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Interview with artist, Miranda Charlotte (Part One)

In part one of our special interview with London-based artist, Miranda Charlotte, we're discussing all things body image and exploring the factors that led the artist into creating the diverse range of self-acceptance artwork she's so renowned for today! In particular, we're focusing on Miranda's disordered eating issues growing up, the toxicity of the media at the time, the reasons why the body neutrality movement resonates so strongly, what the artist's creations were originally designed to achieve, and more!


Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders


Artist, Miranda Charlotte, looking at her reflection in one of her upcycled mirror creations
Miranda has transformed her relationship with her reflection

Britain Uncovered: Hi Miranda! Thanks for joining us today, and we’re really looking forward to hearing about your art along with your views on self-acceptance, body neutrality and beyond!


You’ve been very open on social media about your disordered eating and negative body image issues growing up – so can we start by asking how or why this initially came about? And could you maybe share how you have been able to turn the tide and feel more positively in this regard?


Miranda: My difficult relationship with my body and food has been going on throughout my lifetime. But when I’ve been in therapy to interrogate my relationship with food, my eating disorder and my relationship with my body, it does go back as far as childhood. I grew up in the 90s and 00s, which were a particularly toxic time. The 90s were the times of heroin chic, Heat magazine’s ‘Circle of Shame’ [a feature that highlighted celebrity cellulite, stomach rolls and sweat patches], and just this particularly vicious obsession and almost vitriolic pursuance of bodies – especially female bodies – in the media.


And like anybody growing up at that time, I think I completely absorbed all of that. I was an avid watcher of programmes such as America’s Next Top Model and What Not To Wear, and I can think back to those ages and remember being very self-aware of my body, even as a young child. So I think that level of self-criticism started as early as that.


And then being a teenager, I had a few friends that had eating disorders. My own disorder developed when I was at university, and I’d say that in a sense I was quite lucky that it wasn’t so pronounced or maybe as severe as it could have been. I think I slowly slipped into it in terms of these very negative behaviours and an unhealthy relationship with food. But then I was also able, without really noticing it too much, to very slowly reintroduce food groups that I’d completely cut out over a number of years. I was eating more healthily.


It wasn’t until maybe five years later in my late twenties when I was looking back on what I’d gone through that I realised my situation was disordered eating, and I realised that my relationship with my body was very unhealthy; and that I tended towards self-punishment and being very, very self-critical. Even though I wasn’t doing restrictive eating or the behaviours associated with disordered eating anymore, I would still have these very negative associations with food. I’d say it was my go-to coping mechanism when I was stressed.


So although I had reached a turning point where I had managed to overcome my tendencies with food, I still had these thought patterns and I wanted to address that, because I just couldn’t live like that anymore. There are so many other things that I want to pay attention to that have nothing to do with how I look or the food that I’m eating.


Self-acceptance art, including mirrors and candles, created by artist Miranda Charlotte
The full range of Miranda's self-acceptance art can be found at the artist's website, mirandacharlotte.com

BU: How would you describe your body confidence levels today? And what has the journey you’ve been on taught you, and what has that led you to become as a person and who you are now?


Miranda: I’d say it’s up and down to be honest. Everybody has up and down times with their mental health, and it’s the same with my body image. Some days I have great days where it’s not even on my mind, while on other days I have really bad body image days. The thing that’s helped me to progress with that, so that bad body image days are fewer and fewer, is going to therapy.


And it’s focusing on things that have nothing to do with image – such as creativity – and having coping mechanisms for when those more negative mental health days do come about. That’s been my journey over the last few years, and therapy was crucial in helping me not get past that, but to grow and to be able to cope with that a bit better.


BU: We’ve spoken with several of our past interviewees about the differences between body positivity and body neutrality – but what do you perceive to be the major differences between the two, and where do you stand as it relates to these two concepts? Which do you feel is the most helpful to you personally?


Miranda: I think body neutrality resonates more with me because I aspire to a place in my life (or with my mental health) where my body, or the way that I look, is irrelevant. And I think that body positivity almost has more of a focus on feeling positive about your body whatever that might look like. But realistically, for me, that’s not always the case. And I don’t want to advocate for something where somebody might feel, ‘Oh I’m not feeling positive about my body today, which is a bad thing, and therefore I’m not good enough in some way’.


