Monday, 10 September 2018

The Body Positivity Revolution, with Chidera Eggerue (@theslumflower) & Michelle Elman (@scarrednotscared) ; a write up.

I was so excited to host an event in Waterstones TCR on Thursday 26th of July, in which I got to ask two extraordinary women questions about their brilliant books ('Am I Ugly?' and 'What a Time to be Alone'), body positive theses and massive online movements. The event was very fabulously entitled ‘The Body Positivity Revolution; with #saggyboobsmatter and #scarrednotscared’. 


Me, living a dream, seeing my name on the big events board at Waterstones TCR. Had to get a pic, didn't I? 


Despite knowing it may take me ages to do afterwards, given how perfectly talkative and inspiring these women are, I was determined to record the whole event and write it up for all those of you who were unable to make it on the night (because, FYI, we sold out. Or as Chidera said: ‘we broke Waterstones!!’).

So, I am sitting on my bed as it rains outside, a peeler mask on my face and my phone beside me with the voice memo open. Here goes…


(photos all taken by gorgeous friends - let me know which is yours if you want credit!?)


Me: So, we have here Chidera Eggerue, perhaps better known online as The Slumflower; the unstoppable force behind the groundbreaking #SaggyBoobsMatter movement and author of ‘What a Time to be Alone’ - which came out today!! Chidera, thank you for joining us on your book birthday! 


Chidera: thank you for having me!


Me: And we have the award-winning body positivity activist and confidence coach, Michelle Elman, whose tag #scarrednotscared recognises that all bodies are equally valuable and broadens the billboard definitions of beauty.
She is also the author of ‘Am I Ugly?’ - which came out two weeks ago! And just today, Michelle has been featured in The Daily Mail, which was amazing.




Me: Chidera, you started today at what, 10 on Amazon? And where are you now?

Chidera: I was 10, and now I am number 4 in the Amazon book charts…!

Me: Tonight we will be celebrating the release of both these books; we’ll also be discussing the expanding body positivity movement, the virtues of social media as a community, and then of course these brilliant women will give their tips throughout on how to improve your self-worth, mental health and relationship with your body.

Okay, so. Let’s start with a little intro – ladies, tell us about yourselves, and maybe tell us how you came into the body positive atmosphere! (yah, great word there, Grace) 

Chidera: so, the reason why body confidence is so important to me is because I’m learning that every single person deserves to feel great about their body. And nobody should feel like they need to earn anyone’s approval to exist. I aim to encourage women to...just not wait for people to tell you it’s okay to like yourself – which is why I created #saggyboobsmatter, because I’m quite slim and attractive so I benefit off a world that allows slim, attractive people to exist without being questioned, but having saggy boobs has meant that I’ve noticed that you don’t have to be slim or any particular body size to be affected by how your boobs look, so it was really important that I initiate that conversation and try to allow women to see that having saggy boobs is not gonna stop you from getting a job, and being loved...they’re just boobs! 


Michelle: I got into body confidence really as a result of all my times in hospital, and my surgeries – which has made me really wish that people didn’t have to wait until they’re in a hospital bed to realise that they have a life right now. Most people go through what went through as a child at an age when you can’t make up for it. And I was able to make up for the time; all the times I said no, all the times I felt bad about myself. That I think is my core purpose; to teach others that you don’t have to go through what I went through to find that you have a body and you have a life. 

The main thing I think about body positivity is, we fall into that trap of complaining about the small things, and the things that stop us from doing anything, but the reality is you only have so much time, and we have to start using it now.



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First readings:

Michelle: Chapter 13 (‘Am I Fat?’) of ‘Am I Ugly?’. Page 111. 


Chidera: 'What a Time to be Alone’; the section entitled ‘Try Not to be a Prick’. 

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Me: so, what do you two feel needs to happen to keep the body positivity movement going? Or make it better!?

Chidera: I think more celebrities need to get involved and speak about it. As much as it’s not their responsibility to prove anything, or to expose or talk about personal aspects and how they feel about themselves, I do think it would make things better if they opened up more and said things like: ‘when you saw me on that red carpet, I was wearing 3 bras and Spanx...’ 

