August 13, 2010 by Batlow
Natasha Devon is a former “straight size” model and singer/songwriter who pushed her health to its limit because of the dangerous demands put on her by the media’s obsession with physical “perfection”. Today, having conquered bulimia after a ten-year struggle, she appears regularly on radio, television and at public events, speaking out about her experiences and the urgent need for changes to the way the media glamorises thinness, and the unreal expectations this creates in ordinary women. We caught up with Natasha and asked her about her Body Confidence Campaign, which she has taken to schools, colleges, universities and charity events throughout the UK.
A woman of many talents, Natasha Devon is facing arguably her most difficult challenge to date in her role as a Body Confidence Campaigner. She begins by giving me an overview of the campaign, which tackles teens and young adults with a workshop, helpline and online forum, all aimed at challenging dangerous beliefs that negatively impact self-esteem.
‘It is not acceptable for society’s attitude towards beauty to rob young people of their childhood and stop them from enjoying their young adulthood,’ she says. ‘If I can offer young people one thing, it’s the benefit of my experience, which I hope will encourage them to feel comfortable in their own skin.’
You can be too thin
As a “straight size” model, Natasha was six foot tall and a size 8, though she describes herself as looking ‘a bit like I might die’. As she explains: ‘Some people look amazing at a size 8, but I am not one of those people. It is not something which is healthily sustainable for me. However, I believed that being thin was the only way to be successful. I bought into that myth and jeopardised both my physical and mental health in the pursuit of it.’
Natasha believes that all women are beautiful – irrelevant of their body shape or size. ‘It’s going to be a while before we see that whole range of beauty that I’m talking about on the catwalk’, she states, although she does cite Amazonian models Crystal Renn and Ashley Graham as an inspiration in challenging prevailing ideals. ‘In the meantime, we can work on individual mindsets, get people to feel good on the inside, and that’s what the campaign
aims to do’.
It strikes me how Natasha talks with such confidence, charisma and clarity. It’s easy to see how she is perfectly suited to her role as a campaigner and speaker. We discuss how her experiences have motivated her: ‘I had to feel like those ten years, what I went I went through, had meant something. I had to do something positive with it, because that’s just the type of person I am.’
Natasha goes on to explain why she feels her work is so important. ‘I want young people to excel in their fields, fulfil their potential and enjoy their lives, without having their existence blighted by body confidence issues.’ In particular, she emphasises that ‘this [body confidence] is relevant to everyone and that’s what makes me so passionate about what I do.’
Getting body confident
Having started by going into schools and talking about her experience of having bulimia, Natasha discovered that ‘eating disorders, whilst a problem, aren’t the main problem. Body confidence is just another word for self-esteem, so when we feel bad about ourselves, the easiest thing to do is take it out on our bodies.’ Her talks not only educate people, but galvanise her audience into taking positive action in changing their thoughts about their bodies.
‘What makes my campaign special is the effect it has on
people. I know this because they take the time to get in touch and tell me about it. I get really emotional. It’s not unusual for my boss to find me sitting at my PC in tears!’ Natasha tells me how after one of her workshops, one girl told her that
‘she went home, looked in the mirror and realised for the first time that she was beautiful.’
Taking on TV
But the Body Confidence Campaign isn’t the only project in the pipeline for Natasha. She tells me she’s currently ‘in talks with TV people’ and will be appearing in Anna Richardson’s forthcoming Channel 4 show. Richardson’s most recent projects include the primetime Supersize vs Superskinny, and My Big Fat Diet Show; so expect Natasha to be popping up on your screen any time soon, and putting forward the case for the real beauty of real women everywhere.