HELLO, BEAUTIFUL HUMAN! My name’s Leyah. I’m a 23 year old positive body image activist, mental health advocate and avid feminist from Edinburgh, Scotland. Nice to meet you!
I’d like to think that I’m a pretty confident, open-minded and well-rounded person. But this hasn’t always been the case. In fact, I’ve had to work pretty damn hard to get to the place I’m at now.
My childhood was far from care free. I started being bullied on my first day of School which continued right the way through until I started High School. I was the weird, nerdy, fat kid with no friends. And it didn’t take long for me to become a hollow shell of the person I really was. My bullies were not particularly physical. I got the odd shove here and there and was attacked on one occasion. But they went down the psychological route and left scars that only I can see.
Every single part of my being was torn apart. Every. Single. Day. I would have given literally anything to be someone else. Instead of enjoying being a child, my younger days were spent largely alone. I’d lie awake at nights, trembling with anxiety over the day to come and desperately trying to think of yet another plausible excuse to get me out of going to School. Before I’d even hit double figures, I was looking in the mirror and loathing what I saw. I constantly wished that I could trade bodies and live a different life. Before I was even 10 years old I had self-esteem issues. How insane is that?
I kept my struggles to myself. The only other being I confided in was my best friend – my dog, Holly. My family never knew about my bullying until I was much older. The last thing I wanted to do at the time was give them any more ammunition. My only other solace were magazines. I would immerse myself in the glossy world and imagine myself as one of the many seemingly flawless girls who graced the pages. The internet was in its infancy at this time so social media wasn’t really a thing yet. Vogue and Glamour were my Instagram of the day. And they were extremely harmful to my already damaged self-perception.
At that time, the idea of body positivity and diversity hadn’t even been conceived yet. The publications I read consisted of page after page after page of extremely tall white girl (not woman, barely even teenage) with apparently perfect skin and a super slender frame. The combination of this barrage of imagery (which was absolutely everywhere, not just magazines) and bullying made for a girl whose self-worth levels were sub-zero and had considered plastic surgery before even entering teenagerhood.
Fast forward to age 18. I’m sitting in a quiet room with a therapist, underdoing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Just a few weeks prior, I’d visited my Doctor, who I’d told I didn’t want to live on this earth anymore. My therapist takes me back to places that I’d really rather not have gone but in doing so, unearths the fact that I’ve been dealing with Clinical Depression since I was 6 years old. SIX. YEARS. OLD. She tells me that the bullying I’d gone through was directly to blame. That day, something inside me snapped.
As the online world and the fire in my belly grew, I started researching the industry which I’d idolised through my dark days: the media. What I uncovered made me sick and explained exactly why I had been bullied. My peers were lied to. Fed an image of beauty and acceptability that was, by most counts completely fake and compressed. The lack of both physical and interpersonal diversity made for a generation who targeted anyone considered different like lions singling out a baby deer. Discovering this was emotional. I realised that the blame didn’t lie directly with my bullies. That they weren’t really to blame for their actions. But instead, that their indoctrination WAS.
I decided to take a stand. And in 2013, The Body Confidence Revolution was born. I designed the blog to be a space that acts as a counterbalance to the still bullshit full media industry – which is now bigger and more accessible than ever. Given just how immensely powerful the internet and social media are, I felt that there needed to be a space that anyone can access at any time and indulge in just how deliciously diverse human beings are. I felt there needed to be a place to go to that showcases beauty in ALL of its glorious forms and rejects negativity of any kind.
Since creating it and undertaking an undergraduate degree in Digital Media, The Body Confidence Revolution has grown into so much more than just a single Tumblr blog. It’s become a global online movement which is fully inclusive and intersectional. And is aimed at ALL. HUMAN. BEINGS. The work I’ve done promoting positive body image has seen me amass a following of over 20,000, be featured in and contribute to different publications across the globe and work with some truly amazing people and brands. And there ain’t no stopping me yet!
I’ve recruited (and am always recruiting!) a bunch of incredible ambassadors who represent each section of the demographic and rep self-love in their own way. It’s been wonderful to draw from the experiences of other warriors as there are obviously many things that I don’t have inside knowledge of. I’m so, so proud to have these babes part of The Body Confidence Revolution and I’m very excited about what we may work on in the future.
The platform that #TBCR has given me has enabled me to use my voice to bring attention to other issues that are close to my heart. I’m an avid feminist and hope to help alleviate the stereotypical, outdated image of feminism and evoke the passion for equality for all in everyone. I’m intensely dedicated to eradicating the stigmas that surround mental health issues and making more people aware of the direct link between negative body image and the development of mental conditions. I’m a proud proud advocate for the LGBTQIA community. I myself identify as pan-sexual but my involvement is more about acquiring basic human rights rather than a vested personal interest. I’m also a huge animal lover. Before going to University to study Digital Media, I had my sights set on becoming a Veterinary Nurse! I hope that once I’ve finished my degree I can help animals in my own way.
In a world consumed by filters, Photoshop, diets and body shame, I hope that #TBCR can be your light in the dark; reminding you of how beautiful you really are. OH, and joining you in giving a middle finger to those who profit out of creating and deliberately perpetuating insecurity.