CELESTINA Diamond, 34, is a publicist, plus-size model and influencer from London.

Looking at myself in the mirror, I scrutinised every lump, bump and curve. ‘I am beautiful,’ I told myself, and I truly believed it, after years of hating my reflection.

As a child, I was active, but when I was eight years old, I started putting on weight and soon became the biggest girl in my class.

I didn’t eat junk food, but my mum always made delicious, home-cooked Nigerian food with lots of rice and yams.

As I got older I became horribly self-conscious. At secondary school, I began skipping breakfast and lunch in an attempt to lose weight.

Knowing nothing about nutrition, instead I’d sneak snacks of crisps and chocolate when no one was looking.

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Classmates bullied me, telling me I needed to eat a salad, and even family members commented on my body, comparing me to my slimmer siblings and cousins.

I felt alone and ashamed, and it didn’t help that I didn’t see anyone my size on TV or in the media.

By 2007, when I was 18 and went to university to study PR and events management, I was a size 18 at 5ft 4in. I refused to weigh myself, as I didn’t want to know what the scales said.

My weight didn’t affect my health, but I had low self-esteem. I hid behind a loud, outgoing facade. I was nice to everyone and so extroverted, believing if other students liked me and found me fun, they wouldn’t notice my size.

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After university, I carried on gaining weight, living on sugary snacks and dressing in jeans and long tops to cover my body.

By early 2017, when I was 29, I was a size 22. That February, I went on holiday to Malta with three friends.

I’d always found travelling stressful, plagued with worries about fitting into the plane seat and what to wear in the heat to cover my body, while other people swanned around in swimwear.

But I didn’t want to miss out on fun with my friends, so I plucked up the courage to book my ticket and buy a new black swimsuit and a neon cover-up.

It was an amazing week. By day we sunbathed, by night we drank and danced. One evening, we were getting some food after clubbing when people at another table began recording me on their phones and laughing.

Mortified, but trying to put on a brave face, I told my friend I was used to it. ‘But you shouldn’t have to be used to it,’ she replied gently.

That was when I realised enough was enough. I’d spent years feeling ashamed of my body, I couldn’t carry on feeling so bad about myself and allowing other people’s judgement to get me down.

So that night, I posted an image to my Instagram account of me in my swimsuit and wrap, with the caption: ‘In a world full of darkness, be fluorescent.’

My heart was pounding as I did it – I’d never posted anything that showed my body so clearly. But I wanted the world to accept me for who I was and how I looked. However, I knew I needed to start with learning to accept myself.

The messages I got in response were incredible: ‘You need to start modelling!’, ‘You rock!’, ‘Your confidence is encouraging!’

I had some therapy, arranged through my doctor, which focused on childhood traumas and my perception of myself. This helped change my mindset, and in 2020 I began sharing more images of my body on social media, including in lingerie.

I felt nervous each time I posted, as I knew I was opening myself up to judgement and criticism, but I got hundreds of positive comments from my followers and each one made me feel amazing.

Today, I’m a size 22 and I love every inch of my body. Each night, I stand in front of the mirror and repeat the mantra: ‘I am beautiful, I am worth it, I am enough.’

I’m single but dating at the moment, and I dress in bright colours and figure-hugging outfits. I wear whatever I want – why shouldn’t I?

Things have improved for plus-size women, with more curvy models and actresses to feel inspired by, but we still have a long way to go until we’re fully accepted by society.

If I can play a part in making other women feel proud of their bodies this summer, I’m honoured to do that.


Danielle Webb, 23, is a youth communications officer from Newport, South Wales.

Standing in my swimsuit, I took a deep breath before stepping out of my holiday apartment and walking over to the pool where my friends were sunbathing.

It was October 2018 and we were in Sidari, Greece, on our first girls’ holiday abroad. I could feel eyes on me as I made my way to my sunlounger, but I didn’t care. ‘Let them look,’ I thought. ‘I’m just here to enjoy myself.’

Since childhood, much of the attention my body has received has been negative and sometimes cruel. It’s been a long journey to being able to ignore that and love myself for who I am.

I was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. I’m an only child and neither of my parents are little people. Doctors told them it was simply a genetic fluke that I was born this way.

My mum Michelle, 47, was always open with me about my condition from as early as I can remember, explaining that while I’d be shorter than most people, it didn’t matter. But it didn’t sink in until I was around seven years old.

That’s the typical age that growth in people with dwarfism starts to slow down, and I suddenly noticed the curve of my spine and bowing of my legs starting to show more.

By secondary school, the height difference between me and my classmates was dramatic. While I’d reached my full height of 3ft 11in by the age of 11, they continued to grow. Luckily, it didn’t cause me health problems, but my joints would ache if I’d been on my feet for too long. 

Although I had a good group of friends, the name-calling and teasing by other children started. On the way into school, I’d keep my head down as the boys and girls in other year groups pointed and laughed. I wanted the ground to swallow me up.