We are knowingly pushing this idea that women have to constantly be liked, and constantly be desired. So if women who are in positions of power and influence just opened up and said ‘actually, I don’t feel that great’, or ‘I looked very different to how I felt...’ it would help so much. It’s a matter of time.

Michelle: the Daily Mail article that came out today, I literally went on my stories and I was like ‘this is actually how I look in this dress’, y’know, having just rolled out of bed and having a croaky voice. But I think the main thing I see at the moment is, body positivity is a separate conversation from everyday life. People say ‘let’s talk about body positivity!’ and then go back to life ‘as normal’ where they judge people and talk about appearances non-stop. You see it on social media; all the body positive posts and tweets, and then they’ll say something like ‘ughh, have you seen Laura from Love Island? She’s so old, she’s like a dinosaur!’ and I’m like ‘do you not see how that’s not body positive?’


If you are judging other people so much, no wonder you walk down the street thinking everyone’s judging you!  


Chidera: tell them!!

Michelle: you can talk about TV shows and people without talking about their appearances. Let’s use better language, too. I mean, you could say all kinds of things about Trump – there’s a whole Twitter account you could use to criticise him! – without referring to his weight. When you tweet hate at Trump for the way he looks, for how fat he is, you’re not hurting him. You’re hurting other fat people, who are seeing that tweet.


We have to start talking about ourselves better, and that will change things. 




Me: You both use Instagram as a key platform for your causes – and your personalities shine through both your profiles perfectly. Obviously Instagram gets a lot of grief for its algorithms and trolls...but would you say it can be a positive place? And do you feel there’s a community?

Michelle: I mean, there are like 10 people in this audience who I literally only know through Instagram. And some of them are my best friends; I text so many of them almost every day. I think there’s such a safety in communicating with people who get what you’re doing, and don’t make you feel judged. I do feel a community, like these people get me. I think that’s what the internet does in general; it helps you feel you’re not alone.

Chidera: completely agree. Instagram is important to me because I think it feels a lot safer than Twitter – which I think has become a minefield. I use the world ‘minefield’ because there are certain conversations that are better had in person than on Twitter. You have a 280 character limit there; it’s hard to get your point across. Your Instagram is you, your feed, and you control what you see and who you engage with. There’s less ways for things to get misconstrued. I just feel it’s more of a community, and that matters to me a lot. 




Me: so would you say you come across as activists, on social media? Are you activists?

Chidera: I’m still trying to work out what that word means. When I hear that word, I think of someone who is sacrificing their comfort and safety to fight for a cause that will ensure the safety and comfort of other people who are marginalised. And whilst I think I am doing that, because I am putting myself in the firing line when it comes to abuse from strangers, I do still often ask myself ‘does it count?’ And it does, because people come to me and tell me what they’ve seen of me online, and how I carry myself, has helped them in their lives. How do you measure what activism is?

Michelle: I often feel activism is only measured by how much your life is put at risk. When I have comments and messages threatening me with death and rape – then I feel like an activist, but when it’s all a bit more calm and chill on my page, suddenly I feel I’m not doing much. I’m not putting myself out there enough.

Chidera: but do you have to constantly be living the angst and anger to be considered an activist? I see what I do as activism, because I have definitely changed or at least influenced the way women feel about their bodies on a large scale, but I still try not to use it to describe myself. 




Me: you talked about getting hateful messages online, and of course that’s awful and can often be the reason people find social media so frightening. How do you personally deal with that kind of thing?

Michelle: I went to the police once to report online abuse. But they basically said there wasn’t anything they could do. Apparently they don’t have a team responsible for online crime!? And this was in 2016. Hopefully they’ve fixed that by now.

I have to spend a lot of time consciously detaching from social media. That sometimes means not sending messages or commenting on things. Like, I haven’t talked about the controversial Netflix show ‘Insatiable’, because it’s too close to home. Sometimes I have to put my phone down, and go for a walk. Because it’s not the whole world.

Chidera: so true. The online world gives everybody access to each other, and to all conversations. Solicited or not.

Michelle: yeah, I saw a tweet the other day that said ‘shout-out to all my followers who disagree with something but don’t make a fuss about it’! You can disagree about things, but you don’t have to comment. Just scroll past! That takes less effort, as well.

