In this week’s interview, we have the pleasure of speaking with actor, puppeteer and Sophie Tea catwalk model, Aimee Bevan! During our discussion, Aimee opens up on what it was like participating in Sophie’s naked catwalk event in the summer, and we also discuss the pressures that come with being a theatre performer and the ways this impacts Aimee's body confidence in day-to-day life.
Britain Uncovered: Hi Aimee, and thank you for taking some to speak with us – we can’t wait to hear about your experience taking part in Sophie Tea’s catwalk, along with some of your views on other body positivity-related topics! To start with, could we please ask how and when you first discovered Sophie’s work? And what is it about her art and overall approach that resonates with you so deeply?
Aimee: I think it was about a year ago when a couple of my mates were talking in a group chat about an online class they did with Sophie Tea. Now I love discovering new art, and when I found her on Instagram, one of the first images I saw was a curvy, naked woman. I immediately fell in love. What I love most about Sophie and her art is that it's very honest. She's a down to earth person who constantly challenges herself, and her art is bright and positive and SO colourful.
Britain Uncovered: Sophie has inspired and empowered so many people through her work, and has held a number of shows along the way – including her ‘Send Nudes’ event in 2019, which was the first to feature a naked catwalk. Upon learning of her catwalk event at the Waldorf Astoria, at what point did you think that you might like to participate, and what ultimately led you to want to be involved?
Aimee: Immediately! I love art, body paint and being naked, so it was the perfect event for me. Especially after watching clips from the Australian nudie show – I just knew I had to be there.
Britain Uncovered: Each person who applies is invited to share a unique testimonial with details of their body love journey over the years, along with some of the challenges they may have faced that might have impacted their body confidence levels. Would you be willing to share with us some of the details you provided as part of your submission?
Aimee: In my testimonial I wrote about how, throughout my whole dancing career, I was made to feel like I wasn't enough because of my weight. And my response to people putting me down was to stress eat and gain more weight. I developed an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise that is still with me today. I wrote about the disconnect I have between being naked and feeling sexy, two things I love that have never really gone together.
In response to the question, “What is something you wish you could tell your 12-year old self”, I wrote, "That uniqueness is my power, not my weakness. And that boys are dumb and do not deserve my energy.”
Britain Uncovered: Would you say that working in the dance and theatre industry, and being up on stage in front of audiences and potentially judged on the way you look, can be really challenging at times (both in relation to your physical and mental health)? Have you ever found this line of work difficult due to this, and how are you able to stay positive and keep focused without worrying too much about this side of things?
Aimee: There are very few jobs I have had in the industry where I didn't feel judged on my physical appearance. It has always been a struggle, from finding work to fitting into costumes to hearing comments whilst backstage and on stage. The truth is, I'm not always able to stay positive. I used to workout at the gym and diet to fit into a mould, but both of those are very triggering for me and would end up causing more damage than good.
Nowadays, I try to practise self-love and body acceptance. I take jobs that allow me to focus on my craft and not on my appearance, and I try to be a voice that supports representing all types of bodies. On my bad days, I remind myself that my body is strong and performs incredible things everyday.
Britain Uncovered: How did you react when you heard that you had been selected for Sophie’s catwalk event – were you apprehensive about taking part, or were you excited and raring to go? I can imagine your prior experience of being up on stage must have been really valuable for an event like this!
Aimee: I was actually only contacted a couple of weeks prior to the catwalk. One of the ladies had to drop out and I was first on the waiting list. When I received the email, I cried. And then cried a little more, from all the excitement. I could not wait! I told everyone I knew and was counting down the days. I definitely don't have stage fright, but nothing can really prepare you for an event like this.
Britain Uncovered: Due to the nudity element of the event, taking part in a catwalk like this may be more daunting for some than it is for others. Had you ever dabbled with social nudity or taken part in anything similar to this prior to this event, and how comfortable did you feel about the naked element of the day?
Aimee: On one of my missions to become more comfortable with my body, I started volunteering as a model for bodypainting. Normally it would be for a workshop or a live demonstration in a room filled with other naked models and painters. So getting painted by Sophie and the team felt very familiar.
I am also surprisingly comfortable being naked. As a theatre performer, you get very used to quick changes and getting changed in front of people. It only felt a little weird when we would walk amongst the catwalk audience, with them fully-clothed and me very naked!
Britain Uncovered: How did everything come together on the day itself, and how much fun did you have out on the catwalk? You must have been so proud of everything you and the other 49 models accomplished! Please feel free to talk us through the day and give us a little peek behind the curtain about what went on and what your experience was like!
