Me

Kim Kardashian, The Naked Selfie and Me

March 21, 2016

Kim Kardashian and I don’t have much in common.

We’re both mothers of two, but that’s where the similarities end. She’s married to the self-proclaimed ‘biggest rockstar in the world’ (gross), I was divorced at 26.

She lives in LA, I’m in the slightly less exotic Milton Keynes.

Only slightly, mind.

Yet I kind of identified with her naked selfie recently, the one that caused huge ripples of disgust and rage across the internet. It made me look at myself and my attitude towards my own nakedness more closely, and realise that actually, she’s not a bad body-confident role model.

She’s a mum, for a start: growing a child is without a doubt the most painful, disruptive processes that 99% of mothers will experience. From the moment that embryo embeds itself in your womb lining your life – and your body – will change forever.

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Whether you spend the entire nine months incredibly sick and lose a scary amount weight (as I did), or you grow a road network of stretch marks in places you didn’t know you could get stretch marks. Or maybe you’ll develop one of the more tricky side effects, like piles – which are about as fun as you’d imagine – varicose veins or SPD (a debilitating condition of the pelvis that can leave pregnant women on crutches or in a wheelchair).

Yes, pregnancy is not easy, that’s for sure.

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I found a new respect for my body after my children were born. It was no longer simply a vessel for living, it became this miraculous incubation machine for two of the best people I’d ever met.

While pregnant I’d often sit alone in the evening, feeling kicks and punches from the inside, thinking what an amazing experience this process was.

Look at it this way: I created a SPINE from scratch, a perfect little spine, along with fingers and toes and a mouth and eyes and hair. My mind boggled at the thought of a teeny tiny person growing inside of me. It also boggled (and yeah, freaked out a bit) at the thought of growing a penis… a PENIS. From scratch. As a women. ‘Mazing.

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But like most women, post-birth my body was a foreign object.

There was wobbly skin where once it had been taut, pigmentation marks caused by hormones, bubbly varicose veins on my legs and boobs thrice the size of anything I’d ever known before. It was scary, but after a life of being totally in control of my body it was strangely liberating.

The children got older, my tummy pooch slowly deflated, but the marks of pregnancy remain. My body is mine again but it’s definitely different. I take care of it now, nurture it, make sure it gets the exercise it needs. I love every little vein and wobble because I know they are markers of the process I went through to birth my children.

And so when I was asked last year if I wanted to model Speedo swimwear for a day, I said yes.

I wobbled over the decision for a while (like my leftover mum tum ;): would people really want to look at my 30 year old half naked body in a magazine?

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The conclusion I came to was: sod them. I’d gone from feeling fairly apathetic about my body and the way it looked to being proud of the strong woman it had made me; the force behind two caesarean sections, post-natal depression and a divorce. Karlie Kloss I am not, but why should I feel the need to hide myself?

The shoot was empowering. Having a team of professionals study my body so closely left me feeling self-conscious, but also strangely liberated. I spent two hours in a chilly North London outdoor swimming pool in early autumn, half-naked in front of fifteen people I’d never met before, and enjoyed every second. My body was strong, a powerhouse, perfect in its imperfectness.

Plus I can now say with confidence that I’m probably the only swimwear model in history who ate a Sausage McMuffin on her way to a shoot.

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When the photos came I was delighted. I can see that my boobs are slightly deflated and you can make out the varicose veins in my thighs but it is me.

And this is why I doff my hat to anyone who feels confident and strong enough in their bodies to do the same.

A naked Kim Kardashian is not our enemy. An empowered woman or mother who chooses to take her clothes off because she is proud of who she is should not be blasted for attention-seeking. In the same way I would never disparage a topless man at the gym, or a naturist on the beach.

I tell my five year old daughter every day that she has full ownership of her body and it’s hers to do what she wants with, and the same applies to all of us.

I do, however, make sure to not put emphasis on looks; Elfie is praised for her mind much more than her appearance, and the focus on the body over other achievements is definitely where Kim Kardashian is not one to follow.

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But being proud of our bodies does not diminish our other achievements. Because I chose to do a half-naked photo-shoot this doesn’t mean I‘m any less good at my job, or I’m a worse mother than someone who chooses not to. And I’m going to go out there and say this applies to Kim, too.

Which is why I’m championing her as a role-model for body-confident mothers. Her definition of sexy might not be the same as mine, but I celebrate her empowerment. Long live our beautiful bodies and the women they represent.

For a dad’s eye view of the Kim K debate, check out Sam’s excellent piece: Women, Body Confidence, Kim Kardashian and Fatherhood.

Thank you Speedo for these amazing images, which will DEFINITELY be on my walls in years to come. The cossie I’m wearing in them (and still love to this day) is the Sculpture Crystalsun.

