly enhance it on Photoshop, and then you start to believe in those images. So online now, I have a collection of images where I think I look all right. It’s like this surface, and every now and then somebody punctures it, not with a bullet or an arrow but with a photograph, tagging you in a photograph you didn’t know had been taken, from an unfortunate angle where it’s all chin and forehead

 

 It’s always in my business group where I go to once a month. And they take pictures of everybody, and now I always put on tons of make up before, and check…do I look good, am I wearing something clean? Am I presentable? And they take the photograph, and it doesn’t matter what I do to myself, there’s always a photo of me looking like…. huge double chin, from the side with a popping-eye…

 

I like to believe in the illusion. It’s like a little safety net of reasonably attractive photographs that I’ve given permission to represent me on the Internet, and when somebody else buggers that up by putting a slightly more realistic one that shatters the illusion…

 

RFW but it’s not necessarily realistic, that’s the thing, these photos… I think if you have an expressive face people will take pictures whilst you’re pulling a face. But how do those images make you feel about yourself? Do they directly affect your self-worth or do you have distance from them?

 

CJ sometimes… it depends on the day. I have a certain buffer. I know there are layers, and on certain days when I’m feeling really good about myself and really strong, I might be able to laugh at the unfortunate photograph ( but still un-tag it…) I have a safety barrier of dismissal, but if it gets you on a low day, or there’s a few things in succession, it can be quite hard, and I do have days where I go into melt down and feel hideous. It’s not like anorexia where people think they’re hideous and can’t go out. I often look in the mirror and think ‘yeah I’m all right! I’m not bad for my age!’ and I’ll go out. Then I’ll catch sight of this person in a shop window or mirror, or somebody will have photographed me and put it online and it’s like ‘god, I didn’t realise I looked so bad.’ So it’s like the reverse of that low self esteem in that I think I look better or thinner or younger than I do and then I’ll see some other image that doesn’t correlate with my internal rendering of what I think I look like and it’s like a kick in the stomach….and then I’m almost embarrassed and frightened, and I worry about Andre(my partner) thinking that I’m not worthy.

 

It’s stupid because I know a persons’ beauty and worth is not about the surface. There are gorgeous older people, and I love casting older people, older faces and hands, the paperiness of the skin and the richness of the life in that, the stories and character. I don’t fear old age in that sense. I fear getting ill or not being able to work or being in pain, being a burden. I always imagine myself as this mad old lady with bits of straw stuck in my hair living on some mountain with a goat, making weird things to sell to tourists somewhere in Italy maybe , and I quite like the idea of being a mad old soul, but I just feel so far away from that at the moment, I don’t feel like I should look in the mirror or a photograph and see this person that I don’t recognise. There’s a disjointedness- I don’t feel connected to my physical body in the same way that I used to. I think the weight gain has something to do with it. I’ve always been hourglass and for the first time in my life I’ve got a belly (other than pregnancy). I’ve been many sizes, but I always went in and out, but last year for the first time I had this belly. I almost couldn’t relate to it being a part of me. It was like I was wearing a fat suit and I expected to be able to just take it off, so there’s not this acceptance, yet…. you’ve got me at a pivotal moment.

 

RFW Do you think that the weight you give to the change in your appearance has something to do with outside forces? What a woman’s expected to look like? Or do you think it’s more internal?

 

CJ External forces, definitely. It’s a contradiction, society says ‘you’ve had your children, you’re an embarrassment, disappear – go away! But if we have to see you, you still have to look sexy, to be thin. You’re not allowed to have wrinkles or wear glasses or have greasy hair and you must be well presented to society’. There are even moments when I have thought…Maybe there’s something to be said for Burkas ( lauhghs) there are definitely days where I think that could be a blessing. Less pressure – I could be wearing flame colored underwear underneath.

