Ali Maynard, 25, is an account manager who lives in Grays, Essex. She says: “I was bullied at school for being lanky – I was a rakish 5ft 9in even then. I was called ‘Twiglet legs’, and I could never find trousers long enough to cover my socks. I hated my height and felt so awkward.
Looking back, my insecurities seem so ridiculous. While I’ve filled out over the years, I’m still only a size 10, and know some women would kill to have a naturally fast metabolism like me.
Growing up with three sisters (Stephanie, now 27, and younger twins, Catherine and Elizabeth, now 17) definitely helped during my insecure teenage years. We were honest with each other about what suited us, and I learned to dress to flatter my body. Skinny jeans were made for me!
My confidence grew after I went to Bournemouth University to study PR. It took a while, but I gradually learned to relax around men and stop wrapping bed sheets around my naked body.
I’ve been with my boyfriend, Luke, 28, a racing driving instructor, for the past six months. He is always telling me how sexy I am. And at a tall 6ft 2in, he manages to make me feel small!
Of course, I still have a few body issues, like any woman. I bought a load of exercise DVDs in January, with the intention of getting a six-pack for my holiday to Thailand. Needless to say, they’re still sitting by the DVD player unopened.
I think that confidence is the key to looking good – with and without your clothes on. I know some stunning girls who are crippled with low self-esteem, and would never dream of doing a photo shoot in the nude like this. I’m no natural beauty, but I think I’m pretty good at projecting myself.”
Single mum Nicola Hansford, 37, is a mental health practitioner and lives in Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough, with her daughter Olivia, 12. She says: “Body confidence hasn’t always come naturally to me, and posing naked for this shoot was a huge challenge.
In my teens, I felt like an ugly duckling with my frizzy hair and always tried to fade into the background. Things changed in my 20s when I began to take an interest in my appearance. It’s no coincidence that was around the same time that GHD straighteners became all the rage!
After the birth of my daughter Olivia in June 2000, I became more self-critical. I’d put on 2st 7lb, and tried every quick-fix diet from cabbage soup to Atkins, none of which worked in the long-term.
In 2010, I had Botox twice to smooth out my crow’s feet, and had considered a boob job. But I forgot any plans for surgery last year when Olivia, then 11, started analysing her appearance, asking: ‘Do I look slim in this?’. I didn’t want her to start obsessing about her looks.
I’ve given up extreme diets now, and hit the gym four times a week instead. I also try to focus on parts of my body I like, such as my eyes and smile, instead of my ‘flaws’. I hope this attitude wears off on Olivia as she hits her teens.
My relationship with Olivia’s father sadly broke down when she was small. But doing a great job as a single mum has seen my confidence soar. I’m fast-approaching 40 and learning to love myself. I’m fulfilling a dream to train to be a cognitive behavioural therapist, and finally coming out of my shell.
Seeing myself naked, I don’t know why I was worrying – I look fine.”
Karen Bremner, 40, is a lawyer and lives in Elgin, Moray, with her husband Darren, 38, and their son Cameron, eight. She says: “We’re bombarded with images of celeb mums such as Heidi Klum who look the same – if not better – than they did aged 20. I’m currently pregnant with my second child and already dreading getting my figure back. I scoffed chocolate digestives throughout my first pregnancy in 2004, rocketing from 10st 7lb to 12st 7lb and a size 14, but still managed to bounce back to a size 10 after giving birth to my son Cameron. I hope I’m as lucky this time.
I think that my 30s were probably my prime years. My teenage inhibitions had vanished and I was toned from running every day as part of my marathon training. I ran the London Marathon in 2001 and the New York Marathon on my 40th birthday last November. I’m determined to stay in shape for as long as possible, for both myself and my husband Darren. He isn’t that forthcoming when it comes to compliments, so when he says I’m looking good, I know he means it!
Now that I’m in my 40s, I’ve noticed my body is starting to slow down. While it only took a few months to fall pregnant with Cameron, we tried for a second baby for six years. I’ve also noticed my my skin is baggier, and I tend to get tired more easily.
Socially, I feel ageless. I’m happy hanging out with women in their 20s and 30s, and I’m flattered when strangers tell me I look a decade younger than my years. I’m proud of my body. It can run marathons and produce a baby in its 40s, and seeing it in its full glory just makes me feel prouder.”
Doreen D’aguiar, 56, is an image consultant and lives in Brockley, south-east London. She has four sons, Dean, 36, a security advisor, Leon, 29, a salesman, Cameron, 23, a youth mentor and Elliott, 20, a carer. She says: “Despite an unsightly scar on my stomach, I feel proud to flaunt my figure aged 56. I credit my Jamaican parents, Sylvia, 77, a retired nurse and Jack, 87, a train inspector, for the boundless confidence I had in my teens. Mum talked to me openly about sex and body issues, encouraging me to embrace my curvy body. My favourite part was always my perky 34DD boobs!
