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Interview with artist, Miranda Charlotte (Part Two)

In part two of our interview with artist, Miranda Charlotte, we're continuing our conversation about body image matters and exploring the ways therapy ultimate helped the artist to accept and embrace her own body. Furthermore, we're touching on societal attitudes around body image and the role of the media, cultural perceptions towards nudity in the UK, Miranda's experiences at life drawing events, her creative plans for 2024, and more!


Artist, Miranda Charlotte, posing with a painted, upcylced mirror in a woodland setting
Miranda's painted, upcycled mirrors are all designed to promote self-acceptance

Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders


Britain Uncovered: Hi Miranda! We’d like to resume our conversation by turning our attention to the types of self-affirmations featured throughout your body of work, and the role they can potentially play in people’s lives. With that in mind, how important do you feel that self-affirmations are in general, and do they have the ability to help people to feel more comfortable and confident within themselves? Or is it entirely dependent on the person?


Miranda: I agree that it depends person to person, and they’re not something that I have necessarily used that much myself. If I’ve been having a particular crisis point it has been something that I’ve turned to in order to try and rewire my brain a little bit, but I think it really does depend person to person.


The things I’ve relied on when trying to help myself out of a bit of a spiral would be to say to myself, “What can I do for myself that’s going to be the healthiest thing right now”? And that’s not necessarily an affirmation; it’s more like a strategy of saying, okay, I might be saying these negative or unhealthy things to myself, but what’s going to be the healthiest thing for my mind and for my body right now? And this might be eating a healthy meal, going for a walk, meditating, or eating chocolate, for example. Whatever it might be, having those kinds of questions or phrases to hand (and those that I know work for me) has been really beneficial. But I do think it’s a deeply personal thing of finding what works for you.


I’ve found that some particular things can be a bit of a circuit-breaker for me. Something that I used to find really helpful when I’d be comparing myself to other people, body-wise, is to say to myself, “That is her body, and this is my body.” And I know that sounds very basic, but it really did used to act as this circuit-breaker in my mind. That’s who this person is, and this is who I am. So I think it’s about finding what works for you.


BU: How closely aligned are body confidence, eating disorders and mental health issues in your opinion?


Miranda: I think it is probably quite a personal thing, because eating disorders in general aren’t necessarily about wanting to be ‘thinner’. Eating disorders can take so many different forms, and ultimately they are about control. They are a coping mechanism or a way of trying to deal with more uncomfortable feelings. In my case, I think that was low self-esteem and anxiety, and feeling out of control in other parts of my life. But that very much focused me on my body and trying to make myself smaller, basically.


For my personal experience, the negative body image and ‘anxious perfectionist’ personality type was tied up with my eating disorder – and I almost had a belief that the best or happiest version of myself would be the thinnest version. And having these beliefs about thinness – which are very much supported by our culture and our society – resulted in me believing that being thinner would lead me to be the best person that I could be. But there’s no end goal with that, and it ultimately just made me extremely unhappy. So for me, those things were extremely interlinked. And working on my body image and my thought patterns around food and body has been the thing to focus on in order to improve my mental health.


Artist, Miranda Charlotte, painting on denim at her home studio in London
Painting has also been therapeutic for Miranda

BU: Are you able to share how therapy helped you, in terms of helping to make you feel more positively about your body image?


Miranda: Therapy for me was really crucial in helping to unpick some of the deeply embedded learning I’d absorbed my whole life; and I think one of the more difficult things is that when you have an eating disorder, or issues with your body image, it’s reinforced by our culture. You can be saying to yourself, “Oh I need to lose this weight” or “I’m not good enough” or whatever it might be, being highly critical of one’s self. And that is reinforced by our culture, even though it’s not to the levels it was in the 90s and 00s (we’ve got a different situation now). But I think realising those things and becoming self-aware, or aware of the environment, was really helpful.


One of the things that really came out of my time in therapy was realising how self-critical I am, and the standards at which I hold myself to. Standards which I would just never expect of anybody else. My therapist and I would talk about my critical side as being like a pair of scissors. It would feel as if I’ve got the scissors out and I’m trying to critique myself, and that’s almost like a self-destructive side of my personality; and to be able to recognise when I’m doing that has been really helpful in terms of how I view my body.