 

There are a lot of pressures. When I was younger I really was a fun dresser. Most of my clothes looked like dressing up clothes, and quite a few of them still do! I just don’t get to wear them very often. I went through my wardrobe and it’s all tutus ball-gowns and tiaras, frilly net skirts and colours and mad things, pretty things, vintage things. I love all that, but I feel that when you’re young, you dress up and you’re the kooky wild chick – she can do whatever she wants , she can wear whatever she wants and that’s her own style – but when you get past your 40’s and you wear things like that people start thinking you’re mad, and not necessarily in a good way. They start thinking: care in the community!

 

That’s why I love my women’s business group. They totally accept me. I gave my first member talk…and I was nervous, so because I was nervous I wore my paint splattered dungarees which were my grounding comfort clothes, and then I wore my tiara for confidence. The thing is, they didn’t bat an eyelid. It was lovely, and they totally accepted me. I think that’s what’s probably helping my confidence. That I have this lovely network of women. They’re very accepting and they’re re-teaching me what I learned in my teens, which is, it’s ok to be yourself. It’s who you are as a person which makes you lovable or interesting, and not whether or not you’re wearing a proper business suit and haven’t dropped your breakfast down your clothes.

Mitra Interview

 

RFW How do you feel about yourself and about images of women which you see around you?

 

M It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently actually. Even without all the pressures, alone, just as a person you’re already trying to figure out who you are. what am I? like, I’m spiritual but I can’t swear sometimes or I can’t be too radical or I can’t be too political or I have to be good, and I’m always trying to find my self . But since I turned 30 recently I stopped caring as much and I’m seeing it from the other side a bit more. It’s almost like I’m looking at myself , and it’s still really confusing, but I think patriarchy has a lot to do with it. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I think about the pressures that are on women…..as women we’re creative, were so creative, and we are beautiful, and we like to dress up and wear make up and do our hair a certain way, not for attention. We do it for us, we really do! And I’ve noticed that when I step out of the house, if I’m dressed nice, I’m walking with my head up, smiling, good posture, I will get so much harassment. It happens so much and it really bothers me because it s intrusive. So what I do when I leave the house is I always make sure that I cover my bum, you know, so you can’t see the shape and no cleavage showing. I even change my posture when I walk because I get slightly less attention when I do that. You know, you look down, if it’s sunny you wear sunglasses. I know it sounds ridiculous but I really do because I hate all this. Like I’m just an object and sometimes, I get really angry, like, I could be your sister, I’m not an object, that’s really rude and then at the same time when we are expressing ourselves we’ll get guys saying ‘oh, who are you showing off for?’ ‘why are you wearing red lipstick?’ but I’m doing it for me. So it’s like you have to hide, but you can’t express yourself, but at the same time there’s pressure to look sexy. 

 

RFW So there’s judgement whatever you do, there’s always something being put on you and the way that you look always plays a vital role in who you are, whereas maybe it wouldn’t be quite like that with a man?

 

M I’ve also been looking into the whole femme fatal thing, which is a very extreme side of it, you know, powerful, I’m going to step on your face with my heel or put my cigarette out on you. That’s one extreme, but it’s about finding the balance., and just being true to myself as a woman, so that’s something, it’s interesting you’re bringing this up because it’s something I’ve been really thinking about a lot. I think it’s really important that we’re just ourselves and forget what other people say. Find the balance, but it’s very hard. When I lived in Brighton, because a lot of people there are gay I found that I could wear cute little dresses and I wouldn’t get hassled as much. It’s a shame it has to be like that.

 

RFW London’s probably quite intense for this response. In other places maybe people aren’t as open. They will still be judging you, but they won’t be doing it in such an open way. They won’t actually say things to you, or wolf whistle. People aren’t as vocal about expressing their judgements. There was a case this week where a girl was being wolf whistled at consistently by builders on her street and the called the police about it.

