Seeing people on TV who look more like me makes certain dreams feel more possible than they once did.
I was excited to see Afiya rock her birthmark. But I still think Love Island needs to take more responsibility to ensure all bodies are represented, rather than those that fit society’s stereotypical standards of ‘attractive’.
To a young person watching the show, a very specific and arguably unhealthy standard of beauty is being shown.
It doesn’t help that contestants are a hop and a skip away from brand deals as soon as they’re out of the villa. This means that we see more of the same body types and unrealistic beauty standards in the products that we use and in the apps that we scroll through on a daily basis. Diversifying social media feeds and more representation of visible difference across brands is key to ‘normalising’ difference and stopping negative behaviours, such as staring, towards those who have a visible difference.
I was born very prematurely and as a result, contracted a serious infection in my bowel. I was left with an abdominal scar after undergoing surgery as a baby. Given that I’ve had my scar for my whole life, and don’t remember living without it, I never saw it as different until others did.
It made secondary school a confusing and traumatising time and in reaction, I did everything possible to keep it covered up. This meant holidays and bikinis filled me with more dread than excitement.
From a young age, I started to notice people staring at my scar when I was on holiday or in my swimwear. Often it would be young children, curious and unaware of the impact that staring can have on someone. But soon I noticed that adults were just as bad. Save a few ignorant questions, I was mainly subject to whispering and pointing. I’m lucky it didn’t escalate to name-calling or abuse, but staring can be just as harmful to an individual’s confidence.
Today, although I still get stared at, I’m happy in my own skin and proud of my scars and the journey they represent.
For many, showing off your scarring is a terrifying thought, but the strength it will allow you to feel in yourself is far greater than any hate you could ever receive. Stand strong and be authentically you. By doing so, you’re painting a much bigger picture for the future, probably inspiring so many others to show themselves too.
Never forget, there’s no definition as to who can wear what, especially when it comes to bikinis. Rock whatever you want to and be proud of your journey.