It wasn’t until my 20s that a scar left from the Caesarean section I had giving birth to my eldest son Dean rocked my confidence. Back then, surgeons cut straight down the stomach, which left me with an eight-inch scar from my belly button to my cervix.
I had Caesarean sections for all my four boys, as my cervix is too small for a natural birth. With each operation, the scar became deeper and the skin more crinkled. It’s unsightly, but I’m happy to show off the rest of my body. While I’m not currently in a relationship, my four beautiful boys are always boosting my confidence with compliments.
I used to hate exercise. It was only after my dad died of Parkinson’s disease last September, and my mum had a stroke six months later, that I decided to take better care of my body. I started Zumba classes, and dropped a dress size from a 14 to 12. I feel good.
As an image consultant, I teach women how to feel great. I think that this photo shoot proves I practise what I preach.”
Jean Havilland, 62, is a model and lives in Welwyn, Hertfordshire. She says: “Thankfully the days when you hit 60, got a perm and a tabard, and faded from view are gone. Even this side of 60, I’m not letting myself go without a fight.
In my 20s and 30s, I worked as a model. I was the Babycham poster girl in 1975! Ironically, I was desperate to put on weight. I was a size 10, but wanted curves like Sophia Loren.
I can’t believe how the industry has gone full circle, and am appalled at how skinny models are nowadays. It’s an unrealistic – and dangerous – ‘ideal’ for women to aspire to.
In my late 40s, the menopause changed my body. I thickened around the waist and noticed cellulite appear on my thighs. The only change I embraced was my bust increasing from a 34B to a 36D. Youngsters desperate for boob jobs should wait until they’re 50!
Last year, my weight had gone up from 10st to 11st without me changing my diet. A check-up at the doctors showed I had high cholesterol and blood pressure, and osteoarthritis was creeping into my hands. I felt disappointed, and was sad to see my body succumbing to old age. I’ve cut out cakes and acidic foods such as meat and grains, which are thought to exacerbate joint stiffness.
I’ve never stripped off for the camera before, but it was actually quite liberating. There’s life in this body yet!”
Barbara Kingsland, 70, is a widow and retired dressmaker who lives in Tottenham, north London. She has three daughters, Deborah, 49, Janetta, 48, and Beverley, 38, plus five grandchildren. She says: “Stripping off doesn’t concern me in the slightest. Aged 70, there’s no stopping me. My motto is: ‘Life’s too short to worry’.
Growing up, my generation didn’t have the benefit of today’s science. I wince at how I’d slather myself in olive oil and vinegar to go sunbathing. I was 60 when it came back to haunt me. In April 2000, I was diagnosed with skin cancer. As part of my treatment, I had cryosurgery – where liquid nitrogen is applied to kill the cancerous cells – 20 times. I used to fret I wouldn’t be here to see my grandchildren grow up, but thankfully the cancer hasn’t spread.
My body bears the scars of my life. The cancer treatment left me with pockmarks. I have a deep scar from a hysterectomy aged 40 and a six-inch scar on my leg from a hip replacement in 2006. But I feel so lucky to be alive, I wear them with pride.
I’ve been single since my second husband died 13 years ago. I wouldn’t consider dating again as he was my soulmate. Still, who needs a man to feel confident?”
Pam Phillips, 82, is a retired actress and lives in Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire with her husband Ken, 83, a retired architect. She has two children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She says: “Apart from the deep creases that now line my skin, my body shape hasn’t really changed since I was 18. My boobs have drooped and my shoulders have stooped, but I see my body as my engine, and you simply get back what you put in.
My parents encouraged me to treat my body with the utmost respect. I’ve never smoked or sunbathed. When I travel abroad, I’ll often cover my face with a scarf to protect my skin from damaging sun rays. I’ve followed a strict vegetarian diet for the last 50 years, and I’ve never touched a drop of alcohol.
I think my hard work and abstinence has paid off. Strangers are shocked when I tell them I’m a great-grandmother twice over. I don’t have any major ailments and, thankfully, haven’t needed to see my GP for over 20 years.
My husband, Ken, tells me how beautiful I am every day. We celebrated our diamond wedding anniversary last March and I’d be lost without him. Love keeps you young too.
I plan to carry on doing occasional work – modelling for catalogues and film extra work – for as long as possible.
Personally, I think that looking good comes from the inside, and when you’re as happy as I am you can’t fail to look great.”
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