It was also helpful to interrogate my prejudices and ask why I associated thinness with being ‘good’. And looking at my personality type in terms of saying, okay, I’m quite a perfectionist and I’m quite anxious, but how can I to work to – not undo it so much, because I don’t think you can necessarily change drastically in that way – but how can I be aware of when I was doing that? And to divert myself in a different direction and say, “Okay, I can see that my brain is doing that right now”. And I went into therapy believing, or wanting, to extract that disordered thinking part of my brain. But I learned that actually, you can’t control your thoughts. That’s what I wanted to do, but that’s not possible. But you can be more aware of them, and hopefully introduce something that’s more logical or helpful. And that was the journey that I went on.


Artist Miranda Charlotte's painted mirrors on display at a market stall
Head to mirandacharlotte.com for even more creations

BU: You mentioned that societal attitudes around body image have evolved from how they were in the 90s and 00s. Do you feel the media is starting to change for the better, and that society is succeeding at not focusing on body image quite so much? Or do you think there is still work to be done, and that the body positivity movement isn’t necessarily helping at the speed it could be?


Miranda: It’s really difficult. I think it takes a huge cultural shift, and I think it takes time to change those social norms. I think that the body positivity movement has done a huge amount and we definitely are seeing much more diverse representation on our screens and in media, and that’s fantastic. Whether that’s gender, size, race, all these different things – I think we need more and more of that.


I think that there are some things that could help a lot more, like transparency around airbrushing and retouching of images. When we’re looking at advertising on social media, a lot of the images we’re seeing simply aren’t real, and that means that people – and especially young people who are growing up with social media – are holding themselves to an impossible standard, and that’s really detrimental to people’s mental health. I think there’s a lot more that needs to be done for that, because our lives are so intertwined with online now, and I think that the lack of transparency around that is really detrimental. There’s a long way to go with that.


Also, something else I’ve been finding quite scary is the apparent reversion to thinness as a ‘trend’ within celebrity culture. A lot of celebrities seem to be using the Ozempic drug to make their bodies a lot smaller, to become a lot thinner, and I think that’s really worrying; and the idea that body types could follow trends is just bizarre as well.


So while there has been a lot of progress, we are seeing regression, and I think there’s a long way to go along both of those tracks.


Artist, Miranda Charlotte, posing with her painted mirrors and artwork at a market in Peckham, London
Miranda posing with her various creations at a recent market in Peckham

BU: Britain Uncovered likes to promote the benefits of participation in social nudity events, as we feel as though being around ‘normal bodies’ – as opposed to those often depicted in the media – can be really beneficial from a body image perspective. Do you feel that these types of experiences can be valuable in helping us come to terms with our bodies, and have you ever participated in events like these?


Miranda: I think it is hugely beneficial, I really do, and one of the things that has helped me is going to life drawing, because you do see a wide variety of bodies in that kind of setting. As you’re drawing you are looking at the body, but you’re not doing it in a negative or scrutinising way. You’re doing it to create art, and I think that doing that does help my perception to be like, ‘Okay, these bodies don’t necessarily meet the ‘beauty standard’ of what we think is the best type of way to look; but I can see the beauty in them, because I’m creating artwork from them, and that does kind of show that all bodies are works of art in their own right.’ And I think that’s really beautiful.


I don’t know if public nudity is something that I could get into necessarily! I might be a bit too shy for that. But I have been in situations like sauna culture in Switzerland or Germany. I think that being in those safe environments where nudity is normalised is really helpful and positive, and I think that if you grow up in an environment like that, where you’re seeing diverse bodies in a safe and normalised environment, then I think that is really positive.


BU: As we’ve mentioned in several of our past interviews, the UK does seem so far behind the times compared to mainland Europe in this regard.


Miranda: I do think this prudishness around nudity is part of British culture, and it’s really interesting.


I work with charities and have spent some time in Senegal in West Africa, which is a very conservative country. I remember one of the social norms was to make sure that, as a woman, your arms and legs are covered up. I remember going on a trip there where we were on a river, and to get into the boat I had to hoick my skirt up in order to get in. However, I accidentally left my skirt over my knee, and this woman in the boat kind of pulled it down and was scolding me for showing my knees! But then there were also women in the river who were washing and they had their breasts exposed, and that was completely normal and not chastised at all.


So I think it’s really interesting to look at different cultures and see that although breasts aren’t necessarily sexualised in a Senegalese context, they are something that would be potentially sexualised in a British context, despite the fact that we might see ourselves as a more liberal, progressive country than a religiously conservative country like Senegal. Certainly I think compared to countries like Germany or wherever else where nudity in different contexts isn’t necessarily always sexualised, I think that we are kind of behind the times. But I don’t know, maybe it’s because it’s cold here!