 

M Good! It’s harassment! I heard they were thinking a few years ago about bringing in a law that would make it illegal for workmen to wolf whistle, like, if you’re working you can’t wolf whistle at a woman., and it is harassment, and I feel very strongly about that. There should be a fine or something, it’s not right. I think also society has been made to believe that it kind of ok. We can make space ships, and fly to other planets ,yet something so simple…… like it’s acceptable to act like that! and so many times if I tell guys, they say ‘oh you love the attention’ ‘oh you love it!!’ I don’t, I really don’t.

 

It’s quite territorial! It’s always done with such confidence, and there’s no shame. It’s so sure, and arrogant in itself. That’s what disturbs me. And sometimes even if you ignore them, or look at them funnily they get aggressive. This is a big problem I think needs to be addressed. 

 

RFW Do you think women’s equality is a big issue right now? For a long time people didn’t want to be called a feminist.

 

M Yes, for a long time it was seen as hairy armpits…dyke. Whereas actually everyone should be a feminist, because all it means is that you’re for equality of women, because there is a very big unbalance. Sometimes I wonder, is the reason it’s come back something to do with the Internet? Does the Internet have something to do with it because psychologically what’s happening is we’re now looking at ourselves, as an image? Constantly, our whole life is verified, or judged on Facebook or Instagram and I don’t think we realise how much that’s affecting us.

 

I do it myself, like, if I’m posing, I’ll pose a certain way and it’s like ‘this is my projection of me’. It’s so weird; I can’t quite put it into words.

 

RFW I’ve been thinking about this too. You are self-mythologising, you’re creating an iconic version of yourself. An alternative version of yourself. You edit, and only put certain pictures up. You only put up your successes, or images when you’re looking really good. So you’re creating this mythologised version of yourself and everyone’s doing it. Maybe that is making us question things in a certain way?

 

M I think it’s making us question things and I also think it’s making guys look at women differently. Maybe its that, maybe its porn? I’m not against porn but I do think because its such a vulnerable part of man its very easy for a man who watches too much porn to objectify women and not have a real connection with sex. There are all these outside things that are manipulating us.

 

RFW That puts another load of expectations of how to look and how to act. Nowadays people are growing up seeing so much from such a young age.

 

M Yet the nipple is illegal on Instagram and periods are offensive. The vagina is only ok to be spoken about if it’s in a sexual way. Yet when it comes to talking about periods people still get uncomfortable and its almost like everything about the female is for the purpose of the male gaze, and It’s for the purpose of the male. That’s the big thing. We can’t just be women….with all our bodily functions.

 

RFW How do you think one could reclaim our own image? How to we redress this – having a positive self-image that appreciates beauty but at the same time isn’t oppressive?

 

M It needs to happen and I think it would have to be done on a really large scale. I think we do have control, and we do have a lot of power and one way is to set stronger boundaries, but even then I think the only way things are really going to change is if we change things on a social level. The way you’re taught things in school, media , magazines, internet. I don’t know how we could reclaim it to be honest. Its difficult because being a feminist still has these connotations.

 

RFW I know, its all propaganda begun against the suffragettes, caricaturing them as masculine, unfeminine and ugly. The image of the feminist as an unfeminine character, someone who is ugly, man-like and thus not a real women has worked; Because it has put women off. A lot of women don’t want to be associated with that.

 

M It’s ingrained in people, and it’s always two extremes, its either really ugly feminists or Rhianna and Beyonce. I’m quite active on social media and I like to see what people are thinking and talking about, and Rhianna and Beyonce are seen as these queens, like strong female goddesses. I think there’s something not right there, because they’re very sexual and they’re kind of like the femma fatal idea I was talking about earlier. Aggressive and overly sexual – almost like a stripper. No, we need to find a balance again. Maybe more role models would help?

 

RFW More positive role models, that are accessible? And not just younger role models – but maybe also older women, women who are aspirational. Women who haven’t become invisible….because that’s another issue, women can become invisible when they get older, in a way men don’t.

