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Plus-size model Felicity Hayward on why you should love your stretch marks

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Anna Brech
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Why do we cover up our stretch marks? It’s time to celebrate them instead, says body-positive campaigner Felicity Hayward

“Wear them with pride” is not the kind of strident rallying call we usually associate with stretch marks. And yet most of us are familiar with these harmless fine lines that collect around the body over the course of an adult lifetime.

And while some lavish money on expensive creams that may or may not work, others adopt a more tolerant approach. 

So it is with plus-size model Felicity Hayward, the founder of Self Love Brings Beauty, who has shared her journey to stretch-mark acceptance in a candid post on Instagram this week:

Like many people, Hayward first reacted with shame and embarrassment to her stretch marks. And yet, gradually, she’s realised that this so-called “flaw” is an integral part of who she is; an emblem to be held in affection, in a similar way to freckles, scars or any other distinctive features. 

She’s not alone, either. As the body-positive movement gains pace, we’ve seen more women like Hayward openly embrace their stretch marks in recent years (tellingly, this is an issue that falls under far more scrutiny among women, even though plenty of men get stretch marks too).

In 2016, Victoria’s Secret model Jasmine Tookes posed for a campaign shot with her stretch marks on show; an unprecedented move for an advertising campaign.

Then supermodel Chrissy Teigen jumped on the bandwagon, sharing an Instagram photo of her “stretchies” with the caption “whatevs”.

Actor Danielle Brooks – aka Orange is the New Black’s Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson – shares a similar attitude.

“Sometimes I’ll look at myself and be like, ‘Dang girl, you got a lot of stretch marks,’” she told People magazine recently. “But then I’m like, ‘That’s just the road map of my strength.’” 

We couldn’t agree more. Here’s to the streets of stretch marks that map our lives: long may they live.

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.

Main image: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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