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Thoughts on Love Island 🌴

June is just around the corner, which means one thing: Love Island.

I have had various discussions during the build up with my friends. To watch or not to…
Last year, the answer was simple: Yes. But now, I’m not so sure. What changed my mind? After all it’s a great antidote to a dull day in the office. TV where you can escape reality and watch without a worry. Or so we thought.

There had been some anticipation of plus size models and a more ’diverse’ group of entering the villa this year, so when I saw ITV had released the line up, I excitedly went to investigate. Scrolling through bright candy coloured images, I saw 12 gorgeous human beings… from scientist to surfer. But not one person with a visible difference.

18% of people self-identify as having a visible difference such as a mark, scar or condition* (me being one of them- I have Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome). Which means, that there should be at least one person on Love Island representing this demographic.

Why do people who look ‘different’ need to be represented? 

1 in 3 people feel depressed, sad or anxious as a result of having a visible difference*

I believe that a contributing factor to this is how people are portrayed in the media.

Adverts show a very narrow perspective of beauty and we are under constant pressure to look like what their idea of ‘perfect’ is. This in turn can influence our happiness: we experience low confidence and self esteem , as our bodies do not match what we see in the media; suggesting that we are simply not good enough.

People with visible differences are putting up barriers because they assume that they wouldn’t make the cut. I would never apply to go on Love Island purely because I don’t think they would want someone like me, who has a swollen foot and is a size 12/14. We aren’t putting ourselves in situations to gain opportunities because of our insecurities about looking different.

What can we do to change this?

I am very proud to be a Campaigner for the charity Changing Faces and we want more brands to sign our Pledge To Be Seen and commit to better representing people with a visible difference.

Love Island attracts millions of viewers, with the average amount being 3.6 million.

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My friend Heather and I bumped into Love Island winner Kem Catinay in Ibiza!

Over half a million people with a visible difference will be tuning in on Monday to watch a new group of singletons entering the villa. Amongst the viewers will be many teenagers.

For me, I was most self-conscious when I was in my teens. I never felt good enough and I was constantly comparing my body to what I saw in magazines, films and reality TV.

At times, I was very sad and wished I would wake up one day and for my KTS leg to have miraculously shrunk to the same size and colour of my left.

If only I had a public figure to look up to who had a visible difference! This person could be a Love Island contestant. I know I would’ve felt a bit more comfortable with my body, knowing there are other people with visible differences who are successful.

Instead, it’s taken me years of anti depressants, therapy and counselling to help me on my journey of accepting my visible difference.

On the plus side, I feel a lot better about my body and how it looks and I am comfortable enough to show my leg in public: I’m not hiding it anymore!

*Statistics are taken from the Changing Faces report: My Visible Difference.

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You are good enough

This is the first time I’ve really spoken about the thoughts I had about my body whilst being a teenager with Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome (KTS).
In a nutshell, I was born with one leg bigger than the other. I will go into more detail about it in a future blog post, or you can find out more by looking at my Instagram.

Growing up, I was constantly comparing my body to what I saw in films and magazines. Slim people who had symmetrical bodies were in my eyes “perfect”, as that was what t.v adverts and magazine articles always portrayed. Did I ever see girls wearing compression stockings or having different looking legs? Not. At. All.

All the shows and magazines I loved had little or no diversity: Teen Vogue, The Hills, The Devil Wears Prada, The OC, the list goes on! I thought; visually, that I wasn’t enough, as the media was sending me subliminal messages: my body didn’t make the cut. I did not have the “bikini body” I kept seeing advertised and articles written about. I went through a phase of doing sit ups everyday before school started because I believed that having abs would make me feel better about my body, and that it would draw attention away from my leg. 

The closest thing I could relate to was Bethany Hamilton’s book -Soul Surfer- she’d lost her arm in a shark attack. She was determined to surf again despite missing an arm and absolutely embraced it. She was such a major source of inspiration, and still is. I absolutely loved the film adaptation too (worth a watch). 

I used to love watching America’s Next Top Model. Which is kind of ironic really, because it was all about what you looked like and having this perfect “look”. I can’t for the life of me remember what episode it was but Tyra strongly advised a beautiful woman on there to have the gap between her two front teeth closed. And it made me really upset and angry. The lady was happy with her teeth, and felt that it was a characteristic which made her unique; yet there she was being pushed to have her teeth adjusted. And for what? Someone else’s idea of what is attractive, and on what they thought would sell. For a teenager to see that was in no way, shape or form okay. It was insinuating that my differences weren’t good enough and that I should change to fit someone else’s ideologies.

Fast forward to today…. Everything has changed, yet everything is still the same. We have been given an amazing platform to broadcast our thoughts and our ideas globally, all at the touch of a screen.

