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  • Miriam Woollcombe

An Interview with my Body Positive Intern, Miriam...

Earlier this year I jumped at the chance to engage an intern via Napier Universities work placement scheme and to be honest… I think I’ve hit the jackpot with the treasure I’ve brought on board to help me with all things Chachi. For your Body Positive reading pleasure, I present: Miriam…

The Chachi Power Project: an interview with Miriam Woollcombe


D: Why are you interested in body positivity?

M: Like most people, I have struggled with body image for most of my life. I was so unkind to myself because I felt that I didn’t look the way I was supposed to. I studied (and adored) dance for 16 years, it was my first love as a child and it became my escape as I grew into a teen. Fast forward to age 18, at an information evening for those who wanted to pursue dance as a career (the only thing I could see myself doing) and a teacher whose student I had been for years informed me that I just didn’t have the “required body type” of a ballerina.

It was something I had always known to be true in the back of my mind, but hearing it out loud absolutely crushed me and I never danced again. I felt like I had been abandoned by my first love. Had I been more in tune with myself I might have realised that this had nothing to do with my worth, but as I was then I blamed myself for ruining my own life — all because of the way my body looked.

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a video on Instagram of @bodyposipanda dancing around like crazy in her underwear with the hashtag #donthatetheshake — and I was completely in awe of her. I could literally feel her joy rushing through me, it was so contagious. I realised that all the accounts I was following were filling my homepage with images of the same body — the body we have all been conditioned to believe is the ultimate form of beautiful. I gave my Instagram feed a complete makeover, unfollowing the accounts which were causing me to feel negativity towards myself and filling it with images I actually wanted to see — mostly cute animals, but a lot of body positive accounts too!

It’s helped me, slowly but surely, to realise that the things that make us look different from one another are where beauty truly lies. The world would be such a boring place if we all looked the same and I feel that the body positive movement is so important in encouraging people to not only accept their bodies, but to embrace and celebrate them.

D: What do you feel are the main concerns for people your age to do with their bodies and where do these thoughts/ feelings come from?

M: I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally feel that I worry less about my body now than I did when I was younger because I have so much ‘life stuff’ to worry about (what do I want to do after I graduate? Will I even graduate? Will I ever be able to afford to buy and not rent? Do I want to get married and have babies or will I just be a crazy cat lady?) and my mind is so occupied with these concerns that I’ve kind of forgotten about my body.

However, being insecure about our bodies is something we have all grown up with — we grew up in a world of diet culture and fat shaming celebrities trying to enjoy themselves on the beach (how dare they wear a bikini and not be a size 6??) and we were also at an extremely impressionable age when social media was born. Suddenly everyone’s entire lives were on the internet for the viewing pleasure of others, and this meant that every aspect of a person’s life was under scrutiny.

I think dating apps have had a really detrimental effect on the way we view ourselves too — I myself am guilty of swiping left and right on Tinder based solely on the person’s appearance — we have forgotten about all the really important stuff like being able to make each other laugh, being interested in each other’s lives, and actually being able to hold a conversation with each other (not behind a screen!). I think social media can be such a wonderful thing that can bring people together and provide support for those who need it, but it’s such a fine line between help and hindrance.

I think it’s so interesting how certain aspects of a human body can come into and go out of fashion — it is so bizarre to think that a body part can be deemed fashionable, but it’s happening all the time. When I was in my teens big boobs were all the rage — girls would stuff their bras, wear those insane push up bras from Primark with literal air bags in the cups (I have to put my hands up and admit to this one) and try desperately to achieve that ‘DD’ look. Nowadays it’s all about big bums and toned muscles and ‘#fitspo’ bodies, and while it might seem like this is an improvement — promoting ‘fit’ rather than ‘thin’ — it is still encouraging the idea that there is one body type that we should all be striving for. I’ve definitely noticed that going to the gym and having abs is the most desired thing right now.

D: What do you hope to achieve while working with The Chachi Power Project?

M: I am NOT one of those people who knows exactly who they are and what they want to do with their life — in fact, probably the complete opposite. So when I saw the ad for an internship with The Chachi Power Project, I jumped at the chance to be able to further my professional skills in a business environment, with a project that is so interesting to me and that I genuinely care about.

I’ve had plenty of random jobs throughout my life — I’ve been a receptionist at my dance studio, been a coach for children’s ice skating parties, worked on the production line in a tiny cheese factory, till jockey in Tesco, waitressed, tended bar, the list goes on… but I realised that I have absolutely no idea what my strengths and weaknesses are in a professional sense. By the end of my internship with Chachi, I would love to just know myself a little bit better. That would be great.

D: What is the best way you celebrate what your body can do?

M: As well as dance, figure skating has been a massive part of my life. Although dance always had my heart, I was definitely more accomplished in skating and it has allowed me to have some incredible experiences. I have competed in competitions all over the world, including two World Championships with my synchronised skating team (16 girls who are literally like my sisters).

The Chachi Power Project: an Interview with Miriam Woollcombe

Miriam's Synchronised Skating Team: British Champions 2016 and 2017!

As I’ve become older I have learned to really appreciate what my body can do and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to do this sport for my whole life. Now, when I skate, I cannot explain the sense of calm it brings me — I feel more at home on a sheet of ice than I do in my own bed. Skating is the best celebration I could ask for.

The Chachi Power Project: an Interview with Miriam Woollcombe

Miriam and her skating buddies

D: What have you learned so far being part of the project that you could suggest others could take on board?

M: In working with Chachi I have had the pleasure of meeting the most inspiring and talented people — this has really made me think about my priorities differently. I have always felt like something was missing from my life, like I should be doing something more with my free time. I’ve always been a creative person — when I was little I would spend my time writing stories or listening to music, and I feel that as I’ve grown up I’ve neglected that part of myself.

I realised that what stops me from being creative is the fear of how other people will see me — what if they think what I do isn’t good enough? Working with Chachi is helping me to realise that, for the most part, people are actually really kind. I have been overwhelmed by the sense of community at the events I’ve been to, and how supportive people are with one another. And even if other people do have negative opinions of you or your work, you don’t have to take them on board. You will literally never please everyone, people have different tastes after all. So don’t let the fear of other people’s opinions hold you back from doing something that is going to make you a better or happier person. That’s what I’ve learned.

I couldn’t be more touched at hearing all this and I’m grateful to Napier for making this placement a possibility and Miriam for making it a reality! (Cue heart bursting noise…). To find out about more of the stuff we are creating together then visit the website or follow us on Instagram!

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