In Stylist’s Body Politics series, award-winning body confidence coach and @ScarredNotScared founder Michelle Elman sits down with women we love to discuss their journey to feeling comfortable in their own skin. Here, actor Emily Atack addresses the online bullying she has been subjected to over her weight.
From a young age, Emily Atack was always aware of the toxic imagery around her, whether that be thin supermodels or popstars with washboard abs (think Britney Spear’s Oops I Did It Again video).
“I always used to notice how thin the mannequins were in shops, and when trying clothes on and it didn’t look like that on me,” says The Inbetweeners actor. “It makes you feel like you’ve failed in some way!”
Atack, like so many other girls her age, drank in this constant narrative and found herself believing that she had failed somehow. That she, like so many others, was supposed to achieve this beauty ideal, and hadn’t.
“I thought I didn’t look as I should, which is just so sad,” she tells me.
Most people would be nervous enough to go on TV but even more so, if they had to be make-up free and without all their beauty comforts. And Atack was no different when she signed up for ITV’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
“Before the show I was thinking of ways to try and get my body and skin prepared to go make-up free,” she recalls, admitting that she even originally asked for her luxury item to be fake tan. Show bosses refused to let her take the beauty product into the jungle, though, and so she was forced to instead opt for a Tangle Teezer brush.
Unsurprisingly, Atack spent a lot of time fretting about how she would look on the show. Once she landed, though, her worries disappeared. “The second I jumped from that plane and rode on the back of John Barrowman across a muddy lake, it was game over for the glam,” Atack tells me, “There was no going back. It was like something switched in my brain, I couldn’t rely on my lashes, and I knew that this experience was going to be unlike anything I’ve ever done before. The freckles had escaped!”
While Atack felt liberated by her time on I’m A Celeb, her time on the show brought with it a lot more body shaming. As such, Atack has proven herself incredibly resilient when it comes to dealing with online bullies.
“There is a more nasty, more dark wave of online abuse that does bring you down and you do start to think – god, am I really that bad?” she says. “I think it goes somewhere and manifests itself in some way, it must do.”
However, Atack is grateful she has so many things to balance out the negativity.
“Luckily I have a wonderful life full of love and friendship and I have my health, so I take strength from that,” she tells me. “I won’t bow to a stranger who felt a desire to call me out on my double chins.”
In a bid to help others understand that the reality behind the ‘ideal body’ presented by the media, Atack makes a point of being open about the reality behind the glitz and glam. “I would tell fans that the events and red carpets are often stressful and rushed and while it looks like fun and games, really, people are there to just work,” she says. “And there’s never enough food!”
On top of that, Atack has some simple advice for young girls everywhere.
“Remember that so many of the pictures that they see on Instagram are photoshopped and slimmed down to hell,” she says, admitting that even she has used body slimming apps on occasion. However, she found that they really warped her body image and so, as a result, she has used a range of models with different body types and banned airbrushing from her campaign for In The Style, her own clothing line.
Atack also has a warning for her younger fans with regards to her seemingly meteoric rise to fame.
“It seems like everyone gets this instant fame now – and yes, the Jungle provided me with a new and exciting platform,” she says. “But I had worked, and at times struggled, going from acting job to acting job for 10 years and had many periods of time when I earned very little and had to take masses of rejection and criticism… ask anyone, it can really suck at times.”
Despite all of this, though, Atack credits I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here for her newfound sense of self.
“The Jungle stripped me of any self-consciousness and just left me being my authentic self,” she says. “I’ll be forever grateful for that.”
She finishes: “It completely changed how I look at myself. Now I think, if you want to hire me, this is what I look like. It’s up to you.’”
For far too long, the representation of women by both mainstream and social media has failed to reflect who we see in the mirror, and its impact on our mental health is worrying. Stylist’s Love Women initiative promises to change that. As well as the launch of our Body Politics series, we’ve partnered with Dove, whose latest project (in conjunction with photo library Getty Images) aims to increase the supply of diverse pictures of women – which we will be using going forward.
Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers:
- We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
- We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
- We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
- We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals.
- Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.
Find out more about Stylist’s Love Women initiative here.