 Teenagers are now exposed to social media. I see influencers are pushing to sell weight loss products to their followers (many of which are teenagers who are particularly vulnerable) claiming that by drinking a  “skinny coffee” you will lose 5 pounds in week. They will then proceed to back this up with a before and after photo (posing and lighting works miracles people!). There they stand with their chiseled jawbones, abs of steel, pert breasts and perky bottoms. This would have taken hard work in the gym, a carefully planned diet and maybe even some cosmetic surgery; not a week drinking “skinny coffee”.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that I want to see more people confident with their own bodies; regardless of size, shape, colour or gender. And EMBRACING it. As girls – like my teenage self- will be seeing your photos (yes YOU with the 3.7 million followers) and be influenced by them. You want them to love the skin they’re in and empower their peers that it’s okay to be different.

To the people with a large following on social media; think carefully before you agree to that paid partnership with a fast track weight loss product. You are influencing millions of young minds, when most of them are already self conscious (like I was) of their bodies. Instead, encourage them to realise that they have so many assets which make them beautiful inside and out. They are good enough (and so are you!) just the way they are.

sydney to coogee coastal walk
Me on a beautiful coastal walk, stopping to have a drink. No posing, not make up and no filter. Just me.

Thou shalt moisturise!

Every time I visit the lymphedema clinic my nurse is impressed by the condition of my legs. Inside I do a silent fist pump, because I am so pleased that my moisturising efforts are taking effect. And since I had my lymphedema nurse’s approval, I thought I would share my moisturising tips on here…

I am by no means a dermatologist, so if you are suffering with dry skin, please consult your doctor. I am just stating what works for me.

I moisturise every day without fail. I go through about 200-300 ml of moisturiser per month, this means I can buy a new bottle every month. I like to change up my daily moisturisers, and when my legs are in good condition, I have more choice of what I can use. When they aren’t good (sore, or infected), I like to stick to creams especially for sensitive skin. Moisturising is very important as it stops your skin getting dry. Dry skin– when your skin loses moisture- can lead to cracked skin. This can be a breeding ground for bacteria, as the cracks let microorganisms and irritants in.
This is particularly dangerous (yes dangerous!) for people who suffer from lymphoedema, varicose veins and other circulatory conditions. Dry skin lets bacteria in, bacteria causes infections like Cellulitis, or folliculitis. If you have areas in your legs which have poor circulation, they become nice , stagnant places for the bacteria to live. Also, every infection you get damages your lymph vessels a bit more; which over time leads to more swelling as the vessels won’t work as well as they used to.

Below is an example of skin infection on my leg.

Bacterial skin infections, without treatment, can cause septicaemia. Septicaemia- in layman’s terms- is when your body cannot fight an infection, so instead of it being in one area, it enters your blood stream. You can die from septicaemia. So for people like me who have a dodgy leg and poor circulation, moisturising is COMPULSORY.

How my leg should look! Moisturised and rash free.

Here is a list of the current moisturisers living in my beauty cupboard…

A Thick, Lovely Scented Cream
Nivea Creme £2.50 ish, Savers
Ooh this is a treat for me, the rich, heavy duty creme takes a while to apply, and you really must dry yourself properly before applying, as it doesn’t mix well with water. I absolutely love the smell of Nivea creme, its very nostalgic (I’m sure my mum used to put this on me when I was little) and its just the best feeling slapping this on my legs after a long bath, then cosying up in my pyjamas. One thing I would say, is there is a hygiene risk as you must dip your fingers into the pot to get the creme; so keep this creme to yourself and make sure you have clean hands when applying! Another infection is the last thing us lymphies want on our legs!

For Delicate, Sensitive skin
Norwegian Formula Neutrogena deep moisture body lotion sensitive £3.59 (special offer!) at boots.com
This is great as the application is hygienic and if my legs are feeling a bit delicate, or they have any rashes on them, I would choose this to moisturise over other creams, as sometimes fragranced creams can aggravate any rashes etc. If you have dry skin, avoid using a creme with fragrance, as it can sep into the cracks and irritate the deeper layers of skin, causing itching and burning sensations. Stick to thick creams to start with, such as this one.

The Budget Friendly Option
Cien light feeling body lotion £2 or under, Lidl
Well I discovered this in Lidl the other day and thought I must try it! This cream is very easy to apply, the smell is lovely and if like me, you go through moisturiser like an elephant drinks water, it’s easier on your wallet. I probably would be careful using this on any red skin, as I feel the fragrance may irritate it.

For your Holiday
Palmers Cocoa Butter Formula £3 ish Savers
This cream is great, It smells lovely, which is a bonus as I avoid wearing perfume when im in hot countries as they attract bugs, so a softly fragrance cream is a good alternative. This cream can also be used as after-sun, and my boyfriend uses this too to keep his tattoos in good nick!

To Achieve Silky, Shiny Skin
Avon Skin So Soft £1.99 atm, it’s on offer! Avon.com
I was supposed to take this on holiday but I didn’t make an order in time! This dry oil is amazing as it doubles as a bug repellant. I’m not entirely sure on the science behind it, but what I do know is that after my evening showers when I went to India a few years ago, I’d put this on my whole body (except my face) and I definitely didn’t have (if any) many bites.

That’s me worded out for today, which moisturisers do you like to use?

G▫️👣