 

M Yes, and they can still have young women. Whereas if you’re an older women with a young guy, you’re laughed at. Even when I turned 30, I remember this guy was like ‘ are you thinking about kids because you’re getting less fertile’ and a lot of people would hint…but no, I’m still a kid, this is another weird thing I’m finding.

 

It’s almost like you’re a flower. You have this short life span where you’re blossoming and you’re beautiful and everyone wants a piece, and they’re like ‘let me look at you, let me touch you’ and then, once you hit a certain age you’re discarded, like your work is done….

 

And now looking back I realise, 10 years later, I actually modelled myself on MTV base channels. I loved hip hop back then so all the hip hop honeys. I’d dyed my hair caramel, I’d get a really nice tan . My whole image was just based on what I saw on TV. Even I saw myself as a sexual object. Like, I have to be sexy , rather than…. I’m a flower, or today, I’m a feral cat or a pixie…

 

RFW Do you think that’s also a part of getting older? In your 30’s you begin reflecting a bit more?

 

M We’re in an interesting age because we went from having house phones to having mobiles where we can send photos wirelessly. Back then we didn’t even have digital cameras, which we could edit, to put on Facebook to show anyone. This is a massive thing.

 

RFW Pictures are much more important than they were then. Before you would should your photo album to a select group. Now it’s this removed thing where you’re putting images out into the ether

 

M And you’re constantly putting pictures up of yourself! The profile picture, is such a big thing. Back then, you wouldn’t even take selfies, you’d be with a group of people or it would be you on holiday, laughing, actually being a human being. Now it’s like, this is just me, a picture of me, and now I’m going to put another one up. It goes into self-worth, how people perceive you.

 

RFW And what your pictures look like really determines how you feel about yourself….if there are a few bad pictures it can ruin your mood.

 

M Yes, it can really get you down, and then you look at other peoples pictures and you think – I’m a looser, I haven’t had fun or done this or that …

 

RFW The best example of that is Facebook’s ‘this was your year’ where it took photo’s from your albums and created this image of what your year had been like. And it had nothing to do with your actual experiences of that year, but it is what had been projected outwards. Because we’re all editing our lives…..

 

M Not only with myself but with my boyfriend. So now, this is me looking at someone else…. He’s a DJ knows a lot of music people and has to keep work separate , his personal life. With all the real shit, I’m in his life, but socialising and hanging out with these music things and work it all ways gets put on Instagram and tagged….and if you look at his pictures I’m not in any of the pictures, and it’s a really big thing for me. It’s like ‘I’m not part of your life’ , but no! It’s almost like this weird world, a picture world which is almost like an alternative dimension. Like what you said about Facebook – this is not my year – this is not this person’s life, this is not my life…. We’ve lost the way that we reflect. We validate, I get a lot of my validation from social media….

 

RFW Its like an alternate world which we inhabit. We live in this world , but we also live in the other world. Like you saying ‘ you’re not in his life’ but obviously you are in his life. It’s just his digital life you’re not a part of, yet digital life is a reality for all of us. So it does still affect us.

 

The problem is we validate ourselves mostly from that world, not this world.

 

RFW I sometimes feel that if things happen without being documented they loose their currency.

 

M They almost didn’t happen.

 

RFW Everything has to be in form of photographic evidence. To show that you’ve been on a great trip, you’ve had a nice time with your friends….to show that you exist….

 

M Your head is in that world. You don’t look back at memories or people and relations and connections in that way.

 

Even the most normal person on the street….when I pass someone on the street I think ‘he has a Facebook, I wonder how he is? I wonder what he puts up there or how I would see them if I went on their Facebook?’ You know when you look on someone’s Facebook and you think of them as that person but then if you’d never seen their Facebook and you’d met them in real life and talked to them they’d be completely different. But then we have that with ourselves too…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katy Interview

 

 

RFW How do you feel about your own self-image?