You might have seen this phrasing that people talk about, along the lines of ‘Your body is the least interesting thing about you. And I think for me, that is the more positive way to look at it. I know it’s a bit of a dichotomy to say it’s positive to be neutral! But I think that is the healthier thing for me personally. I don’t think body positivity is a bad thing though – so long as it doesn’t have toxic traits where you can’t express any kind of criticism.


I think for me as well, because I am a slim woman and I know that I have a lot of privilege in that sense – and I know I don’t face some of the barriers that people with larger bodies might face – but something that I also struggle with is that if I’m to look at my body and scrutinise it and say, “I feel good about X, Y and Z in the way that I look”, then maybe more toxic goggles would say to me, “And therefore you have to stay like this.” And so I’d like to reach a point where I’m comfortable with myself and my body, regardless of how it changes as I get older, or whatever life changes occur. That’s my goal anyway.


The 'Medusa Mirror', an upcycled mirror created by artist, Miranda Charlotte
The 'Medusa Mirror' is all about female empowerment

BU: You mentioned on Instagram that in the past you had used mirrors to “police your body”. Could you potentially share with us a little more about this notion?


Miranda: I didn’t realise before I learned more about eating disorders and body image that it’s actually quite a common problem of body dysmorphia called ‘mirror checking’, or ‘body checking’. And so I was doing that a lot. I realised that I was using a mirror as a tool to say, “Okay, I’m having a bad body image day... I’m going to check my body in the mirror to see the reality, and to see if my body is ‘okay’.” Do I ‘need’ to exercise more? Do I ‘need’ to eat less?


So I was almost using it as a way of trying to reassure myself, but conversely it would also have this effect of, ‘Let’s go back into these negative behaviours.’ So I would use the mirror to check myself physically and mentally to see if my perception was lining up with reality. But it would then of course lead to these continued behaviours of trying to eat less, or whatever it might be, so that’s what I was doing. It was such a sustained habit that it took me a long time to realise what I was doing.


BU: You eventually came up with the idea of upcycling mirrors – while adding self-affirmations on the side – and actually using them as a force for good by encouraging people to feel more positively about themselves. You’re so renowned for these and have such great success with these creations, but how exactly did the idea with the mirrors first come about, and when did you first start working on this concept?


Miranda: So I started in 2019, and it was a mirror that has this wooden frame that I’d just been doodling on. I’ve always been artistic and creative, and I’d just been drawing on it.


I was reading an essay by Alice Walker, called Turquoise and Coral, and in this essay she’s talking about painting her doorway in order to feel at home in her dwelling. And when she managed to paint it she created this mural on the door and she says that when she painted it she felt at home, and it kind of struck me – because my mirror was there when I was reading this – it came upon me that I need to paint my mirror to reframe how I feel about my reflection; rather than telling myself I can’t look in the mirror because it’s going to be destructive to me or just continuing that behaviour.


I thought – I need to reframe my reflection. I need to reframe the mirror so I can change my relationship with my reflection and also act as a reminder that I’m enough. So that’s what I did. I took my mirror and I spent many weeks painting it and it was very meditative. It was the first time that I’d sat with my reflection and not been judgemental. I’d just been being creative; I wasn’t even really paying attention to my reflection. I was creating this piece of artwork, and it was really transformative for me.


Artist, Miranda Charlotte, posing at her London-based studio in 2023
Miranda at her London-based studio in 2023

BU: And then at a certain point you decided that other people could benefit from the mirrors as well. How did it all get moving after you created your first piece, and how far have you got today?


Miranda: It really was a lockdown project to be honest. I’d been sharing my artwork on social media and had really good feedback from people, so people were obviously interested in it, just from a visual standpoint. And then I did a few courses on entrepreneurship – one with the Prince’s Trust – because I don’t really have a business background at all, so I wanted to learn a bit from that side of things.