Chidera: that’s what I do! I’m learning that sometimes when people say things you don’t like, and if you care about their opinion that much, you can just privately message them and try to understand. I don’t bother quote-tweeting and going after them like ‘why did you say this!?’ because I know I have a large platform and I know that loads of people will see that. It’s the equivalent of two people arguing in public, and people are gathered round. It’s like a public brawl. And sometimes having people watching affects how the other person responds to you. You can’t just ostracise someone; you have to give them room to be accountable and give them the opportunity to learn. Don’t just ‘cancel’ people!


It’s easier to critique something than it is to create something.


I have found that the internet gives everyone the opportunity to be a spectator, regardless of their expertise on the subject. It’s important to have friends you can turn to and confide in, who are willing to give you the space to realise what you’ve done wrong but also explain things to you. I will always take opportunities to learn. I think we all need to re-assess our approach to the internet. I think we need to see it as a place not to fight, but to learn. 




Michelle: I think it’s also quite telling how unforgiving we are to ourselves. If you’re going around the internet telling people to ‘get in the bin’ when they do something you feel is wrong, what are you gonna be like when you make a mistake?


How you treat other people is actually so telling of how you are treating yourself. 


And if you’re so unforgiving when you make mistakes, no wonder you’re going around the internet ‘cancelling’ other people and not giving them a second chance – because you never gave one to yourself!

Chidera: SO TRUE. 




Me: so we’re talking about being online, and how it gives people access to say horrible things and call people out – but I think it’s fair to say it’s also massively helped the body positivity movement. Now, you talked about taking a step back from your phone and leaving things for a while, what do you think could be done to encourage body positivity offline?


Michelle: I think saying something when something is actually happening in front of you would help. If you see body shaming happening, even if you’re not courageous enough to step in as it’s happening, at least go to the person being shamed afterwards and ask if they’re okay – and comfort them, tell them they look beautiful. 


What an absolutely incredible evening doing my first book event with the absolute best @theslumflower !! It was my first time reading my book to an audience, and won’t lie, it was a lot of stumbling and wobbles. I find it hard to read it without associating with it and literally reliving it. At least you know it’s real 💁🏻‍♀️ and to be honest, that’s life. Nothing ever goes as planned. And about this woman, Chidera. She is a powerhouse. If you don’t know about her, you need to. She is changing the world in such a fierce and unapologetic and it is her publication day of “What A Time To Be Alone”! Your success is so well deserved! Happy publication day and it was my total honour to share the stage with you! Thank you @_gracelatter for hosting and asking such thoughtful questions and thank you to @waterstonestcr for being the most welcoming and hospitable people! They even had a special cocktail called “Stirred Not Scarred”! #AmIUgly #WATTBA #saggyboobsmatter #scarrednotscared
A post shared by Michelle Elman (@scarrednotscared) on


Me: I personally came across both of you online through your brilliant hashtag campaigns (#scarrednotscared and #saggyboobsmatter). How did they come to be? 

Michelle: I remember meeting you (me!), not knowing who you were, going up to you and just saying ‘I really like your scar!’ Then you said thanks, and that you followed me and I thought ‘oh, thank god!! She doesn’t think I’m weird.’

Me: that was the best compliment! I was thinking ‘OMG @scarrednotscared likes my scar!! I’ve made it!’

Michelle: It took me a while to come to that hashtag. I’d been a life coach for 6 months, and I kept being told to find a niche – I just cared about body confidence really, so I called myself a Body Confidence Coach! I wanted my coaching business to be about my clients, not me – so the #scarrednotscared tag was about me at first, but then a client told me they found it helpful knowing I’d been through something myself, so I kind of combined the two. The main reason I landed on #scarrednotscared was because people kept thinking I was promoting scars as ‘trendy’, but really I was trying to normalise them and promote acceptance. There are a hundred million people each year who get a new scar, so what are we meant to do? Pretend they don’t exist!?

Chidera: my hashtag #saggyboobsmatter came about because I have saggy boobs, and have always had them. When I was about 15, I went to get fitted at Marks and Spencer and when I got the ‘correct’ bra, my boobs didn’t look as good as the woman on the packaging. I remember saying to my mum ‘when I turn 18, I’m getting a boob job’… but then I realised that wasn’t happening, because how am I supposed to afford that!? Then I learned that really, it’s cheaper to love yourself! So I began this very slow journey of accepting myself. 