 

K Interesting questions. I struggle a fair bit with my own image, mainly with weight. I’m very conscious of it, have always been very conscious. Have always tried to be on a level weight wise, very self conscious, quite shy and always care a bit too much, I think, about what other people think, which is a bit strange I guess, but natural in this day and age. I come across as confident, but I’m generally quite shy.

 

RFW How do you feel about self-image in the sense of actual images of yourself?

 

K Hate pictures of myself, 100%. Hate all photos. If my boyfriend ever takes pictures of me, I’m like ‘delete it – I look hideous.’ Far away photos I’m ok, close up on my face I get really anxious and quite nervous. He always says ‘relax’, but I find it really difficult.

 

RFW Do you feel you’re overly critical of yourself?

 

K Very critical. Definitely. Extremely critical. I don’t know why, I just don’t like pictures of me.

 

RFW Has it always been like that? For example when you were a child?

 

K No actually, when I was little I used to love posing for photos, as soon a I got into my teens it all changed. I got really nervous and anxious in front of any cameras or anyone taking photos.

 

RFW Do you think that was something that happened just because as you become a teenager you start becoming more aware of the world around you, or do you think it was some external influence….outside pressures?

 

K When I was in my mid teens I got bullied quite a lot, for being naturally slim, which sounds really ridiculous, because people normally get bullied for other things, but for me being in a girls school it was for being slim. There was nothing I could do about it, because that was how I was.

 

RFW And that’s how you’d want to be as well.

 

K I know, it’s so ironic, but that was my thing. Looking back it’s so ridiculous, because actually everyone is striving to be slim, but for me it was the opposite. Trying to put weight on, but weight just didn’t go on me.

 

RFW Did you try o put weight on to counteract the bullying or because you actually wanted to look different?

 

K I tried to put weight on to counteract the bullying, but it just didn’t happen because I did loads of sport, so I just remained slim, and then I left the girls school and it was fine. And then I went to a mixed school, but I was equally self-conscious, because then I was around boys and hormones kicking in and being 16 you start becoming even more aware of yourself. And if you are really slim then you don’t have any boobs and then there’s all of that going on. Just a nightmare . Always been quite self-conscious.

 

RFW Do you feel that being in an all girls environment made you more critical of each other? Was there a lot of competition?

 

K Awful! Girls’ schools are just a horrible place to be. Because girls can be bitches, and you end up being surrounded by girls who are equally feeling self-conscious but they take it out on you if you’re an easy target. Bitchiness is just horrible – girls go for the jugular, boys just don’t really care. They just have a bit of a fight and then they’re done with it, whereas girls mentally just dig at you. So girls’ school was a very bad choice for my parents.

 

RFW How do you feel about media images of women? Magazines, celebrities, advertising…all those sorts of things?

 

K Those things don’t really affect me so much. I don’t really read a lot of magazines, I guess, enough for it to affect me. Of course you see posters around, but now that I’m older I don’t really take much note of it. It doesn’t really affect me anymore. When I was younger it probably had an influence on how I felt, and on how I should look and how I should be. But I think now I, in my 30’s I just don’t really care as much about what I should be, it’s like it’s now about me, and if I’m feeling healthy and I’m feeling happy then seeing advertising billboards and people going crazy about being ‘beach ready’ doesn’t really affect me.

 

If I’m not a size 8 then I’m not going to make myself into a size 8, I’ve just got to make sure that I feel healthy and happy. I don’t feel like there’s an image I’m striving to be. Just striving for myself. Striving to be the best that I can be, rather than be someone or have something that I’d like to be.

 

RFW Do you feel like you are becoming more confident? At the beginning you mentioned that you didn’t feel confident about images of yourself. Do you feel this is getting better over time?

 

K Definitely better over time, I think having someone who’s very complimentary all the time, like my boyfriend, helps. He’s definitely brought me out of my shell more. Still hasn’t changed the fact that I don’t like photographs, but within myself I definitely feel more confident than I was and I think running helps as well. As long as I’m doing something…if I don’t do any exercise then I start to feel really down, and I feel like ‘I’ve put on loads of weight and I feel really gross and disgusting’ and then if I go for a run I just feel fine.