I was working with a mentor there and I hadn’t really started talking about my issues with eating disorders at all with anybody really. But when I started to talk to my mentor about the story behind my mirrors, she was supporting me to be more open about that (in a gentle and safe way). And so it was from there that I shared with my parents and friends that that was something I had gone through, and I kind of went from there. I started sharing the story behind the mirrors, and I had really good feedback from people that really resonated with the story.


BU: Can looking at ourselves in the mirror be a useful method of helping us embrace our bodies and accept ourselves the way we are in your view?


Miranda: It’s an interesting question, because I think not always. I know some people really don’t want to look in the mirror because they do feel negatively about themselves – and they don’t want to be critical of themselves, so they might avoid them. Personally, for me, I see the mirror as a liminal space between our real and perceived selves, because you never actually see your own body in the mirror. You’re not seeing it as other people are seeing it, and you never actually see your own face in real life. So I think that for me, it was about reclaiming the space of the mirror, which has been helpful. And reframing my reflection, both literally and figuratively, has been really transformative.


It’s not going to be for everybody, and not everyone will want or need that, but I think in general mirrors are something that are a big part of our environment and our lives, and if you are feeling negatively towards your reflection, having a piece of artwork that is also a mirror, that is a reminder that you are enough – and to love and accept yourself – I think that’s only a positive thing.


Artist, Miranda Charlotte, working on artwork that is designed to promote self-acceptance
Miranda's paintings seek to promote self-acceptance

BU: How have the mirrors you’ve created been received by other people, and in what ways has your work been able to help and inspire others? Are there any particular success stories and/or creations that stand out to you as being your favourites?


Miranda: In general, the feedback from the mirrors has been really positive, and in terms of people reaching out to me on Instagram when I do share my story, that’s been really positive too. I think that more people struggle with body image issues and their relationship with food than we necessarily realise, because a lot of people have reached out to me.


One of the more moving pieces that I did was for a friend of mine, who commissioned a mirror for her daughter who was struggling with an eating disorder. Obviously that’s something I’d gone through as a young adult, so to then be working with somebody who had a child that was going through it too... I could almost relate to the mother in terms of thinking this is her child, and how devastating it must be to see your child going through something like that.


So we worked together on making this mirror, and we put some of her favourite animals on it that were meaningful to her. I painted that for her and it went in her bedroom. I named the mirror after her and I wrote her a personal note to share what I’d been through as well, so hopefully the mirror will be a reminder to her that these are all the facets of your personality that are important and meaningful in terms of the person that you are, and why people love you. I hoped that would be a reminder to her, and I know she went through recovery, so that was a positive story. That was really meaningful for me to be able to support them.


BU: Although it’s fascinating hearing the backstory about how you ended up creating mirrors like these, at first glance people may not necessarily realise what the motivation is, and what the mirrors are designed to achieve – so is getting the message out about how the mirrors came to be a really important element of your business? And can that ever prove challenging?


Miranda: There’s maybe a bit of a leap in terms of explaining the story behind these mirrors, because it is a personal story from my perspective in terms of ‘This is what helped me, and this is the creative process that I went through’.


But one of the things that I always come back to is that my creations are inspired by nature and wildlife, which we as human beings generally appreciate in its full diversity and beauty. We don’t say, “This bird is more beautiful or special than this bird because it’s thinner or fatter.” We appreciate nature because it’s incredible and awe-inspiring in its different guises, and I think that that’s something I come back to in the work that I create, which often depicts wildlife. I want to inspire that appreciation of bodies in all their diversity in the same way that we feel about nature.


That is one of the challenges of the business, but it’s something I’m very happy to talk about! So through marketing, social media and branding, I try to connect those two things.


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In part two of our interview - which will go live next weekend - we'll be turning our attention to the ways in which therapy ultimately helped Miranda to accept and embrace her body. We're also discussing societal attitudes towards body image today, the role of the media, Miranda's experiences at life drawing events, cultural perceptions towards nudity in the UK, her creative plans for 2024, and a great deal more.



The official logo for Miranda Charlotte art

To see more of Miranda's inspiring range of self-acceptance mirrors and artwork, be sure to visit the artist's official website at www.mirandacharlotte.com. You can also find Miranda over on Instagram and Facebook.

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