I was almost speechless when in the historic Terrace Room of the House of Commons, the cradle of democracy, with the Thames at high tide just outside, my name was announced as the ‘People’s Choice’ at the Body Confidence Awards 2014. I was convinced that I was there to clap Gok Wan that I wobbled up to the stage to receive it, dazed but delighted.
It was an important night for everyone who believes that Britain needs to wake up to the brewing crisis around body image in today’s society and ‘be real’ in promoting ‘body confidence’ through all available channels – in the media, in advertising, in schools and in all walks of life.
The Campaign for Body Confidence which organised the Awards is revitalising the campaign and to judge by the winners, there are already many great exemplar projects in motion:
- The Self Esteem Team delivering tailored body confidence lessons for teenagers ages 13 to 18 as well as parents and teachers
- Girlguiding developing girls’ body confidence, training up 250 peer educators to deliver their ‘Free Being Me’ programme
- The Jamie Oliver Foundation for ‘making healthy eating cool’ through focused work with schools and communities
- Youth Sport Trust’s Girls Active programme to raise girls’ participation in PE and sport
- The Guardian for its Body Image column on the website
- Lancôme and its partnership with Lupita Nyong’o, a non-Westernised, dark skinned, African American woman, sparking debate around beauty
- ASOS Curve for its understated, quiet, ongoing campaign to promote confidence of women through their affordable, fashionable clothes that they can feel good in
- Breast Cancer Care for its brave and honest campaign showing mastectomy scars.
And just before my Award, that guru of the body confidence movement, Susie Orbach was honoured – and Radio 1 DJ Jameela Jamil, Gok Wan, and comedian, Juliette Burton wowed the assembled glittering crowd.
My over-riding sentiment as I left the event was of the enormity of the challenge facing us. Face confidence and body confidence don’t grow on trees. They have to be nurtured and strengthened over years and they often mean that people have to swim against the prevailing cultural tides – which encourage in so many people today unhealthy body image risk-taking.
So I will try hard to live up to the faith put in me by the people who voted for me – and I see that as my responsibility. But it is also the responsibility of the beauty industry itself and of opinion leaders in Parliament and the media to challenge the unhealthy and promote body confidence in all they do.