 

RFW It’s interesting because there’s a whole pressure, which is why I think for example in a girls school like you’d mentioned, girls would come at each other because there is this pressure placed on women. You’re brought up in an environment where there’s a lot of competition to be ‘the prettiest one’ rather than one in which we can all just be ‘pretty’ together.

 

K Yes, you always think there would be solidarity between women, whereas actually there really isn’t. I suffered that at my last job. I was taken down to HR about the way that I dressed and the way that I looked. I wasn’t dressing any differently to anyone else; it was just a vindictive thing from the head of department who decided that she didn’t like tattoos so therefore she didn’t like me. And then just constantly made me go down to HR. The HR lady said ‘ I don’t know why she keeps sending you down here because you’re not doing anything wrong’ and I thought this is actually a form of bullying, which is funny because you think the older you get the more you don’t give a shit and then you come across these women who are very power hungry and just don’t like other women. I find it difficult to see how at the age of 40+ you can still be so judgmental about other people. Surely you would think at that age you would accept that we’re all different, and as long as you’re doing a good job you should actually just be able to get on and do it. But there’s still stigma in society.

 

RFW Do you think maybe age can have something to do with that? The way women’s self-image changes, and the way they’re perceived by society as they get older? Obviously for men, it’s expected that you become more powerful as you get older, but for women it doesn’t work quite in the same way.

 

K It definitely doesn’t work in the same way. Within a corporate environment, the power hungry women who are up at the top act like complete arseholes, they act like men in a power hungry position, whereas actually if they were friendly and normal, the way they would be if they weren’t in such a high position I think they would probably get further because you don’t have to be a bitch in order to get somewhere. I found it really interesting because I got told off for the way I dress, so how I was portraying myself. Which for me, I don’t even think that’s so important. If you’re doing a good job, does it really matter how you’re dressing at the end of the day? No!

 

RFW Was it the sort of office where people wears suits or was it more casual?

 

K It was a suit environment.

 

RFW It’s interesting, because with men there’s a clear uniform, and for women there isn’t, which opens women up to scrutiny. If there was a clear uniform, like with men, then it would be the case of – this is a suit, this is what you both wear to work – job done.

 

K That’s the thing, it’s all down to personal taste, so then how do you define what the guidelines are? So, what I would think of as being really smart, for her was like I was a decorator, which was hilarious. I went in one day and my boss called me and said ‘ this is going to sounds really weird but what are you wearing?’ and I asked ‘why?’ and he said ‘apparently you look like a decorator today – I was expecting you to be wearing dungarees’ and I said ‘no, I’m wearing black trousers and a cashmere jumper – is that what decorators wear these days?’ and he though it was really hilarious, but actually it was really offensive! If I tuned around to her and said ‘the way you dress is unacceptable for the office. You should not be wearing heels that are 3 inches high and stilettos, because you look like a stripper. Is that the way you should be dressing in a banking environment? No! Am I allowed to turn around and say that to her – no! Because I’m beneath her. It was all very power trippy.

 

RFW Do you think online presence affects the way we see ourselves?

 

K Oh yes, Online, Facebook, Instagram. It’s so funny because you can control your image, you can control what you’re showing to the world – how you want people to see your life. It’s funny because you look at some people and think they’re having this amazing time, doing all these incredible things but actually they could be having the shittest time, but you wouldn’t have a clue about it because of what they’re portraying. For example: my nephew, when he came up to London, we went to have some pictures taken in a photo booth. And he’s so image conscious that he threw a massive tantrum because he didn’t know how he was going to look when the photo came out. Isn’t that just insane? That the generation now are so in control of their image, and so in control of everything, they now are scared.

 

RFW And they are so aware of the importance of the image that they’re projecting.