I became painfully self-conscious, trying my best to fade into the background, so as not to give the bullies any more ammunition. Mum and my friends told me to ignore them, but it was really hard.

Whenever I looked in the mirror, I wished I’d see someone else – someone who fitted in and looked like other people. As a teenager, I had to shop in the children’s clothes section, so

I couldn’t keep up with the latest styles. That made me feel embarrassed and was a reminder of how different I was.

I left school aged 16 and started a childcare diploma at a local college. As a child, I’d taken dance classes, but had dropped out while I was at secondary school as my self-esteem was just too low to perform and put my body on display.

However, after starting college my old teacher asked me to rejoin. I wasn’t sure at first. I’d spent so long avoiding attention, did I really want to stand centre stage, where everyone would be looking at me?

Something within me spurred me on, though. Finally, it was time to leave my old insecurities behind.

Soon, I fell back in love with dance and, as I did, it helped me appreciate and celebrate my body. It didn’t matter that I was short. I was strong and supple.

My confidence grew with each performance, people looking at me because of my talent, not because I was different. On stage I was a ‘dancer’ not a ‘dwarf’.

When I was 19 and on that holiday in Greece, I was determined to channel my new-found self-confidence. Instead of wearing a long-sleeved cover-up, I wore my swimsuit around the pool.

I noticed people staring, but I refused to let it bother me.

After studying for a degree in youth and community work at the University of South Wales, graduating in 2020, I now work for a youth arts charity, speaking in schools and businesses about my condition and how it affects people with it.

The old me would never have had the confidence to do this. She hid at the back of class or in her bedroom, trying to be invisible. But today I look at my body and I feel happy and at peace with my identity.

I wear dresses, shorts and tops that show off my shape because they make me feel good, and that’s what matters. I’m happily single right now, but I’d love to one day meet someone who loves and accepts me.

This summer when I go away with my friends, I can’t wait to wear my swimsuit and show off my body with pride.


Ruth Spurr, 27, is an influencer and body-positivity model from Buckinghamshire.

When people look at me – in a wheelchair, covered in scars from operations and with tubes snaking into my body – they’re often surprised to learn that I’m incredibly proud of my body, and more confident than I’ve ever been.

In 2015, aged 20, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS), a group of inherited disorders that affect the connective tissues of the body – mainly the skin, joints and blood vessel walls.

I’d been having symptoms, including IBS, hypermobility and fainting spells since I was eight, but it had taken doctors 12 years to diagnose me.

EDS affects people in different ways and with different severity, but in my case, I’ve developed many secondary conditions and, over the past seven years, I’ve been in four comas, fought off sepsis multiple times and suffered a cardiac arrest.

I’m lucky to be alive.I started using a wheelchair in 2015 after suffering an injury when I passed out at school, and I have continued to need it as my joints have weakened and my balance has worsened.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of tubes inserted into my body to feed me, drain my stomach, and assist with going to the loo, plus I also had a central line fitted to help administer medication and fluids.

In the early years after my diagnosis, I didn’t feel beautiful or sexy. While my friends were going travelling and falling in love, I was in and out of hospital, my body a battlefield as EDS and the secondary conditions ravaged my health.

When I looked at myself, I barely felt human, more like a piece of medical equipment.

Before my diagnosis, I’d been a support worker for young adults with brain injuries, but I’d had to give that up as my health deteriorated. Stuck in hospital or at home in bed, I felt useless and not part of the real world.

People I knew would ask if I’d recovered yet – they didn’t understand I was living with a long-term condition. Strangers would shush their children, as they pointed at me. I felt so isolated.

If I could, I’d offer to answer people’s questions and tell them a bit about my life to help educate them.

Over the years, how I feel about my body has changed. After spending so much time in hospital, I’ve learned that nobody is perfect.

We are all different, facing different challenges – my scars, tubes and disability do not make me any ‘less’ than the next person. I realised that my body didn’t give up – I owe it my life. 

In February 2018, I signed up with an inclusive, disability model agency, as I want more visibility of people like me.

So far, I’ve done a short film, photo shoots for a wheelchair company and medical campaigns, as well as helping students design accessible clothing. Modelling has boosted my confidence and made me feel beautiful again.

In February 2021, I began sharing my experiences on TikTok and Instagram. I had a really positive response, with followers thanking me for being so honest about my life.

When I’m well enough, I do talks in my local community and schools about my condition. I have friends over to my house, where I live with my assistance dog Willow, with the help of assistants and carers.

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I’ve had relationships and I’d love to meet someone who loved me for me. But I also know it’s more important to love myself, so that’s the relationship I’m focusing on at the moment.

This summer, I won’t be hiding away. I’m going to Cornwall, where I’ll be on the beach in my bikini, enjoying every minute. My body has fought to be here today, so how can I not appreciate it? I’m proud of it and proud of me, too.

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