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16 Comments

  • Reply Steph Oakes - Hello Baby Blog March 21, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Oh my goodness Alice, you look AMAZING!!! Fab post and oh so true x

    • Reply alice March 21, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Thank you v much Steph – it’s mostly arty photography and fake tan (I now have a huge hankering for a spray tan!!) x

  • Reply Kate March 21, 2016 at 11:35 am

    You look fab! Did they use the shots for a campaign?

    I definitely feel a lot differently about my body post-baby and am actually taking care of it and exercising, which is something I never thought I’d say. I seem to have more motivation now than I ever had before.

    • Reply alice March 21, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks Kate – they did! It was on the cover of one of their brand magazines. It’s not Vogue, but it still felt brilliant.

      I think exercising since kids has been a revelation to me, too. I feel much sexier in my body’s strength, whereas before it was all about how skinny you were. Post-baby bods are just brill x

  • Reply Steph Kelly March 21, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Love this post, honest and beautiful, as ever. Also thought provoking. I’ve thought a lot about the suggestion that kim kardashians naked selfie is empowering. I get that it would have multiplied her own power and authority, but the implication seemed to be, on social media at least, that her selfie empowers women generally. To me empowerment is when those who lack power, authority, autonomy and privilege are able to harness it in some way. Ultimately kim is capitalizing on her own privilege and reinforcing the narrow definition of beauty (and the male gaze). I can see how that would feel empowering to her on an individual level (and possibly to other women who fit western standards of beauty) but on a societal/feminist level…I’m afraid I don’t see it. xx (sorry for the rant! Since I’ve stopped blogging I’ve no outlet for my rambling!!)

    • Reply alice March 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      Really good and valid points Steph. I definitely agree that KK capitalizes on her own privilege and power to increase it and to reinforce the thought that beautiful western white woman = power. Which is not OK.

      But then on a more grassroots level, the fact that she has a body that is not perhaps the classic idea of beauty, one that she seems overtly proud to show off (in a ‘don’t give a crap what you think’ kind of way) DOES make me think that I should be prouder of myself. Maybe that’s because, as a grown woman and not a teen, I’ll never pander to societal pressure to conform to certain ideals (cor that’s the most intelligent sentence I’ve written in a while ;). But seeing what she puts out there really does make me feel prouder of what I’ve got.

      (brilliant ranting. Please come back to do more!) x

  • Reply Holly Horton March 21, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Love th H necklace! Where is it from???? x

  • Reply Rachel @ The Ordinary Lovely March 21, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Beautiful images and beautifully put. My body took a hammering having two extremely large baby boys but I’ve grown to love it more now than I ever did before. I really need to take care of it more though. Not really from a weight perspective but more because I’m conscious that I want it to see me through a lot of years and a lot of life.

    • Reply alice March 21, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      Thanks Rachel! And yes – that’s another fantastic point. You become so much more aware of your own fragility going through the birthing process x

  • Reply Charlotte - Write Like No One's Watching March 21, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Utter. Bae. And I totally agree. I feel like there’s something amazing in celebrating your body, especially after birth. I think we all want to hate Kim K as a default because she looks better than we do. But have we worked our bottoms off in a gym? No. Probably not to her level anyway. If we’re proud of our bodies, stretchmarks, floppy tits, or jiggly arses, we should well have that right. I celebrate my body a lot since I lost weight, and probably had more confidence post-baby, than ever before. I just need to remind myself of that once I’ve given birth. All that jiggles is not jelly, and you ain’t ready for this jelly. Well, kind of. xx

  • Reply Lauranne March 21, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    You look fab, and I think you are right. It is only now I appreciate quite how great my body is – I wish I had appreciated it more when I was younger

  • Reply Pen March 21, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    You look incredible Alice. Great post. Pen x

  • Reply John @dadyougeek March 21, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    Simply brilliant blog post Alice!! Well done you!

  • Reply Georgeanne Rashilla March 21, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    The difference between you and KK would be that YOU are confident in yourself enough to NOT feel the need for the entire free world to exclaim their admiration for you. While you, a single mother of two miracles, has taken care of yourself by a well-balanced diet and exercise, KK may do those as well – with the help of personal trainers, chefs, and a troop of individuals PAID to giver her accolades and make her “presentable” for her adoring admirers. But really…what accomplishment is there in that? What has she done to help anyone? KK is about KK. I would never hold her up as a role model to my 21 year old daughter because I want my daughter NOT to be all about herself and to be confident without having to bare anything. Isn’t that one of the great things about being truly feminist? We are no longer just about how we look? Eventually, age will cause KK to no longer be loved and admired by the masses and that will be the end of KK. Her one claim to fame will be that she had the world’s attention for one brief moment back in…what year was that?

  • Reply Jess @ Along Came Cherry March 21, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    You look gorgeous :) Depending on where I am in my cycle I either look in the mirror and feel okay about my body or think I look like a spotty whale but I could easily do more exercise to improve things, I’m just too lazy ;) xx

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