In our latest interview, Britain Uncovered is speaking with musician, writer and body positivity advocate, Rhiannon Ruth! We're discussing her recent participation in a body positivity photoshoot, her body image issues over the years, the need for greater body diversity in the media, and more!
Britain Uncovered: Hi Rhiannon! To start with, can we ask when your interests in body positivity and body confidence first came about? What is it that interests you about these movements, and how would you evaluate your relationship with your body over the years?
Rhiannon: I was always a plump child, and I had no shame about my body. As a teenager, I was quite slim and active, but my eating was inconsistent due to mental health issues and I lost a lot of weight. When I started university, I was less active and turned to comfort eating to deal with mental health issues, so I put on weight quickly and was also maturing into a fuller shape. I found it hard to accept my new body. I developed a binge eating disorder with periods of severe restriction and used intensive exercise to punish myself for overeating.
My weight fluctuated, but the way I felt about myself stayed the same – I felt ugly. It got to the point where I didn’t want to leave the house, so I decided to try and change my relationship with my body. I stopped counting calories, started intuitive eating, spent time in front of the mirror looking at my naked body, and I tried to talk to myself using positive language. I found doing naked yoga really helped me to connect with my body.
I also unfollowed any social media accounts that made me feel bad about my body, and I sought out accounts for eating disorder recovery and bodies of all shapes and sizes. It took a few years but I have a much better relationship with my body now. I still have bad days, but it’s an ongoing journey.
Britain Uncovered: Several months back, you took part in a body positivity photoshoot – and we were really impressed with the final images! What were some of the reasons you wanted participate a shoot like this, and had you ever tried anything like this in the past? What did you most want to get out of the experience?
Rhiannon: I was approached by the photographer to do the shoot and I said yes as I had wanted to do one for a long time. It was a good opportunity for me to push myself out of my comfort zone and I found it an empowering experience.
In terms of what I wanted to get out of the experience – I wanted to make other people feel more confident in themselves by showing them an unedited body. If even one person saw the photos and felt inspired to do something empowering – like treating themselves to lingerie and taking a picture, or having sex with the lights on, or organising their own photoshoot – then I would have achieved my goal. And I had lots of people approach me to say that they had done just that!
Britain Uncovered: During the planning stages of the shoot, what were some of the initial concepts and intentions for the shoot, and what were you wanting the images to portray to the viewer? Were you seeking to present the human body in a specific light, and did you have a particular mood in mind ahead of time?
Rhiannon: The shoot was intended to be sexual, but I also wanted to include some non-sexual shots that were more about the natural beauty of the human body. The main goal of the shoot was for me to feel confident – I chose what I wore and what poses I wanted to do, and it was very relaxed and fun. I specified that I didn’t want my skin texture or my body shape edited at all, so the final results are very true to my natural self.
Britain Uncovered: Although body positive influencers and websites like ours are continuing to promote body diversity as best we can, do you feel the media and the entertainment industry in general still has a lot of catching up to do in this regard? Or are things slowly heading in the right direction?
Rhiannon: I am starting to see a more diverse range of bodies in advertising, but there is still a long way to go. Companies need to brave enough to take that leap and make the change, rather than sticking to the body stereotypes that have been used for so long. There also needs to be more work done to get rid of sexual shame, but it’s also important to desexualise naked bodies. People should be able to express themselves with nudity without being labelled as promiscuous or overly sexual, but they also shouldn’t be shamed for embracing their sexuality and not wanting to hide it.
Britain Uncovered: What else could be done within society to help normalise bodies of all shapes and sizes?
Rhiannon: More diversity when it comes to models and advertising, but also in film and television – the leading lady does not need to look like a barbie doll in order to have a happy ending! And not all larger characters have to be the comic relief. I went to see a musical last year and was pleasantly surprised that the members of the chorus were of various shapes and sizes – and all of equal talent.
Britain Uncovered: How did you feel in the lead-up to the shoot, and did you have any reservations heading into the day? Putting yourself in the spotlight like that can perhaps force you to assess your relationship with your body in new and different ways.
Rhiannon: I was very nervous in the lead-up to the shoot, as I was worried about not liking the photos or of what other people would think of my body. But the effect of putting myself in the spotlight was that my confidence grew! I now have more confidence to wear tighter clothes and to not hide my figure.
Britain Uncovered: The photos we’ve seen were really fantastic and you seemed very much at ease and at home in the spotlight! How did it all go on the day in question, and how did it feel being in front of the camera?
Rhiannon: I enjoyed being in front of the camera, but it took a bit of time to get into the swing of it. We had music playing and we were chatting throughout the shoot to keep it relaxed.
Britain Uncovered: How did it feel seeing the final images, and what was it like seeing yourself from this completely different perspective? Has it led you to re-evaluate the way you perceive yourself and your relationship with your body?
Rhiannon: I had a mixed reaction to the photos – some of them I loved and some of them I hated. But the photographer let me choose which ones were published, so I was comfortable with what other people were seeing. I tried to choose a mixture of poses to show the different sides of my body; with body rolls, uneven skin tone etc. Overall, I think the photos are a true representation of my body.
Britain Uncovered: What kind of reaction have you had from friends and family in the aftermath of the shoot, and do you think you may have opened up new conversations and inspired them to open up about their own body issues as a result of your participation?
Rhiannon: Some people were confused about why I did the shoot, as there is still a lot of internalised shame that people project on to others. But I consider myself a body positive, sex positive feminist, and I was very happy to explain my perspective and help people to understand. A lot of people were congratulating me on my bravery and complimented my body.
Britain Uncovered: Would you recommend such an experience to others, and do you feel it's important that people with all body types get the opportunity to take part in shoots like these?
Rhiannon: I think that different people find different things empowering. A photoshoot would not work for everyone, but I would certainly recommend it. Even if you feel brave enough to wear a swimsuit at the beach and not spend the whole day sucking in your tummy, or you pluck up the courage to wear that outfit that you don’t think you have the body for – small steps will help.
Britain Uncovered: Has this modelling experience changed your perspective of yourself in any way, and would you say you have learned anything about yourself?
Rhiannon: It was good to go through with something even though I was scared, as it showed me that I can be brave. It also helped me to realise how passionate I am about body positivity, and to feel less shame about my sexuality.
Britain Uncovered: Is a body positivity photoshoot something you would like to try again, and if so, what do you think you'd like to achieve second time around?
Rhiannon: I would love to do it again and try to get some more artistic shots, by experimenting with black and white, different lighting, and some material textures.
Britain Uncovered: Finally, what advice would you offer to those struggling with body image or body confidence issues, and what are some of the ways you’re able to stay positive about yourself on an ongoing basis likewise?
Rhiannon: Be cautious of what media you are consuming, and avoid anything that makes you question your self worth. It takes time, but once you start your journey of self-acceptance it will change your life. Be patient with yourself and keep going!
Thank you to both Rhiannon and her photographer, Phillken Photography, for kindly allowing us to publish a selection of the images from their recent photoshoot. To see more from the shoot (and beyond), feel free to follow Rhiannon on Instagram over at @0rhiruth0. You can also click the following links to access her dedicated music and book review accounts.