POSING happily in her underwear, plus-size curves proudly on display, Honey Ross is the picture of confidence.
But it has taken her a long time to feel this positive about her size-18 body. As a child, Honey was body shamed so badly that she asked for a personal trainer for her 14th birthday.
And at 20, she suffered a sexual assault which “ruined” her life for two years — and left her feeling “so alone”. It is perhaps no surprise she feared she may never overcome her unhappiness and self-loathing.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun, she says: “There were times when I didn’t think I’d make it to being this happy young woman.” Last week Honey, 23, hit the headlines when she told how her famous parents, TV presenter Jonathan Ross and screenwriter Jane Goldman, put her on “absolutely toxic” diets as a child.
But today she reveals that far from blaming them, she knows they were just trying to protect her from the trolls who made her teenage years a misery. She says: “I think people would very much like to spin it that my parents were forcing me to do a diet. Of course they weren’t. I hated myself. I hated my body.
"I remember saying, ‘I’m miserable. Can I go on a diet?’ And they facilitated that. I could see that it broke their hearts to see their daughter so full of self-loathing. So they said, ‘If that’s what you really want to do, we’ll support that’.” Honey, now a body-positive activist and screenwriter, reckons she was just 12 when she first started to obsess about her weight.
On the surface, she had everything a teenager could want — growing up in a £4million house in Hampstead, North London, with “bohemian” parents who adored her. She went to private school, took holidays at the family’s second home in Florida and was treated to glamorous trips out.
She recalls: “Because of my parents, I got to go to red-carpet events. It was so exciting. I’d get to put on a silly outfit and have a great time.”
Honey and her older siblings Betty Kitten and Harvey Kirby, along with their parents — who have a combined wealth of £30million — were colourful characters and attracted the attention of photographers when they went out on the town.
She says: “People have always called us weird, this quirky, strange Addams family, and when you’re out and dressed up and with your family, you’re a united front. You’ve got people who are supporting you.”
However, when she was at home, Honey — who was a high street size 14 by the time she was 12 — would read disturbing and cruel comments about her that strangers would post underneath some of the photographs.
It had a big effect on her self-esteem and she says: “You’re a teenager and those are formative years. You’re so insecure already. You get a real insight into a dark side of human nature. This is a world in which people don’t care if you are a kid. That’s when I started to realise my body wasn’t one that was massively desired by society. I was a kid — I was a half-baked human being, and I had all my worst fears about how people thought I was hideous written down.”
She kept some of her feelings to herself but blurted out some of the crueller comments to her parents. She says: “I’d say, ‘Mummy, a man in the middle of nowhere is calling me a hog on the internet’.”
Her parents were naturally appalled and tried to build her confidence. She says: “They’d say, ‘Who cares? Honey, you’re so smart. You’re so cool. Who gives a s**t?’” But the damage was done, and Honey became obsessed about her weight.
She says she recognises her parents tried to use “the only tools that society had given them to help” — namely diet and exercise — but she wishes they hadn’t. By 13 she was on the Weight Watchers diet, with mum Jane — who wrote X Men: First Class and the Kingsman films — offering to go with her.
Honey says: “I was watching thin friends eat whatever they want, have fun, go to birthday parties and eat cake, have pizza at a sleepover. Here I was — a child — being told I could have one slice of pizza and I’d watch my friends and family eat a whole thing. And they’d get dessert.” Honey dieted for most of her teenage years and had a personal trainer at the age of 14 — which she requested for her birthday.
She had sessions four times a week and kept an “obsessive food diary”. Her parents would often be dieting themselves, having both had their own weight struggles, and at 17 Honey joined them on a low-carb “keto” diet. She reveals: “I got such bad dysmorphia that I became convinced my friends wouldn’t be able to wrap their arms around me to hug me because I was so big.”