Artist, Miranda Charlotte, at the Big Body Confidence beach day in Brighton
At the Big Body Confidence beach day

BU: Speaking of events, what can you tell us about the Big Body Confidence beach day you recently attended in Brighton? It’s not an event we had previously been aware of.


Miranda: This was a really fantastic day! It was organised by a journalist, Bryony Gordon, who is a mental health advocate on quite a range of topics – including body image. She talks about addiction, OCD, and she also ran the London Marathon in her underwear! She’s an incredible person.


Bryony put on this day to bring people together and to talk about body confidence, and it was a day where they had a meditation, and they also had the author Michelle Elman talking about her relationship with her body and her journey with that. And then everyone went down to the sea in their swimsuits! We did this thing called ‘pilcharding’, which is lying or sitting on the shore and letting the waves wash over you, which was quite nice, and it was a really beautiful, moving day.


I didn’t expect to feel quite so emotional being there, but it was just a beautiful group in terms of the feeling of being there and collectively having this goal of feeling confident and going into the sea and enjoying that. To me, that really ties into body neutrality. It wasn’t about looking at each other and saying, “This is what we look like, and who looks good in their bikini and who doesn’t?” It was about being together and being in the sea and having an enjoyable time. So yes, that was really great, and I think Bryony does intend to do some more in the future. Maybe they’ll do them in different parts of the UK. That was the first one they’d ever had, and it was a really great day.


BU: What advice would you offer to any of our readers who may be struggling with their self-image and/or body confidence levels, and how can they go about feeling more positively about themselves?


Miranda: I do think it comes down to finding what works for you. Whether that’s writing gratitude lists, or lists about things you value or like about yourself that have nothing to do with your body – like being a good friend, or whatever it might be.


Artist, Miranda Charlotte, posing in a 'Be Kind To Your Mind' t-shirt she created for the Beat charity
The t-shirt design Miranda created for Beat

I've also found particular phrases that work for me that act as a reminder to look after myself both mentally and physically. For example, earlier this year I designed a t-shirt in support of Beat – the UK's eating disorder charity – with the text motif "Be Kind To Your Mind", with the intention to remind people who see it to do just that.


For me, the body image and eating disorder stuff was really linked with anxiety and self-worth, so for me it’s about thinking, ‘What are the things that make me unique and special that have nothing to do with the way I look’? I think if that’s not something you can necessarily do for yourself, it can be really helpful to ask a friend to help you with that list, because often we can’t see ourselves in the way our friends or loved ones see us. And I think that can be really helpful to have that positive affirmation or validation.


Additionally, because social media is so omnipresent and present in all of our lives, I’d also say to unfollow anybody that makes you feel badly about yourself in any way. If it’s a friend, maybe just mute them so they won’t know you don’t want to see their posts. I think that the comparison cycle we can sometimes get into is so destructive, so just block that from your feed.


But conversely to that, I have found that social media can be a real source of positivity, and it can be really helpful if you find people or somebody that you really relate to. For me, it’s somebody like the model Charli Howard. She talks about her own experience with an eating disorder, and she really speaks out about body image and I really relate to her. She’s somebody I look to as a role model and somebody whose content does help. So I think it’s about finding those people who can remind you that you are enough, and finding those strategies for yourself and what works for you, and trying different things. Because once you do hit upon that strategy that is helpful for you, it can be a key or a circuit-breaker.


A profile photo of London-based artist, Miranda Charlotte
Miranda plans to launch a series of workshops in 2024

BU: Finally, what are some of your goals for the next 12 months? Is raising awareness of mental health issues going to continue being the focus through your art, or are there other avenues you wish to explore also?


Miranda: I really want to continue focusing on mental health and talking about body image and sharing my own story, because I think it can be helpful to people.


Something that I’d also like to focus on is growing my business and partnering with like-minded brands. I’m planning to launch a series of workshops that focus on mirror painting and self-confidence, so this would be for groups or community members that maybe have a particular slant with that. It could be women’s groups or life drawing groups to do things like mirror work, where you’re maybe using the mirror to reflect on how you feel about yourself, and maybe do some journaling – that kind of thing. And then paint mirrors in that framework of reflecting on how you’d speak to yourself in the mirror, and how you can do that in a positive way to affirm yourself.


So yes, I’d really like to launch some workshops and tie the painting and creativity side of things to self-confidence and body neutrality. So that’s going to be a project over the next year, for sure. I’ve also just launched my website, which definitely makes my business feel a lot more real!


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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 recently launched website at www.mirandacharlotte.com. You can also find Miranda over on her Instagram and Facebook pages.


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