Grace Victory: The body positivity campaigner who want you to love your body and ignore the haters
The 28-year-old vlogger Grace Victory opens up to Prudence Wade about her campaign for body positivity
Even though body positivity is now all over our Instagram feeds, it hasn't always been that way. Grace Victory says she wouldn't even have got into activism if it wasn't for the fact she "couldn't see myself represented in terms of size, skin colour, hair or class," she says.
The body positivity movement still has a long way to go - it's not as diverse as it should be and women are still constantly bombarded with images of how they supposedly "should" look.
But it is people like 28-year-old Victory who cut through all of this and are a true breath of fresh air. Through her vlogs she's covered everything from battling eating disorders to her struggles with mental health, and she's no less candid talking about her journey to body positivity...
The pressure to be perfect
The flawless world of Instagram influencers and vloggers can feel pretty out of touch with reality. This is something Victory has always wanted to combat, and one of her first videos was called 'The pressure to be perfect'.
At the time of making this video, Victory admits she was "really suffering with body image issues, I had an eating disorder and I was suffering from depression - I wasn't very well." She made the video to "speak about the pressures I had faced my whole life, like comparing myself to models on the cover of magazines and never seeing someone that looked like me on TV."
This was a turning point. "That was the moment I realised that talking about your problems helped, and other people were able to talk about theirs," Victory explains. "That opened up a world of vulnerability for me."
Another thing which really helped Victory was discovering the body positivity movement in 2015. "I'd never seen fat girls and plus size women wearing bikinis and being comfortable before," she says. "I started reading articles about how you can be happy and not thin, and I wanted a piece of that - I'd been trying to lose weight and fit into this mould my whole life, and I was tired."
Not caring what other people think
Being proud of your body can unfortunately also come with its hardships. Victory remembers posting her first bikini photo: "It was so hard, because you feel so exposed!" she reflects.
The incessant negativity of online trolls can wear you down, but Victory has got to a more positive place - now her response is to just ignore the haters. "For a long time I was stuck in this victim mindset, and I felt like I was being punched down by comments," she says. "Then I went through this stage of using the comments to propel me forward, and using that pain as passion.
"Now I'm in a space where I don't listen, I don't care, I don't pay attention. It's difficult to get to but you have to work on knowing who you are without any congratulations from anyone and not listening to the hate. I'm still doing it now."
How she takes care of her mental health
A major way Victory is progressing is through therapy. "If you're someone like me who's plus size, you've never fit into what society thinks is beautiful, so my identity is constantly being barraged," Victory says. "That can wreak havoc on your mental health, because you start questioning who you are and if you're good enough."
It's not just therapy which helps Victory keep self-doubt at bay, but also smaller things she does every day for her mental health. "Sleep is a massive thing for me, I think people really underestimate the power of sleep - I make sure I get at least eight hours a night otherwise I can't function," she laughs explosively. "Another thing I do is try to have at least one cooked meal a day.
"I try and listen to what my body and mind needs - if I need to read, relax and meditate that's what I'll do - if I need to go out and get some fresh air that's what I'll do, and I work out every week. I don't try to push myself too hard - I try the best I can and that's enough."
Her tips for body positivity
Somewhat counterintuitively, Victory's big tip for body positivity is simple: "Don't try and be body positive every day."
This actually makes more sense than you might think. There's a growing trend for body neutrality - this idea of being at peace with how you look, rather than adoring or hating it. There are times where you definitely should love your body but a lot of the time it's not quite possible - so this is a way of encouraging a more balanced approach to self-image.
"When I was in very early recovery for my eating disorder, my treatment programme involved thinking kinder thoughts and recognising how many unkind thoughts we have about ourselves every day," Victory explains. "It blew my mind, I was thinking the most horrific things about myself constantly throughout the day. If you catch yourself doing that and replace every unkind thought with a kind thought, then you'll get to a point where you have a neutral body respect and body love."
If you want a helping hand getting to this place, Victory's all about getting naked. "You can't love your body if you can't see it, so just get naked," she laughs with her characteristic cheekiness. "Get naked in a non-sexualised way - brush your teeth, do the washing up - just see your body for what it is and what it can do for you. Your body's amazing - if it's getting you from A to B no matter what ability you have, it's really important to appreciate it."
Grace Victory stars in the new Vauxhall twentyfive film celebrating 25 years of the Vauxhall Corsa https://www.vauxhall.co.uk/corsatwentyfive.html