 

K It’s insane. The best thing that helped me was 4 years ago my best friend Suzy started a project to do naked photography. So she thought ‘in order to build up the confidence of women that I LOVE I’m going to start taking naked photos to document your body. We’ll do a few questions to begin with and see how you’re feeling about yourself and how you’re feeling at that time. We’ll do it every year at the same time, and we’ll just carry it on and see how that makes you feel.’ So we did the first one, and it was so funny because the next few years on I feel like my body has changed loads, and I feel like I’ve put quite a lot of weight on since then. Now, all she has to do is get the photos out and say ‘actually, if we put one next to the other – look at your body – you have stayed the same. You haven’t changed at all.’ And for me that is so interesting, because if you look in the mirror everyday and you’re not feeling that great and then she shows you a picture from 4 years ago!

 

RFW It’s all these negative voices. And it’s interesting because there’s so much pressure on women with weight. We obsess about it, and put ourselves on diets, which actually can inhibit your ability to concentrate and be affective. And they also make you hysterical, which reinforces the stereotype about the overly emotional woman, but it’s because your body is actually starving.

 

K This is why in the last few years I’ve changed my way. Because I used to be able to just not east and be fine. (laughs) I say fine, but probably ‘bat shit crazy!’ , but I changed that, because I started realising that it wasn’t healthy and if I wanted to become healthy the best way to do it is just to eat what you like within reason and just do the exercise instead of being so controlling about it.

 

It’s like when I put my boyfriend and myself on a diet, and it was just awful. We were snapping at each other because we weren’t getting enough calories and I obsessed over what we should and shouldn’t eat and then he said ‘we need to stop this diet because you’ve gone crazy – your whole world is a now about food. You’re no longer you, you’ve become this insane woman.’ So we stopped the diet and ordered a curry. (laughs)

 

RFW It’s then that you should get your photos out!!

 

K The photos are so good. It’s such an empowering thing to have a look and see your body in it’s natural from and to be comfortable. Because that’s the thing, if you’re not comfortable in yourself, it shows in everything else, like if you’re not happy with the way you are it shows in your personality, I think, and people around you see that you’re not happy, but it’s nothing to do with them, its just to do with you and how you’re feeling. You need positive influences around you and that brings it back around.

 

RFW What about ageing as a woman? Do you think about that at all? Like you’re saying, the photos you have taken every year, and every year you are obviously getting older. It will be interesting to see how long you carry on doing it for? Like when you’re in your 80’s , will you still be doing it?

 

K We were saying, actually the other day ‘we’re still going to be doing these when we’re 90’ and I said that if we live that long, then definitely yes. But so far I don’t feel any change body wise with age. At the moment, the only thing that I’m noticing is that my knees are going and my hips feel a bit sore, so I’m starting to feel it more internally rather than externally. I look at the pictures and I think my face is kind of remaining the same, the only thing that’s changing is my hair styles and that’s it at the moment. Then I look at my sister and she’s now in her early 40’s and she looks fantastic but then if you look at pictures of her in her 30’s, the difference is actually mental, but you don’t really notice because it’s such a gradual thing. I’m not scared of getting older I actually quite like it.

 

RFW That’s really good!

 

K I actually quite like getting older, you just care less, which is really nice. You no longer feel the pressures that you did in your 20’s. In my early 20’s, moving down to London was so scary and so intimidating, and there were all these different people, and on the dating scene. Going out dating, but you know that the guy is dating all these other people as well, and that knocks your confidence , and it feels like you’re up against all these women, and there’s so much choice.

 

This weekend, when we were visiting the girls, this guy said ‘ oh look at all these girls dressed up to the nines’ and one of them just said ‘ you know they’re not dressing for you, they’re dressing for other girls’ and it’s so true – Girls want to impress other girls rather than men. Men don’t really care, for them it’s just like ‘oh great you’re wearing a tight dress I can see your arse’ but for girls it’s about the details and I like that. I think it shifts and it’s not about impressing men so much around our age it’s more for us and about impressing your girl friends.