Aimee: I remember walking into the lobby of the Waldorf Hotel, seeing all these faces of nervous/excited women and suddenly feeling really emotional myself. Not only did it dawn on me that this was the start of an incredible experience, but also, I hadn't really been in a room with this many people I didn't know in recent times due to COVID-19. We sat around and chatted before going into the catwalk area. I was shocked at how elegant everything looked, and I remember thinking, “This catwalk is very high and very shiny – I hope I don't slip.”
We met Sophie and the team, introduced ourselves and started to get to know each other. We were given robes and slippers, and split into teams in order to get painted. In the paint room there were snacks and hot drinks and, most importantly, Prosecco! I was painted by the lovely Verity before Sophie added her signature ‘Sophie splatter’ on my body. The whole day we were just having the best time, getting to know each other's stories and hyping each other up!
There were different levels of nervousness around the room and we all made sure that everyone was as comfortable as possible. Sophie and the team were incredible! We were given a partner to walk down the catwalk with and we lined up ready to go. I was in the first ten to strut down the catwalk and I remember standing behind the wall hearing all the spectators on the other side, and that was when my nerves kicked in. Before I knew it we were given the nod, I was dancing down the catwalk and then the first catwalk was over. So quick, but we were on such a high! We energised ourselves with pizza and more Prosecco, ready for round two.
The first catwalk was incredible, but the second one somehow managed to top it. The roars from the audience filled me with so much energy and I forgot that I was completely naked. I enjoyed every moment up there and I felt like a rock star. By the end of the day, everyone had grown five inches and everyone was glowing! I was surprised by how many people came up to me on the day, just to say that they admired us. I received so much love and support from friends, family and strangers that I ended up leaving the event with a totally renewed energy.
Britain Uncovered: Each model was assigned a partner to stride down the catwalk alongside them, which must have helped and provided some reassurance! Who was your partner for the day, and what kind of friendship have you developed with her in the aftermath of the event? Also, what was your soundtrack while you were up on stage?
Aimee: My partner was the gorgeous Bex and we struted down the catwalk to Gimme More by the iconic Britney Spears. The moment we heard our track we were both thrilled, as it seemed very fitting for us. Bex was such a great partner and has a beautiful energy. I keep in touch with Bex through our group chat and through social media. I love seeing her achievements.
Britain Uncovered: Do you have a special bond with the rest of the models too? It seems as though you’re all very close on social media, and understandably so!
Aimee: We have a group chat which is so so special. It is constantly full of love and support – women posting about their bad days, but also their good. We love to support each others' causes as well. I am so lucky to know this special group of women.
Britain Uncovered: Having taken part in such a special event, how do you reflect back on the day, and what does it mean to you? Has it made a long-lasting impact and helped change the way you view your body, perhaps? And has it ultimately made you feel more confident in day-to-day life?
Aimee: I can't help but smile whenever I think about that day. In the days that followed I felt absolutely invincible; I was glowing and it started to mend from the inside out. My relationship with my body has been up and down but I love looking back on photos from that day and reminding myself that I am still the same person that walked naked in front of cheering people and felt beautiful.
Britain Uncovered: How important was the nudity element in all this, and do you think social nudity experiences such as these can play a big role in helping people to feel more comfortable in their own skin? Would you like to try out something along these lines again one day?
Aimee: The majority of people feel uncomfortable around the subject of nudity, so putting yourself at your most vulnerable and feeling beautiful is so empowering. I truly believe that nudity is something to celebrate and I would love to see more events like this pop up. I would love for more people to experience what I experienced. Give me a date and a time and I'll be there!
Britain Uncovered: What was something about the day that most surprised you, and what was the most important thing you learned about yourself by taking part?
Aimee: The moment I stepped into the hotel, I felt the energy of all the women around me. I felt connected to them and I wanted to know everything about them and their stories. All their stories were so different and so important. I felt honoured and grateful to be sharing a space with such incredible women. I applied to be a part of this catwalk for personal reasons, but once I was there I was a part of a tribe of empowered women. I learned that I can impact others just like others can impact me.
Britain Uncovered: Finally, what advice might you offer to those who perhaps aren’t showing themselves enough self-love or aren’t feeling as good about themselves (or their bodies) as they could or should? Are there any particular techniques you use to keep yourself feeling positive in this regard?
Aimee: Start small, find what works for you and do it for yourself. I normally have a little list on my phone of the things that put me in the best headspace. A few things that have helped me along the way:
- Surrounding myself with positivity and body acceptance, especially on social media.
- I tend to say out loud the things I am proud of about myself, and I find that the more I say it, the more I believe it.
- I don't always love myself and that is okay. But I remind myself that that feeling can visit but it is not welcome to stay.
- If you want to eat a cupcake, eat a cupcake and don't let yourself feel guilty about it. Cupcakes are great.
- FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU! I'm saying it again because our journeys to happiness will not look like anyone else’s.