I was the ugly, funny kid at school. No one of the opposite sex even remotely looked my way, unless it was to tell me what a disaster my face was. But they sure did laugh at my jokes. In a way, being the ugly kid worked out – I didn’t have the distraction of boys (unless you count all those unrequited crushes I had), I was still popular enough (on account of my humour) and I knuckled down on my school work. But being called ugly so much throughout my teens hurt me more than I ever let on.
I hated the way I looked. So much so, there came a time where I couldn’t even look in a mirror. I had a friend (probably more of a frenemy really), who was the pretty, popular girl. She only hung out with me ’cause it made her look prettier. There were always these back handed comments, designed to keep me in my lesser place and make sure I never forgot who was the ugly one in this friendship. One day, she was talking about modelling (she was pretty convinced at the time that agents would be knocking her door down). We sat in a big group as she harped on about who the good models are. ‘You should try modelling,’ she said to me. I perked up, hardly believing what I was hearing. ‘Really?!’ I said. ‘Yeah, they’re looking for weird looking people these days.’ It cut like a knife, I tell ya. The fact that I can still remember that moment, nearly 15 years on, makes me laugh.
When I was 16, I went to Sixth Form College and I remember exactly where I was the first time my new friend, Becci, told me I was pretty. It was the first time anyone outside my family had said that to me. And she didn’t appear to be being sarcastic. I was blown away. Slowly but surely, as I was in this new environment and meeting different people, I began to get comfortable with myself. I could look in mirrors. People would compliment me and I was even asked out on dates.
Before long, I actually rather liked the way I looked. I made peace with my freckles and my big nose. I accepted the fact that I didn’t have big, pillowy lips and my eyes were kinda weird. A few weeks ago, after seeing the photoshoot I did with Anthony Farrimond, photographer Mark Howe got in touch with me saying he’d like to do a shoot with me. Tell my 15 year old self that would ever happen to me and she would have laughed in your face.
The photograph above is one of the shots he took of me. Right after he took it he said ‘I hope you don’t mind me saying, but what I like about you is that you’re eccentric looking.’ I knew exactly what he meant. When he sent that finished shot through to me, I looked at it and said ‘that’s beautiful.’ And not because it’s me in the picture. It’s so much more than that to me. It’s a symbol of how far I’ve come, to be comfortable enough to have someone look at me through a camera lens, take my picture and admire it. There was a time when I thought I’d never like the way I look. Now, I love it.
This post is for every girl who’s ever felt like an ugly duckling. I can relate. I was a duckling myself. But it gets better. One day, you just have to let yourself be the swan.