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Hanging with Natasha Powell: Recovery, Body Diversity and Real Beauty

This week is a very special blog for us. Natasha Powell is an old friend and is a body positive warrior! Our girl Lizzy got to do a photo shoot with her and her beauty shines through not only in the photos, but in her honesty and strength during this interview. 

Spandettes: What was your experience with your own body image before finding the body positive community?

Natasha: I was honestly quite lost and lonely before I discovered any sort of body positive community. Around age 15 I fell deep into the clutches of anorexia, anxiety and depression. It was horrible. For years my days would consist of constant and excessive physical activity, little to no food and secretive self-harm. I wanted to die. I know that sounds grim, but that’s the ugly truth about eating disorders.

Spandettes: How did you first come across the body positive movement?

Natasha: After years of treating my body horribly, I knew something had to change. I remember calling my boyfriend crying (this was unfortunately a very common occurrence). I told him I was exhausted. Not just physically, but mentally. I was so incredibly tired of feeling sad, of having no energy, of starving and suffering and crying every damn day. 

Soon after I began searching online for anorexia recovery blogs. I don't exactly remember how or why but some sort of serendipity led me to stumble upon a photo of plus model Tess Holiday (at the time she was known as Tess Munster). I remember thinking 'wow, she's so beautiful...but she's fat.' It boggled my mind that a person could be both. For the longest time, I believed whole heartedly that if you were thin, you were also happy, successful, lovable & beautiful. Seeing photos of Tess, smiling, laughing, brimming with confidence and beauty, turned all my preconceived notions upside-down. After that I started following other plus models & bodacious babes on blogs, Instagram & Facebook. Women like Nadia Aboulhosn, Crystal Renn & Gabifresh who are all stunningly gorgeous and have CURVES!

Spandettes: Tell us a little about your experience with the well-known model Tess Holiday and how she has inspired you.

Natasha: Tess is such a Doll! I had the opportunity to meet her a few years ago when she teamed up with the fabulous photographer Dana Brushette for a fun pin-up photo shoot in Toronto. I was a queasy, cowardly, nervous wreck! The idea of posing for pin ups was alarming enough. On top of that, I would be doing it in front of a large group of women, one of whom is a huge role model to me!

Tess was so incredibly sweet. She was very kind and down-to-earth, offering calming reassurance when I was feeling hesitant about my wardrobe choice or how my body looked in a corset. On that day she was a stylist, a coach and a friend.

After the shoot, I had a chance to sit with her for a few minutes. Obviously, selfies needed to happen!

I thanked her for helping me on my journey to recovery. Later she signed a photo for me (which I now have framed in my bedroom) Her words, inked with permanent marker on the page and in my heart “You're a gem. Stay strong.”

It was a really fantastic experience. A room full of beautiful women - different sizes, ages & backgrounds - getting pampered, having fun and empowering each other. I will never forget that day.

 

Spandettes: How important a roll do you feel the internet and social media plays in the momentum in the body positive and self-love movement?

Natasha: Before discovering body positivity and self love on the Internet & social media, I was immersed in a vicious cycle of buying gossip magazines, idolizing the "thin-is-in" celebrities on the cover and changing my body to fit into that narrow spectrum of beauty. It was hard to see past that because that’s all I was exposed to as a young woman. In commercials, movies, TV, magazines, we’re not seeing enough body diversity.  

Social media, mainly Instagram & tumblr, became a place where I could find like-minded people. Plus size bloggers, body posi babes &  recovery warriors. 

Spandettes: What keeps you inspired to love yourself when you feel down?

Natasha: Loving myself is something I still struggle with every day. Some days I find myself crying over old photos of my size 3 self, or cursing the existence of a new pimple or stretch-mark on my skin. Those days happen more often than I'd like to admit. When I find myself going down that road of self hatred, I try my best to change course before I spiral out of control. I do this by practicing self care. Self care is such a wonderful thing. It can be whatever you want it to be. Whatever makes your body & mind feel good. Sometimes I pop in my ear-buds and blast some music that inspires a random solo dance party in my kitchen. Other times I'll hunker down with some crayons and a colouring book while I watch cartoons. I try my best to listen to my soul and give it what it needs at the time.

Spandettes: What is your advice to young girls and boys who struggle with being body positive towards themselves? 

Natasha: Firstly, I want to say if you think you or someone you love may be suffering from depression, anxiety, self-harm or disordered eating, please seek help. You deserve better, I promise. 

Secondly, I know it may seem impossible, but try your best to be gentle with yourself. Remember that sweet, innocent you at 18 months old? The you that is joyful and beautiful and brimming with love? They're still in there. Tell that little one that everything is okay, that they're perfect just as they are and maybe your present self will hear it too.

Baby Natasha

Baby Natasha