I’m an accidental activist who gained 26,000 instagram followers in a single week last year after my blog about a body-shaming Tinder date went viral. Since then I’ve built a brand based on reassuring women; if you're healthy and happy, you're golden. If you're not healthy and happy, here's what helps me – running, not running (and not feeling guilty about it), spending time alone, spending time with people I love, monthly manicures...all that stuff contributes to my well-being. My account shows an overweight 30-year old woman exercising, failing at exercising, eating delicious healthy food, eating delicious junk food, being silly, being sassy, being herself (my #iwokeuplikethis pictures are hideous – my hair looks like two red squirrels fighting). I strive to be as authentic as possible. I like pretty dresses and I post pretty selfies. But I also post candid pictures of my pot belly. I mourn the loss of my favourite bra after the underwire pops out. I post about my mental health, about my medication, about good days and bad. I respond to critics of my body. I posted pictures at 6am when I used to start my shifts as a barista.
My story went viral because it resonated with thousands of people who have been affected by bodyshaming, either directly like I was, or indirectly. I’ve had emails from men in their late teens/early twenties who are desperately in love with a plus-size woman, but they won’t make the move because they think they’d lose their mates. The blanket ban on body-confidence for women who aren’t thin, young and white affects everyone – not just young women.
Instagram is still saturated in thin white women who spend all their time doing yoga on a beach. There’s nothing wrong with being thin and doing yoga, but show me some authenticity – I want to see Deliciously Ella up at 5am prepping all her veg for the week ahead. I want to see the truth under the glamour.
I documented training for a 10k for Mind this year, and my fantastic followers joined me in posting #honestworkoutslfies. On the race day I met a woman who, as a personal challenge, was running 1000k (600 miles) in the year between her 39th and 40th birthday. She was a size 24-26, Tess Holiday proportions, and ran faster than men and women half her size. Health is about more than fat – it’s fitness, blood stickiness, insulin levels, sleep quality, stress. That’s a conversation that we need to start –. shifting focus from what your body looks like to what your body can do. I started #healthyhappyhot because I want people to aspire towards health and happiness, not thinness.
Social media allows you to choose what you view, which is an awesomely powerful thing. Rather than picking up a magazine and flicking through 300 pages of glossy, hyper-airbrushed, hyper-glam tall skinny white women, it’s easy to tailor your feed to show you happy, healthy, smart, witty, kind, and beautiful people – some of my favourites are Georgina Horne, Danielle Brooks, Stina Wolter, Dawn O’Porter, Stina Sanders, Paris Lees and @rubyetc. When you see the obvious disconnect between what you’re choosing to look at and what you’re being made to look at, you think critically about what you want to change in your world.
I know that my account, my work, makes a real difference to my followers, and that’s the most incredible feeling. Knowing that something I’ve written has provided comfort and reassurance to strangers on the other side of the world is the proudest I’ll ever be of anything I do. It’s been a hectic year – I’ve gained 40k followers including Twitter and FB, I’ve got two agents (literary and broadcast) and I’ve built an impressive portfolio on feminism, dating, mental health and body image. I’m the ideal nominee for Cosmopolitan’s Best Newcomer award, and I’m just getting started.
Please vote for https://www.instagram.com/msmthomas for Best Newcomer in Cosmopolitan’s Influencer Awards 2016 (with 26k followers) before 30th Sept – it takes 45 seconds, go on!
Thanks so much,
love Michelle x
P.S. Here are the gals I’ve nominated in the other categories
Best Newcomer In Association With OGX Me, obvs.
Best Lifestyle Influencer Fiona Longmuir
Best Health & Wellbeing Influencer Mirna Valerio
Best Sex & Relationships Influencer Erika Moen
Best Fashion Influencer Georgina Horne
Best Beauty Influencer Sali Hughes
Best Vlogger Marian Keyes
Best Use of Social Media @rubyetc
Content of the Year Deliciously Stella
The Blossom Hill Influencers Choice Awards #ITSOKTOTALK by CALM