As Honey lost weight, people would tell her she looked amazing, but she still hated herself. She admits she became “quiet and miserable” as she found that demonising certain foods only made her eat more. She says: “All of my friends would be 5ft 2, size-six brunettes and I was 5ft 8, bright ginger hair, size 16. I would have my tiny friends saying, ‘I feel so fat and disgusting today’. Me — standing there, actually fat. What does that make me? I’d stand there thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is brutal’.”
So how did she get from sad, lonely teenager to the proud advocate of “fattivism” she is today — with an Instagram feed full of half-naked pictures that unashamedly celebrate her body, cellulite, fat rolls and all?
Bizarrely, Honey says it was being rejected by her first love which made the change. She had suffered glandular fever and had regained weight during her recuperation. When she returned to school, she was cast in the school musical and fell in love with her co-star, the boy playing the lead.
She says: “We became best friends, then I realised very quickly that he wasn’t brave enough to be with someone like me. He started dating my thin best friend.”
When Honey came home for Christmas, she lost more weight than she could ever have hoped, and recalls: “I was thin and very intimidating. People who had never given me a second glance were being so nice to me and flirting with me. And I was f***ing furious.
“I’m the same person I was a month ago — this funny, nice girl — and you didn’t see that when I was a stone heavier? It made me see everything really clearly. When you are a fat woman, sometimes you’re not even treated like a person.
“I didn’t want anything to do with this or the people who are like this or the culture that bred this.”
Honey regained the weight and began liking her body as it is. It was not a smooth ride to self- acceptance. Shortly before her 21st birthday, she says she was raped. She has written about the assault in moving terms on social media.
Under a candid selfie she wrote: “Even though I’ve relived it every day since the day it happened — every day the pain gets less and I feel lighter from the trauma.”
Two years on, Honey says she feels like herself again and hopes sharing her experience will comfort others in a similar situation. She says: “I remember feeling like if I’d seen a post like the one I had written about sexual assault, it would have really helped me. Then I received a lot of messages about it from other survivors. That’s why I do it.
"What happened to me is happening to people all over the world. We can talk about things that are painful and hard and difficult. I’ve just always wanted to connect people and make them not feel alone. That’s all I really care about, because I felt so alone so many times. By posting probably the thing people fear most about happening to them, I’m going, ‘It’s OK and it happens. It’s awful’.
"That was two years of my life that were really ruined. I did a lot of work and cried a lot of tears. But I’m here and I’m fine.” Today Honey is part of feminist activist collective The Pink Protest, which is also run by Scarlett Curtis, daughter of screenwriter Richard Curtis, Grace Campbell, daughter of Alastair Campbell, and Alice Skinner, author of The Revolution Handbook.
Further down the line Honey would like to train as a psychiatrist but for now, her aims are to prevent other body-conscious women from going through what she went through.
She says she shares photographs of herself naked or in revealing outfits with her 36,000 followers to show she completely accepts her body — and other women thank her, saying she has encouraged them to wear a bikini for the first time, or finally love their plus-size figures.
But as obesity is a major problem in the UK and the Government is trying to encourage people to lose weight as part of the fight against coronavirus, how does Honey respond to her critics?
She says: “My body isn’t up for debate. You’ve probably never been asked about your health. No one questions thin people.
“I live with my best friend. She’s thin. She does not look after herself. I took her to a spin class and she got a nosebleed.
“I was going to spin class three times a week. I was still fat. You can still be fat and fit.
“Even if I wasn’t, does that mean you still have the right to abuse me? You should be respectful and kind to everyone.”
Honey is unapologetic about her sex appeal too — and says she is dating, like any other woman of 23.
She says: “Because I’ve got a gut, apparently that’s a big deal. I am really attractive. I’m an attractive young woman who wants to enjoy my life and my body in the same way that my thin friends have always been allowed to.
“So yeah, I am going to post a bikini photo.”
Honey says she is still on a journey of self-love and self-acceptance but she will “work until my dying day” to help people learn to love their bodies, whatever their size.
She says: “I just want people to have a better quality of life, not hate themselves, and have the peace of mind that I’ve managed to find.
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