I was really lacking in inspiration for anything to write for Fresh Perspective’s article this week. I replayed a few of the controversial conversations we had on our recent road trip to Brighton and decided that whilst they were hilarious, I still wanted Laura and Emily to be in business for the foreseeable future, and so they should not (yet) be published. However, a talking point that wasn’t highly illegal or disturbing came to me when I went home for lunch yesterday, when I was weighing up whether eating one slice of brown bread would result in a half-pound weight gain. Living dangerously, I shoved two slices in the toaster and whilst I was waiting, I stumbled across a video on Facebook by Antonella The Uncensored Reviewer. As she demonstrated in two easy steps how to get a bikini body (1. Put a bikini on your body, 2. Stop giving a s**t what everyone else thinks), I looked at her size 24 bottoms and size 30 top and surprised myself that my initial thought wasn’t a negative one. They are the numbers we aspire to achieve on our weekly pub quiz, not the ones any of us would want to associate with our dress size, but it was so refreshing to see someone not care about how they looked, that the first thing I noticed was that she was wearing sunglasses inside. Does she have the washboard abs and thigh gap we are expected to believe are normal from reading magazines? No. She has a thick Burnley accent, an even thicker waistline, and some words of wisdom to impart: “Is it worth traumatising yourself to get that bikini body?” Clarifying that she was not encouraging her viewing audience to become morbidly obese, she went on to point out that exercising and eating healthily are good for us, but not to let those things make you miserable. If you’re like me, how many holidays have you been on where you’ve slogged it out on the treadmill for hours on end beforehand? I once ate hardly anything but a chicken breast a day for six months before I went away, only to be surprised that when I went to the beach, hardly anybody else had bothered and they were still having just as good a time as I was. After starving myself for half a year, I landed back in England and baked cupcakes for three days straight; consequently returning to work two weeks later having gained sixteen pounds.

As a woman, I’ve found that products to make us more beautiful are constantly pushed on us, preying on our insecurities and giving us false hope. How many celebrities do we see holding various bottles containing magic potions that will make us look like them? They don’t even look like them! Filters, teeth whitening apps, photoshop, blemish removal tools…the list goes on. Even if I wanted teeth whiter than Donald Trump’s voting demographic (and I do), I am unlikely to be able to achieve this by simply using the products that the now-forgotten Love Island stars are showing me on a daily basis. At 23 years old, I bought a gel that I applied twice a day that was going to completely eradicate my cellulite. Not only did it cost me £22 (luckily it was around the same time as the chicken diet, so not paying for food gave me a bit of spare cash), but it didn’t even work! I could not believe that I didn’t have pins like Jennifer Lopez after one whole month of awkwardly massaging the back of my legs with a strange roller device. More recently, I invested in an anti-stretch mark pregnancy band that I wore religiously even when heavily pregnant through high temperatures in August last year. Unsurprisingly, here I am, one year on, complete with a few wrinkles where my half-stone baby took over my body. This meant that I could not partake in a flamboyant, Beyoncé-esque ante-natal photoshoot as would’ve been my worst nightmare. But does Queen Bey really have a naturally smooth bump or is she the beneficiary of some excellent photoshop work too?

Would anybody be surprised to discover that celebrities lie to us all the time? I was the first one to champion Fern Britton for her five-stone weight loss, and was shocked to find out that this was not, in fact, down to the two times she rode around London on her bicycle eating Ryvetas, and was instead through having a gastric band fitted. My naivety in this instance led me to question other well-known faces. Jennifer Aniston hasn’t aged a single day since she was in Friends. I’m not being duped twice- there isn’t a single line on that woman’s face and she’s pushing 50, am I expected to believe that’s down to using organic soap and practising yoga for half an hour each day? More likely that she used a different clinic to her co-star Courtney Cox, and opted for some natural looking fillers and Botox that have kept her looking undeniably incredible. Let’s not forget the King of Pop Plastic Surgery, the late Michael Jackson, who must’ve thought that the entire human race had some kind of severe visual impairment as he told Martin Bashir “I am telling you the honest truth, I didn’t do anything to my face.”

Seems legit.

I can’t say I’m averse to plastic surgery in some cases, I’m quite sure that if I didn’t have to fork out for nursery fees each month, I would eventually have enough money to purchase a straighter nose, perkier boobs and a wrinkle-free stomach. No amount of Avon lotion is going to make that happen for me, only going under the knife will. But when the celebrities we see won’t admit they’ve done the same thing, it gives us an skewed impression of what we ‘should’ look like. I can’t imagine many people sat up at night saying their prayers for the features of Michael Jackson (who in any case was 100% natural), but more with the scores of other smug, well-known faces we see grinning at us from the magazine racks. How about Renee Zellweger, who appeared on the latest Bridget Jones’s flop with a completely new head? She denied having any work done, forgetting that we knew she had, because, you know…we have eyes.

Our unrealistic ideals of what beauty looks like have led to a generation of overfilled duck lips, out of proportion derrières and 13-year old girls who ask for £60 lash extensions for their birthdays. Get The Sims for your PC like I did at the same age, be a child, and have some fun. I can’t say this did me any favours whatsoever in being attractive to the opposite sex, but it was a third of the price and entertained me for hours on end. My mum wouldn’t have spent her money any other way. Maybe I didn’t have lashes to die for at high school, but would it have mattered if I did? I had a fixed brace and styled my hair with steam straighteners, which gave me the look of an unkempt llama as soon as I encountered slight humidity. Believe me, thicker eyelashes would’ve made no difference. Eventually, as I got older, I realised I should make some changes to my appearance, but I’m relieved that I missed out on Facebook and Instagram stealing my adolescence by thrusting fraudulent photographs at me day after day. It is these images that encouraged my friends to buy products that also didn’t work, namely eyebrow stencils, charcoal tooth whitening paste, cellulite cups, breast masks, blackhead removal tweezers and lip plumpers. I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the £100, five-day juice detox that Elissa bought to help her lose weight, because this particular product did not specify that you should consume them with a side order of buttered crumpets. Another sceptic of a weight loss technique was Laura, who bought a course of treatments where she was wrapped up like a burrito in cling film and was left to sweat it out for half an hour in a heated room. I opted for the cheaper version and bought a ‘waist trimmer’ that Kirsty Gallagher swore by, which I wore to spinning classes, resulting in my skin being rubbed raw, and unsurprisingly did absolutely nothing apart from make my torso unnaturally rigid until I removed it.

Don’t believe Kirsty, Renee, Jennifer, Fern, and dare I even add Beyonce to the list? Before photoshop and the sneaky work of surgeons, they were women born with imperfections too. We always want what we can’t have. It’s sad that we never appreciate when we do look good because we’re worrying so much about our imagined flaws. Throughout history, a woman’s worth has been measured by her appearance, and this mindset doesn’t seem to have changed. Women especially are so preoccupied with looking a certain way, that they are missing out on life; turning down a night on the tiles because they’re too fat, never experiencing the joy that The Sims can bring to you as a child because you had to buy a Naked eye palette that you don’t know how to use properly. There’s things I would love to be different about my own body, it’s a struggle not to find fault with everything, but we might all be happier if we lived by the words of Antonella, “love the skin you’re in, regardless of shape, regardless of size. We were all born naked, it’s a bit of skin. I don’t give a f**k if people don’t like it, they can look in the opposite direction.”

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