Event Review - Streak for Tigers, with Faye Whiley
Britain Uncovered speaks with conservationist and big cat enthusiast, Faye Whiley, who tells us how her lifelong passion for big cats and animal welfare led to participation in an unlikely fundraiser at ZSL London Zoo which helped raise over £6,000 for tiger conservation.
Britain Uncovered: Hi Faye! Before we get into the details of the fundraiser you took part in, could we please start off by asking for some of your views on body positivity – how do you interpret this phrase, and would you generally consider yourself to be a ‘body confident’ person?
Faye: To me, the phrase ‘body positivity’ is the way people feel about themselves and how they appear to other people; but I feel there are a lot of factors affecting how people see body positivity. I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘body confident person’ all the time.
Britain Uncovered: Have your views on body image and self-acceptance changed over time, and do you feel that body positive social media feeds can play an important role in helping people to feel more confident about themselves?
Faye: My views on body image and acceptance have definitely changed over time. As I’ve grown older, I feel more confident in some ways, and am accepting of the fact that everyone is different (in height and shape, for example).
I think Instagram and other social media platforms have a huge impact on body positivity; a lot of damage can be caused to people’s self-confidence and it can alter their views of body image. People have to remember what they see on social media is not always real, and what’s actually behind the camera is often a different story.
I feel that spending less time on social media – and more time undertaking in leisure activities that make you happy – is really important. Body positive feeds are not always at the forefront of people’s social media pages, but they definitely have the potential to have a positive impact on people and make them feel more confident about themselves.
Britain Uncovered: Several years back, your enthusiasm for big cats and animal welfare led you to participation in a ‘Streak for Tigers’ fundraiser held at ZSL London Zoo. How did you find out about the event, and what was it that made you want to be involved?
Faye: I found out about the event during an internship at the Big Cat Sanctuary. Big cat conservation is something I’m really passionate about, and I was aware that not many people would participate in a fundraiser event like this – so I saw an opportunity for raising a lot of money! In the end, I think we raised over £6,000 for Sumatran tiger conservation.
Britain Uncovered: For those unaware, the rather novel event sees fundraisers streaking across the zoo wearing nothing except tiger masks – which sounds like fun, but is no mean feat! Were you relaxed about taking part, and did you find it to be a liberating and empowering experience by and large?
Faye: This was my first (and to date, last!) social nudity event. I wasn’t nervous in the run-up to the event, but on the day I was, and I definitely needed some Dutch courage! It did help me with my views on body confidence, as there were over 200 people also running confidently, completely naked.
Overall, it wasn’t quite what I expected. I was one of the youngest runners there and I didn’t find it half as embarrassing as I thought… because everyone was in the same naked boat! It boosted my confidence about myself on a personal level because I was able to do something a lot of people wouldn’t for something that I really care about (big cat conservation).
It was organised as a group, and a few employees and volunteers took part in the event with me. It was a good bonding experience in the sense that we showed each other we cared about tiger conservation so much that we were willing to take our clothes off in public. But it’s also a little strange seeing people you work with, in a professional setting, naked.
Britain Uncovered: With several years having passed since the event, how would you reflect on the experience here in 2020?
Faye: At the time I felt more confident about myself, but I think your opinion of yourself and how you look can change depending on what you’re going through in life. People deal with situations in life differently. I know that when I’m unhappy, I eat much more, I don’t feel like exercising as much and put on weight; and therefore, I’m not at my healthiest and don’t feel confident about how my body looks.
That said, I may consider taking part in an event like this again for a good cause! I do think it can make people feel more comfortable in their own skin and change their outlook on body image. A lot of people there will have been fighting their own body confidence issues too, yet still running naked regardless, so it makes you feel a little more comfortable in your own skin too.
Britain Uncovered: As we bring things to a close, what advice would you offer to anyone who may be struggling with self-image concerns? And what are some of your own methods of staying positive?
Faye: To anyone struggling with self-image issues, I would advise you to take the pressure off of yourself and focus on your happiness. Also, be patient! After years of being unhappy and eating your feelings, the extra weight you’ve put on isn’t going to fall off over night.
I think once you do things that make you happier, it’s much easier to control your diet and incorporate fitness into your daily routine – and as a result, feel better about yourself and have a more positive outlook on your body image. Staying positive is difficult, especially when you’re not happy, but you have to remember the feelings you have are not forever, and things will change.
- To find out more about Faye’s conservation efforts along with more details on the big cats she has the pleasure of working with, check out her Instagram feed for the latest updates.