Then at 19, I remember Rihanna released this cute collection for River Island. Oh my gosh, the tiny skimpy crop tops and skirts with slits in! She’d wear all the outfits without a bra. I was like, ‘I wanna do that!’ then I found that despite wearing the same clothes with no bra, my size E boobs were not perceived the same way. People were coming for me – I got called ‘slipper boobs’, ‘the walls of Jericho have fallen’, people were so creative with their insults, I couldn’t help but think ‘wow, imagine if you used this brain power to get a career and a life for yourself!?’
I stopped wearing a bra. I felt more comfortable that way. I loved how I looked, and I’d post my outfits on Instagram and get so much love back.


Having boobs that don’t reach for the sky or whatever isn’t going to stop someone adoring you and your personality. 


I really wanted to communicate to women that we don’t have to wrap ourselves around men’s perception of us, and whether they find us attractive. They’re not that important! I don’t see why I have to wait for a man to choose me, to find me sexy. I don’t have to build my entire identity around someone who isn’t even conditioned by society to be emotionally aware of themselves; I’d rather love myself for who I am and prioritise my own joy and my own comfort. I’m not going to alter myself to please a person who wouldn’t alter themselves to please me. 

Young women started contacting me saying my movement had helped them accept themselves and not look into plastic surgery. Also breastfeeding mothers, telling me they had felt so pressured to ‘get their bodies back’ and cover themselves up, said they’d come to see the beauty of what they were doing. That was amazing. 

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Second readings:

Michelle: Chapter 22 ('Do I have to ask?') of 'Am I Ugly?' Page 207. 

Chidera:  'What a Time to be Alone'; the section entitled 'The Fear of Opening Up'.  

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Me: So Michelle, I know at the end of your book you have a list of social media handles and books people can look up to find more – but just here and now, what books or social media folks would you recommend if people wanted to learn more about being body positive?

Chidera: FOLLOW. BODY. POSI. PANDA. Genuinely, she’s an incredible human being and she uses her platform to encourage people to just have a conversation about bodies as places to live in, rather than things we should talk about or make a fuss of.

Michelle: you stole mine! I’m just gonna elaborate – [Megan’s] book is genuinely my body posi bible, and I really mean that. It answers any question you could possibly have. Go buy ‘Body Positive Power’!

Chidera: by BODY. POSI. PANDA.

Michelle: also, follow The Vagaggle. And follow The Unedit, which I’d say is the first body positive publication online. 




Me: okay, this is the penultimate question – audience, get thinking what you want to ask – I saw a tweet going round recently, being quote tweeted, saying quite simply ‘What would you say to your younger self about your life now that you feel would comfort, encourage or impress them?’

Chidera: all the things about you that you found weird, will be the things that make you money!

Michelle: I would actually tell my younger self to just stop being so hard on herself. Talking behind the scenes now – I’ve had a book out for the past week, but I’ve been such a mess! I’ve created anxiety where there shouldn’t be any. I’ve been so nervous. It’s an ongoing thing, and always was the case when I was younger. I’d tell younger me that… if I told you about all the accomplishments you’ve achieved by a pretty young age, you wouldn’t believe it. 


Me: Okay, finally – big question – what advice would you give to anyone, of any age, who is struggling in their relationships with their bodies?

Chidera: I’d say try not to waste valuable moments of your life trying to prove yourself to people who are already committed to misunderstanding what it’s like in you, being you. No validation is worth trading your comfort and safety for.

Michelle: I really don’t care if you wear a bikini, I don’t care if you wear shorts and a T-shirt or whatever, the important thing is you’re going to the beach and you’re not sitting out and not declining invites. Start living your life now.

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A post shared by Grace Latter (@_gracelatter) on


All I can say now (several weeks after I started writing this up, oops) is thank you to the wonderful Rosie and team of hotties at Waterstones TCR who gave me the opportunity to host this brilliant event – and thank you to Chidera and Michelle, who have inspired me and no doubt countless people to love the skin you’re in, use any platform you’re given for good, and be kind to yourself.

You can buy both books at Waterstones, or via my aff link on A Great Read!

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